Category Archives: Uncategorized

Democrat Hanauer: On Education, “McKenna Is On the Right Track, We Are Not.”


Major Democratic Party donor and education reform advocate Nick Hanauer has responded to Washington Education Association president Mary Lindquist. Lindquist wrote an open letter to PubliCola yesterday criticizing Hanauer for denouncing the Democrats’ position on ed reform and announcing that he planned to meet with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
Here’s Hanauer’s response to teachers’ union president Lindquist.

Dear Mary,
Thank you for your recent open letter to me and PubliCola. It will not surprise you to hear that I disagreed with some of it.
Can you seriously argue that the kids and families in South Seattle don’t deserve better educational opportunities?
As a lifelong Democrat and committed progressive, I too believe that McKenna’s reflexive Republican positions on social issues, taxation, and the role of government are deeply misguided.
But if McKenna and Republicans are wrong in some areas, it hardly excuses us Democrats from being wrong on school reform. Here at least, McKenna is on the right track, and we are not.

Locally, I’ve heard a number of Democrats express similar frustration with the Party’s intransigence on education issues.

Why They Seem to Rise Together: Federal Aid and College Tuition

minding the campus:

It’s called “the Bennett Hypothesis,” and it explains–or tries to explain–why the cost of college lies so tantalizingly out of reach for so many. In 1987, then Secretary of Education William J. Bennett launched a quarter century of debate by saying, in effect, “Federal aid doesn’t help; colleges and universities just cream off the extra money by raising tuition.” Now Andrew Gillen, research director of CCAP–the Center for College Affordability and Productivity–has tweaked the data and produced a sophisticated “2.0” version of the hypothesis. It’s filled with heavy math, game theory and terms like “inelastic fairly vertical curves.” You probably won’t read it. We know. But it’s important. So here are some smart people who have read it, and have something to say: Peter Wood, Hans Bader, Richard Vedder, George Leef and Herbert London.

The French are right to resist Global English

Christopher Caldwell:

One of the odd stories to come out of the French-speaking province of Quebec last year was the announcement that intensive English courses would be offered to students in state schools. Odd, because in the past half-century, much of the Quebecois identity has been built on resisting English. Authorities throw the book at people for doing things that would be normal elsewhere in Canada. Last autumn, the Montreal newspaper La Presse revealed that two real estate executives had made presentations in English to a Montreal-based pension fund, violating the province’s language laws, which give workers the right to a French-speaking environment.
Now, school authorities in Quebec City are questioning whether the time is ripe for introducing those English classes after all. Their hesitation has left French-speaking parents angry. On one hand, those parents want their children to cherish their own community and its language. On the other hand, English is the international language of business, and their children will have a hard time climbing the social ladder without it.

Don’t toy with education

Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim:

English must be accorded a higher stature in schools, be given greater emphasis and longer exposure hours, coupled with the appropriate teacher training.
A CHANCE meeting with a distinguished member of the Education Review Panel at the 2011 Mahathir Science Award presentation recently revealed to me that the panel sees a definitive future in the learning of Science and Mathematics in English.
We sincerely hope that this decision by the panel is conveyed to the Prime Minister and his Government in an honest, pure and unadulterated manner.
This brings to mind the roundtable sessions in 2008 of which I attended three of five. While the contention was whether to stick to using English in primary schools or revert to mother tongue, there was hardly mention of any change at the secondary level.

Teacher seniority rights remain intact in Oakland’s public schools

Katy Murphy:

Seniority rules and teacher transfer rights will remain intact in Oakland Unified this year, despite the superintendent’s call for a change.
The recent debate in Oakland has centered on the transfer of displaced teachers — those whose schools have closed, whose positions have been cut, or who are returning from leave. Traditionally, those teachers have chosen their new job from a list of openings for which they are eligible, with the most senior employee having the first pick and principals having little to no say.
Superintendent Tony Smith had hoped to work out a different arrangement in Oakland, in an initiative called “mutual matching,” arguing it would lead to better placements and, ultimately, higher student achievement. Teachers would visit prospective schools and list their top choices; school principals would do the same, and the district would make the final placements based on both sets of preferences.
Some teachers welcomed the idea. Others expressed strong objections, or felt the process would be too rushed to put in place for the fall. This week, without the union support it needed, the district acknowledged that it had run out of time.

Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Wisconsin DPI:

The Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is conducted as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health-risk behaviors of the nation’s high school students. These behaviors, in turn, result in the most significant causes of both mortality and morbidity during youth and adulthood. The behaviors monitored by the Wisconsin YRBS include traffic safety; weapons and violence; suicide; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behavior; and diet, nutrition and exercise.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has administered the YRBS every two years beginning with 1993. The YRBS is administered to students in Wisconsin’s public high schools. Survey procedures were designed to protect the privacy of students by allowing anonymous and voluntary participation. Local parent permission procedures were followed before administration, including informing parents that their child’s participation was voluntary.

Study of the Day: On Detecting Dyslexia Before Starting School

Hans Villarica:

PROBLEM: Developmental dyslexia affects about half of children with a family history of this disorder and five to 17 percent of all kids. Since it responds to early intervention, is there a way to diagnose children who are at risk before or during kindergarten to head off academic and social difficulties?
METHODOLOGY: Children’s Hospital Boston researchers led by Nora Raschle performed functional MRI imaging in 36 preschool-age children who were about five years old while they performed phonological tasks requiring them to decide whether two words started with the same speech sound. Half of the the kids came from families with a history of dyslexia.
RESULTS: Children with a familial risk for dyslexia tended to have less metabolic activity in brain regions tied to processing language sounds than kids in the control groups. Those with high activation in these areas generally had better pre-reading skills, such as rhyming, knowing letters and letter sounds, knowing when two words start with the same sound, and being able to separate sounds within a word (like saying “cowboy” without the “cow”).

Origami unwraps a world of creativity

Vanessa Yung:

Like many youngsters, Kade Chan Pak-hei was a keen gamer when he was in primary school. When he entered secondary school, however, his interest waned.
“My main reason for not playing with electronic gaming consoles when I got older was that I found a new hobby – origami,” Kade, 17, says. He says he first became interested in the Japanese paper-folding craft after encountering it on the internet and being fascinated by the creative possibilities it offered.
“I started to try my hand at it when I was in Form One, and since then I’ve been addicted.”

Dates for MMSD Achievement Gap Input Sessions

Article on first Input Session (held at West last night) in Feb. 22 Wisconsin State Journal.
Whatever your position/perspective may be, please participate in these important discussions that will have a significant impact on the future of MMSD schools and the students that they serve.
Feb. 28 (Tuesday), Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St.
Feb. 29 (Wednesday), La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road.
March 1 (Thursday), Memorial High School, 201 S. Gammon Road.
March 6 (Tuesday), East High School, 2222 E. Washington Ave.
March 7 (Wednesday), Bridge Lakepoint Waunona Neighborhood Center (in Spanish), 1917 Lake Point Drive.
March 8 (Thursday), Lussier Education Center, 55 S. Gammon Road.
March 10 (Saturday), Vera Court Neighborhood Center, (10 a.m. to noon), 614 Vera Court.
March 14(Wednesday), CUNA Mutual, 5910 Mineral Point Road.
March 17 (Saturday), Centro Hispano (in Spanish) (10 a.m. to noon), 810 W. Badger Road.
March 22 (Thursday), Allied Family Center, 4619 Jenewein Road. [Time not listed in paper]
March 27, East Madison Community Center, 8 Straubel Court. [Time not listed in paper]

Chicago’s Democratically-Led Elementary Schools Far Out-Perform Chicago’s “Turnaround Schools”

Designs for Change (PDF):

Chicago has 210 neighborhood elementary schools that serve 95% or more low-income students (largely grades prekindergarten to eight in Chicago). Chart 1 depicts the distribution of schools in the state in terms of the numbers of percent low-income schools and shows that a very high percentage of schools that are 95% or more low-income are located in the Chicago Public Schools. The two major focuses of this study are:
To compare the impact in these very high-poverty neighborhood schools of two fundamentally different strategiesfor improving them.
To assess the potential of each of these two strategies for radically improving the quality of education and fostering fundamental improvement in hundreds of very high-poverty elementary schools in Chicago and other major cities.
The two reform strategies being compared are:


Education system ‘failing business and workforce’

Brian Groom:

Britain’s education system is failing both business and the workforce, a group of leading employers including Adecco, the recruiter, Deloitte, the professional services firm, and Cisco, the network equipment company, has warned.
The companies say the gulf between what employers need and the skills of students emerging from schools and colleges is widening. They call for an urgent effort by government, educators and businesses to equip prospective employees with the interpersonal skills as well as the qualifications they say are lacking.

Washington State Teachers’ Union President Responds to Hanauer, Trashes McKenna


1. Teachers’ union President Mary Lindquist has written an open letter in response to the controversial email that major Democratic Party donor Nick Hanauer sent to his fellow Democratic donors (first published here on PubliCola last week) trashing the Party’s position on ed reform and informing his Democratic comrades of his intention to meet with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.

Borrowing wise words from those truly market-based, Private Independent schools…

Bruce Baker:

Lately it seems that public policy and the reformy rhetoric that drives it are hardly influenced by the vast body of empirical work and insights from leading academic scholars which suggests that such practices as using value-added metrics to rate teacher quality, or dramatically increasing test-based accountability and pushing for common core standards and tests to go with them are unlikely to lead to substantial improvements in education quality, or equity.
Rather than review relevant empirical evidence or provide new empirical illustrations in this post, I’ll do as I’ve done before on this blog and refer to the wisdom and practices of private independent schools – perhaps the most market driven segment and most elite segment of elementary and secondary schooling in the United States.
Really… if running a school like a ‘business’ (or more precisely running a school as we like to pretend that ‘businesses’ are run… even though ‘most’ businesses aren’t really run the way we pretend they are) was such an awesome idea for elementary and secondary schools, wouldn’t we expect to see that our most elite, market oriented schools would be the ones pushing the envelope on such strategies?

Fighting over school fad with meager results

Jay Matthews:

Fads rule much of American education. A good example is block scheduling. In most high schools in the Washington area — and much of the rest of the country — that innovation has replaced the traditional 45-minute daily class periods with classes that meet every other day for as long as 90 minutes each.
The block approach, influenced by the work of University of Virginia school administration expert Robert Lynn Canady, swept through this area in the 1990s. I had to explain it in several stories then. It was not easy. The array of colors and numbers used to distinguish each class was bewildering.
Still, about three-quarters of this region’s high schools, and many middle schools, have stuck with block schedules, even though many educators have a difficult time explaining why. Studies say neither block Arlington County schools Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy (Arlington County schools) nor regular schedules make much of a difference.

Nerad’s plan just throws more money at problem

Bob Hartwig:

After reading the highlights of Dan Nerad’s proposal to close the student achievement gap, I see the same liberal method of looking for solutions by throwing more money at the problem.
His proposal will cost the district a projected $100 million-plus over five years. This is an average of $800 per year across the 25,000 student body. Madison is already 13 percent higher in cost per student, now $13,493 versus the state average of $11,894 per student per year, according to the Madison School District website.

‘Parent trigger’ campaign divides families at troubled Adelanto elementary school

Teresa Watanabe:

Julie Rodriguez wanted improvement — but not a wholesale change of staff — at her children’s school in the High Desert community of Adelanto. So late last year she signed what she thought was a petition, circulated by parents she considered friends, for more programs and better teachers.
But she learned that what she actually signed was a petition to convert Desert Trails Elementary School into a charter campus, a change she says she had specifically told organizers she didn’t want. Furious, Rodriguez has rescinded her signature and is working to help other parents do the same before the Adelanto school board votes Tuesday on whether to accept the petition.
“They lied to me,” Rodriguez said of supporters, “and now it’s a big old mess.”

Madison School District begins public hearings for achievement gap plan

Matthew DeFour:

About 50 people attended the first public input session for the Madison School District’s plan to close the achievement gap.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said during a brief overview of the issue that he couldn’t promise every idea would be included in the final plan. But he did promise that every idea would be looked at.
“Whether it is this plan or another plan, if we are to make things right for our children and eliminate achievement gaps, we must invest,”
Nerad’s plan for closing the School District’s persistent racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps calls for spending an estimated $105.6 million over the next five years on a mix of new and existing strategies.

I have to agree with Steve Prestegard’s concern regarding the use of the term “investment” and education:

Nearly every politician or candidate speaks of education spending as an “investment.” Some claim any kind of government spending is an “investment,” but education is always so termed, particularly by teacher unions, as if the more spending on schools, the better schools will be, and the better our country will be.
Anecdotally, this doesn’t make sense, at least in Wisconsin. The state has spent more than nearly every other state for decades for our alleged ‘great schools.” Based on education “investment,” Wisconsin should have the number one state economy in the U.S. And yet, in such measures of economic health as per capita personal income growth, business start-ups and incorporations, Wisconsin has trailed the nation since the late 1970s.

Ideally, the local District would critically evaluate current programs and initiatives prior to significantly increasing spending.

We Need Transformational Change, and We Can Do it!

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Kaleem Caire, President/CEO
February 21, 2012
Dear Friends & Colleagues.
I read yesterday’s article by Paul Fanlund of the Capital Times titled, “On School Gap Issue, there’s also a Gap between Leaders.” In his article, he addresses the perception of a gap that exist between Madison School’s superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, and myself.
Is there a gap?
Yes. So far as our proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy is concerned, there is a gap. Dr. Nerad did not support the proposal. I do. I still believe, as thousands of others do, that Madison Prep would benefit children and our public schools, and should be supported.
However, beyond Madison Prep, the only gaps that may exist between Dr. Nerad and me are our different personal and professional backgrounds and experiences; his full silver top and my emerging grey hairs; my love for old school hip hop, break dancing and the cupid shuffle, and his love for disco, the mashed potato and the electric slide; and perhaps our respective views about how innovative and aggressive we should be in pursuing change in public education. Although, I did see Dr. Nerad bobbing his head to some Jay-Z, Nas and Kanye West tunes while driving down Park Street last week. We actually might not be that far apart after all (smile).
But these are authentic differences that can be mitigated and parlayed into a powerful and effective partnership, which is something that I am very interested in. More importantly, our mutual concerns outweigh our differences, and that is where we, the media and the public need to focus our attention.
What’s immediately concerning is that this summer, we will learn that another 350 Black, 200 Latino and 50 Southeast Asian teenagers stopped attending school this year. Our children cannot wait any longer. They need transformation change in our schools and community right now. They need Madison to empower them, their families and embrace their cultural differences. They need Madisonians to support and inspire them, not quietly complain about which neighborhood in Chicago they might come from.
Can Dr. Nerad and I work together?
Of course we can; and, we do. This week, we will announce that our organization has secured private funding to partner with MMSD to operate 14 College Readiness Academies between March and December 2012. These academies will provide four-weeks of free ACT prep classes, test preparation and academic skills development to 200 MMSD high school juniors and seniors.
We will also announce the hiring of the Project Director for the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative that we are spearheading. This initiative will address the need for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing the multifaceted needs of children and their families within a specific geographic region of South Madison, with the ultimate goal being the creation of an environment where all children are ready for college. MMSD is a partner in this initiative, too.
Additionally, our agency operates the Schools of Hope Initiative, serving more than 1,300 students in several MMSD middle and high schools in partnership with the United Way of Dane County and other agencies and community partners. We have also worked over the last 2 years to identify federal and national funding to support the work of MMSD and its students, and have helped the District think through some its diversity hiring strategies.
Beyond these things, we are exploring partnerships to expand our children’s involvement in recreational sports and the arts; to give them opportunities to have fun and be kids. We are also planning a new, major annual fall event aimed at building broad community support for our children and schools and restoring fun and inspiration in public education. “School Night” will be an entertaining celebration that recognizes the unsung heroes in our schools, classrooms and community who are going above and beyond the call of duty to provide quality educational experiences for kids.
What About Dr. Nerad’s Plan?
We look forward to sharing our thoughts and suggestions in the coming weeks. However, don’t expect a thoughtless or categorical critique of Dr. Nerad’s plan. Instead of adding more divisive discourse to public education and highlighting where we disagree with Dr. Nerad’s plan, our proposal will flesh out “how” MMSD could, in a cost effective manner, identify and manifest the level of system-wide changes and improvements that we believe are needed in order to eliminate the achievement gap and stop the flow middle class families out of our community and public schools.
Yes, Madison Prep will be included as one valuable strategy, but only because we believe there is much to be gained from what the school can accomplish.
In the end, regardless of our differences, I believe Dr. Nerad and I want the same thing. We want our children and schools to succeed, and we want to keep dancing and having fun for as long as our knees will allow. I remain ready and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that we achieve these aims.
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Fax: 608-729-1205

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

German Dialects

The Economist:

THIRTEEN languages in Germany are on UNESCO’s endangered list. Kiezdeutsch, the argot of inner-city teenagers, is not one. “Morgen ich geh Kino,” meaning “Tomorrow I’m going to the cinema,” a young Kreuzberger may say. In standard German that would be “Morgen gehe ich ins Kino”, with the verb restored to second place and a missing “to the” added. Words borrowed from Turkish (lan, meaning dude) and Arabic (yalla!, or come on!) might also intrude.
You will hear such language in Berlin and other big cities. Most Germans assume that the speakers are immigrants or their children. Not necessarily, says Heike Wiese, a linguist at the University of Potsdam who has written a new book on the topic. “All types of kids in multilingual areas,” including those with German roots, speak Kiezdeutsch. There are foreign analogues: straattaal (street language) in the Netherlands; Rinkeby-svenska, named for a multi-ethnic Stockholm neighbourhood in Sweden.

Ontario’s Education Spending Growth

Moira MacDonald:

So economist Don Drummond says Ontario’s education spending should be cut back? Quel surprise.
The Sun has questioned school spending right back to the Dalton McGuinty Liberal government’s first budget in 2004.
A government graph I wrote about then showed student enrollment dropping by 80,000 over the next four years, but spending growing by $2.1 billion.
We pointed this out not because we hate kids, but because McGuinty’s spending on education has never matched reality, nor has there been any solid plan for how to pay for it.
Let’s go through what Drummond had to say:
Drop education spending to 1% annual growth: It didn’t have to be this bad, but since the Liberals jacked up spending to 4.6% annual increases, even though enrolment has dropped by 120,000 kids in the last decade, that’s what it will take to right the ship. This is partly delayed pain — with enrolment dropping, jobs should have been scaled back years ago, but instead, the Liberals preserved them through new programs such as smaller primary class sizes — then added to the costs by doling out healthy raises.
Restrain teacher compensation: Good luck. Drummond suggests keeping this in line with what other public sector workers have received, which still means an increase, but more modest than the 11.4% to 12.55% teachers got in their last four-year contract.

Giving and Getting Constructive Criticism

Marybeth Gasman:

I’ve been thinking about constructive criticism-the kind we give to graduate students or mentees-and how they receive it. Over the past few years I’ve noticed a bit of push back from students and mentees. My faculty friends and colleagues have told me they get the same kind of push back. Now, don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with push back-you have to stand up for what you believe. However, I’ve watched individuals struggle and have difficulty with their job search while neglecting to follow any of the advice their mentors have given them. Sometimes these students are headstrong. Other times they are convinced that they know what is best and that they know how to build a faculty career. Here are a few examples:
I have had students and mentees who present at academic conferences on a regular basis but they don’t publish the resulting papers. Many times, I’ve attended their conference presentations and have been thoroughly impressed with their ideas and skill. I always follow up, asking them to revise the paper and send it to a journal. However, unlike their counterparts who follow my advice, these students put the paper away for months, sometimes years, and it is no longer relevant or others have already published similar work. When they receive feedback from prospective employers that questions their lack of publications, they are frustrated.

Comments on the Growth in Milwaukee’s School Choice Program

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

More than 2,000 new students entered the school voucher program this year after the Legislature relaxed requirements. That’s the good news. The bad news? Much of that growth came from kids whose parents already were paying out-of-pocket for their children to attend private or religious schools, according to a new study by the Public Policy Forum. The trend is the result of a misguided shift in philosophy that we warned against when lawmakers were considering these changes last year.
The 12% growth in students using taxpayer-funded vouchers is due in part to the elimination of the voucher enrollment cap and the relaxation of income eligibility limits. These changes have muddied the playing field for families who would not be able to send their children to private or religious schools if not for the choice program.

George Mitchell:

Milwaukee has no viable future without a base of middle-class families. The alternative? Detroit, where municipal bankruptcy looms and large, once-thriving swaths of the community are deserted. If that becomes Milwaukee’s fate, the biggest losers clearly would be low-income families struggling to get ahead.
The unsuccessful effort to lure Kohl’s Corp. to the Park East corridor vividly illustrates this issue. Local officials were prepared to commit more than $100 million in taxpayer funds to bring jobs, families and the resulting economic boost to Milwaukee. Had Kohl’s said yes, the Journal Sentinel would have generated stories and editorials explaining the potent ripple effect on Milwaukee’s tax base, its housing market and the retail community at large.
Contrast that reaction with the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board’s concern, spurred by a flawed Public Policy Forum analysis, that some Milwaukee families who previously paid private school tuition are now eligible for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The board wants to roll back an expansion of the program so only low-income families can benefit, a retreat that ultimately would hurt those families the most.

Building Self-Control, the American Way

Sandra Aamodt & Sam Wang:

EACH year, it seems, a new book emerges to capitalize on the parental insecurities of Americans. Last year it was Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” This time it’s Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé.”
But rather than trying to emulate the strict discipline supposedly instilled by child-rearing techniques in other countries, it may be more useful to consider the science of successful parenting in general. Like their Chinese and French counterparts, American parents can make a child’s mind strong — by enlisting the child as an ally.
In any culture, the development of self-control is crucial. This ability, which depends on the prefrontal cortex, provides the basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline. It predicts success in education, career and marriage. Indeed, childhood self-control is twice as important as intelligence in predicting academic achievement. Conversely, poor self-control in elementary school increases the risk of adult financial difficulties, criminal behavior, single parenthood and drug dependence.

Free-Range Parenting: You’re Going to Go to Jail. Maybe.

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

Hey look, here’s a big omnibus article by David Pimentel of the Florida Costal School of Law on all the ways you are potentially legally screwed if you let your kid do stuff that was considered normal at some point in the less intensively parented past.
Choice tidbits:
Even one generation ago, the norms were different for determining the age at which a child no longer needed a babysitter. The expected minimum age for babysitters has gone up as well, although in the few states that have legislated specific ages, the thresholds vary widely. In Illinois, it is illegal to leave a child under 14 unsupervised for  an “unreasonable period of time”; in Maryland, in contrast, a 13-year-old is considered old enough not only to care for himself, but to babysit infants. The days when 11- and 12-year-old neighborhood kids were considered competent babysitters appear to be long gone. This development is all the more marked considering that mobile phones have created a virtually instant line of communication between the sitter and the parents, something unheard of in earlier eras, when younger sitters were considered acceptable.

What’s New at the PTA, Dad?

Kyle Spencer:

AT Public School 11 in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the senior president of the Parent Teacher Association is a vivacious chatterbox who ascended the school’s executive board the way many do: forging bonds with parents and teachers, doing an impressive stint as treasurer and finally being drafted for the top slot by a growing fan base.
The one thing this executive officer did not do is man the cupcake table.
“I’m not into the baking,” said Juan Brea, an admission that once would have been unheard-of in the PTA.
Mr. Brea, a 43-year-old who favors football, blue blazers, Polo cologne and chopping wood in his Catskills backyard on weekends, is part of the changing face of the PTA. What was once an easygoing volunteer group made up mostly of stay-at-home moms has begun to give way to male leadership.

Comments on Wisconsin’s New State Assessments

Wisconsin DPI, via email:

Work progresses toward new state assessments, through the multi-state Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium [Blekko / Clusty], in which Wisconsin has played an active role.
Smarter Balanced recently unveiled a new website which includes several features for keeping tabs on the assessment project and accessing resources related to assessment development and Common Core State Standards [Blekko / Clusty] implementation.
An interactive timeline shows when specific steps were, or will be, completed. (Some recent developments were the completion of content specifications in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, and IT architecture specifications to guide the eventual system.)
Other pages targeted toward teachers, administrators, higher education, parents, and other stakeholders also provide useful updates.
For example, the consortium intends to work with groups of teachers from each participating state to develop test items, pilot the new assessments, and ensure a successful transition to the tests, beginning in 2012-13 and continuing through 2013-14.
The website also includes ways to stay up to date on the group’s work through email or social media.

Madison 360: On school ‘gap’ issue, there’s also a gap between leaders

I am quoted in the article. This is the full response that I made to the proposition that it would be terribly “hard to confront achievement gap issues head on without potentially fueling feelings that regular or high-achieving kids are not front and center in Madison, perhaps even increasing white flight. It must be a very hard balancing act.”
That may be the case, but to divert attention from a very real crisis rooted in over 50 years of failed effort to focus attention on achievement and opportunity for African American students, is something that I cannot accept. It has taken a lot of work and controversy to get the issue of the achievement gap (no, it is not a “gap”) on the table. How ironic (and morally reprehensible) it would be to refocus on white flight while letting the opportunity to unite around racial achievement slip through our fingers.
Dear Paul,
I realize that my answer is blunt and edgy. I was going to apologize but I really cannot. How long must this community live with its head in the sand when it comes to racial justice? And how long must families of color hear words of concern followed with “but we are worried about our white middle class families leaving?” Please watch the video taped testimony from December 19, and then think about what it is that you really want to write. If you do not want to watch 5.5 hours of painful commentary, then please watch (separate video) James Howard’s statement during the board comments on how and why we each voted the way that we did.
To be honest, I would find the column that you propose to write to be offensive at best. Especially to the families who provided over 10 hours of testimony at 3 minutes per person, with very few repeat testifiers, over the course of the Madison Prep debate. Some of those families have waited over 40 years for someone to take their aspirations and their children’s achievement seriously. And as thanks for raising the issue, parents of African American students are being told that the problem is really broken homes, lack of value for education, poor parenting, addiction, and poverty. Well, I AM one of “those parents.” James Howard, the president of the school board, is one of “those parents.” As are [names redacted], and many many other parents.
I wonder if you and others are aware that not all middle, upper middle class, and/or affluent people are are white. Or the number of African American kids who can achieve but are sent direct and indirect messages that they really aren’t “high achiever” material. Or that many white middle class families are every bit as unhappy and uncomfortable with the racism that they see in our schools and in the people who wish to cater to it in order to prevent the white flight of privilege. The “real” problem is not white flight. It is the failure to take achievement seriously, particularly when it comes to students of color.
There is a very real reason why many UW African American faculty, and African American religious and business leaders who have school age children will not live in the Madison district. There is a very real reason why many African American graduates of our schools will not send their children to Madison schools. There is a very real reason why families who can afford to send their kids to Edgewood, St. James, and other schools are doing so. It boils down to where they think their kids will have the best chance of being seen and nurtured as achievers, and that is not the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I am sorry to say this, but I find it repulsive that, particularly during black history month, you are interested in writing a pity piece for the people who are always at the forefront of our concerns, while ignoring the very real, raw, and painful experience of the people who cannot get any acknowledgment of their conditions. And, frankly, if that is what you got out of your conversation with Dan Nerad, I would respectfully suggest that the ability of this district and this leader to address achievement need no further explanation.
Full article at

Costs drop 5 percent for Nashua School District’s special education out-of-district placements; District spends $7,854/student, or $12,145/student

Cameron Kittle & Maryalice Gill:

While the overall cost of out-of-district placements for special education students is expected to drop next year, some individual placements continue to run the district $100,000 and beyond.
The most expensive placement this year is for a student at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt. The estimated tuition cost for this year is $158,096.
There are also two other placements costing upward of $100,000 this year, including one student at Crotched Mountain in Greenfield for $136,934 and another student at the Nashoba Learning Group in Bedford, Mass., for $104,570.

Nashua School District’s 2011 budget is $93,425,591 for 11,895 students ($7,854 per student).
TJ Mertz sent a kind email noting that another Nashua document describes spending as follows: FY 2012 operating budget: $144,475,503 for 11,895 students = $12,145/student.
Locally, Madison will spend $14,858.40 per student this year, nearly double Nashua’s spending based on this document, or perhaps 18% more based on the 2012 document noted above
Global Report Card comparison:

Oregon schools seek $33 million in referendum Tuesday

Barry Adams:

The owner of a $235,000 home would see an average increase in their taxes of $95 a year for the next five years. Starting in 2017, property taxes would decrease because other debt will be retired, according to district officials.
The referendum, one of just three in the state on Tuesday, includes a second question asking for $150,000 a year for operating costs. The primary question asks for a long list of improvements, including $25.3 million for work at the high school and $3.2 million at the middle school.
A new fieldhouse at the high school, including new locker rooms and a fitness center, would provide space for gym classes and practices, and more seating for sporting events and graduation.
When the main gymnasium was built more than three decades ago, there were 600 students at the high school compared to 1,150 today. The project would bring the school in line with other Badger Conference facilities in Waunakee, DeForest and Stoughton.
“Parents interview us now. They just don’t move to the district,” Superintendent Brian Busler said. “This is all part of the entire puzzle that parents are looking for.”

Oregon’s current budget spends $48,672,281 for its 3604 students in the 2011 budget. ($13,505/student). Madison’s current budget spends $14,858.40 per student.

Round 2 of improving education coming amid less fanfare

Alan Borsuk:

Schools: States such as Florida have been using systems of giving every school a grade, A to F.
Gov. Scott Walker and others like that system, but a state task force favored – and the waiver request proposes – a system in which all schools will be rated on a scale of 1 to 100, based on such things as student scores and educational growth and progress in closing gaps between student groups.
Parents will know how their kid’s school rates – with the idea that they will make decisions based on putting their children in high-rated schools. The schools themselves can be rewarded or forced to make major changes based on their ratings.
Consider this system likely to happen.
Principals and teachers: For the first time, if the waiver request is approved, there will be a statewide system for rating principals and teachers – and half of the rating will be based on student performance, including (but not limited to) test scores.
In other words, they will be rated in large part on whether their students are learning. A lot of this remains to be worked out.
Individual ratings will not be made public, but, without the union protections that died in last year’s earthquake, the ratings could be used in decisions on pay, assignments, promotions or firings.
Consider this likely to happen.

Related: Wisconsin’s Read to Lead Task Force.

Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids: Why teaching children at home violates progressive values

Dana Goldstein:

s a child growing up in Arizona and Georgia college towns during the 1980s and 1990s, the filmmaker Astra Taylor was “unschooled” by her lefty, countercultural parents. “My siblings and I slept late and never knew what day of the week it was,” Taylor writes in a new essay in the literary journal N+1. “We were never tested, graded, or told to memorize dates, facts, or figures. … Some days we read books, made music, painted, or drew. Other days we argued and fought over the computer. Endless hours were spent watching reruns of ‘The Simpsons’ on videotape, though we had every episode memorized. When we weren’t inspired–which was often–we simply did nothing at all.”


Esther Cepeda: Parents shouldn’t shoot the ‘messenger’

Esther Cepeda:

When last I checked, Tommy Jordan’s video “Facebook Parenting: For the troubled teen,” where he shoots up his daughter’s laptop, had been viewed more than 25 million times on YouTube.
Jordan had previously clashed with his 15-year-old daughter about appropriate behavior on her social media networks. Then, after spending more than $100 and several hours upgrading her laptop, he ran across a complaint letter she wrote and posted on her Facebook wall that put him over the edge.
The next day he filmed his video. It shows a frustrated man so disappointed by his daughter’s expletive-laced digital diatribe that he feels the best course of action is to publicly castigate her by shooting a clip of exploding-tip bullets into her laptop and posting it online.

How Wide Are the Racial Opportunity Gaps in Your Metro?

Margery Turner:

In December, MetroTrends graded America’s 100 biggest metros on measures of economic security. Today we offer a new report card, with grades reflecting the opportunity gaps facing African Americans and Latinos.
We’re all well aware of the national story. Despite the huge achievements of the civil rights era, neither African Americans nor Latinos (on average) enjoy the same school quality, job opportunities, or homeownership access as whites. But the picture isn’t the same in every metro area. So our report card scores metros on five factors: residential segregation, neighborhood affluence (for the average black, Latino, and non-Hispanic white), public school quality (for the average black, Latino, and non-Hispanic white student), employment (among working-age adults), and homeownership.
Let’s start by looking at the grades for black-white equity.
Surprised? The top scorers are mostly small- to medium-sized metros in the south and west (Charleston, SC, and Riverside, CA, for example), while the worst performers are big metros in the midwest and northeast (including New York, Boston, and Chicago).
When I first saw these results, I thought perhaps that so few African Americans live in the high-scoring metros that their high performance is irrelevant. For some top scorers (like Albuquerque and San Jose), that’s definitely the case. But lots of other metros scoring As and Bs on this report card have substantial African American populations.

Madison was given a C on Racial Equity. Milwaukee is the worst while Albuquerque is the best.

The end of Segregation?

The Economist:

“ALL-WHITE neighbourhoods are effectively extinct,” according to “The End of the Segregated Century”, a recent report by the Manhattan Institute, a New York think-tank. Only 0.5% of America’s 70,000 neighbourhoods are now all-white. In fact, American cities are today more integrated than they have been since 1910. And since 1960 the proportion of black Americans living in “ghetto neighbourhoods” (more than 80% black) has dropped from nearly half to about 20%.
Until the Great Migration north, beginning around 1910, most of the black population lived in the rural South. Then they were pushed into ghettos because of restrictive deed covenants and blatant discrimination by landlords. Although the Supreme Court ruled against race-based zoning in 1917 and New York City outlawed housing discrimination in 1958, real change did not begin until the 1960s during the civil rights era when segregation was still near its peak.

Predicting the Common Core Effect on American Education: The 2012 Brown Center Report

Tom Loveless:

The 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education distills the results of studies to examine the state of education in the United States. In particular, the report focuses on education policy, student learning measures, trends on achievement test scores and education reform outcomes.
Highlights from three of the studies featured in the report are:
Predicting the Effect of the Common Core State Standards on Student Achievement: The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or rigor of state standards has been unrelated to state NAEP scores, Loveless finds. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state differences should have already been felt by the standards that all states have had since 2003.
Measuring Achievement Gaps on NAEP: The Main NAEP consistently reports larger SES achievement gaps than the Long Term Trend NAEP. The study examines gaps between students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and those who do not; black and white students; Hispanic and white students; and English language learners and students who are not English language learners.

Challenging 100 Years of Sleep Guidelines for Children

Andrea Petersen:

For parents who feel like they’re failing to make sure their kids get enough sleep, this may be comforting: Your parents also failed, as did your grandparents and great-grandparents.
At least that’s according to a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, which found that children haven’t been getting the recommended hours of shuteye for at least a century.
The study looked at 32 sets of recommendations from the years 1897 to 2009. The researchers then gathered data on actual sleep time from roughly the same time period.

For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage

Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise, via a kind reader:

It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal. After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.
Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America. The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree, according to Child Trends, a Washington research group that analyzed government data.
Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

Texting affects ability to interpret words


Research designed to understand the effect of text messaging on language found that texting has a negative impact on people’s linguistic ability to interpret and accept words.
The study, conducted by Joan Lee for her master’s thesis in linguistics, revealed that those who texted more were less accepting of new words. On the other hand, those who read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers were more accepting of the same words.
The study asked university students about their reading habits, including text messaging, and presented them with a range of words both real and fictitious.

Oakland’s McClymonds High is a full-service school

Jill Tucker, via a kind reader’s email:

After school each day, dozens of students at Oakland’s McClymonds High School crowd through a generic-looking door and into a space that offers them amenities that are few and far between in their West Oakland neighborhood.
Just off the reception area of the school’s new Youth and Family Center is a dance studio with wooden floors, a large mirror and a sound system. A few more steps in is the learning center with brand new computers. Toward the back is a living-room-like area with a small stage, a big-screen television and comfortable sofas for meetings or informal gatherings.
A door at the end of a hallway opens to a Children’s Hospital Oakland clinic waiting room. In the clinic, free medical care is available to all students and their siblings, no appointment necessary.
The center is part of a growing national trend to create full-service schools for children who come from difficult family situations.

Related: Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Teacher Unions: The New Haven Experiment

Nicholas Kristof:

I lost patience with teachers’ unions when union officials in New York City defended a teacher who had passed out in class, reeking of alcohol, with even the principal unable to rouse her.
Not to mention when union officials in Los Angeles helped a teacher keep his job after he allegedly mocked a student who had tried to commit suicide, suggesting that the boy slash his wrists more deeply the next time.
In many cities, teachers’ unions ensured no one was removed for mere incompetence. If a teacher stole or abused a student, yes, but school boards didn’t even try to remove teachers who couldn’t teach.
“Before, you had to go smack the mayor in order to get fired,” Reggie Mayo, the schools superintendent here in New Haven, told me.

Job Hunting: When Parents Run the Show

Ann Kadet:

Janine Guarino-McKown has every right to feel proud of her daughter Megan’s resume. Compared with the clumsy work history presented by your typical recent college grad, it’s a polished, professional and effective document: a crisp, beautifully formatted and compelling record of a star student’s achievements and aspirations. And then there’s the resume’s authorship: Janine’s the one who wrote it.
Back when Megan was finishing grad school in Dallas, the 25-year-old was busy studying for her boards and preparing for a medical rotation in the Australian outback. Janine, a retired health care administrator, had more free time, not to mention plenty of experience writing resumes for her friends — why not do the same for her daughter? But she wasn’t about to treat this as a pleasant little lark: To produce the two-page CV and cover letter template, Janine interviewed Megan closely over the phone, conducted a talent assessment and crafted a 147-word branding statement. Then she led her daughter through mock interviews and debriefed her after meetings with potential employers. And naturally, there was a little networking involved, as Janine introduced her daughter to a friend who knew the chief ER nurse at a local hospital.

Trends in AP Test-Taking: Bonjour Geography, Adieu French

Erik Robelen:

Question: What do geography, Chinese language and culture, computer science, world history, and environmental science have in common?
Answer: They’re apparently becoming a lot more popular subjects in high school, at least based on one national measure.
Participation in Advanced Placement tests in these subjects has grown most rapidly–from a percentage standpoint–when comparing the number of tests taken by the graduating class of 2011 with the class of 2010. That’s based on my quick analysis of new data from the College Board’s 8th annual AP Report to the Nation, which provides an interesting window into subject preferences among schools and students.
Next question: What do language and culture offerings in French and German have in common?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Barack Obama’s budget – The phoney war

The Economist:

Such tax increase went nowhere when Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With Republicans in charge of the House and able to filibuster almost anything in the Senate, the odds any of these tax proposals will pass this year are close to nil.
Much of his purported spending reduction is accounting legerdemain: he claims to save more than $800 billion from drawing down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but most of that was never going to be spent anyway. His cuts to Medicare and Medicaid consist almost entirely of squeezing health-care providers; benefits and beneficiaries are spared. There are painful cuts to discretionary spending excluding defence: it sinks from 3.1% of GDP in fiscal 2012 to 1.7% in 2022. Those cuts, however, were forced on him by budget deals last year, and it’s not clear how the federal government is supposed to fulfill so many of its responsibilities, from running the courts to fighting forest fires, on a starvation diet. Mr Obama did omit nearly $1 trillion of further cuts set to begin next year under last year’s budget deal (the “sequester”); he argued his budget provides a wiser alternative.

Do Medical School Acceptance Rates Reflect Preferences for Preferred Minority Groups?

Mark Perry:

The chart above (click to enlarge) is an update of the chart from this CD post from about a year ago, showing medical school acceptance rates for Asians, whites, Hispanics and blacks based on data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for the years 2009-2011 (aggregated).
For 2011, the average GPA of students applying to medical schools was 3.53 and the average total MCAT score was 28, and the chart displays the acceptance rates for students applying to medical schools with average GPAs (3.40-3.59) and average MCAT scores (27-29) in the highlighted blue column, and the acceptance rates for those students with slightly higher and slightly lower than average GPAs and test scores in the other columns. In other words, the table displays acceptance rates by race and ethnicity for students applying to medical school with average academic credentials (or just slightly above or below average). Here are some observations:

Madison dual-language immersion program informational sessions planned

The Madison School District:

The first of several information sessions for the Madison School District’s dual-language immersion program for next school year is scheduled for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Centro Hispano, 810 W. Badger Road.
Dual-language immersion programs are open to all students and offer academic instruction in both Spanish and English. The program will be available next year at Chavez, Glendale, Leopold, Midvale, Nuestro Mundo and Sandburg elementary schools.

Old-school bees still valuable

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

There’s something about a spelling bee that makes us feel good about our youth and the intrinsic value of working hard to chase a dream.
Granted, we’re a bit biased on the topic because the Wisconsin State Journal has been a long-time sponsor of the All-City Bee in Madison, as well as the Badger State Bee that has been contested since 1949.
Our latest interaction with top spellers came Saturday at Edgewood College, when 47 elementary and middle school students battled for a traveling trophy, and the right to represent Madison in the State Bee here on March 10.
In case you missed it, our All-City spelling champ is Aisha Khan, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Spring Harbor Middle School. She was calm and cool, and earned her title by correctly spelling “thesaurus” to edge Lydia Anderson of Whitehorse Middle School.

A Book Review: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

Diane Ravitch:

In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Bush, former schools chancellor Joel Klein in New York City, former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have agreed that there should be “no excuses” for schools with low test scores. The “no excuses” reformers maintain that all children can attain academic proficiency without regard to poverty, disability, or other conditions, and that someone must be held accountable if they do not. That someone is invariably their teachers.
Nothing is said about holding accountable the district leadership or the elected officials who determine such crucial issues as funding, class size, and resource allocation. The reformers say that our economy is in jeopardy, not because of growing poverty or income inequality or the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, but because of bad teachers. These bad teachers must be found out and thrown out. Any laws, regulations, or contracts that protect these pedagogical malefactors must be eliminated so that they can be quickly removed without regard to experience, seniority, or due process.

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? by Pasi Sahlberg.

Presentation on Madison’s High School Graduation and Completion Rates

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad (1.5MB PDF):

DPI has two official models for calculating high school completion rates. Regardless of which model is used, MMSD has lagging graduation rates for among its student subgroups.
As required by NCLB, a new four-year cohort graduation rate calculated by DPI provides an “on time” graduation rate. This calculation will eventually replace the so-called “legacy rate” which DPI has used for the past several years. That means that we could characterize our graduation rates in the following two ways:

Educating black males: Closing the gap: What Works, what doesn’t

The current issue of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine is devoted to articles on “Educating black males: Closing the gap: What Works, what doesn’t.”
Table of Contents — February 2012, 93 (5)
Featured articles include:
Pedro A. Noguera –
Saving black and Latino boys: What schools can do to make a difference
Christopher Emdin –
Yes, black males are different, but different is not deficient
Sandra Hughes-Hassell,Casey H. Rawson,Lisa McCracken,Mary Gray Leonard,Heather Cunningham,Katy J. Vance,and Jennifer Boone –
Librarians form a bridge of books to advance literacy
Terry Husband – Why can’t Jamal read?
Jerome E. Morris and Adeoye O. Adeyemo –
Touchdowns and honor societies: Expanding the focus of black male excellence
Gregory A. Patterson – Separating the boys from the girls
Tracey Sparrow and Abby Sparrow –
The voices of young black males

Beyond SATs, Finding Success in Numbers

Tina Rosenberg:

In 1988, Deborah Bial was working in a New York City after-school program when she ran into a former student, Lamont. He was a smart kid, a successful student who had won a scholarship to an elite college. But it hadn’t worked out, and now he was back home in the Bronx. “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me,” he told her.
The next year Bial started the Posse Foundation. From her work with students around the city, she chose five New York City high school students who were clearly leaders — dynamic, intelligent, creative, resilient — but who might not have had the SAT scores to get into good schools. Vanderbilt University was willing to admit them all, tuition-free. The students met regularly in their senior year of high school, through the summer, and at college. Surrounded by their posse, they all thrived.

Providence to College: Pay Up

Jennifer Levitz:

As a nonprofit, Brown University has long enjoyed broad property-tax relief on its regal cluster of brick buildings in the state capital’s best neighborhood.
Now, Providence says it’s broke, and City Hall is pointing up College Hill at the Ivy League university, the city’s largest landowner. Mayor Angel Taveras, a Democrat who took office a year ago, has already raised taxes and fees on local residents and businesses, renegotiated labor contracts, and closed four public schools seeking to close a budget gap that amounts to $22.5 million for the fiscal year ending in June.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California vs. the Other States

Richard Rider:

Here’s a depressing but documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse (twice a month, I update crucial data on this fact sheet):
REVISED: California has the 3rd worst state income tax in the nation. 9.3% tax bracket starts at $46,766 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% tax starts at $1,000,000. Governor Brown is putting on the ballot a prop to change the “millionaires’ tax” to 12.3%, starting at $500,000. If approved, CA will be #1 in income tax rates. BTW, there’s ANOTHER well funded proposition effort to raise the CA millionaires’ tax to 15.3%.
Highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (as of 1 July, 2011 – does not include local sales taxes). Table #15

A Last-Minute Deal on New York Teacher Evaluations

Fernanda Santos & Winnie Hu:

The agreement, announced at a news conference in Albany, allows school districts to base up to 40 percent of a teacher’s annual review on student performance on state standardized tests, as long as half of that portion is used to analyze the progress of specific groups of students, like those who are not proficient in English or have special needs. It also offers other options: base 20 percent of the score on state test results and the other 20 percent on exams developed by the districts or by a third party, provided that the exams are approved by the state.
The remaining 60 percent of a teacher’s score is to come from subjective measures, like classroom observations and professional development projects.
The resolution came after an all-night negotiating session in Albany and included concessions from both sides, like an agreement by the state to relax certain requirements on the way teachers would be rated. The clear winner is Mr. Cuomo, who used his broad powers under the state’s budget process to push for a compromise.

Print|Email LAUSD Principal Focuses On Real Miramonte Criminals: The Children

Tim Cavanaugh:

One of the many privileges of having kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District is the accelerated education they get in official corruption, the stupidity of grownups, union strong-arming and many other topics – any topics other than reading, writing and arithmetic, that is.
The recent sex-abuse arrests of two teachers at Miramonte Elementary have become a feature of playground scuttlebutt and official conniptions. The school my children attend (separated from Miramonte by more than 15 miles, though both schools score in the “Least Effective” category in the L.A. Times’ value-added assessment) is no exception.
Yesterday my daughters brought home copies of a flyer containing the principal’s thoughts on the scandal. I guess this page of skylarking was intended to reassure us or something. I wouldn’t take note of it at all except that one paragraph illustrates the pathology of public employees with stunning clarity:

When Words Don’t Matter

William Major:

n my sophomore literature class, I read a passage aloud from perhaps our best-known slave narrative, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, in which Douglass characterizes the nefarious effects of slavery on his new mistress, Sophia Auld:
The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.
But then I stopped and asked, “What does the word commenced mean?” Silence. “What about infernal?” Silence. “Accord?” Embarrassed smiles all around.

Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth

Jonah Lehrer:

In the late nineteen-forties, Alex Osborn, a partner in the advertising agency B.B.D.O., decided to write a book in which he shared his creative secrets. At the time, B.B.D.O. was widely regarded as the most innovative firm on Madison Avenue. Born in 1888, Osborn had spent much of his career in Buffalo, where he started out working in newspapers, and his life at B.B.D.O. began when he teamed up with another young adman he’d met volunteering for the United War Work Campaign. By the forties, he was one of the industry’s grand old men, ready to pass on the lessons he’d learned. His book “Your Creative Power” was published in 1948. An amalgam of pop science and business anecdote, it became a surprise best-seller. Osborn promised that, by following his advice, the typical reader could double his creative output. Such a mental boost would spur career success–“To get your foot in the door, your imagination can be an open-sesame”–and also make the reader a much happier person. “The more you rub your creative lamp, the more alive you feel,” he wrote.

School choice opponents suggest Kaleem Caire is a long-lost Koch Brother

David Blaska:

Previously on Bring It!, we reported on the Left’s campaign of vilification directed at Kaleem Caire.
The Left must discredit Mr. Caire for daring to disrupt the comfortable “Madison Way” by proposing a non-union charter school catering to students of color. He must be politically neutered for pointing out this liberal bastion’s failure to graduate even half of its black students.
But how to disparage the president of the Madison Urban League, the founder of One Hundred Black Men of Madison, and the 2001 recipient of the city of Madison’s Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award?
By the usual and convenient method of tying him to that Great Right-Wing Conspiracy in the Sky. The man for that job is one Allen Ruff. In comments before the school board and on his blog, avidly picked up and repeated by other liberal/progressive outlets, the Madison-based historian and social activist has been spinning an intricate web of guilt by association and seven degrees of separation in order to out Mr. Caire as a closet conservative, a secret tea partier, and a suspect capitalist.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Dumbing down of state education has made Britain more unequal than 25 years ago; In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

Toby Young:

A controversy broke out on Twitter earlier this week about an article in the Times Educational Supplement in which a teacher called Jonny Griffiths describes a conversation with a bright sixth-former who’s worried about his exam results. “Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-levels?” he says. “What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?”
The controversy was not about whether the teacher was right to discourage his student to apply to Cambridge – no one thought that, obviously – but whether the article was genuine. Was Jonny Griffiths a real teacher or the fictional creation of a brilliant Tory satirist? Most people found it hard to believe that a teacher who didn’t want his pupils to do well could be in gainful employment.
Alas, Mr Griffiths is all too real. Since 2009, when I first mooted the idea of setting up a free school devoted to academic excellence, I’ve come across dozens of examples of the same attitude, all equally jaw-dropping.

We’ve certainly seen such initiatives locally. They include English 10, Connected Math and the ongoing use of Reading Recovery.
Perhaps Wisconsin’s Read to Lead initiative offers some hope with its proposal to tie teacher licensing to teacher content knowledge.
Related: Examinations for teachers, past and present.
There are certainly many parents who make sure that their children learn what is necessary through tutors, third parties, personal involement, camps, or online services. However, what about the children who don’t have such family resources and/or awareness?

(Madison) Teachers’ seniority rules not related to students’ success

Chris Rickert:

Teachers union seniority rules, though, appear less benign.
Joshua Cowen, a University of Kentucky assistant professor of public policy and administration, said there’s “indirect evidence” on “whether unions’ emphasis on seniority hinders academic achievement.”
Specifically, teachers don’t appear to get any better after three years on the job or after getting a master’s degree.
“What this means is that school districts are spending a good deal of money to reward teachers for characteristics that are not really related to student success,” he said.

Related: Madison Prep supporters revamping proposal to overcome district objections; Seniority Changes

Matthews, however, said MTI opposes the types of changes Madison Prep would seek, such as eliminating a provision that grants senior teachers priority for new job openings in the district.
“Those are rights people have,” Matthews said. “It gets us right back to why there was so much reaction to what Gov. Walker did last year.”

Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Question 23 has implications for the future of our public schools, along with the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school:

Given Act 10’s negative Impact on Collective Bargaining Agreements, will you introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements (182 page PDF Document) negotiated between MTI and The Madison Metropolitan School District as MMSD policy?

Both Silveira and Flores answered Yes.

Open Air Rooms…

Gillian Tett

A little while ago, I had a chance to visit New York’s City Hall, where Michael Bloomberg – the former trader-turned-financial-information-mogul – now works as mayor. As I entered his empire, I experienced a small shock.
During my career as a journalist, I have often walked through government buildings, and become accustomed to seeing a rabbit warren. Across the western world, senior officials typically work from offices interconnected by corridors, guarded by secretaries in ante-chambers.
Bloomberg’s building in downtown Manhattan, though, is different. He sits in a vast, airy, open-plan room, surrounded by officials and banks of giant data screens (showing information on things such as traffic flows or public satisfaction with the police). Anybody holding a meeting is encouraged to sit on a central, raised dais, rather than scuttle into a private hole; the idea, as one employee explained, is to encourage a climate of transparency and collaboration. In theory, in other words, anyone in the mayor’s office can see – and yell at – everyone else; much as they can on a modern financial trading floor or at a newspaper (which, of course, is no accident given that Bloomberg spent most of his career building the financial information giant that bears his name).

Open air classrooms blew through the local education world some time ago.

Autonomy for schools is producing some remarkable successes. Can others learn from them?

The Economist::

DANIEL RILEY, a young trainee teacher from west London, attended a school so bad that it was shut down while he was there. It was, he recalls with commendable understatement, an “unstructured” place. Fewer than 20% of pupils achieved five good GCSE passes, including mathematics and English (the main benchmark for secondary students, involving exams commonly taken at 16). There were fights. Some, involving knives, ended with arrests. There were drugs–the school drew its pupils from tough housing estates, and gangs prowled at the gates. The teaching was “not inspired,” Mr Riley says, sticking with the understatement. He recalls lessons spent copying texts from books.
As happened to a few dozen failing institutions under the previous Labour government, Mr Riley’s school was turned into an academy–a state school removed from local council control and given new freedoms over staffing and teaching methods. Six years on, Paddington Academy draws its pupils from the same estates. But the school is unrecognisable.

Shifting demographics and a shrinking school-age population

Katy Murphy:

We ran a story Sunday about shifting demographics in inner-city neighborhoods such as West Oakland — changes which have resulted in fewer school-age children in the area and declining public school enrollment.
Oakland, as a whole, lost 20 percent of its 5- to 17-year-olds between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. census; in West Oakland, it was 31 percent. (You can find a spreadsheet of West Oakland school enrollment trends here.)
I spent months looking for explanations and stories behind the census data, and we plan to continue following some of those threads in future pieces. One issue I want to explore, for example, is the school district’s school choice policy, put in place in 2005, which allows families to enroll their kids at schools with available space outside their local attendance boundaries.
What do you see happening in the area 10 years from now?

University places no longer assured

Dennis Chong:

Attending an elite secondary school will no longer be a guarantee of a university place, teachers warn.
As more pupils sit the new Diploma of Secondary Education, schools that have in the past enjoyed a university admission rate of close to 100 per cent say they expect to have to answer to parents disappointed when their children miss out.
Such is the concern over university places that a growing number of pupils are looking at courses abroad.
Traditionally, only about a third of pupils continued their studies and took A-levels after the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination papers at the end of Form Five. Under the “3+3+4” system introduced in 2009, pupils will complete three years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education. Those qualified to go on to university will take four years to complete standard courses.

It’s poetry in motion for some Madison high schoolers

Pamela Cotant:

Poetry written by Madison high school students is popping up on placards in the rear passenger areas of Metro Transit buses as part of a Bus Lines poetry contest.
The nine winning poems were selected from hundreds of entries in the growing contest now in its third year. It’s a joint effort of Metro Transit and the Madison Arts Commission.
“We like to do things that include community involvement, especially anything that includes schools and students. They’re a big part of our ridership,” said Jennifer Bacon, marketing specialist at Metro Transit. “Our riders really enjoy reading these poems.”
Bacon said Metro Transit gets positive feedback from riders and requests for copies of the poetry.

Do High-Needs Students Affect a School’s Grade?

Beth Fertig:

New York City’s latest plan to reform special education services encourages public school principals to take more of the neediest students. An analysis by WNYC shows how these students are not distributed evenly across all schools. The analysis also found that high schools with the best report card grades often take smaller percentages of the special education students who are the toughest to educate.
The chart below shows that high schools that earned As and Bs on their annual progress reports tend to take a small share of special education students who require segregated classes, or what the Education Department calls “self-contained” classes. These are students who can’t be included in mainstream classes most of the time because they require more intensive services. Some high-performing schools have just a sprinkling of these students, representing less than 2 percent of their overall population.
Still, it’s not clear that there’s a link between having a lot of these challenging students and getting a poor grade, contrary to what some critics contend.

Plea to improve Hong Kong public schools

Dennis Chong:

International and local English-language schools are filled with the children of local families dissatisfied with the public system, lawmakers heard yesterday.
Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said the picture painted of the local system by a number of business chambers and international schools was humiliating. She said the government must act or the city’s competitive edge might be jeopardised.
David O’Rear, chief economist of the General Chamber of Commerce, told the Legislative Council’s education panel that even if there were more international school places available, local families would snap them up because the local system was not providing the quality of education they demanded. He said that from an economist’s viewpoint, the problem of the lack of international school places would not be solved until local schools improved.

Teachers’ role huge in protests’ success

Norman Stockwell:

One year ago this week, Madison teachers voted overwhelmingly to walk off the job, and walk into the Capitol to protest the budget repair bill (later known as Act 10), which stripped public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. As journalist John Nichols noted in a recent speech, “The teachers felt they had to go to the Capitol, because the Legislature had forgotten them.”
The decision was not taken lightly, as Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews recalls: “I got notice of what the governor planned to include in his budget repair bill, and it was more than financial issues, it was going to start attacking workers’ rights and that goes to the very core of the operation of what a union does, what it can provide for those it represents. When the word came that he was going to attempt to do away with public sector bargaining in Wisconsin, we’re talking about 50 years of work that we have put into developing not only rights but wages and benefits.”
Matthews noted that the timing happened to coincide with meetings that were already scheduled: “That very evening I had a scheduled meeting with the MTI board of directors and they immediately said, well, just get us the list of all of our reps and their phone numbers, we have reps at every one of 60 different work sites. … And they sat there at that time calling those reps. … Frequently in February and March our board of directors meeting is followed the next day by a representative council meeting. We had 120 people show up at that meeting. And I gave my same presentation, and immediately a motion came from the floor: We need to go to the Legislature tomorrow. And that motion passed immediately with little debate. The only discussion was are we gonna call in sick or are we going to call in well and simply tell the school district that we aren’t going to be at work tomorrow?”

Mooresville’s Shining Example (It’s Not Just About the Laptops)

Alan Schwarz:

Sixty educators from across the nation roamed the halls and ringed the rooms of East Mooresville Intermediate School, searching for the secret formula. They found it in Erin Holsinger’s fifth-grade math class.
There, a boy peering into his school-issued MacBook blitzed through fractions by himself, determined to reach sixth-grade work by winter. Three desks away, a girl was struggling with basic multiplication — only 29 percent right, her screen said — and Ms. Holsinger knelt beside her to assist. Curiosity was fed and embarrassment avoided, as teacher connected with student through emotion far more than Wi-Fi.
“This is not about the technology,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District, would tell the visitors later over lunch. “It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction — preparing students for their future, not our past.”

Most new voucher users already were enrolled in private schools

Milwaukee Public Policy Forum:

The Forum’s 14th annual census of schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) finds that voucher use by Milwaukee students grew 10% in 2011-12 to 23,198 voucher students, reversing last year’s enrollment decline. In addition, the data indicate that most voucher students are attending hyper-segregated schools that have low reading and math proficiency rates.
The dramatic increase in voucher use is likely due to changes to the program in the most recent state budget, which allowed schools outside Milwaukee to join MPCP and expanded eligibility to include families at higher income levels. As a result, more than 2,200 additional students are using vouchers worth $6,442 each, increasing the program’s cost by $14.2 million.
Most of the new voucher users appear to have already been enrolled in private school. In 56 schools, the number of new voucher users exceed the growth in total enrollment in the school, while in 13 schools voucher growth and enrollment growth were equal. Over the past 10 years, total enrollment in the schools participating in the program has grown by roughly 5,300 students, while the number of voucher users has increased over twice as much.

Education bonus gap Gov. Daugaard wants to give extra cash to math and science teachers, but data suggest other classes are tougher to fill

Josh Verges:

For the Woonsocket School District, English has proved the most difficult teacher job to fill. In Britton-Hecla, it’s industrial technology.
Even Sioux Falls, the state’s largest and one of the best-paying school districts, routinely hires uncertified teachers for English Language Learner, special education and gifted classes.
While school leaders acknow-ledge good math and science teachers can be difficult to find, they question Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposal to single out two content areas for $5 million in annual bonuses in order to entice more college students to teach.
“There are others equally as difficult. It’s not just math and science,” said Don Kirkegaard, Meade superintendent and president of the South Dakota Board of Education.

The Day The Music Died

Marisa Buchheit, via a kind Steve Rankin email:

On October 20, 2011, after five months as an unemployed college graduate with a music degree, I read the news about Congress rejecting a bill that would have supported education. Republican Mitch McConnell, one of the main advocates for the bank bailouts, called this bill supporting public education a ‘bailout.’
When I had left Chicago for the Cleveland Institute of Music four years before, I was idealistic and confident, with plans to help other young people learn about music and the arts. As I studied, I also listened to my dad, my coauthor here, and followed the news about the state of education in the United States. With regard to funding, the stories became increasingly disturbing. Music programs seemed to be dying a slow death. It struck me, finally, on that otherwise quiet day in October, that Congress cared more about avoiding a .1% tax on millionaires than keeping music programs in schools around the country.

Some college-bound teens already know where they are going next, but even if they don’t, they’ve done all they can for now. It’s time to kick back.

Larry Gordon & Angel Jennings:

Among the college-bound crowd of America’s high school seniors, this is the time to exhale.
A happy few have been accepted by early admissions programs at the campuses of their dreams. Diana Orozco, a senior at Brentwood School, for example, has an enviable early offer from Yale University in her pocket and is ready to relax after all the drama of the college application process. “I have other priorities, like my sanity and being stress-free,” said the 17-year-old from Hawthorne.
Many more high school seniors are awaiting answers from colleges over the next couple of months or so. But they too appreciate the emotional intermission of these winter months, when they suddenly have more free time. “I feel relief that I don’t have something hanging on the back of my mind,” said Elliott Lee, 17, who goes to Arcadia High and is trying his chances at nine California state universities and four private schools.

NJEA And the Achievement Gap

New Jersey Department of Education:

The NJEA over the last several months has indicated again and again that they are not especially troubled with the significant achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers in New Jersey.
In December, the NJEA distributed a press release suggesting that my claim that New Jersey has a “shameful” achievement gap was a “straw man” and based on a “deliberate misuse of data.” Instead, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian argued that while there is an achievement gap in New Jersey between white and African American students, and also high-income and low-income students, we really shouldn’t worry about it because it is not as bad as the gap in some other states.
Earlier this week, when asked about students stuck in failing schools across the state, a leader of the NJEA said, “life’s not always fair, and I’m sorry about that.”
Before we look at the evidence, let’s look at why this matters. The notion of an achievement gap may not be something that matters to the NJEA. But it matters to the nearly 40% of our students who can’t read at grade level in 3rd grade – an indicator closely tied to future success in school. It matters to the thousands of students that drop out of high school or even before high school each year.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. Taxes Really Are Unusually Progressive

Clive Crook:

If you ask me, Jonathan Chait, a writer I respect, has made an ass of himself in a fight he picked with Veronique de Rugy over taxes and progressivity. She offended him by saying that America’s income taxes are more progressive than those of other rich countries. Chait assailed her “completely idiotic” reasoning, called her an “inequality denier”, “a ubiquitous right-wing misinformation recirculator” and asked if it was really any wonder he cast insults now and then at such “lesser lights of the intellectual world”. (Paul Krugman said he sympathises. With Chait, obviously. The only danger here is in being too forgiving, Krugman advises. Chait may think the de Rugys of this world are only lazy and incompetent, but we know them to be liars as well.)
Just one problem. On the topic in question, De Rugy is right and Chait is wrong.
Income taxes in America are more progressive than in other rich countries–according to an authoritiative official study which, to my knowledge, has not been contradicted. The OECD’s report “Growing Unequal”, on poverty and inequality in industrial countries, includes a table that provides two measures of income tax progressivity in 2005. This is evidently the source of de Rugy’s numbers. Here they are in an excel file. According to one measure, America’s income taxes were the most progressive of the 24 countries in the sample, except for Ireland. According to the other, they were the most progressive full stop. (A more recent OECD report, “Divided We Stand”, uses different data, a smaller sample of countries and a different measure of progressivity: the results are similar.)

College Endowments: Why Even Harvard Isn’t as Rich as You Think

Andrew Rotherham:

It seems everyone has an opinion about what colleges and universities should do with their endowments. Use them to lower tuition! Let students attend for free! Improve facilities! Hire more professors! When the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) released its annual report on endowments last week, the big numbers grabbed headlines — Harvard’s endowment, the nation’s largest, grew 15%, to $31.7 billion. Less attention was directed to Southern Virginia University’s endowment of $574,000, which won’t provide too many scholarships at a place that costs more than $18,000 a year. A few weeks ago I had lunch with a college president whose school has an endowment of about $20 million. It may sound like a lot of money, but he was consumed with fundraising efforts just to make ends meet. So the next time you hear someone pitching an idea for what a college should do with its endowment, think about these five reasons that the reality of how college endowments work is different from the rhetoric.
1. Most schools don’t have them. There are 2,719 four-year colleges in the U.S. (and another 1,690 two-year colleges), according to the most recent Department of Education figures. Most higher-education institutions have no endowment, says William Jarvis, managing director and head of research at the CommonFund Institute, which helps NACUBO with its endowment surveys. But as with everything else around higher education, it’s the elite schools — which tend to be the ones that have large endowments — that drive the conversation. Endowments just aren’t a big factor at most of the institutions of higher education in this country.

A Case For Value-Added In Low-Stakes Contexts

Matthew DiCarlo:

Most of the controversy surrounding value-added and other test-based models of teacher productivity centers on the high-stakes use of these estimates. This is unfortunate – no matter what you think about these methods in the high-stakes context, they have a great deal of potential to improve instruction.
When supporters of value-added and other growth models talk about low-stakes applications, they tend to assert that the data will inspire and motivate teachers who are completely unaware that they’re not raising test scores. In other words, confronted with the value-added evidence that their performance is subpar (at least as far as tests are an indication), teachers will rethink their approach. I don’t find this very compelling. Value-added data will not help teachers – even those who believe in its utility – unless they know why their students’ performance appears to be comparatively low. It’s rather like telling a baseball player they’re not getting hits, or telling a chef that the food is bad – it’s not constructive.

Conservatives wrecked Madison public schools. Somehow

David Blaska:

For our liberal/progressive acquaintances have run out of excuses. After all, they have owned the public school system, through the teachers union and its Democratic Party subsidiary, for the last 30 years or so.
Nowhere more so than in Madison, Wis., where not a single conservative serves on the 20-member Common Council, where the seven members of the current Madison School Board range on the political spectrum from Left-liberal to Hugo Chavez. (Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman, and Arlene Silveira are Progressive Dane.)
History, not conspiracy: The Left has had its hands on the controls of city government since Paul Soglin beat Bill Dyke in 1973 and the Madison School Board since forever.
Madison’s dominant Left is gagging a fur ball because its public schools have failed the very people liberal/progressives claim to champion. The Madison Metro School District graduates fewer than half – 48% – of its black students and only 56% of its Latinos.
Blacks and Latinos, where would they be without the tender ministrations of the liberal welfare state – living evidence of Republican perfidy! Clucked and cooed over in the tenured parlors of well-meaning West Side liberals – people like Nan Brien, Anne Arnesen, Barbara Arnold, and Carol Carstensen. All four ladies presided over this educational debacle as former Madison School Board members. Despite all evidence, these liberals are not one bit abashed by their failure, so strong is their faith in the powers of more spending and more government.
The Urban League’s school must not be approved, the four women write, because “Madison Prep will not be accountable to the Madison School Board nor to the taxpayers of Madison.” Touching, this sudden concern for the taxpayer. (Madison Prep Academy would cost the school district $17-28 million over five years. Supt. Nerad’s plan would cost $105.6 million over five years.)
Some would say that the Madison School Board has not been accountable to its children of color OR its taxpayers.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Tweaked state grade system tougher, but fair?

Teresa Auch Schultz:

A sample of how local schools would have performed last year had they been Graded by a new model just approved on Wednesday shows mixed results, with more high schools earning an A but more Fs and Ds overall.
According to information released by Tony Walker, a local representative to the Indiana State Board of Education, seven area high schools would have earned an A instead of the C they received under the old grading model. Those include high schools in Munster, Chesterton, Merrillville, Kankakee Valley, Hobart, Highland, Munster and Valparaiso.
Several high schools had complained about the C grades because they were capped at the level after they did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress goals, which are tied to federal No Child Left Behind requirements. However, Indiana was one of 10 states granted on Thursday a waiver from NCLB, meaning Hoosier schools no longer have to include AYP in how they calculate a school’s grade. The new grading system, adopted by ISBOE, replaces NCLB to assess how schools are improving.

Recalibrating science education

The Malaysia Star:

THE problem of the lack of interest in science as a subject among Malaysian students is not new.
In fact, it was identified in the study by the Ministry of Education, to be more precise the Educational Planning and Research Division (EPRD) and the UNESCO Institute of Education Planning (IIEP), Paris in 1990 on the provision of science education in secondary schools.
Its report published in 1993 identified that among the reasons why students were shying away from science were the poor teaching of the subject, the lack of priority given to the subject by school management, the lack of information on career prospects in science-related fields and the poor prospects of promotion for science-qualified graduates, the deployment of teachers and insufficient professional support and supervision. Allow me to elaborate on the issues one by one.

Occupy Kindergarten: The Rich-Poor Divide Starts With Education

Jordan Weissman:

Economic class is increasingly becoming the great dividing line of American education.
The New York Times has published a roundup of recent research showing the growing academic achievement gap between rich and poor students. It prominently features a paper by Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon, which found that, since the 1960s, the difference in test scores between affluent and underprivileged students has grown 40%, and is now double gap between black and white students. (Graph courtesy of the Times.)
The children of the wealthy are pulling away from their lower-class peers — the same way their parents are pulling away from their peers’ parents. When it comes to college completion rates, the rich-poor gulf has grown by 50% since the 1980s. Upper income families are also spending vastly more on their children compared to the poor than they did 40 years ago, and spending more time as parents cultivating their intellectual development.
It may not simply be a matter of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer — although that certainly is a part of it. The growing differences in student achievement don’t strictly mimic the way income inequality has skyrocketed since the middle of the 20th century. It’s actually worse than that. Today, there’s a much stronger connection between income and a child’s academic success than in the past. Having money is simply more important than it used to be when it comes to getting a good education. Or, as Reardon puts it, “a dollar of income…appears to buy more academic achievement than it did several decades a ago.”
Even more discouraging: The differences start early in a child’s life, then linger. Reardon notes another study which found that the rich-poor achievement gap between students is already big when they start kindergarten, and doesn’t change much over time. His own analysis shows a similar pattern.

Special education gets fresh look in Minnesota schools

Christopher Magan:

Nancy Cooley has spent 20 years helping struggling young readers build a foundation for academic success.
Each day, Cooley works individually with students like Gavin Bass, a Rosemount first-grader, who need extra help mastering specific literacy skills using a program called “Reading Recovery.” Interventions like these can help get a student back on course, possibly avoiding a learning-disability classification.
“It is designed to catch kids early on, before they feel like they are not successful,” said Cooley, a teacher at Diamond Path Elementary School for International Studies in Apple Valley. She will work with students such as Gavin for a half-hour each day – drilling, quizzing and practicing early literacy concepts to improve core skills.
For Gavin, the program has been a big confidence boost, said his mother, Sarah Bass.
“He loves to read because of it,” she said. “The intervention was everything we had hoped for and more. It has been so much fun for him, and he’s very proud of himself. We wouldn’t have known how to do this at home.”

Milwaukee’s language immersion programs face cuts

Erin Richards:

When Delara Chaoui travels with her family to Morocco or France, her third-grade son serves as the group translator, switching easily between English and French.
It’s a skill he’s developed at Milwaukee French Immersion School, one of a handful of language immersion programs in the city that are a magnet for many middle-class parents who value bilingualism, a world-focused curriculum and a diverse student body.
But a growing sense of concern about how another heavy round of budget cuts could affect the quality of the schools has moved Chaoui and other immersion parents to action in recent weeks, seeking greater public attention for programs they fear are threatened.
The most assertive are becoming a squeaky wheel in the Milwaukee Public Schools administration’s wagon because they want recognition – an acknowledgment that their schools, children and they, as parent advocates, are assets to the district and that specialty programs need funding to stay vibrant and keep parents in the district.

Top-performing schools feeling pinch from MPS budget cuts

Alan Borsuk:

Lisa Pieper stood Monday night in her daughter’s fifth-grade classroom at Fernwood Montessori School and concluded that, set up for 30 students, it had no room to spare. She tried to picture what would happen if 36 to 38 students were assigned to the class, because that’s what parents have been told might happen next year.
“There is just no room,” she told members of the Milwaukee School Board the next night at a hearing on what is looming for the 2012-’13 school year in Milwaukee Public Schools.
“My daughter is complaining about not enough time with the teacher and too much noise,” Pieper said. And that’s with 30 kids in the room.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Pieper added, “she loves her school. This is her eighth year there. But even she can’t see how she will continue to grow and learn in this environment.”
So, all you who make decisions that shape life in Milwaukee schools, are you as smart as a fifth-grader? Can you see how students will grow and learn in the circumstances many may face by next fall? Or that many face even now?

Spring Harbor sixth-grader uses ‘thesaurus’ to win Madison spelling bee

George Hesselberg:

In an epic spelling smackdown, a stoic Aisha Khan of Spring Harbor Middle School went affinity-to-thesaurus against sparkly Lydia Anderson of Whitehorse Middle School in the Madison All-City Spelling Bee.
After 224 words and three tense hours eliminated 45 other competitors Saturday, Lydia stumbled on “kruller,” and Aisha calmly, slowly and correctly spelled it “cruller,” followed by “thesaurus” to seal the match in the Anderson Auditorium at Edgewood College. Only then did the quiet sixth-grader permit herself her first smile of the morning.
Aisha, 11, who according to father Abdul Khader Patan “always seems to be reading a book,” gets to test that calm March 10 in the Badger State Spelling Bee.
To Lydia, who is the alternate, mom Cindy promised to buy her a cruller on the way home.

Claremont McKenna’s inflated scores bring new scrutiny to college rankings

Larry Gordon:

Some students and their counselors say they might take annual magazine listings of colleges less seriously than in the past.
As she looked for potential colleges, Elisha Marquez researched school rankings in U.S. News & World Report and other publications. As a result, she found some East Coast schools that previously were not on her radar.
“It wasn’t the most important factor,” she said of the magazine’s rankings. “But it did factor into my eventual decision of what schools to apply to,” said the Eagle Rock High School senior, who is awaiting word from 14 campuses: UCs, Ivy Leagues and others.
But Marquez heard disturbing news recently. Claremont McKenna College reported that an admissions dean inflated freshman SAT scores for six years to boost its standing in U.S. News. Such cheating makes Marquez “a little more skeptical of such rankings.”

Wisconsin’s waiver plan would boost accountability

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

A majority of Wisconsin schools will fall under the “needs to improve” category by 2014 if the state is not granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, and that could mean sanctions and mindless educational pain. With one of the largest educational achievement gaps between black and white students in the country, Wisconsin can’t afford that.
The problem from the start with NCLB has been that the law labels way too many schools as failing, then dictates unworkable remedies. That has tended to drive down standards, weaken accountability and narrow the curriculum – all of which runs counter to the laudable original goals of NCLB when it was passed with bipartisan support under President George W. Bush.
A waiver proposal put together by the state would help remedy this no-win situation. We think that the state’s proposal would boost standards, improve accountability and begin essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness. We favor tough accountability standards – and, of course, improving student outcomes. But we don’t believe the current federal law is doing that, which is why seeking the waiver is necessary.

Teachers are Not Dentists

If I were to attend a convention of dentists, I would expect to see a lot of panels and presentations on what dentists do. New veneer techniques, the best compounds for fillings, root canal methods, successful implant procedures and the like. Of course, there would be little to no attention to what patients do, other than whether they seem to be following the recommendations to brush, floss and use the rubber tip at home. After all, the dentists are the trained paid professionals and it is what they do that is important.
Conventions of history teachers, one might guess, would be different. Of course there would be panels and presentations on class management methods, grading practices, the best history slide shows and films, the recommended history textbooks, the most effective lecture techniques, and interesting field trips, perhaps.
However, as at the dentists’ convention, surprisingly there would usually be almost nothing on what the patients (that is, the students) are doing in history. After all, the teachers are the trained and paid professionals and what they do is the most important thing.
Or is it? Remember, a dental patient’s job is to shut up, sit there, and take it. Is this really what we want from students? In too many history classes, it is. A dental patient could, if it were practicable, leave her brain at home. A history student always has his brain with him in the classroom, ready for employment.
If someone were to propose a revolution in history instruction, it might be one that would accept the fact that students are not passive vessels, with cavities of ignorance for the teacher to drill into and fill with the necessary knowledge, but rather active, thinking, curious, growing young people with brains and a capacity for serious academic work.
But this is very hard for teachers to do in practice. When it is suggested that students might benefit from reading a complete history book on their own, and from working on a serious history research papers, objections are raised. Many history educators will claim that high school students are not able (can’t?, won’t?, never been asked?) to read a history book, and the universal argument is that serious research papers take too much of a teacher’s time (the teacher’s, not the student’s time–when students are spending 53 hours a week with electronic entertainment media).
History teachers say they cannot afford to assign, guide, monitor, read and grade serious research papers by their students. So our students now, almost without exception, go off to college, to face the term papers and nonfiction books at that level, and thanks to us they have never read one complete nonfiction book or written one serious history research paper. They don’t know how to do those things, because we have decided they couldn’t do them and have not asked them to do such academic work.
Nothing of the sort happens in sports. “Scholar-Athletes” (so often celebrated for their athletic accomplishments in the local paper) are not sent off to play college basketball never having been taught to dribble, pass, and shoot the basketball, or to play football, never having been asked to block and tackle. That would be irresponsible of us, right?
I notice that, while high school chemistry classes require lab work, and biology classes require lab work (and laboratories cost money), the science teachers do not claim that students are incapable of such work or that they do not have the time to assign, guide, monitor, read and grade lab reports.
I do realize that these days, STEM is imagined to be more important than the ROOTS of history and academic literacy–the ability to read nonfiction books and write research papers–but perhaps if were to stop and think that our students are not passive dental patients, but young people with brains on board, fully capable of actually “doing” history, through reading books and writing papers, rather than just submitting to whatever presentation we have developed to keep them in their seats, then the day may come when a convention of history teachers will even include teachers talking about the academic work their students are doing in history, and even–imagine the day!–it might feature presentations by students on the papers they have written, and, in some cases, had published in The Concord Review. There have been 989 of such exemplary history papers now, by students from 46 states and 38 other countries since 1987, and on the few Emerson Prize occasions when the students were indeed allowed to talk at a meeting about their research, the teachers in attendance were well and truly interested to hear what they had to say.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

The Achievement Gap in Madison

Rob Starbuck talks to leaders of the African-American community about the history of Madison’s academic achievement gap and what can be done to reverse the alarming trend.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Tepid response to Nerad’s plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district; $105,600,000 over 5 Years.
Event (2.16.2012) The Quest for Educational Opportunity: The History of Madison’s Response to the Academic Achievement Gap (1960-2011)

Budget & Wisconsin School Accountability

Mike Ford:

The perils of another strategy, finding lower-cost ways to deliver state services, shows up in another Journal Sentinel story this morning on the notable absence of a common school accountability system for all schools receiving public revenue in a new piece of education legislation. Erin Richards writes of the bill:

What is not mentioned in the story is that an identical public, private, and charter school accountability system is functionally impossible, and undesirable. The presence of religion in private choice schools for example requires that the schools spend (and document the purpose of) every dollar they receive annually through the choice program so as not to have a surplus that could be seen as aiding religion. In comparison, having and carrying over a surplus in a public school district may actually be a sign of responsible budgeting. And the heart of the charter school concept is a third party authorizer that serves as the accountability agent. A common accountability system undermines the very idea of a charter school.
More important, if choice and charter face identical public school rules and regulations, there is every reason to expect them to be nothing more than poorly funded public schools that may save the state money, but not increase educational quality. What is needed is a way to ensure all of our schools are accountable and transparent, not identical regulation.

Related: notes and links on Madison’s multi-million dollar Infinite Campus expedition… I’m not sure that a state-wide system makes sense. Rather, the state might create a set of data reporting “standards” that allows local Districts to collect and manage information in the way that they prefer.
More from Erin Richards Wisconsin Accountability article, here:

Its elements include:
A proposal to create a fund to which private donors could contribute money to fund successful literacy and early-childhood development programs.
A proposal to require schools to annually assess all kindergartners for reading readiness.
A proposal to require new elementary and special education teachers to pass a more rigorous reading test.
A proposal for education schools to submit to DPI a list of graduates and their graduation dates, so that the state can better link practicing teachers back to their institution of training.
A proposal to evaluate the performance of all public school teachers and principals.

Some Thoughts on Teaching

Bret Victor:

Some teachers teach from life.
My piano teacher played the piano. Like, all the time. He had to; it’s not easy to make a living as a musician. Between tours, his band played restaurants, bars, weddings, anywhere they could get a gig. He wrote jingles for infomercials and TV shows, produced tracks for hopeless hip-hop artists. He’d sit in twenty-hour recording sessions, driving home as the sun came up. He chose this life because he loved music, and when he taught music, he was teaching what he did. In that way, his teaching was honest.
My improv teachers perform improv. Not as a hobby, but as a centerpiece of their lives. I remember John Remak casually beginning a talk with, “I’ve been doing improv for twenty years, I love improv, it’s my life.” It’s my life. John makes his living as an attorney, but improv is his life. He teaches from his own experience, and in that way, his teaching is honest.

A View on Rhetoric & Reality on Madison Schools

“Penelope Trunk” (Adrienne GreenHeart) via a kind Brian S. Hall email:

7. We overlook key research.
When I relocated from NYC to Madison, I did tons of research. I knew everything about happiness and economic development and I knew what I was getting into even though I never stepped foot in Madison before I moved there.
But I ignored a crucial piece of research: The schools. I simply could not believe that the schools were as bad – relative to the rest of the country – as all the data showed. It’s a university town, I reasoned. It’s liberal. They must raise taxes a lot for schools. I couldn’t believe it. But it was true. And I ended up having to leave Madison because the schools were so bad.

More on Penelope Trunk, here.

Q&A with Madison School Board candidates

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin State Journal, as part of its coverage of the Madison School Board election, is posing questions to the four candidates on various topics. Here the candidates react to Superintendent Dan Nerad’s achievement gap plan.
What are three strengths of the plan?
Mary Burke: Emphasis on K-3 literacy, research proves this is most effective in closing the achievement gap; AVID (expansion), in four years, I’ve seen AVID be effective, accountable and generate school support; and parental liaisons, but should be from low-income communities and trained to help parents engage in children’s education.
Michael Flores: Those that have the direct impact on children and families, such as expanding AVID/TOPS, parent liaisons to bridge the cultural gap that can exist between home and school, and implementing the mentor academy to provide positive role models to struggling minority students.
Nichelle Nichols: The document presented to the community is a document of ideas. It is not yet a plan. When the community is presented with a comprehensive plan for addressing the achievement gap in schools, and I have had sufficient time to review it, I will be happy to share my view.
Arlene Silveira: Early literacy programming and intervention focus because being able to read is critical for success. Expansion of the school day/year options to provide more time for our students in a learning environment. Parent engagement models because caregivers are important partners in supporting the education of our youth.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent) 2006 election links & video
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio & Transcript.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Obama Forecasts $1,330,000,000,000 Budget Deficit This Year; 901,000,000,000 in fiscal 2013

Richard Wolf:

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget will forecast a $901 billion deficit for next year, falling far short of his goal to halve the deficit in four years.
The budget, an outline of which was released by the White House Friday night, will show a higher deficit this year than in 2011, up from $1.3 trillion to $1.33 trillion.
In addition, the projected decline to $901 billion in 2013 is dependent on enactment of the president’s policies, including spending reductions agreed to last summer and ending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy at the end of this year.

6 Colleges Cutting Tuition

Annamaria Andriotis:

While tuition bills continue to skyrocket, a small but growing number of private colleges and universities are bucking the trend and going on sale.
At least six colleges announced plans to reduce tuition costs in the upcoming school year. Many of these schools say lower-cost higher-education will attract more students from middle-income families those with incomes too high to qualify for free federal financial aid, but not high enough to pay for college costs without going deep into debt. “We are hoping to recruit more students from that group than in the past,” says Edwin Welch, president of University of Charleston, in West Virginia, which is slashing tuition by 22%. Others are looking to lure students away from nearby colleges that up to now have been more affordable, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, which tracks financial aid issues.

Madison Prep supporters revamping proposal to overcome district objections; Seniority Changes

Matthew DeFour:

And even though teachers would be unionized, they would have different rules from those at other schools to bring costs down, Caire said.
Caire’s original proposal for Madison Prep called for a “non-instrumentality” charter school, meaning it would employ its own staff and be free of day-to-day district oversight. In October, Caire and Matthews announced an agreement by which Madison Prep would use union staff, opening the door for Madison Prep to submit an “instrumentality” charter school proposal to the district.
But a district analysis based on language in the union contract found the cost would be higher than originally projected. Cost-saving changes to the contract, which expires in June 2013, couldn’t be made without nullifying it under the state’s new collective bargaining law.
In November, Madison Prep supporters changed their proposal to a non-instrumentality charter school. District officials opposed that option, saying it would have insufficient oversight and conflict with the union contract, which requires the district to hire union employees.
The latest iteration of Madison Prep would be an instrumentality charter school. But because it would open in fall 2013, the current union contract wouldn’t apply, meaning separate rules could be written for the school.
Matthews, however, said MTI opposes the types of changes Madison Prep would seek, such as eliminating a provision that grants senior teachers priority for new job openings in the district.
“Those are rights people have,” Matthews said. “It gets us right back to why there was so much reaction to what Gov. Walker did last year.”

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.