Category Archives: Uncategorized

Self Censorship on University of Wisconsin Campuses

Kayla Huyhn:

A majority of University of Wisconsin System students don’t feel free to share their opinions about controversial topics or are unwilling to consider views they disagree with, according to results released Wednesday from a survey that has stirred controversy across the 13 campuses.

Initial pushback led the System to postpone the first iteration of the survey last spring, though it was later sent to over 83,000 UW System students in November. Nearly 10,500 students completed the survey, a 12.5% response rate. 

The survey asked students their perceptions of viewpoint diversity, self-censorship and freedom of expression on campus. It also included questions about how likely students are to consider viewpoints they disagree with, including on abortion, COVID-19 vaccines, racial inequity and transgender issues. 

The results showed that most students hadn’t learned about the First Amendment in any of their courses, and that some believed it was acceptable for their university to ban speakers who’ve made offensive and harmful statements.

New group wants to help teachers across Kentucky teach Black history

Krista Johnson:

Established in December 2022, the association was formed through a partnership between the Muhammad Ali Center, Berea College, Kentucky State University and the Thomas D. Clark Foundation. On Wednesday, Cummings plans to celebrate the start of Black History Month at the Ali Center, meeting with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio to share more about the association’s mission.

The association’s formation comes at a time when teaching Black history has been opposed in some communities. Last month Florida’s Department of Education blocked an Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in its public schools, saying it is “inexplicably contrary” to Florida law and “significantly lacks educational value.”

“Continuing to improve education in the Commonwealth to reflect the complexities of current events and their historical context is critical and should include awareness of the Black experience in Kentucky,” a release from the Ali Center about Wednesday’s event stated.

The association has launched a website where teachers can find lesson plans focused on Black history that align with the state’s mandated standards, and it is forming an advisory committee of educators to build upon the association’s collaboration with Kentucky teachers.

Notes on governance reform

Mark Bauerlien:

On Tuesday, we trustees of the New College of Florida removed the college’s leadership, recommended a figure close to the governor as the next president, and called for a comprehensive review of diversity, equity, and inclusion activities on campus. I believe the latter should be scrapped, particularly in areas of personnel (New College faculty job openings contain a diversity statement that applicants must complete, a kind of loyalty oath to progressive doctrine), and I expect the Florida legislature will act to ban them in the coming months.

The votes we took weren’t very close, and the message is clear that the board intends sweeping change. New College is tiny, with only 700 students, but more than 30 media outlets attended the meeting, and the implications of the vote are reverberating widely. Our actions sound to many like a top-down, hostile takeover, a hasty imposition of political control over what should remain an independent body run by locals.

Leftists think it’s straight-out tyranny flowing from Tallahassee, but they aren’t the only ones concerned. South Carolina philosophy professor Jennifer Frey, a liberal conservative, issued a warning in a tweet: “I guess some people think Florida will be in Republican hands forever. I’m gonna go out on a limb and question that. People who cheer on state control of universities might be singing a different tune when power switches hands unexpectedly.”

It’s a good point. What if leftists were to take over the universities, purge conservatives, and use the institutions to promote their ideology? In a follow-up tweet, Frey proposed a better way: “A different model is not one of ‘vanquishing’ anyone, but dialogue, accountability, and transparency. You can guess which model I prefer.”

It’s Time for the Scientific Community to Admit We Were Wrong About COVID and It Cost Lives

Kevin Bass:

I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.

I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on naturalvs. artificial immunityschool closures and disease transmissionaerosol spreadmask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness andsafety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.

But perhaps more important than any individual error was how inherently flawed the overall approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in a way that undermined its efficacy and resulted in thousands if not millions of preventable deaths.

Why People Stopped Reading Books

Mike Cernovich:

Fewer people are reading books (or any long form content) today than ever. Why? As someone who sold a lot of books and buys even more books, here are my top theories:

  • Publishing houses, which are controlled by alcoholic CNN watchers, discriminate against men. This leads to fewer great books making it to bookstores, which has a secondary effect of reducing foot traffic into bookstores.
  • Podcast are 3x easier to do and 10x-100x more lucrative.
  • Why write a book for $5 royalty per copy sold when you can Substack? (My current situation.)

We will go into detail on all of the above. But first, some numbers on Big Book.

Verifying Sweden’s Impressive Covid Performance

Maxim Lott:

Why would the OECD dataset show such different numbers from the OWID and WHO datasets? 

(Note: WHO’s dataset hasn’t been updated for 2022, so I’ll focus on OWID from here on out.)

OECD fails to consider all Swedish deaths 

After a lot of cross-checking, I noticed one straightforward issue with the OECD data. While they correctly and precisely copy weekly deaths as reportedby the Swedish government, they fail to consider deaths which were not classified with any week. 

As OWID notes in their methodology

“Sweden has a significant number of deaths which occurred in an “unknown” date (and thus week) in all years. However, 95% these have a known month of death.”

So OWID reasonably assigns those deaths to weeks within the month that they happened. It’s not perfect (it can’t be, since the exact date isn’t known) but it seems much better than ignoring such deaths.

I applied that change to OECD’s dataset, and doing so causes their estimate to rise — eliminating about half of the gap between excess mortality predictions.

In the below graph, the dark blue OCED line would rise to the light-blue line:

What President Biden’s New Student-Loan Payment Plans Mean for You

Julia Carpenter:

An income-driven repayment (IDR) plan calculates your monthly student loan payment based on your income and family size. Currently, any debt remaining on many of the existing IDR plans can be wiped out after 20 years of payment. Under the new plan, the term would be reduced to 10 years for borrowers with balances under $12,000.

Currently, the Education Department offers four income-driven repayment plans: the Revised Pay as You Earn Plan, which the proposed rule would effect, and three others: the Pay as You Earn, Income-Contingent Repayment and Income-Based Repayment plans. The new regulations would phase out those latter three plans and put most borrowers into the Revised Pay as You Earn plan, or the Repaye plan.

How will my repayment terms change?

Previously, the Repaye plan required borrowers to make payments equivalent to at least 10% of their discretionary income. The new rule proposes cutting that number in half, allowing borrowers to pay 5% of their discretionary income on undergraduate loans.

Additionally, those with incomes below 225% of the federal poverty guidelines—or around the annual equivalent of a $30,600 income for a single borrower or about $60,000 for a family of four, according to U.S. Department of Education—wouldn’t have to make monthly payments on their loans at all. The months of $0 payments would count toward the 10- or 20-year threshold for forgiveness.

Is a ‘DARPA for education’ finally happening?

Javier’s Salman:

Epstein said that one of the biggest problems in education is a “misalignment” between how student learning is assessed and “what we actually care about.” An expanded R&D unit, he said, could help develop better ways to conduct assessments, like testing students on the skills and capabilities they need in today’s society.

A new research division would also help schools overcome the “collective action problem” they currently face when deciding which technology or product to invest in, Epstein said.

Social-Justice Restrictions on Research Harm All of Us

Alexander Riley:

Recently, one of the departments on my campus invited an academic “expert,” who, among other specializations, “advise[s] on the ethical aspects of telescope siting,” to give a talk entitled “How Research Harms.”

The advertisements for the event summarized the speaker’s perspective with the declaration, “We ought to be restricting research based on a number of unique and underacknowledged harms … [which] are poorly understood and lack clear definitions.” Prominent among these “harms” are unspecified “psychological, social and moral hazards.”

This is but one example of a growing phenomenon in higher education. The perspective in question—that some sizable quantity of scientific research is causing undefined harms and must therefore be prevented on ethical grounds—has become widespread. It marks a significant departure from an earlier academic culture that celebrated the open-ended pursuit of truth as the fundamental value of higher education.

The creation of the IRB system marked the first stage of the effort to exert overarching ethical control over scientific and academic inquiry.

Teaching at home: Not if buy how

Rev. David Buchs:

It has never been a question of if, but how.

The last several years, many parents have found themselves wondering if they should homeschool their children. Whether it was on account of Covid policies or Marxism or mere inefficiency, lots of folks who had never considered homeschooling started to wonder: should we? If we were to homeschool, how would we know if we succeeded? If we were to take full responsibility for the formation of our children into well-adjusted adults, would we be up for it?

Buried in all those questions is a faulty premise extraordinarily common in our day, which is hard to shake. The premise is that there’s some question of if, when, in fact, it’s only a question of how.

The idea that the home is not the primary place for child-rearing is strange and senseless. This is true even when children spend the majority of their time outside the home. When dad and mom choose to bus their kids to the neighborhood elementary school or to the local Lutheran school or to the classical academy in the next town over, that choice is made in the home. And it’s a choice that teaches. It is that choice which sets the stage for everything that follows. That choice comes first, long before any instruction takes place in a classroom or any homework gets discussed around the dinner table. From the outset parents are teaching their children at home. That is why there’s never been a question of if families should homeschool, but rather of how.

To be clear, this is not an article about homeschooling. It is an article about home catechesis. Entertain a thought experiment with me. Consider a typical Lutheran parish in the Midwest. Worship is followed by Sunday School for the kids and Bible class for the adults. Maybe there’s a weekday Bible Study, and on Wednesday afternoon during the school year there’s Confirmation. Attendance is fairly dutiful, at least for Sunday School and Confirmation. In fact, even when families miss Sunday worship or don’t stick around for Bible Class, they’ll drop their kids off for Sunday School and consider Confirmation attendance non-negotiable.

Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.”

Matt Taibbi:

The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.”

So, nobody looked at the list. 

The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’

Sounds solid. 

Yes? No?

Survey: Most UW students afraid to express views in class

Associated Press:

Most students who responded to a survey about free speech on University of Wisconsin campuses said they’re afraid to express their views on controversial topics in class because they fear other students won’t agree or it could hurt their grades, according to key findings released Wednesday.

A third of respondents, meanwhile, said they’ve felt pressure from an instructor to agree with a certain viewpoint. Almost half said they don’t agree or only agree a little that administrators should bar controversial speakers if some students find the message offensive.

An Astonishing Regularity in Student Learning Rate

Kenneth R. Koedinger, Paulo Carvalho, Ran Liu, Elizabeth A. McLaughlin

Leveraging a scientific infrastructure for exploring how students learn, we have developed cognitive and statistical models of skill acquisition and used them to understand fundamental similarities and differences across learners. Our primary question was why do some students learn faster than others? Or do they? We model data from student performance on groups of tasks that assess the same skill component and that provide follow-up instruction on student errors. Our models estimate, for both students and skills, initial correctness and learning rate, that is, the increase in correctness after each practice opportunity. We applied our models to 1.3 million observations across 27 datasets of student interactions with online practice systems in the context of elementary to college courses in math, science, and language. Despite the availability of up-front verbal instruction, like lectures and readings, students demonstrate modest initial pre-practice performance, at about 65% accuracy. Despite being in the same course, students’ initial performance varies substantially from about 55% correct for those in the lower half to 75% for those in the upper half. In contrast, and much to our surprise, we found students to be astonishingly similar in estimated learning rate, typically increasing by about 0.1 log odds or 2.5% in accuracy per opportunity. These findings pose a challenge for theories of learning to explain the odd combination of large variation in student initial performance and striking regularity in student learning rate.

US still has the worst, most expensive health care of any high-income country

Beth Mole:

Americans spend an exorbitant amount of money on health care and have for years. As a country, the US spends more on health care than any other high-income country in the world—on the basis of both per-person costs and a share of gross domestic product. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from looking at major health metrics in years past; the US has relatively abysmal health. And, if anything, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the US health care system’s failures relative to its peers, according to a new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.

“When you try to use Black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.”

Douglas Belkin:

On Wednesday, the College Board said its revisions had been completed in December in consultation with more than 300 professors of African-American Studies from 200 colleges.

“No states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it,” the College Board said. “This course has been shaped only by the input of experts and longstanding AP principles and practices.”

The curriculum was released on the first day of Black History month and one day after Mr. DeSantis proposed a legislative agenda that would ensure higher education would eliminate any hint of critical race theory and diversity efforts while mandating teachings based on Western civilization, which is rooted in European history.

Democrat Politician Agrees with DeSantis, Calls Rejected AP Course “Trash”

Zac Howard:

 One of Governor Ron DeSantis’ most vocal critics supports the state’s decision to reject the College Board’s AP African American Studies course for high schoolers. When asked his thoughts on the recent controversy, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor blasted the course as “trash,” according to Tallahassee Reports.

“There is grave concern about the tone and the tenor of leadership’s voice from the highest spaces in our state being hostile to teaching of African American history. Well frankly I’m against the College Board’s curriculum,” Proctor said.

“I think it’s trash. It’s not African American history. It is ideology,” he continued. “I’ve taught African American history, I’ve structured syllabuses for African American history. I am African American history. And talking about ‘queer’ and ‘feminism’ and all of that for the struggle for freedom and equality and justice has not been no tension with queerness and feminist thought at all.”

Proctor has been an ardent opponent of the governor and believes that serious racial problems still plague America. Last April, he penned an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat where he called DeSantis a “clear warrior against the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.”

It’s not just conservative parents who think they have a right to know if “Hannah” has become “Hank” at school, reports Katie J.M. Baker in the New York Times. Liberal parents think they know best about their children’s psychological and emotional needs.

Joanne Jacobs:

Jessica Bradshaw’s daughter — now a son — was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum, as well as with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, PTSD and anxiety, the California mother told Baker. Her teenager “had struggled with loneliness during the pandemic” and “repeatedly changed his name and sexual orientation.” School officials had put her child “on a path the school wasn’t qualified to oversee,” rather than let the family decide what was best, Bradshaw said. She resents being made to feel like a bad parent.

. . . dozens of parents whose children have socially transitioned at school told The Times they felt villainized by educators who seemed to think that they — not the parents — knew what was best for their children. They insisted that educators should not intervene without notifying parents unless there is evidence of physical abuse at home. Although some didn’t want their children to transition at all, others said they were open to it, but felt schools forced the process to move too quickly, and that they couldn’t raise concerns without being cut out completely or having their home labeled “unsafe.”

Civics: “Newsrooms that move beyond ‘objectivity’ can build trust”

Leonard Downie Jr.:

PmAmong the news leaders who told Heyward and me that they had rejected objectivity as a coverage standard was Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor of the Associated Press. “It’s objective by whose standard?” she asked. “That standard seems to be White, educated, fairly wealthy. … And when people don’t feel like they find themselves in news coverage, it’s because they don’t fit that definition.”

More and more journalists of color and younger White reporters, including LGBTQ+ people, in increasingly diverse newsrooms believe that the concept of objectivity has prevented truly accurate reporting informed by their own backgrounds, experiences and points of view.

DIE and taxpayer supported K-12 schools

David Catron:

During the last few years, most conservatives have become at least dimly aware that leftist ideology, in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has infected public education. It’s unlikely, however, that many Americans realize just how far the disease has advanced. It has long since spread beyond a few courses embedded into the social studies curricula of secondary schools and elite colleges. Public school students as young as 9 and 10 years of age effortlessly recite leftist shibboleths even as they descend into functional illiteracy in reading, writing, math, and science.

If this sounds like “right-wing extremism,” consider this: Last fall, hundreds of Philadelphia-area fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in an essay contest, sponsored by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, in which they were asked to outline proposals for a hypothetical new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their amendment proposals included abolishing the Electoral College, providing everyone with free health care, limiting gun possession to individuals who need them for military and hunting uses, guaranteeing a living wage to everyone, and imposing term limits on U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Sound familiar?

The winners of the contest were announced on the website of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent post titled, “What Should Be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution? These Students Have Some Ideas.” But the ideas are obviously not those of the students. These kids simply regurgitated items from a leftist wish list that “educators” fed them instead of teaching critical skills that students need to know and parents want them to learn. But the public-education establishment doesn’t see its mission in such terms, as the following Facebook meme posted by a school board member from Iowa’s Linn-Mar district illustrates:

UChicago’s Casey Mulligan Highlights ‘Tragic and Knowable’ Lockdown Consequences, Warns Against the Seduction of Central Planning

Jack Pfefferkorn:

University of Chicago Professor Casey Mulligan, formerly the chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers, has spent the past several years highlighting the predictable damage of COVID-19 lockdowns. He recently participated in a moving Committee to Unleash Prosperity panel discussionon lessons learned from the pandemic and published a Wall Street Journal op-ed detailing the deadly consequences of the “draconian steps taken to mitigate” COVID.

In their early January Journal op-ed, Mulligan and Rob Arnott note that “CDC data show the rate of non-Covid excess deaths in the first half of 2022 was even higher than 2020 or 2021. These deaths therefore likely already exceed 250,000, disproportionately among young adults.”

“Non-Covid excess deaths have shown no signs of diminishing, at least through mid-2022,” Mulligan and Arnott ominously observe.

Months earlier, in late October 2022, Mulligan joined Scott Atlas, a radiologist and former advisor on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University, for a Committee to Unleash Prosperity discussion on the long-term impacts of COVID and politicians’ response to the virus.

The Predictable Damage of COVID Lockdowns

According to Dr. Atlas, the panel’s public health expert, U.S. lockdown policy bucked existing pandemic response literature. He highlighted a 2006 paper by epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Inglesby, who evaluated several potential disease mitigation measures in the event of an influenza-like pandemic and concluded that travel restrictions were “historically ineffective” and that communitywide cancelation of public events is “inadvisable.” 

Moreover, the Inglesby paper ruled that extended school closures are “not only impracticable but carry the possibility of a serious adverse outcome.”

Congress gave $1.49 billion in taxpayer and borrowed funds to Wisconsin schools. Are they investing wisely?

Quinton Klabon:

The coronavirus pandemic was a 2-year catastrophe for children. Students suffered through virtual schooling, quarantined teachers, and emotional misery. Academic results, the lowest this century, still have not recovered.

After sending $860 million to help Wisconsin public schools manage through spring 2021, Congress sent a final $1.49 billion to get students back on track.

The goal? Do whatever it takes to catch kids up by September 2024.

The problem? No one knows how schools have directed it or not directed it…until now.

Madison’s $42M? Have a look.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“But I also think that if we just do more of the same, we’re going to get more of the same, which is mediocre test results and kids who can’t read. That’s dumb. So I want reform.”

Scott Girard and Jessie Opoien:

The results, as Vos mentioned, have been poor. Reading and math scores on what’s known as the Nation’s Report Card dropped across the country last year, including in Wisconsin, where the gap in scores between Wisconsin’s Black and white students is the highest of any state, with only Washington, D.C. having a wider “opportunity gap.”

“When you look at the scores in Wisconsin, especially the gap between the races, it’s just unacceptable,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who will lead the Assembly education committee during this legislative session. “We have to do better, and we started to try to address it (in the last session). The governor vetoed that bill.

“But we really, really need to be able to work together, because I don’t see how we can address it if we don’t know that the governor is going to agree to what we do. So, I’m really hopeful we can for once work together on that.”

Kitchens was referring to a bill that would have significantly increased the number of literacy tests students must take and required the development of personalized reading plans for students deemed an “at-risk” reader. In his veto message, Evers said the bill didn’t provide adequate funding for its mandates.

“I want to go back and rehash that and say, ‘Why’d you veto this? What was the tweak that you need, right, or how can we make it better?’” Vos said of the proposal.

Republicans and those pushing for “reform” often focus on school choice, whether that’s voucher funding, charter schools or open enrollment opportunities. Public school advocates contend those options siphon money out of the public schools that need it.

To those advocates, the focus should be on making up for the past 14 years in which school spending increases were not tied to inflation — like they had been previously. If they had been, districts around Wisconsin would have been able to spend an additional $3,000 per student this school year.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The Governor offers teachers a pay raise with protection from coerced union dues.

Wall Street Journal:

ov. DeSantis announced a plan Monday to pass a Teachers’ Bill of Rights and spend an extra $200 million on teacher pay in the coming school year. The funds will bring the total the state has spent on teacher salaries to more than $3 billion from 2020 to 2024. They’ll also lift the minimum salary to more than $48,000, eighth-highest among states according to the National Education Association.

Addressing a classroom in a Jacksonville school, the Governor said the money would help ward off a teacher shortage. “The nationwide average is three vacancies for every school,” he said, while Florida has kept average openings to about half that level.

Yet the plan devotes as much attention to making sure teachers get the full benefit of the their pay raise. It proposes a policy known as paycheck protection, which blocks schools from extracting member dues on unions’ behalf. Teachers would still be free to join or decline the union, but they would get a clearer sense of what they’re paying if they do.

The change would make a difference since Florida teachers can pay as much as $700 in annual dues, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “If you want to do it, send money—that’s fine,” as Gov. DeSantis put it. But the Florida Education Association (FEA) spends millions of dollars on political causes and candidates that many teachers don’t support, such as its unsuccessful 2020 lawsuit to block school reopenings.

The Governor also wants to ensure that teachers get their raises on time. “Not every school district has raised the teacher salaries like they’re required to,” he said of his previous expansions of school budgets. It’s common for schools to leave such funds undisbursed during internal budgeting squabbles, but boosting recruitment and retention requires making the pay available fast.

Rebellion Over U.S. News Rankings Seems Likely To Fail

Wall Street Journal:

Harvard, Stanford and Columbia universities, the University of Pennsylvania and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said they would stop cooperatingwith U.S. News & World Report’s medical-school rankings.

That followed the decision last year by universities including YaleGeorgetownHarvardStanfordColumbiaand California, Berkeley to quit cooperating on the publication’s law-school rankings.

Critics are cheering the exodus from a process they say leads students to focus on external prestige rather than education quality and encourages schools to game rankings at the expense of students. The schools that are withdrawing say the rankings are elitist, and penalize institutions that admit strong candidates without high test scores.

“In the 40 years of rankings, this is the biggest shock to the system—that gives me hope,” said Colin Diver, a former president of Reed College, which has long abstained from the U.S. News ranking. Mr. Diver is the author of “Breaking Ranks: How the Rankings Industry Rules Higher Education and What to Do About It.”

But hopes that this marks the death knell for college rankings are likely to be in vain. The reality is that what the schools themselves contribute to the rankings is relatively small: The data includes test scores, alumni giving, financial information and so on. But most of the data used to determine the rankings can be derived from publicly available information, or surveys conducted by U.S. News itself. Indeed, U.S. News has revised the survey over the years in response to criticism. There is a case to be made that the less the schools contribute, the more objective the rankings might become, in some respects. …

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: taxpayer redistribution tactics

Indira Dammu and Bonnie O’Keefe


In Making Change: A State Advocacy Playbook for Equitable Education Finance, we share lessons from advocacy leaders in six states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, and Nevada — on the conditions that paved the way for positive changes in their education finance systems. We identified five common conditions across these states:

  • Coalitions: A strong, diverse coalition in support of change
  • Champions: Political leadership that champions funding changes
  • Research: A shared body of evidence demonstrating problems in the current finance system
  • Economics: Economic factors that necessitate state action
  • Lawsuits: Pressure or judicial mandates from funding lawsuits

This playbook can help advocates learn from successful efforts across the country so that they too can pursue funding reform in their communities.

Deepfakes for scrawl: With handwriting synthesis, no pen is necessary

Beni Edwards:

Thanks to a free web app called calligrapher.ai, anyone can simulate handwriting with a neural network that runs in a browser via JavaScript. After typing a sentence, the site renders it as handwriting in nine different styles, each of which is adjustable with properties such as speed, legibility, and stroke width. It also allows downloading the resulting faux handwriting sample in an SVG vector file.

The demo is particularly interesting because it doesn’t use a font. Typefaces that look like handwriting have been around for over 80 years, but each letter comes out as a duplicate no matter how many times you use it.

During the past decade, computer scientists have relaxed those restrictions by discovering new ways to simulate the dynamic variety of human handwriting using neural networks.

Civics: But outside of the Times’ own bubble, the damage to the credibility of the Times and its peers persists, three years on,

Jeff Gerth:

They both grew out of stories in the first weeks of 2017 about Trump and Russia that wound up being significantly flawed or based on uncorroborated or debunked information, according to FBI documents that later became public. Both relied on anonymous sources.

Before the 2016 election, most Americans trusted the traditional media and the trend was positive, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. The phrase “fake news” was limited to a few reporters and a newly organized social media watchdog. The idea that the media were “enemies of the American people” was voiced only once, just before the election on an obscure podcast, and not by Trump, according to a Nexis search.

Today, the US media has the lowest credibility—26 percent—among forty-six nations, according to a 2022 study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. In 2021, 83 percent of Americans saw “fake news” as a “problem,” and 56 percent—mostly Republicans and independents—agreed that the media were “truly the enemy of the American people,” according to Rasmussen Reports.

Trump, years later, can’t stop looking back. In two interviews with CJR, he made it clear he remains furious over what he calls the “witch hunt” or “hoax” and remains obsessed with Mueller. His staff has compiled a short video, made up of what he sees as Mueller’s worst moments from his appearance before Congress, and he played it for me when I first went to interview him, just after Labor Day in 2021, at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

During my interview with Trump, he appeared tired as he sat behind his desk. He wore golf attire and his signature red MAGA hat, having just finished eighteen holes. But his energy and level of engagement kicked in when it came to questions about perceived enemies, mainly Mueller and the media.

He made clear that in the early weeks of 2017, after initially hoping to “get along” with the press, he found himself inundated by a wave of Russia-related stories. He then realized that surviving, if not combating, the media was an integral part of his job.

“I realized early on I had two jobs,” he said. “The first was to run the country, and the second was survival. I had to survive: the stories were unbelievably fake.”

The Clinton campaign put out a statement on Twitter, linking to what it called the “bombshell report” on Yahoo, but did not disclose that the campaign secretly paid the researchers who pitched it to Isikoff. In essence, the campaign was boosting, through the press, a story line it had itself engineered.

Abolish DEI Bureaucracies and Restore Colorblind Equality in Public Universities

Christopher F. Rufo Ilya Shapiro Matt Beienburg:

There is a lot that state legislatures can do to reverse the illiberal takeover of higher education through Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) offices that, ironically, stifle intellectual diversity, prevent equal opportunity, and exclude anyone who dissents from a rigid orthodoxy. Here are four proposals for reforming public universities:

  1. 1. Abolish DEI bureaucracies.
     
  2. 2. End mandatory diversity training.
     
  3. 3. Curtail political coercion.
     
  4. 4. End identity-based preferences.

These rather straightforward reforms would go far in pushing back on some of the negative trends that have afflicted higher education.[1]

K-12 Tax and $pending Growth: Arizona Edition

Laurie Roberts:

Charter schools would be exempt from the cuts. They didn’t exist in 1980 and so they aren’t subject to the spending cap. Ditto for the state’s universal voucher program. The kids who are getting public money to attend private schools would see no decline in state support.

Only the children who attend traditional public schools would be penalized.

Horne told legislators that would be a “travesty,” but some of the Legislature’s most conservative members aren’t likely to see it that way.

“Eliminating and/or lifting the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) is a betrayal of our duty to every taxpayer in the state,” Rep. Jacque Parker, R-Mesa, tweeted last month. “Lifting taxpayer protections so government schools can spend endlessly without transparency is unacceptable.”

Sure, penalize the children.

Some Republican leaders say not to worry. (It’s worth noting that Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, was among the 20 Republicans who opposed waiving the spending cap last year.)

“Hear us now: Schools will not lose out on the money we have allocated for them,” House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, said on Jan. 11. “We will address this. But we will not rush the process.”

Tik-Tok CEO Shou Zi Chew will ap­pear be­fore the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee

John McKinnon

The Har­vard-ed­u­cated Mr. Chew, who once in­terned at Meta Plat­forms Inc.’s Face­book, agreed to tes­tify vol­un­tar­ily and will be the sole wit­ness at the hear­ing, the spokesman said.

“Tik­Tok has know­ingly al­lowed the abil­ity for the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party to ac­cess Amer­i­can user data,” Rep. Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who chairs the com­mit­tee, said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Amer­i­cans de­serve to know how these ac­tions im­pact their pri­vacy and data se­cu­rity, as well as what ac­tions Tik­Tok is tak­ing to keep our kids safe from on­line and off­line harms.”

Advocating teacher reform & outcomes

The Economist:

For all that it lacks, Ms Bika’s school has one advantage. At the start of last year the state education ministry gave each of her teachers a small tablet with a black-and-white touch screen. Every two weeks they use it to download detailed scripts that guide each lesson they deliver. These scripts tell the teachers what to say, what to write on the blackboard, and even when to walk around the classroom. Ms Bika says this new way of working is saving teachers time that they used to spend scribbling their own lesson plans—and her pupils are reading better, too.

Indoor Air Quality and Learning: Evidence from A Large Field Study in Primary Schools

Juan Palacios, Piet Eichholtz,Nils Kok, Nicolas Duran

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair, and modernize school facilities. However, evidence on whether investments in the physical state of schools translate into better student outcomes is scant. In this study, we report the results of a large field study on the implications of poor air quality inside classrooms − a key performance measure of school mechanical ventilation systems. We continuously monitor the air quality (i.e., CO2), together with a rich set of indoor environmental parameters in 216 classrooms in the Netherlands. We link indoor air quality conditions to the outcomes on semi-annual nationally standardized tests of 5,500 children, during a period of five school terms (from 2018 to 2020). Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions and test results, we document that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding a test is associated with significantly lower test results: a one standard deviation increase in the school-term average daily peak of CO2 leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in subsequent test scores. The estimates based on plausibly exogenous variation driven by mechanical ventilation system breakdown events confirm the robustness of the results. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of school infrastructure in shaping learning outcomes.

College Credit via YouTube (google)

Katie Kurtz:

One of the many things that makes learning on YouTube so special is how much users love to do it! Every day, people around the world choose to spend time on the platform learning to improve their lives. And we want to empower learners even further by providing a direct path to formal education.

We’re thrilled to share that we’ve partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) and Crash Course to create Study Hall. It’s a new approach that demystifies the college process while creating an affordable and accessible onramp to earning college credit. A postsecondary education drives economic and social mobility in powerful ways, yet the path to higher education can be riddled with barriers, including high cost and accessibility. We’re hoping to change that with Study Hall.

Scientists-For-Hire Synthesize Artificial Research to Protect Astroturf

Paul Thacker:

Back in the late 1960s, the Houston Astros created the first domed stadium, a marvel of architecture and space technology, and then carpeted the indoor baseball field with an advanced new product from Monsanto called “ChemGrass”. Capitalizing on this new, high-profile sports venue, fake grass was then rebranded as “AstroTurf”.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, AstroTurf improved in both aesthetic look and feel, evolving from trailer park chic to middle-class, suburban presentable. Today over 12,000 fake grass fields dot the American landscape, with close to 1,500 new synthetic fields installed annually. But as concerns have grown about the harmful chemicals in fake grass, industry has synthesized a crop of AstroTurf scientists to protect artificial turf—researchers who resemble independent scientists just as much as nonflammable, UV-stabilized, TrafficMASTER (with a ten-year warranty!) mimics real fescue.

California politics and k-12 $pending

Susannah Luthi:

“First Partner” Jennifer Siebel Newsom has raised nearly $1.5 million from film licenses and nearly $1.7 million from sales since 2012, according to the watchdog group Open the Books. Her nonprofit, the Representation Project, charges schools an average $270 to license documentaries like The Great American Lie, which says sexism causes economic inequality, and Fair Play, about women who want to do less housework. While the group does not specify how much it earned from schools, Open the Books says it could easily account for all or nearly all her $1.5 million in streaming revenue.

Siebel Newsom’s nonprofit could pose an ethical problem for her husband as he considers a presidential run. The Representation Project drew criticism in 2019 for accepting $358,000 in donations from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the utility company responsible for some of the state’s worst wildfires. PG&E is listed as an associate producer on two of Siebel Newsom’s films and hosted a screening of her first movieMiss Representation, in 2011, when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco.

PG&E isn’t the only Newsom donor with ties to the Representation Project. The governor and his wife for years have raised money from the same donors and corporations—he for his political campaigns and she for her nonprofit.

Shared donors include AT&T, Comcast, Planned Parenthood, and Kaiser Permanente. AT&T, a powerful lobbying force in Sacramento and a Newsom campaign contributor, sponsored a glitzy Siebel Newsom screening at San Francisco’s Castro Theater in 2015, when Gavin Newsom was lieutenant governor. Oil heiress Aileen Getty, who bankrolls “climate actions” such as throwing soup at priceless van Gogh paintings, is also a major donor to both Newsoms.

The National Science Foundation’s “Convergence Accelerator Track F” Is Funding Domestic Censorship Superweapons

Mike Benz:

SUMMARY

  • The US government is giving millions to university labs and private firms to stop domestic US citizen opinions on social media. 
  • The National Science Foundation is taking a program set up to solve “grand challenges” like quantum technology and using it for the science of censorship.
  • Government-funded projects are sorting massive databases of American political and social communities into categories like “misinformation tweeters” and “misinformation followers.”

Commentary:

Child-Driven Parenting: Differential Early Childhood Investment by Offspring Genotype

Asta Breinholt, Dalton Conley:

A growing literature points to children’s influence on parents’ behavior, including parental investments in children. Further, previous research has shown differential parental response by socioeconomic status to children’s birth weight, cognitive ability, and school outcomes—all early life predictors of later socioeconomic success. This study considers an even earlier, more exogenous predictor of parental investments: offspring genotype. Specifically, we analyze (1) whether children’s genetic propensity toward educational success affects parenting during early childhood and (2) whether parenting in response to children’s genetic propensity toward educational success is socially stratified. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children (N = 6,247), we construct polygenic indexes (PGIs) for educational attainment (EA) and regress cognitively stimulating parenting behavior during early childhood on these PGIs. We apply Mendelian imputation to construct the missing parental genotype. This approach allows us to control for both parents’ PGIs for EA and thereby achieve a natural experiment: Conditional on parental genotype, the offspring genotype is randomly assigned. In this way, we eliminate the possibility that child’s genotype may be proxying unmeasured parent characteristics. Results differ by parenting behavior: (1) parents’ singing to the child is not affected by the child’s EA PGI, (2) parents play more with children with higher EA PGIs, and (3) non-college-educated parents read more to children with higher education PGIs, while college-educated parents respond less to children’s EA PGI.

2023 Wisconsin Civics Games!

Eve Galanter, via email:

Yes, it’s time for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation’s 2023 WISCONSIN CIVICS GAMES!!

Please help us spread the word to high school students, their families and teachers!!

Wisconsin Civics Games registration open through Feb. 20

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation is excited to announce that registration for the Wisconsin Civics Games, which aims to promote civics education and encourage Wisconsin high school students to develop an interest in public service, is now open.

The 2023 Civics Games’ regional competitions will be held virtually on Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14. The top-performing teams will advance to the finals on Friday, May 12, at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

The deadline to sign up to participate in the regional competitions is Feb. 20.

Members of the winning team will each be awarded $2,000 toward tuition to a Wisconsin college or university of their choice. The scholarships are funded in part by the generous support of the University of Wisconsin System.

SIGN UP NOW

Additional support for the Wisconsin Civics Games has been provided by the Evjue Foundation, Wisconsin Counties Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, WisconsinEye, Wisconsin Senate Scholars Program, Wisconsin News Tracker, Godfrey & Kahn, Local Government Institute of Wisconsin, MG&E Foundation, Polco.us, Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership and Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies.

CIVICS GAMES GUIDE

Learn more about previous Games, how to prepare, rules and requirements and supporting the competition by downloading the 2023 Civics Games Guide.

Curious Legacy Media school “letter to the editor” policy

David Blaska:

Blaska’s Bottom Line asks a bunch of questions: The Wisconsin State Journal refuses to publish Blaska’s letter asking Madison school officials whether, after eight years, is Restorative Justice working?Especially considering we have another school board election on the April 4 ballot. Editorial page editor Scott Milfred complained: “It was long …” [It was 245 words — exact number as a letter fit to publish Sunday 01-29-23: “Our public schools deserve support.”] “and asked a bunch of questions, which was awkward for a letter to the editor.” Blaska responded that those are questions the newspaper should be asking and the school district won’t. Here is that letter.

restorative-justice-op-ed-1Download

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

“While that’s still more than five substitutes per MMSD building, Lyne explained that not every substitute is equal as far as filling the daily needs”

Scott Girard:

“A lot of these subs don’t work every day,” he said. “Or they will only work at certain schools or certain parts of town or certain grades; sometimes the retired teachers will only go back to their school or they’ll sub for their old colleagues.”

In a worker-friendly job market over the past two years, many have found more consistent work that either pays better or offers benefits, shrinking the pool and diminishing the availability of some of those who remain.

Hannah Bennett, who began substitute teaching in MMSD in 2019 because the job provided flexibility, is now part of that group.

After not working in the role during the pandemic, she started back in spring 2022 with a long-term substitute role at West High School. She subbed again this year, but recently got a new, non-education job that will provide benefits.

“It’s really hard to earn benefits (as a sub),” she said. “The job that I have now, I have really good benefits. I think the pay that I get is probably about the same but because I get benefits, it’s a lot more.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Notes on the “stop woke act”

The Economist:

Despite being weakened, the Stop woke Act has had an effect on campuses. Twenty-eight presidents of public colleges signed a letter on January 18th promising to defend “Florida values”. “Our institutions will not fund or support any institutional practice, policy, or academic requirement that compels belief in critical-race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality, or the idea that systems of oppression should be the primary lens through which teaching and learning are analysed and/or improved upon,” the letter says.

Usually when people want to prevent an idea they dislike, they limit who can speak on campus, says Adam Steinbaugh, a lawyer at fire. (Liberals have been accused of using this practice against their conservative enemies recently.) But the Stop Woke Act is different. “Florida is skipping the pretext,” Mr Steinbaugh says. “They’re skipping the middleman and just limiting ideas themselves.”

The law has created a culture of fear on campus, says a faculty member at the University of Florida, who wishes to remain anonymous. His university inbox is filled with emails about the act. Academics worry about accidentally breaking the law and being reported, he says. The University of South Florida, a different public university in Florida, has a website for students to report discrimination which specifically asks for “violations of House Bill 7.” The consequences could be steep for public universities, which stand to lose millions of dollars in state funding.

BuzzFeed will start using AI to write quizzes and other content

Sarah Scire:

Nothing like a spokesperson issuing assurances that BuzzFeed “remains focused on human-generated journalism” to make you feel good about the future of the news industry, right?The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on a staff memo at BuzzFeed that laid out plans for the digital media company to use OpenAI — creator of ChatGPT — to help write quizzes and other content. In the memo, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote AI will play a role in both editorial and business operations at BuzzFeed within the next year.

“For example, a quiz to create a personal romantic comedy movie pitch might ask questions like, ‘Pick a trope for your rom-com,’ and ‘Tell us an endearing flaw you have,’” the Journal’s Alexandra Bruellreported. “The quiz would produce a unique, shareable write-up based on the individual’s responses, BuzzFeed said.”But, hey! Humans will still provide “cultural currency” and “inspired prompts,” according to Peretti’s memo.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Zoom based Federal Government

Philip Greenspun:

I spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, D.C. My white friend who earns $200,000 in total compensation as a government worker was enjoying a holiday while the Black service/retail industry workers who get $15/hr had to come in for their regular shifts. Over a leisurely holiday lunch, she explained the current structure of a typical federal agency. “Nobody has to come in,” she said, “and most of the people who work for me haven’t come into the office for months. I go in two or three days a week just to get out of the house, but it is not required.” Why wouldn’t the young people she manages want to come in and get out of their crummy apartments? “A junior programmer wouldn’t get paid more than $90,000 per year, so he couldn’t afford to the live in the city anyway. One guy lives out in Gaithersburg with his brother and it is too much effort to come in. The rest of the Millennials aren’t interested even if they do live, with parental support, reasonably close to our office.”

A reader recently sent me “D.C. Mayor to Biden: Your Teleworking Employees Are Killing My City”(Politico, January 20, 2023):

This is an odd position for Mayor Bowser. She was an enthusiastic proponent of Science, i.e., lockdowns, school closure, forced masking, and vaccine papers checks. Given that SARS-CoV-2 is live and kicking, she’s the last person one would expect to advocate mass gatherings in office buildings, on the Metro, etc. The virus didn’t change; why did she?

“So, nobody looked at the list”

Matt Taibbi:

Translating: individual accounts were chosen through a method developed by J.M. Berger, a writerand think-tanker whose usual specialty is extremism(he’s written about ISIS and domestic white nationalism in the U.S.). Still, it wasn’t even Berger’s fault that ordinary Americans ended up in the list, since said people were chosen “algorithmically.” The Hamilton 68 team also “did not individually review or verify” all the names, because their “focus” was “aggregate networks,” not “specific accounts.”

So, nobody looked at the list. 

The list that was “the fruit of more than three years of observation and monitoring.”’

Sounds solid. 

Yes? No?

Why Did Schools Stop Teaching Kids How To Read?

Zach Weissmueller and Nick Gillespie

Public schools have failed to teach kids to read and write because they use approaches that aren’t based on proven techniques based on phonics. Many schools have been influenced by the work of Columbia University’s Lucy Calkins, who is the subject of a new podcast series from American Public Media, Sold a Story, “an exposé of how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences—children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended.”

“The South Bronx elementary school where I taught 5th grade for several years was a proponent of Calkins’ approach,” Pondiscio wrote in a 2022 New York Post op-ed. “We adopted her teaching methods and employed her literacy coaches for years, to very little effect. Her greatest sin against literacy comes after kids learn to ‘decode’ the written word, whether or not they are taught with phonics, which is just the starting line for reading.”

How did this happen? Is the solution school choice—a system in which parents can opt out of traditional public schools and their flawed approaches to teaching reading? As Pondiscio argues, is withdrawing “concern for traditional public schools” equivalent to withdrawing “concern for our republic”?

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

More on the surprisingly large effects of air pollution on cognition

Palacios, Eichholtz, Kok and Duran:

Governments devote a large share of public budgets to construct, repair, and modernize school facilities. However, evidence on whether investments in the physical state of schools translate into better student outcomes is scant. In this study, we report the results of a large field study on the implications of poor air quality inside classrooms − a key performance measure of school mechanical ventilation systems. We continuously monitor the air quality (i.e., CO2), together with a rich set of indoor environmental parameters in 216 classrooms in the Netherlands. We link indoor air quality conditions to the outcomes on semi-annual nationally standardized tests of 5,500 children, during a period of five school terms (from 2018 to 2020). Using a fixed-effects strategy, relying on within-pupil changes in air quality conditions and test results, we document that exposure to poor indoor air quality during the school term preceding a test is associated with significantly lower test results: a one standard deviation increase in the school-term average daily peak of CO2 leads to a 0.11 standard deviation decrease in subsequent test scores. The estimates based on plausibly exogenous variation driven by mechanical ventilation system breakdown events confirm the robustness of the results. Our results add to the ongoing debate on the determinants of student human capital accumulation, highlighting the role of school infrastructure in shaping learning outcomes.

Big Tech Layoffs Are Hitting Diversity and Inclusion Jobs Hard

Kelsey Butler

Bloomberg News identified DEI professionals who lost their jobs in recent weeks at Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter Inc. and Redfin Corp. Many said they expect their responsibilities will go to former colleagues who remain or to employee resource groups, which often don’t get compensated for that work.

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company’s DEI priorities haven’t changed and the company remains committed to its goals. A Redfin spokesperson said the company has invested in growing its DEI team since 2021, and despite a recent layoff the group is larger than it was at the start of 2022. A representative for Meta declined to comment. 

“I’m cautiously concerned — not that these roles will go to zero but that there will be a spike in ‘Swiss army knife’ type roles,” meaning more DEI professionals will be spread thin as they take on additional job functions, said Textio Chief Executive Officer Kieran Snyder. The phenomenon isn’t likely limited to tech, either, as layoffs hit other parts of the economy. Last year, companies announced plans to cut over 363,000 jobs, up 13% from 2021.

The Passive in English

Geoffrey K. Pullum

Numerous Language Log posts by me, Mark Liberman, and Arnold Zwicky among others have been devoted to mocking people who denigrate the passive without being able to identify it (see this comprehensive list of Language Log posts about the passive). It is clear that some people think The bus blew up is in the passive; that The case took on racial overtones is in the passive; that Dr. Reuben deeply regrets that this happened is in the passive; and so on.

Our grumbling about how these people don’t know their passive from a hole in the ground has inspired many people to send us email asking for a clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is. In this post I respond to those many requests. I’ll make it as clear and simple as I can, but it will be a 2500-word essay; I can’t make things simpler than they are. There is no hope of figuring out the meaning of grammatical terms from common sense, or by looking in a dictionary. Passive (like its opposite, active) is a technical term. Its use in syntax has nothing to do with lacking energy or initiative, or assuming a receptive and non-directive role. And the dictionary definitions are often utterly inadequate (Webster’s, for example, is simply hopeless on the grammatical sense of the word). I will try to explain things accurately, and also simply (though this is not for kids; I am writing this for grownups). If I fail, then of course the whole of your money will be refunded.

I won’t be talking about passive sentences or passive verbs: sentences are too big and verbs are too small. I’ll talk in terms of passive clauses. A clause consists, very roughly, of a verb plus all the appropriate things that go with that verb to complete a unit that can express a proposition, including all its optional extra modifiers. Sentences can contain numerous clauses, some passive and some not, some embedded inside others, so talking about passive sentences doesn’t make any sense. Nor does “passive construction” if you define it, as Webster’s does, as a type of expression “containing a passive verb form”. That would be far too vague even if English had passive verb forms (in reality, it doesn’t).

The Arizona Legislature will exempt itself from state public records law and destroy all email correspondence sent or received by lawmakers or staff after 90 days

Bob Christie:

The Senate also completely exempted text messages on their personal phones, which lawmakers frequently use for legislative business, from release at any time. The House policy is not as expansive.

If in place after the 2020 presidential election, these rules would have prevented the public from learning about many of the efforts to persuade Arizona lawmakers to throw out President Joe Biden’s win.

One of the most well-known of those efforts was a series of emails that Virginia Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a supporter of former President Donald Trump, sent to a host of state Republican House and Senate members just days after Biden won the election. She urged members to throw out Biden’s delegates to the Electoral College and replace them with a GOP slate.

“The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,”

Hillsdale

“What happened to my country?”

That is the question on the minds of many Americans over the last few years as they’ve seen large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America embracing the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

American politics has been transformed in recent years as large portions of the federal bureaucracy, military, the media, and corporate America have embraced the ideas of the 1960s radical Left. 

This transformation has brought ideas like transgenderism, identity politics, and global government—which were formerly relegated to the fringes of academia—into the mainstream of American public life. The result of this turn can be seen in the radical gender ideology pushed in our nation’s classrooms, the lawlessness at our border and in many of our cities, and the economic policies that continue to hollow out the American middle class.

Our new free online course, “The American Left: From Liberalism to Despotism,” aims to explain the source of these radical movements and charts how they have overtaken America’s institutions. 

In this course, you’ll discover:

Sandburg Elementary students get free books, visit from local officials

Scott Girard:

When the students found out about the plan on Wednesday, one teacher said, one of them asked if it was the “mayor of the United States” visiting. All of the officials proved popular, with students taking selfies and asking for autographs in their new books.

“When we talk about partnering with the city and our educational partners, this is an example of that,” Madison said between looking through the books around the tables. “It doesn’t take a lot; a couple of phone calls, the kids feel cared about — these kids are going to go home with those books at night and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got this book for free at the book fair!’”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The ultimate weapon of mass distraction

Gurwinder:

Advances in the understanding of positive reinforcement, driven mostly by people trying to get us to click on links, have now made it possible to consistently give people on the other side of the world dopamine hits at scale.

As such, pleasure is now a weapon; a way to incapacitate an enemy as surely as does pain. And the first pleasure-weapon of mass destruction may just be a little app on your phone called TikTok.


I. The Smiling TigerTikTok is the most successful app in history. It emerged in 2017 out of the Chinese video-sharing app Douyin and within three years it had become the most downloaded app in the world, later surpassing Google as the world’s most visited web domain. TikTok’s conquest of human attention was facilitated by the covid lockdowns of 2020, but its success wasn’t mere luck. There’s something about the design of the app that makes it unusually irresistible.Other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, use recommendation algorithms as features to enhance the core product. With TikTok, the recommendation algorithm is the core product. You don’t need to form a social network or list your interests for the platform to begin tailoring content to your desires, you just start watching, skipping any videos that don’t immediately draw your interest. Tiktok uses a proprietary algorithm, known simply as the For You algorithm, that uses machine learning to build a personality profile of you by training itself on your watch habits (and possibly your facial expressions.) Since a TikTok video is generally much shorter than, say, a YouTube video, the algorithm acquires training data from you at a much faster rate, allowing it to quickly zero in on you.The result is a system that’s unsurpassed at figuring you out. And once it’s figured you out, it can then show you what it needs to in order to addict you.Since the For You algorithm favors only the most instantly mesmerizing content, its constructive videos—such as “how to” guides and field journalism—tend to be relegated to the fringes in favor of tasty but malignant junk info. Many of the most popular TikTokers, such as Charli D’Amelio, Bella Poarch, and Addison Rae, do little more than vapidly dance and lip-sync.

Civics: Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud

Matt Taibbi:

Ambitious media frauds Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair crippled the reputations of the New Republic and New York Times, respectively, by slipping years of invented news stories into their pages. Thanks to the Twitter Files, we can welcome a new member to their infamous club: Hamilton 68

If one goes by volume alone, this oft-cited neoliberal think-tank that spawned hundreds of fraudulent headlines and TV news segments may go down as the single greatest case of media fabulism in American history. Virtually every major news organization in America is implicated, including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Mother Jones alone did at least 14 stories pegged to the group’s “research.” Even fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes cited Hamilton 68 as a source.

Barriers to School Choice

WILL:

Did you know that statewide choice students outperform their public-school peers by 3.2% in ELA and 2.1% in math? It is no wonder that their enrollment continues to increase compared to traditional public schools. However, it can be a lengthy and complicated process for parents to enroll their children in a choice program. That’s largely due to the many bureaucratic obstacles that are currently in place such as income limits, restrictive enrollment periods, grade-level entry points and regulatory requirements. 

Income Limits  

Not all families in Wisconsin have access to a parental choice program because of income limits that determine eligibility. Not only are the income limits restrictive (as a family of four in the statewide program cannot earn more than $58,300), but they are inconsistent. For instance, family incomes must be within 300% of the federal poverty limit in order to participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Racine Parental Choice Program. But for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, also known as the statewide program, family incomes must be within 220% of the federal poverty limit.

New College of Florida trustees Christopher Rufo, Jason ‘Eddie’ Speir…

Jack Stripling

“We’re going to liberate the campus,” he told reporters. “We’re going to liberate administrators. Were’ going to liberate faculty from the cultural hostage-takers.”

The two forums held Wednesday were the first public opportunities for people at New College to hear directly from Rufo, a conservative firebrand who is known for his deep skepticism of the kinds of diversity and inclusion programs that are popular at New College and across higher education. Rufo was joined on the dais by Jason “Eddie” Speir, another incoming trustee and co-founder of a Christian school in Bradenton, Fla.

[Will a small, quirky Florida college become ‘DeSantis U’?]

Tensions have been running high since the trustee appointments were announced. That feeling was exacerbated before the proceedings, when Rufo told attendees that the college had received a death threat against Speir. Rufo assigned without evidence probable blame for the threat to the board’s liberal critics.

Catherine Helean, a spokeswoman for the college, confirmed in an email that the college had “received what were perceived to be credible threats.” The campus police are investigating, she said.

The threat, which Speir said came in an email to the college, appeared to set off a disagreement between the trustees and the college’s administration about whether it was safe to proceed with the forums. In an email to campus on Wednesday morning, Suzanne Sherman, the college’s provost, told students, faculty and staff to “refrain from attending” the events. “We prioritize keeping your community safe,” she wrote.

Rufo described the administration’s position as “cowardice” and said it should factor into the board’s decisions about whether the college needs new leadership.

What I know about ‘woke’ schools

Anonymous:

“How are your homelessness workshops going?” I asked my 15-year-old son recently after he said he’d signed up for an “exciting new project” touted in his school’s weekly email. “I’ve stopped going,” he said. “There was a load of stuff on ‘preconceptions of homeless people’ that were kind of obvious. And anyway I had to go to the library as I had eight pieces of homework this week.”

A snapshot, I know, but as a private school parent this rather sums up my response to an essay by Katharine Birbalsingh, the superhead and former chairwoman of the Social Mobility Commission, saying that elite private schools have become obsessed with embracing woke issues and pupil-centric learning. Birbalsingh’s view is that private schools are empowering pupils to assuage the guilt they feel for their privilege by embracing woke campaigns on topics such as race, gender and sexuality, and this then gives them a “green pass” to feeling like a good person. The implication is that pupils may learn to be people who are very vocal on Twitter, but they will be less likely to choose a career or vocation that would involve them giving back in any meaningful way.

Growing student absenteeism

Scott Girard:

Wisconsin K-12 students had a significantly higher rate of chronic absenteeism following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

The report, published Friday, shows there was an increase from a 12.4% chronic absenteeism rate in the 2016-17 school year to 16.1% in in 2020-21, the first full school year after the pandemic began.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student missing more than 10% of possible school days, through excused or unexcused absences.

“Research has tied high rates of chronic absenteeism to lower student achievement, decreased student mental health, higher dropout rates, and more challenges in adulthood,” the report states.

While the report notes that absenteeism rose in all types of schools around the state, the five largest districts by enrollment — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine — had an absenteeism rate of 31.8% among them, while all other districts had a rate of 12.6%.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Why Johnny might finally learn to read

Mona Charen:

If you’re a parent with kids in public school, you are doubtless aware of the roiling controversies about the teaching of critical race theory and about policies governing the participation of trans athletes in sports. Those things are not trivial, but you’re probably not hearing much about a far more consequential matter: how schools are failing to teach kids to read.

That’s right — failing badly. Even before the dramatic learning loss caused by COVID, only one-third of American fourth and eighth graders were reading at grade level. How is that not a massive scandal? If only one-third of traffic lights were working properly, or one-third of army tanks could fulfill their mission, or one-third of firefighters knew how to use a firehose, we’d properly call that a government failure. And yet the failure to teach kids the basics of reading — despite widespread scientific and scholarly consensus about the best way — has dragged on year after year and decade after decade.

It was 1955 when “Why Johnny Can’t Read” became a bestseller. It argued that a retreat from phonics instruction — teaching kids to sound out words based on the sounds letters make — was handicapping American students. It was 1983 when a blue ribbon commission issued “A Nation at Risk,” the most often quoted section of which warned:

US plummets in annual freedom ranking for one big reason

Brad Polumbo:

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Or so Americans think. We actually rank 23nd in the world, under one new ranking of the freest countries.

The Cato Institute and the Fraser Institute just released their 2022 Human Freedom Index. Their annual analysis ranks how free countries are based on a variety of factors, including personal liberties, economic freedom, and civil liberties. It used data from 2000 to 2020.

The results are jarring. The US dropped seven spots from 2019 to 2020, going from 16th to 23rd—and saw a precipitous decline in its raw score as well. It saw declines in both economic and personal freedom. And, while we fared worse than some other nations, it wasn’t just us: overall, “94% of the world’s population saw a fall in human freedomfrom 2019 to 2020.”

K-12 Governance climate: Kiel edition

Mario Koran: (finding notes)

Tri-County Citizens ratcheted up most of the pressure on Ebert. Seeking to block “woke ideology” and lessons on racial justice, the group helped elect like-minded school board challengers last April by canvassing, producing campaign videos and creating a political action committee to raise funds.

Matt Piper, a Tri-County Citizens leader who plans to run for a school board seat in April’s election, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“As exemplified by your writings regarding Kiel, you sir have shown yourself to be an intentional promoter of partisan lies and deception,” he told a Wisconsin Watch reporter. “I pray daily for the conversion of all hearts in your ilk.”

In a previous interview, Piper described Tri-County Citizens as “just concerned citizens reaching out to our neighbors.”

“Bias reporting systems”

Graham Piro Alex Morey

Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday. 

The Stanford Daily said over the weekend that administrators were working “swiftly” with the students involved to “address” the incident. Two campus rabbis emailed Jewish students saying administrators “are in ongoing conversation with the individuals involved, who are committed to and actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair.”

Stanford was reportedly alerted to the book-reading via its Protected Identity Harm reporting system. Effectively a bias response system, Stanford says PIH reports help the university “address incidents where a community member experiences harm because of who they are and how they show up in the world.”

Notes on taxpayer funded DIE $pending

Maggie Kelly:

The University of Florida, the state’s flagship university, listed 43 staff positions connected to DEI and reported expenditures totaling $5.3 million on “diversity-related programs and expenses,” the news service reported. The state provided close to $3.4 million of those funds.

The university’s Office of the Chief Diversity Officer alone included four staff jobs and cost $1,085,485, of which approximately $785,000 came from the state, according to the New Service of Florida.

The University of South Florida reported about $1.2 million in diversity and inclusion office expenditures and credited state funds with over half that amount.

Commentary on Columbia University leadership climate

Armin Rosen::

Columbia becomes a status vector almost by force of gravity, regardless of individual intentions: I wasn’t one of the undergraduates making tens of thousands of dollars working in finance each summer, but I did successfully wheedle my way into the once-fascinating lower rungs of the city’s cultural journalism scene (RIP L MagazineImpose, and New York Press) and had a habit of venturing deep into Bushwick on weeknights. At the time I thought this made me cool, but it really made me a product of Morningside Heights, where everyone harbors dreams of trading up.

Read more on higher education

The university has little psychic or spiritual significance beyond itself. It has no Skull and Bones-type secret societies, no final clubs, no recent history of high-profile athletic success. Nobody has time for that crap in New York. Career and student services in general were notably thin 15 years ago, as if the institution wanted you to leave the neighborhood and make your own way as quickly as you possibly could, or else decamp for some other environment you could actually handle. The greatest fictional Columbian of the 21st century, Meadow Soprano, got stuck with a mentally ill roommate, dated an unbearably pretentious film student, and quickly moved off-campus, proof that the show’s producers knew a little something about life there. The greatest non-Alexander Hamilton, real-life alumnus in the school’s history, Barack Obama, almost never talks about the place.

On the other hand, it is very hard to hide the existence of an Ivy League institution in New York City, however quickly its students and alumni move on from it. It’s even harder to acquire and then raze 17 acres of Manhattan, especially when it’s part of an impoverished, historically Black and Hispanic neighborhood where several of the incumbent landowners don’t want to sell to you. Bollinger’s masterpiece as Columbia president, clinched in the years after the Ahmadinejad fiasco, was the construction of a second campus in the Manhattanville section of west Harlem, a dour enclave of Renzo Piano-designed monstrosities built through hardball negotiating tactics and the threat of eminent domain. The estimated price tag for the eventually 6.8 million-square-foot campus was $6.5 billion as of 2019, much of it raised on Bollinger’s watch. Purchase of the land started in 2004, early in Bollinger’s reign. In 1968, the construction of a gym in Morningside Park was enough to set off riots on campus.

Whistleblower Teacher Ramona Bessinger Targeted For Viewpoint Discrimination At Providence High School Even Before Arrived, Records Reveal

William Jacobson:

Before that, we spotlighted Providence (RI) teacher Ramona Bessinger. Our most recent post on October 8, 2022, gives the history of Bessinger’s struggles ever since she blew the whistle in a post at Legal Insurrection about the corrupting influences of a new radicalized and racialized curriculum at her middle school, Providence (RI) Schools Bow To Radical Mob, Remove Whistleblower Ramona Bessinger From Teaching Position.

Here’s a brief excerpt for those of you who are not familiar with Bessinger:

…We have covered Bessinger’s story from inception. In July 2021, then a middle school teacher, Bessinger blew the whistle at Legal Insurrection on a new radicalized and racialized curriculum that was creating racial tension in school, including turning students and staff against her because she is white….

Bessinger received national and international media attention:

A Merton Primary School principal’s resignation leaves more questions after parents say she’s being pressured out

Alec Johnson:

Stein shared a copy of her resignation letter to the board with the Journal Sentinel, but referred a reporter to Russ for questions about the matter. Her letter, dated Jan. 17, did not explain her decision but thanked the community and offered her “best wishes” to the district.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the students and families of the Merton community, and I am proud of the great work that we did together,” Stein said in her letter. “As my family embraces new personal and professional changes, please know we will always be connected with our Merton family and many fond memories.”

Russ did not respond to requests from the Journal Sentinel Friday to explain Stein’s resignation. His letter to parents thanked Stein for her leadership.

“I would like to thank Ms. Stein for her 3+ years of service, dedication, and efforts to our families, community, and staff,” Russ wrote. “Ms. Stein has been instrumental in leading Merton Primary through the pandemic and has made many classroom and instructional improvements that will be long lasting.”

Why Zimbabwe’s schools sell chickens

The Economist:

he job of a head teacher involves hiring teachers, disciplining pupils and placating parents. It does not normally include selling chickens. But that was one of several side-hustles run by Evermore Chakwizira, who until last year was the head of Chinyika High School in Goromonzi, 40km (25 miles) east of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Since 2019 his school has sold hundreds of chicks a week at the local market. During the covid-19 pandemic, when children were at home, fluffy poults took up residence in the classrooms.

Participation in Girl’s High School Basketball Declines

Owen Ayite-Atayi

Now, participation in girls basketball has dropped to 19 percent while girls’ track and field has increased by 10 percent. Soccer and volleyball are also sports that have increased in girl’s participation. Overall, participation for both boys and girls high school sports have decreased by four percent. The majority of female athletes are focusing on an individual sport nearly year-round like cross country. Many girls see basketball as a difficult and not “cute” sport to play, coaches say. Natalia Bryant, the daughter of Kobe Bryant, told Teen Vogue that she preferred volleyball over basketball because she does not like to run.

Erica Delley, a first-year head coach at Dallas’s Kimball High School says, “Its sad. That’s why I came back, to make a difference and try to encourage kids to play.” Not only has participation decreased in girls basketball at Dallas Kimball High School, but other schools are experiencing the same issue, such as Nebraska.

In Nebraska, basketball participation dropped to 28 percent since 2002 and the number of girls’ teams dropped 12 percent in two decades. Shelby Gliebe, the head coach at New Albany (Ind.) High, says that the junior-varsity play around program halted around midseason because of low numbers. She says that it was a dramatic step for a school that has an enrollment of 1,800 students and a basketball program that won the 1999 big-school state championship. Most girls’ use “I have work, and I can’t not work” or “I don’t like basketball, because it is not a cute sport” as an excuse to avoid participation in high school basketball.

“Little evidence was found that more spending affects student performance”

Apples to Apples, Assessing Wisconsin’s State of Education:

Once the demographics of students in the schools are taken into account, the level of per capita spending in a public school district has no statistical impact on student proficiency.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

The failure of “balanced literacy”

Christina Smallwood:

In Reading in the Brain (2009)—which Hanford recommends on the Sold a Story website, writing, “I’ve never filled a book with so many sticky notes”—the cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene identifies three stages of learning to read: the pictorial, where children memorize a few words as if they were pictures (these are likely to be the child’s own name or a familiar brand logo); the phonological, where they “decode graphemes into phonemes”; and the orthographic, where “word recognition becomes fast and automatic.”

2011: a majority of the taxpayer funded Madison School Board aborts the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School in a 5-2 vote.

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Civics: Does Twitter Disinformation Even Work?

Wall Street Journal:

One theme from the internal Twitter files being released by Elon Musk is the government’s gnawing fear that armies of foreign trolls and bots might be changing real people’s opinions. After Twitter said it was investigating false claims circulating in 2020 of a communications blackout in Washington, D.C., the FBI reached out to ask if the tweets might be “driven by foreign-controlled bots.”

The answer in that case was no, Twitter replied. The #dcblackout campaign was “a small-scale domestic troll effort,” without “a significant bot or foreign angle.” Vladimir Putin does try to sow unrest this way, but how much can this nonsense even accomplish? Less than Mr. Putin imagines and the FBI fears, or at least that’s the way we read a paper out Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

The study focuses on the 2016 election and uses “longitudinal survey data” that’s linked to the respondents’ Twitter feeds. Its six authors, three of whom hail from New York University, find that “exposure to Russian disinformation accounts was heavily concentrated: only 1% of users accounted for 70% of exposures.” Also, Mr. Putin’s bots were “eclipsed by content from domestic news media and politicians.” During the final month of the campaign, an average user was potentially exposed to four posts per day by Russian bots, compared with 106 by national news sites and 35 by politicians.

Exposure to the Russian Internet Research Agency foreign influence campaign on Twitter in the 2016 US election and its relationship to attitudes and voting behavior

Florida k-12 book legislation

Judd Legum:

The law requires that all library books selected be:

1. Free of pornography and material prohibited under s. 847.012.

2. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.

3. Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used or made available

Chapman says that school principals in Manatee County were told Wednesday that any staff member violating these rules by providing materials “harmful to minors” could be prosecuted for “a felony of the third degree.” Therefore, teachers must make their classroom libraries inaccessible to students until they can establish that each book has been approved by a librarian.

Notes on the taxpayer supported Madison Summer School Staffing plans

Olivia Herken;

The district doesn’t need to approve any new funds to provide this raise, and instead, the enrollment for summer school this year will be capped at 4,000 students to be able to hike pay within the already approved budget.

The pay raise increases staffing costs from $2.8 million last year to $3.5 million.

Green said every year the district invites about 7,000 students to apply for summer school, and hears back from about 4,000 to 5,000. On average, about 5,500 students are served. Last year, there were about 3,520 students who were enrolled at the start of summer.

Although no new funding needs to be approved, the School Board will vote on the item next week largely to update the district’s handbook to give more flexibility for summer school pay in the future and start the base pay at $28 going forward.

“Summer school is an important tool to maintain and advance academic and social outcomes for our students and our ability to staff this program is important,” Madison School Board Member Savion Castro said at a work group meeting Monday. “I am impressed that we have found a way to include some level of pay increase for staff in this program so that we can fully staff it while keeping in the same funding footprint as prior years.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Madison Schools’ Safety Survey

Scott Girard:

Surveys to help guide the Madison public schools’ Safety and Student Wellness Ad Hoc Committee have a long list of suggestions for the district.

The responses illustrate the difficult and involved task in front of both the committee, which is nearing its completion after forming last March, and the Madison Metropolitan School District as it works toward making schools as safe as possible while meeting the needs of every student.

Within the themes, it’s clear that some respondents see different priorities on the path to achieving safety and wellness. Some responses focused on the importance of identifying and helping students in need or who are on the receiving end of bullying, for example, while others pointed to a perceived lack of consequences for students who disrupt the learning environment and mention too much fighting.

Madison Teachers Inc. president Michael Jones, who is a member of the ad hoc committee, suggested it will be important to come up with a way to make sure the district’s response to the survey is “meaningful.”

“It aligns with a lot of previous discussions around culture and climate and also around things that as a union we’ve tried to put forward,” Jones said. “It was heartening to see all the major stakeholders, there’s a lot of overlap, there’s a lot of Venn diagramming in terms of vision.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?

Little-Known Surveillance Program Captures Money Transfers Between U.S. and More Than 20 Countries

Dustin Volz & Byron Tau:

Hundreds of federal, state and local U.S. law-enforcement agencies have access without court oversight to a database of more than 150 million money transfers between people in the U.S. and in more than 20 countries, according to internal program documents and an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden.

The database, housed at a little-known nonprofit called the Transaction Record Analysis Center, or TRAC, was set up by the Arizona state attorney general’s office in 2014 as part of a settlement reached with Western Union to combat cross-border trafficking of drugs and people from Mexico. It has since expanded to allow officials of more than 600 law-enforcement entities—from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to small-town police departments in nearly every state—to monitor the flow of funds through money services between the U.S. and countries around the world.

Reform PhD training

Nature:

These days, there’s barely a world leader who doesn’t talk up science. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the star turn at the annual Indian Science Congress, held this month in Nagpur, where he exhorted the nation’s researchers to do the science needed to make India self-reliant. At last October’s landmark Communist Party congress, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping set out his vision of how science and innovation could drive growth. And last August, US President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which unlocks US$13.2 billion for semiconductor research and workforce development, in a bid to maintain the country’s technological primacy.

In each case, the message to researchers is crystal clear: leaders see science as essential to national prosperity, well-being and, of course, competitiveness. So, is research fit for the challenge of advancing, refining or critiquing these goals? Not exactly. And it won’t be until there is fundamental reform to the gateway to a research career: PhD training.

Alumni lawsuit against Yale over trustee petition ballot ban moves forward

Marc E. Fitch

Two Yale alumni have filed suit in Superior Court against Yale University alleging the President and Fellows of Yale College – called the Corporation in court filings – unilaterally ended the ability for alumni to petition for a ballot to be elected to Yale’s governing body and violated the university’s charter established by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1872.

Despite the Yale Corporation’s move to dismiss the lawsuit, Superior Court Judge John Burns Farley has allowed one count of the lawsuit to move forward, according to a decision issued on December 15, 2022.

Plaintiffs Victor H. Ashe, who has served as an ambassador to Poland as well as a state legislator and mayor in Tennessee, and Donald G. Glascoff, Jr., retired chair and co-partner of one of Wall Street’s oldest firms, filed the lawsuit alleging that Yale’s governing body “is engaging in the most obvious form of voter suppression and denial of rights of free expression of opinion,” according to the court complaint.

The President and Fellows of Yale consists of 19 trustees, six of whom are alumni trustees elected by Yale alumni. The corporation also includes the Connecticut governor and lieutenant governor as ex officio members. The Connecticut General Assembly in 1872, established that six trustee seats should be held by alumni who were voted on by eligible alumni.

Iowa’s School Choice Comeback

Wall Street Journal:

The bill that state lawmakers passed out of committee last week would provide education savings accounts (ESAs) of about $7,600 for students to use toward private-school tuition, tutoring, and more. That’s a notable increase from the ESAs worth roughly $5,000 in the proposal that died last year. The 2022 bill also set income caps on those who can apply. This year’s legislation would set some caps for the first two years but remove them in 2025-26, making the program available to anyone.

Gov. Reynolds’ willingness to spend political capital positioned the Legislature much better to pass the bill this time around. House Speaker Pat Grassley suggested to reporters Thursday that Republicans have an “expectation” that the bill will pass.

Democrats are responding with their usual complaints about taxpayer dollars going to private schools. At issue last year was purported concern for rural districts. Public schools are sometimes the only option in rural areas and school choice will ruin them, the argument goes.

16-year-old girl charged with attempted homicide after boy in Madison was stabbed in the heart

Ed Treleven:

Court Commissioner Karie Cattanach set bail at $7,000.

According to the complaint:

Police had been called to Sherman earlier for a fight, and some of the same officers were then called to the fight at Warner Park. One of the combatants told police that after the fight at Sherman, she received a call from someone on the other side asking to meet at Warner Park.

That person said she initially fought briefly with someone later identified as Crawford but it was broken up. Another fight between two others then broke out, which the boy who was later stabbed tried to break up, the witness told police.

Mental health ER visits among children nearly triple at UW Health in past decade

David Wahlberg:

Throughout Wisconsin, 34% of high school students report feeling sad and hopeless almost every day, a 10 percentage point increase over the past decade, according to an annual report released last week by the Office of Children’s Mental Health. 

A similar situation is being seen in other states, according to a recent article in the journal Pediatrics, which said hospital emergency visits related to suicide increased 59% in Illinois from 2016 to 2021.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death of children ages 10 to 14 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase in ER visits comes amid a decade-long increase in anxiety and depression among adolescents, said Shanda Wells, a pediatric behavioral health specialist at UW Health.

Uses & abuses of military history

Victor Davis Hanson:

More practically, military history rests on the hallowed notion that human nature is unchanging over the centuries. The study of wars of the past, then, can offer timeless lessons about why wars in the present and future start, how they proceed and end, and what, if anything, they accomplish. Clausewitz was right about the immutable essential nature of war when he remarked that “War is in no way changed or modified through the progress of civilization.”

The Truth About Reading Film Screening: 2.7.2023 @ 5:30 Madison

Wisconsin Reads:

Literacy is essential to developing self-worth and becoming successful in all aspects of life including family, education, work, and community service. Varied levels of awareness, understanding, and action have contributed to long-standing myths about reading and growing challenges that impact every Wisconsinite.

Educational attainment is a barrier to self-sustaining wages for dropouts and unprepared graduates creating an economic burden for themselves and taxpayers. The average lifetime costs to taxpayers resulting from schooling failure are approximately $90,000 per dropout and $30,000 per unprepared graduate (Education Consumers Foundation, 2022).

In 2021-2022:
37% of WI students in grades 3-8 scored proficient or advanced on the Wisconsin Forward Exam for English Language Arts (WISEdash, 2022).

35 % of WI students in grade 11 scored proficient or advanced on the ACT exam for English Language Arts (WISEdash, 2022).

WI had the widest achievement gap between African American and white students in the nation (IES and NAEP, 2022).

The “balanced-literacy” method of teaching children to read has predominated in American schools since the 1990s. It has been a failure.

Christine Smallwood:

One night, while searching in the woods for food, Frankenstein’s monster discovers a leather suitcase containing three books: The Sorrows of Young Werther, Plutarch’s Lives, and Paradise Lost. Goethe is a source of “astonishment” but also alienation; the monster can sympathize with the characters, but only to a point—their lives are so unlike his own. From Plutarch he learns about public virtue. It is Milton who expands his soul. Paradise Lost “moved every feeling of wonder and awe,” the monster says. As a created being, he identifies with Adam, but Satan is “the fitter emblem of my condition, for…when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”

It may move us to wonder and awe that the monster is able to read Milton at all, let alone form a complex analysis. But fate took a hand in his education when, alone and wandering in the woods, he happened upon a cottage where two children were teaching French to a visitor. Listening and looking through the window, the monster became a pupil, too. “While I improved in speech,” he explains, “I also learned the science of letters.” He learned, in other words, how to read.

It’s possible that absent those lessons and with knowledge of the alphabet alone, the monster might have puzzled over Paradise Lost long enough to figure it out for himself. As Bruce McCandliss, a cognitive neuroscientist interviewed on the recent podcast Sold a Story, puts it, some people are just naturally good at “hearing all of the individual sounds within words.” In time, with enough exposure to text, “they start to make all of these connections”—decoding and pronouncing and mastering, by intuition and practice, the contradictory and exception-ridden rules of written English (the language Sold a Story concerns). As Milton might put it, with wandering steps and slow, they make their solitary way. In common parlance, they figure it out. But the phrase “science of letters” suggests that Frankenstein’s monster was more like a member of the greater majority, the 60 percent who, as Emily Hanford, an education reporter and the host of Sold a Story, explains, require “direct and explicit instruction” in phonics to learn to read.

Phonics, in the words of the reading researcher Reid Lyon, is “nothing more than a relationship between sound structure and a print structure.” It’s breaking down the word “cat” into a spoken hard k sound, followed by the short vowel a, and finally putting the tip of your tongue on the front roof of your mouth and letting go to make that little burst of t. Phonics teaches you how to handle consonants, long and short vowels, digraphs (sh, ch), diphthongs (ow, ou), and so on—and to smoothly blend phonetic units, repeating them like the characters on Sesame Street who push letters from one side of the screen to the other until a word is born and sense breaks through sound.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cities Are Headed for Fiscal Trouble AgainK-12 Tax & Spending Climate:

Richard Ravitch and William Glasgall:

Despite this, no other major American state or local government has followed New York’s budgetary lead. While most state and local governments are flush with cash following an unprecedented $5 trillion in federal Covid-19 relief spending, they are nonetheless facing an inevitable fiscal cliff, created by the one-two punch of a possible recession this year and the expiration of hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic aid by 2026.

These forces will expose states, counties and cities to the risk of financial catastrophe as they are forced to grapple with approximately $2 trillion in unfunded liabilities for public-employee retirement obligations and deferred infrastructure maintenance on top of $4 trillion in municipal bond debt. Much of these costs remain hidden in so-called balanced budgets through the use of maneuvers such as using one-time revenues to pay recurring costs and not fully funding pension obligations. These costs pose a severe risk to the entire U.S. economy as well as states and localities, which employ almost 20 million Americans. The bankruptcies of Detroit, Puerto Rico and several California cities following the Great Recession all involved excessive borrowing to achieve balance. It could happen again.

Simpson Street Free Press fills gaps beyond news

Kelly Lecker:

Daniel Garduno pushed his slight frame into the circle of young adults standing around the newsroom in a Monona storefront and offered me a firm handshake, a business card and a preview of the article he was writing on volcanic activity on Mars.

By his own admission and according to his coaches at the Simpson Street Free Press, the sixth grader wasn’t so confident when he walked into the newsroom for the first time a couple years ago. But now, he quickly ticked off three ways he’s grown, thanks to this after-school news job.

Civics: The FBI Identified a Tor User

Bruce Schneier:

There are lots of ways to de-anonymize Tor users. Someone at the NSA gave a presentation on this ten years ago. (I wrote about it for the Guardian in 2013, an essay that reads so dated in light of what we’ve learned since then.) It’s unlikely that the FBI uses the same sorts of broad surveillance techniques that the NSA does, but it’s certainly possible that the NSA did the surveillance and passed the information to the FBI.