Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can a charter school proposal get a fair shake in Fairfax County, VA?

Kristin Amundson:

Want to know how a school system can kill an innovative program without leaving any fingerprints? All you need to do is watch how Fairfax County Public Schools is handling the charter school application of the Fairfax Leadership Academy.
Teacher Eric Welch is leading an effort to create the county’s first charter school. He and other educators believe that this effort is critical to closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. Their goal is to create a school that will serve high-risk, low-income students — the kids who often fall through the cracks. The school is actually focusing on many of the programs that FCPS used to provide to at-risk populations, such as an extended school day and year, which can be critical for students who need more time to master challenging content. Those programs were among the casualties of recent Fairfax budget cuts.

Examining Principal Turnover

Ed Fuller:

“No one knows who I am,” exclaimed a senior in a high-poverty, predominantly minority and low-performing high school in the Austin area. She explained, “I have been at this school four years and had four principals and six algebra I teachers.”
Elsewhere in Texas, the first school to be closed by the state for low performance was Johnston High School, which was led by 13 principals in the 11 years preceding closure. The school also had a teacher turnover rate greater than 25 percent for almost all of the years and greater than 30 percent for 7 of the years.
While the above examples are rather extreme cases, they do underscore two interconnected issues – teacher and principal turnover – that often plague low-performing schools and, in the case of principal turnover, afflict a wide range of schools regardless of performance or school demographics.

The world at work: Jobs, pay, and skills for 3.5 billion people

Richard Dobbs, Anu Madgavkar, Dominic Barton, Eric Labaye, James Manyika, Charles Roxburgh, Susan Lund, Siddarth Madhav:

Over the past three decades, as developing economies industrialized and began to compete in world markets, a global labor market started taking shape. As more than one billion people entered the labor force, a massive movement from “farm to factory” sharply accelerated growth of productivity and per capita GDP in China and other traditionally rural nations, helping to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. To raise productivity, developed economies invested in labor-saving technologies and tapped global sources of low-cost labor.
Today, the strains on this market are becoming increasingly apparent. In advanced economies, demand for high-skill labor is now growing faster than supply, while demand for low-skill labor remains weak. Labor’s overall share of income, or the share of national income that goes to worker compensation, has fallen, and income inequality is growing as lower-skill workers–including 75 million young people–experience unemployment, underemployment, and stagnating wages.

Private schools leader vs. me

Jay Matthews:

After I accused American private schools of hiding vital data, a practice that makes it hard for me to compare them to other schools, National Association of Independent Schools President Patrick F. Bassett agreed to a chat. His organization represents many well-known private schools:
Mathews: You have said you don’t like my way of comparing schools. Okay, what way of comparing schools would you prefer?
Bassett: When parents ask us, “What’s the best school,” we say, “The school that best meets your child’s needs.” The first step in finding that perfect school is to evaluate what your child needs. An environment that’s more nurturing? Or more competitive? Does she thrive in a larger community or one that is smaller? Is he looking for specific classes or programs? Does the philosophy of the school mesh with your family’s values? Look at the websites and other materials from the schools. Would the approach and program at a school work for your child?

Esther Cepeda: Our non-elite students remain unchallenged

Esther Cepeda:

If you live in an affluent community with a high-performing school district and are familiar with the pressure-cooker environment of endless test-prepping, extracurricular overload and early resume-building that students endure in their quest to get into elite colleges, you probably laughed at a recent report saying many students believe their schools are not sufficiently challenging them.
If, like me, you live in a community struggling with high rates of poverty, or one where state budget cuts have reduced the schools to shadows of their former selves, you know full well that the report — “Do Schools Challenge Our Students?” — produced by the Center for American Progress has a painful ring of truth to it.
The findings represent the everyday experiences of students stuck in less-than-high-performing schools, where enrichment opportunities such as field trips or in-school presentations are few, where gym, music and art classes are often a distant memory, and where boredom is a constant complaint.

How America Pays for College 2012

Sallie Mae and Ipsos:

Sallie Mae’s “How America Pays for College 2012” (PDF, 1.3MB) study, conducted by Ipsos, finds that:
83% of college students and parents strongly agreed that higher education is an investment in the future, college is needed now more than ever (70%), and the path to earning more money (69%).
Drawing from savings, income and loans, students paid 30% of the total bill, up from 24% four years ago, while parents covered 37% of the bill, down from 45% four years ago.
The percentage of families who eliminated college choices because of cost rose to the highest level (69%) in the five years since the study began. Virtually all families exercised cost-savings measures, including living at home (51%), adding a roommate (55%), and reducing spending by parents (50%) and students (66%).
In 2012, families continued the shift toward lower-cost community college, with 29 percent enrolled, compared to 23 percent two years ago. In fact, overall, families paid 5 percent less for college compared to one year ago.
35% percent of students borrowed education loans to pay for college: 25% borrowing federal loans only, 9% using a mix of federal and private loans, and 1% tapping private loans only.

More Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Reflections

Matthew DeFour

Q: Given a chance to oversee the Madison Prep debate again, would you have done anything differently?
A: My approach was I was attempting to make that work as an instrumentality of the district, and costs were prohibiting that. In terms of it being a non-instrumentality proposal, there were two big problems there. One was the fact that contractually it wasn’t permissible. The other area was the need for accountability to the public body and the governing board.
Q: So what would you have done differently?
A: I’ve looked into myself quite a bit on that and I don’t know what that is.
Q: So you think you were decisive enough?
A: Let other people judge that. But if I didn’t have an interest in looking at a program like Badger Rock Middle School and other innovative program designs, we wouldn’t have spent the time we did on Madison Prep. We put considerable effort into trying to find alternative ways to work that out and the reality of it is that it didn’t work out.

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

Why Math Teachers Feel Poorly Prepared

Anna Kuchment:

When William Schmidt, an expert on math education at Michigan State University, moved his family from East Lansing to Charlottesville, Virginia for a year’s research leave, his work took a personal turn. He noticed that the public school his daughters would be attending outside Charlottesville was academically behind the one they had attended in Michigan. Back home, his 2nd grade daughter would be learning multiplication tables up through the number 5, yet in Charlottesville, multiplication was not even part of his local school’s second grade curriculum.
His daughter’s experience, he explains in a new book excerpted below, is not unique. ” The [American] system of schooling represents a game of chance that few are even aware is being played,” he writes in “Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools,” co- written with Curtis C. McKnight. The inequalities pose a risk to every child, they write, regardless of socioeconomic background or race. They stem from differences in state education standards, in school funding, in curricula that districts choose to adopt and in the content that individual classroom teachers choose to teach. In this excerpt, Schmidt and McKnight focus on variations in how math teachers are trained and how that, in turn, affects student achievement.
The following is excerpted from Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools, by William H. Schmidt and Curtis C. McKnight. (Teachers College Press, 2012).

Related: Math Forum.

As Membership Plummets, NEA Retools Mission

Stephen Sawchuk:

Faced with arguably the biggest crisis of its 155-year history–the loss of at least 100,000 full-time members–the nation’s largest union plans to respond by organizing thousands of new members and transforming itself into an even more politically potent force.
Whether the National Education Association can accomplish those goals while simultaneously advocating improvements to the teaching profession–a role publicly supported by its leaders, but contested among rank and file–remains an open question.
Nothing less than the entire organization’s future appears to hinge on the answer.

SP-EYE Turns 5: A Look at Governence & Spending in the Sun Prairie Schools


1. District Administrator Tim Culver’s salary is higher than that of Governor Doyle. The combined salaries of the top 4 administrators in the district exceeds one-half MILLION dollars.
check it out:

2. While the rest of the world , including state employees, pays some or all of their health care costs, we, the taxpayers, covered 100% of school district employees’ health benefits up until this year. Now they still pay only 2-4% of health care costs. State employes typically pay 6-8% or more.
3. During the past school year (2006-07) taxpayers paid for over $7000 worth of pizza, subs and other food for administrators and staff, typically charged to “[Department] Supplies”
4. Instead of appointing an individual who narrowly missed election in both 2006 and 2007 to a school board vacancy, the School Board appointed an individual who has lived in Sun Prairie for less than 3 years, and whose career experience is in school administration. Think we got a vote for taxpayers here?
5. It’s budget time again! The annual public meeting is in October. Did you know that when the rest of us have a co-worker who loses a family member or celebrates some big event, we all chip in and buy flowers. The School District, however, has a policy that allows it to purchase flowers for its employees on these occasions on the taxpayers’ dime.

NM unions complain about teacher evaluation plan

Associated Press:

Three New Mexico teachers unions are complaining the state Public Education Department has failed to consult parents and teachers as it crafts a new teacher evaluation system.
The state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation and the Albuquerque Education Assistants Association sent a letter Friday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The letter claims the state didn’t include any teachers nominated by the American Teachers Federation on its evaluation task force.
The letter also says parents and school board members weren’t included and that the task force violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting without public notice.

Madison School Board President James Howard says parent engagement is key to black students’ success

Pat Schneider:

T: The assumption in the discussion of parent engagement and academic achievement is that it is African-American parents who are not engaged.
JH: I think that’s the reality of it. The question is: why aren’t they engaged? The latest survey we had showed that roughly 40 percent of African-American high school students were not engaged. Why? What happens to the kids? We seem to lose them over time, and we lose the parents.
CT: That’s a pernicious thing for black youth, isn’t it? Why do you think it’s happening?
JH: I think one of the things is that we need to create a culture in our schools that these kids can feel they are more a part of. For example, we don’t present “American” history — there’s a lot of African-American history that never makes it to the books. So, if we as a country, as a community, would depict the true picture and make them part of it, I think kids would remain engaged longer.

Related: An interview the Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school.

Research is mixed over year-round versus traditional schools

Beth Harpaz:

By the time summer’s over, many families can’t wait for school to start. Working parents have struggled to find camps or babysitting, kids are bored and teachers fret over “summer slide” — the academic losses that research shows hits kids from poor families hardest.
Year-round schooling might seem like the antidote, and in some parts of the country, schools with just a few weeks off are not uncommon. In Raleigh, N.C., and other parts of Wake County, for instance, July 9 was the first day of school for 26,000 students on a year-round calendar.
But year-round schools, which once seemed like a panacea for everything from low test scores to overcrowding, have proven to be a mixed bag. And some places that once embraced them — including Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and parts of California — have returned to traditional calendars.

Concerns linger on new Pa. teacher evaluations

Kathy Matheson:

Pennsylvania teachers must demonstrate a combination of classroom skills and student achievement if they want to make the grade on planned new statewide evaluations, the first overhaul of the assessments in more than 40 years.
Legislation enacted last month spells out specific criteria on which educators will be measured, and a possible new protocol for classroom observation has been getting trial runs in dozens of districts. But concerns linger about the still-unwritten final regulations.
What about those who teach grades or subjects not covered by standardized tests? What about those who work in high-poverty schools, where students can face challenges such as language barriers, lack of resources and little parent involvement?

Education’s pendelum: Thinkers or test takers?

The Los Angeles Times:

The people of a large and mighty nation wonder why their schools can’t do more to imitate those of another large, powerful nation across the Pacific Ocean. But this time it’s not the United States seeking to emulate the schools of an Asian country — it’s China seeking to emulate ours, at least to some extent.
China is pushing for more emphasis on building creative skills and less on high-stress, high-stakes testing, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Under the existing system, a single entrance exam determines whether students attend college, and which one. Talk about teaching to the test: The last year of high school is often given over to cramming for the exam. In at least one classroom, students were placed on intravenous drips of amino acids in preparation for the test, in the belief that it would help their memories and provide an energy boost; in another sad case, a girl was not told about her father’s death for two months to avoid disrupting her studies.

24.46% of Michigan Teacher Payroll Dollars Fund Retirement (2011), growing to 35% in Subsequent Years

Lori Higgins, via a kind Brian S. Hall email

School districts crushed by surging retirement costs could save as much as $250 million this school year under a contentious bill that would make retirement benefits more expensive for public school employees but give districts millions they could use to decrease class size, restore cut programs or squirrel away more money for emergencies.
On Wednesday, the state Senate is expected to take up the bill — backed by Gov. Rick Snyder — that would require current and retired school employees to dig deeper into their pockets to keep their benefits. Some employees would get reduced benefits.
Supporters say the bill, already approved by the House by a 57-47 vote largely along party lines, would help address a $45-billion unfunded liability in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. Some Republicans believe it doesn’t go far enough — they want to end the pension system altogether for new employees, an extremely costly option the Snyder administration wants to study more.
The bill is hotly opposed by groups representing current and retired school employees.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman in a 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

How to Overcome Failure

Ken Bain:

Many people think of intelligence as static: you are born with lots of brains, very few, or somewhere in between, and that quantum of intelligence largely determines how well you do in school and in life.
The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has never liked this view. “I hardly ever use the word intelligence,” says Mr. Tyson, who directs the Hayden Planetarium in New York. “I think of people as either wanting to learn, ambivalent about learning or rejecting learning.” He speaks from experience: As a young man, he was booted from one doctoral program but managed to get into another and complete his Ph.D.
Over the past 25 years, social scientists have produced some key insights into how successful people overcome their unsuccessful moments–and they have found that attitudes toward learning play a large role from a young age.

Some things I’ve learnt about writing

John Graham-Cumming:

The big theme of my working life (so far) has been programming, and yesterday I published a short list of things I’ve learnt about programming. The second (smaller) theme has been writing. Since 1996, when my first piece of writing was published in The Guardian, I’ve written quite a number of articles for newspapers and magazines (including a recent 3,000 word special on Alan Turing for New Scientist) and a book.
Almost everything I’ve written is non-fiction (except my parody startup CEO Brad Bradstone), so my thoughts are about that sort of writing. I have nothing useful to say about writing fiction.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt about writing. I hope you’ll find them useful, as I think writing is a vital skill for almost everyone because good writing is simply good communicating and good communicating matters enormously in any job.

“I was free to ask the unanswered questions probing my mind, and determine my own answers and conclusions accordingly. That feeling of liberation and freedom in the writing process proved crucial to the success of my paper.”

Ayana Gray:

The Concord Review: A Process
“I really hope it’s worth it, Ayana.” I can still hear my dad, exasperated, as I sat hunched over the family computer typing frantically at two a.m. one Sunday morning. I’d been writing for hours, determined to finish this paper, and now even he’d grown weary watching me work. I couldn’t explain to him that, for me, writing this paper to be submitted for possible entry into The Concord Review was worth it for more than one reason. I couldn’t explain, to him nor anyone else, that while this paper was the chance for me to delve more thoroughly into a research project than I ever had before, it was also a chance for me to prove to myself that I could do it, that at seventeen years old, I could write a twenty-page paper.
Interest in the main topic of my research paper, female infanticide, began as a sophomore in the previous school year. It was my first opportunity in my academic career to write about anything I wanted. There were no boundaries, no specifics, and few requirements; I was free to ask the unanswered questions probing my mind, and determine my own answers and conclusions accordingly. That feeling of liberation and freedom in the writing process proved crucial to the success of my paper.
It is significantly easier to break a research paper writing project into stages. Alongside my peers, I believe the most common difficulty we all faced was finding the academic support to affirm and corroborate the claims and statements we made. Thus, I learned to break the process into two simpler stages: reading and then writing. Never mind trying to write and read alternately; know your topic absolutely. Read as much as possible–highlighting and marking frequently–and note important facts. When beginning to write, write your own opinions, and then use the facts you’ve accumulated to further affirm what you have to say. Not only is this process less tedious and consuming than sifting back and forth from your research to your paper, it allows room for your own “voice” as you write.
Finally, the power of drafting and continuous editing can never be overstated. By the end of writing, my entire paper had probably been edited six times, and each sub-section of the paper innumerably. It is crucial to edit your work not only grammatically, but conceptually throughout its entire production.
At the close of my junior year, one faithful Monday morning, I submitted my paper for possible submission to The Concord Review with more than a feeling of gratification. In writing and researching over the course of two months, not only had I phenomenally expanded my knowledge on a global issue I felt justified my concern, I’d expanded my skill as a writer. I learned, most essentially, that what you write about must be what most impassions you. There will, inevitably, be periods of doubt as you write, and certainly times when you’d like nothing more than to rid yourself of all things relevant to your topic and even start anew. But if you choose to research something you truly care about, hopefully you feel the same way I did, as if it’s your duty to write about it so that others may read and learn and desire to change something.


With a consistency comparable only to the world’s abil- ity to change daily, humanity undergoes evolution. Politically, economically, and particularly socially, changes throughout the contemporar y world are unavoidable and, at best, only understood in part. Yet amidst many changes that threaten the global com- munity’s future, demographic changes have caused increasing concern of late. As author Thomas Homer-Dixon notes in his The Upside of Down: “to understand the destiny of our global society… it is good to start with global demographics.”1 Populations, most notably in impoverished areas of the world, are expected to grow astronomically in subsequent decades, resulting in an unprec- edented youth bulge2 in many developing countries. China and India–presently two of the world’s most densely populated coun- tries–are especially affected by this rapid population increase. Yet despite impending threats of mass starvation and economic
downfall resulting from widespread poverty and overpopulation, sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are undoubtedly most threatening to populations in China and India.

Open Education for a Global Economy

David Bornstein:

If you or your kids have taken an online lesson at the Khan Academy (3,200 video lessons, 168 million views), been enlightened by a TED Talk (1,300 talks, 800 million views), watched a videotaped academic lecture (Academic Earth, Open Courseware Consortium, Open Culture), enrolled in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course, now being offered by companies like Udacity and a growing list of universities, including M.I.T., Harvard and Stanford), or simply learned to play guitar, paint a landscape or make a soufflé via YouTube — then you know that the distribution channels of education have changed — and that the future of learning is free and open.
This is good news for everyone, but it is particularly good for the vast number of people around the world whose job prospects are constrained by their skill levels and who lack the resources to upgrade them through conventional training. It’s a problem that a company based in Ireland called ALISON — Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online — is helping to address with a creative model.

North Korea: suffer the little children

Aidan Foster-Carter:

The task of building up Kim Jong-un as a credible leader continues, and Pyongyang’s peculiar political culture adds its own burdens. On the one hand, thrusting a callow twenty-something into the top slot merely because of who his father was compels a relentless emphasis on continuity.
Now and for evermore, Kim Jong-un must be lauded as the political heir and inheritor of his father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Jong-un.
On the other hand, continuity alone is not enough. Given the DPRK’s problems, ‘same old same old’ on its own would not be a palatable message. Not that anyone is asking the people their view, but even a system as top-down as North Korea cannot wholly neglect the popular mood. So the leaden stress on continuity must also be leavened by hints of change, offering hope for the future.

Common Core Challenges for California

Alice Mercer:

I spent my last week of June at the ISTE Conference (International Society for Technology in Education) in San Diego, CA. Given that the new Common Core standards feature the use of technology by student prominently, I expected the standards to be front and center at the conference. Since I’ve been blogging about Common Core lately, I looked forward to hearing more. The conference program promised a number of sessions on the subject. Many of these were put on by vendors, who were no doubt seeking to make money off the fear of administrators, but the exhibitor floor was where they went all out. It reminded me of a quip I heard from one edublogger about the exhibit floor at these conferences pushing products to cure your NCLB blues; now, everything seems to be Common Core “aligned”. Folks were excitedly discussing the new upcoming computer-based adaptive assessments which are due to roll-out in 2014. That brought another question to add to the five I’d previously raised: where on earth is my state planning to find the money for them? This led to some rather surreal conversational moments as I asked this question to folks who were excited about the new assessment, and their answers would often be a perplexed look, and the statement, “Well they have to implement this!” and I would say, “Really, why? We’re not in Race to the Top so we aren’t getting dollars dependent on this.” At this point folks looked really perplexed.

Change is coming for good schools, too

Alan Borsuk:

Here are eight thoughts on why parents of students in top-flight schools (and parents in just about any school) should be paying attention to what is unfolding:
Rising standards for defining proficiency. Wisconsin is about to raise the bar for what it takes for a student to be labeled “proficient” or “advanced.” The idea is that the new standards will be more realistic measures of whether a student is on track for college and a career. But a lot of parents used to their kids being among the, say, 89% or so of students doing well at high-testing school will now find their kids aren’t in that category and the schoolwide figure is suddenly, say, 45%. Will parents and school leaders take this as a call for everyone to aim higher? I hope so, but brace yourself.
New school report cards. By next year, a new system for describing how each school in the state is doing will be launched. It will offer a lot more data and new types of ratings. Particularly for conscientious parents who take advantage of it, it will offer new perspectives on how to pick a school and what a child’s school is doing well – or not well.
Achievement gaps at high-performing schools. Almost all top schools, including many suburban schools, have such gaps if they have more than a handful of poor children and minority children among their students, or if special education students aren’t meeting state goals. The gaps, in terms of percentage of proficient students, are often just as wide in those schools as in Milwaukee. The decade-old No Child Left Behind system put these gaps in the spotlight without being very effective in bringing improvement. The new Wisconsin system will focus on this even more. Top schools are likely to be under even more scrutiny on these fronts.

Upper Education Myopia

Not long ago, an associate professor of Creative Writing (the most popular subject in which is now not Ozymandias or Dover Beach or Westminster Bridge, but “ME”)…at an Upper Education institution west of the Mississippi wrote an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, bemoaning the incompetence and/or indifference of her Upper peers in evaluating, correcting or coaching the academic writing of their students:
“…And since there’s little room in most graduate curricula to focus on writing, many future faculty members simply never learn. The truth is, everyone thinks whoever went before him or her was responsible for the job of teaching writing: College instructors believe students learned the mechanics in high school; graduate advisers assume their students learned as undergraduates what they needed to know about style and argumentation.
By the time people become professors, they have no one to turn to for help with their writing. Some hope or pray that editors will save them; sometimes that happens. But most acquisitions editors don’t have the time or energy to do line-editing, and they assume that the copy editors will clean up the prose…And so, bad prose gets published and bad models proliferate….
…What, then, to make of the political scientist who didn’t think he had the expertise to comment on his students’ writing? I believe he’s shirking an important aspect of his job…If professors don’t tell students that the writing matters, who will? If professors don’t know what good writing looks like, who does?”
I followed up this welcome interest in academic writing at the Upper Education level by sending her information about The Concord Review, which, for 25 years has been working to encourage, distribute and, with the National Writing Board, to assess, serious academic expository writing by high school students around the world (Lower Education Level).
The replies I got from the Upper Education personage were:
“I got a whole bunch of messages that I don’t think were meant for me. You might check your computer for viruses.”
When I sent more information, she replied that she had seen material about these efforts when she was in Admissions at an Upper Education place in the Southeast but:
“What made a big impression on me is that there was (as I recall) a submissions fee. At Duke, I saw a lot of ‘honors’ that came with a price tag. That troubles me.”
So, of course, she never inquired further. (And yes, Duke takes an admissions fee…)
Now, so as not to charge all Upper Education people with having the same dim or poor vision about writing at the Lower Education Level, here is a letter I got from a physicist at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study…
Einstein Drive, Princeton, New Jersey 08540
22 June 2000
Mr. Will Fitzhugh, President
National Writing Board
The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
I recently came across The Concord Review, and I would like to express my appreciation for your leadership role and your continuous dedication to this endeavor. Not only am I impressed with the high quality of the history articles that appear in the Review, but I am also impressed with the very idea of a publication which provides a forum for the academic work of high school students in history.
As a physicist, I am accustomed to the many initiatives, such as math competitions and physics olympiads, instituted to recognize and promote interest and talent in the sciences among high school students. However, I have always felt that there was no equivalent mechanism to encourage and nurture students in the humanities, and to recognize their accomplishments. The Concord Review strikes me as a simple yet brilliant idea to help fill that gap, and as a very effective way to promote high standards and excellence in the humanities.
Chiara R. Nappi
Theoretical Physicist
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
12 July 2012

Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Reflects on His Tenure

Dan Nerad, the departing Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent, talked with WISC-TV on Thursday about his four years leading the district, plus the greatest challenges going forward.
He cited the four-year-old kindergarten program, which he implemented, and tackling difficult budgets as his achievements. Nerad said on some issues, such as over the heightened debate over the district’s minority achievement gap, there were shortcomings.
Nerad is scheduled to leave July 27 for the top job at the school district in Birmingham, Mich., a smaller and more affluent suburb of Detroit.
THEO KEITH, WISC-TV: Is there an issue or issues where you had your greatest success or shortcoming?

The Glorious End of Higher Education’s Monopoly on Credibility

Michael Ellsberg:

In the past, the only way to get professional credibility was with a college degree. Now young people are using many different tools to gain a foothold in the business world.
The times they are a changin’, and in this essay, I’d like to suggest they are changing in a way that has massive implications for education: sources of credibility–once the domain of expensive degrees-are becoming democratized, decentralized, and diversified.
In the past, there was pretty much one way to gain credibility: get some letters after your name, from as fancy an institution as possible.
Now, in 2012, I’ve seen dozens of young people who don’t even have college degrees use the following tools as sources of credibility in the business world:

ACLU alleges Michigan school district violated students’ ‘right to learn to read’

Lyndsey Layton:

In the first case of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union is charging that the state of Michigan and a Detroit area school district have failed to adequately educate children, violating their “right to learn to read” under an obscure state law.
The ACLU class-action lawsuit, to be filed Thursday, says hundreds of students in the Highland Park School District are functionally illiterate.
“None of those adults charged with the care of these children . . . have done their jobs,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.”

What’s Wrong with Accreditation–A Textbook Case

Andrew Gillen:

The world of higher education is abuzz with the news that a for-profit university, Ashford University, whose Iowa campus holds accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, has been denied accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for its online headquarters. Denial of accreditation for schools that already have it is pretty unusual and gives us a rare glimpse into accreditation and a detailed example of what’s wrong with the existing system.
An Evidence-Based Decision?
According to the Chronicle, “Ralph A. Wolff [president of WASC]… said the extensive process was meant to provide an evidence-based reason for the association’s decision on Ashford.”
That certainly sounds reassuring. And WASC is leading the way on transparency, publicly releasing documents relating to the decision (though the posted versions of the documents are non-searchable, a significant barrier to actually making use of the documents).
One might expect to see some evidence about how Ashford University students are learning less than comparable students at other WASC-accredited universities. If so you’d be disappointed. Turns out student learning is not an important consideration when it comes to accreditation. Here are the allegedly unmet standards cited in denying Ashford accreditation for its large online program:

Madison West High team soars to 2nd in International Rocketry Challenge

Matthew DeFour:

Madison West High School’s rocketry team finished second behind the French team in the International Rocketry Challenge in London on Friday.
The four-student team won the national Team America Rocketry Challenge competition in May to qualify for the international competition. It’s the second time a West team has represented the United States in the five-year history of the event, which took place this year at the Farnborough International Air Show.


Madison’s Superintendent Search Service Contenders

Proact Services: [1MB PDF Presentation]

Gary Solomon, Chief Executive Officer
Gary Solomon was elevated to CEO of PROACT Search in 2009. Previously, Mr. Solomon had founded Synesi Associates and worked in Education for the past twenty years, starting as a high school teacher and administrator in the Chicago suburbs. Gary transitioned from the public to the private sector taking on a position as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Princeton Review, and was responsible for rebuilding the sales organization into a senior consultative team focused on creating custom solutions in the areas of assessment, professional development and academic intervention. During his six years with The Princeton Review, where annual revenue goals were exceeded by and average 150%, Solomon was fortunate to do significant business in many of the top 50 urban districts in the country, and work with some of the best and brightest reformers in the K12 space. 

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Solomon holds a Masters in Education Arts from Northeastern University.

Thomas Vranas
, President
Thomas brings an extensive background in educational management in the private sector, as well as numerous start-ups across various industries. He recently served as Vice President at one of the largest publicly traded test preparation companies where he was directly responsible for their sales teams as well as online learning division. Previously Thomas built an urban tutoring program in Chicago to service over 8,000 students with recognition for a quality program from the local and national government. Thomas has also started-up a Wireless Internet company, a Sales and Marketing company as well as a boutique Venture Capital firm. Thomas has been published by the Northwestern Press for his work in political economics and is and active volunteer at many organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Northwestern University and Steppenwolf Theatre. He’s been a guest lecturer at Northwestern University, where he earned his B.A. in Economics and Slavic Languages.

Phil Hansen
, Chief Operations Officer
Phil Hansen is a seasoned educator with an impeccable record rooted in Accountability. For fifteen years Phil taught history, before moving on to five years as assistant principal for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and then Director of Special Education in the southern suburbs of Chicago. In 1991 Phil took on the role of Principal at Clissold Elementary, a Chicago Public school. In 1995 he became the CPS Director of School Intervention, before moving on in 1997 to take on the position of Chief Accountability Officer, where he served until 2002. At this time Phil was offered a position working as an assistant to the Illinois State Superintendent where he was the liaison between CPS and the Illinois State Board of Education specifically focused on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation throughout the state.
Upon his retirement Phil joined The Princeton Review and managed a turnaround project in Philadelphia, transitioning four middle schools to new small high schools. He also separately did consulting work for the School District of Philadelphia, the St Louis Schools Office of Accountability, and the Recovery School District of New Orleans. In the Recovery School District he served as the Interim Chief Academic Officer during the transition of leadership. Upon joining Synesi Associates, as Vice President of Policy and Development he has worked with the State Board of Louisiana and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. His primary work has been in completing school and district quality reviews followed up by long term support as an external partner. Through Synesi he also continues to work in New Orleans, assisting with the High School Redesign efforts
As an active member of his community, Phil has also served as President and Secretary of the Beverly Area Planning Association, and has received rewards for service from both the local community as well as the greater city of Chicago. Most recently Phil was honored as an outstanding City of Chicago Employee and Outstanding Educator from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Stephen Kupfer
, Regional President
Steve Kupfer serves as Northeast Regional President for PROACT Search and is responsible for executing talent management and support strategies in K-12 education institutions and organizations. He was previously a Senior Consultant in the education practice at Public Consulting Group where he worked alongside district leadership to implement web-based special education and response to intervention (RtI) case management modules in some of the largest school districts in the country, including Miami Dade County Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia, and the Louisiana Recovery School District.
Steve brings practical, district-level experience in organizational development to challenges in K-12 human capital management and support. In his most recent role, he leveraged local leadership to build operational and financial capacity through Medicaid reimbursement programs, mitigating budget shortfalls and sustaining critical student services. Steve has also developed and implemented comprehensive strategies to engage and communicate with key internal and external stakeholders across districts, and has front line experience with the urgency and complexity of the problems school leaders face today.
Steve is a proud product of the K-12 public school system. He went on to receive a B.A. in political economy from Skidmore College, where he played baseball and was a member of various chamber music groups. He continued on to receive an M.B.A. from Clark University.
Kristin Osborn, Director of Operations
Krissi Osborn runs all Operations and Recruitment for PROACT Search. In her role with the company, she has additionally established an award winning internship program exclusively with Northwestern University. Krissi is an active member in her Chicago community, volunteering as an ESL Tutor in Albany Park, as well as on the executive board for a community outreach group. Krissi graduated from Northwestern with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and History from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Ray and Associates: [2.6MB PDF Presentation]

Gary L. Ray, President
Christine Kingery, Vice-President
William Newman, National Executive Director
Ryan Ray, Corporate Director
Heidi Cordes, Corporate Associate
HeidiAnn Long, Executive Search Assistant
Carrie Gray, Executive Search Assistant

Notes, links, audio and video from the 2008 Madison Superintendent Search: Steve Gallon, James McIntyre and Dan Nerad.
Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.
TJ Mertz comments.

Do Schools Challenge Our Students?

Ulrich Boser, Lindsay Rosenthal:

You might think that the nation’s teenagers are drowning in schoolwork. Images of sullen students buried in textbooks often grace the covers of popular parenting magazines, while well-heeled suburban teenagers often complain they have to work the hours of a corporate lawyer in order to finish their school projects and homework assignments. But when we recently examined a federal survey of students in elementary and high schools around the country, we found the opposite: Many students are not being challenged in school.
Consider, for instance, that 37 percent of fourth-graders say that their math work is too easy. More than a third of high-school seniors report that they hardly ever write about what they read in class. In a competitive global economy where the mastery of science is increasingly crucial, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they aren’t being taught engineering and technology, according to our analysis of a federal database.
These findings come at a key time. Researchers increasingly believe that student surveys can provide important insights into a teacher’s effectiveness. When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released findings from their Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project in 2011, they found that student feedback was a far better predictor of a teacher’s performance than more traditional indicators of success such as whether a teacher had a master’s degree or not. The mounting evidence on the importance of student surveys has also been shaping policy at the state and local level, and a variety of groups dedicated to the improvement of teaching–such as the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that works to advance policies and practices to ensure effective teaching in every classroom–have been incorporating student surveys into their teacher evaluation and certification process.

‘No Loans’ Revisited

Scott Jaschik:

“No loans” policies were the hit of 2007 and 2008, as many of the nation’s most elite (and wealthy) colleges and universities announced that borrowing would be eliminated from the aid packages of students with family incomes below certain levels.
But this particular movement in higher education took off just before the economic downturn hit in the fall of 2008, sharply reducing these institutions’ endowments and forcing many of them into budget-cutting mode. Now, a few years later, institutions are taking steps that reflect very different financial outlooks than those before the downturn. In May, Wesleyan University ended its policy of need-blind admissions, a policy seen by many as (when combined with meeting admitted applicants’ full need) the gold standard of private college admissions. This policy is supposed to mean that applicants can rest assured of their ability to attend if admitted — and that lack of resources shouldn’t stand in the way.

Thoroughly Counterintuitive Approach to Leading

Bob Sutton:

You and I have been e-mailing about leadership traits, and at one point you suggested, “Good leaders know when to be boring, vague, emotionally detached, and authoritarian.” Under what circumstances might such traits be desirable? Start with boring.
There are two situations in which it’s a good idea to be boring. One is when you’re working on something but, so far, all you’ve got is bad news. Under those circumstances, any outside attention is bad.
Don Petersen was the CEO of Ford after the Iacocca era, and he was responsible for turning the company around. He told me a story about being invited to speak at the National Press Club. He didn’t want to do it. At the time, Ford had no good cars at all. But he and his PR chief decided he would go and give a speech about the most boring subject they could think of. At the time, that was safety. He practiced speaking in the most boring way possible, using the passive voice and long sentences. He put up charts that were hard to read, and then turned his back to the audience to talk about the charts. After that, the press lost interest in him for a while, so he could concentrate on doing the work.

The trouble with Khan Academy

Robert Talbert:

At some point around the beginning of February 2012, David Coffey — a co-worker of mine in the math department at Grand Valley State University and my faculty mentor during my first year — mentioned something to me in our weekly mentoring meetings. We were talking about screencasting and the flipped classroom concept, and the conversation got around to Khan Academy. Being a screencaster and flipped classroom person myself, we’d talked about making screencasts more pedagogically sound many times in the past.
That particular day, Dave mentioned this idea about projecting a Khan Academy video onto the screen in a classroom and having three of us sit in front of it, offering snarky critiques — but with a serious mathematical and pedagogical focus — in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I told him to sign me up to help, but I got too busy to stay in the loop with it.

The Future of Education…..

Pete Wailes:

Shortly after the invention of the quantum computer chip, and the laying of fibre optic broadband to almost every house in the UK, it had been clear that the days of teaching as a profession were numbered.
Teaching had been relegated to a minority profession in a matter of years. It had been simply a question of scale. A teacher, working for 45 years, could teach maybe 1,500 children. Some lessons would be better than others, some children would get more attention and do better than others, they’d occasionally need time off and so on. Simply put, human teachers were inconsistent, and not always great.
So when the new educational bodies started recording the best lectures for every subject from around in the world, annotating them in 3D, and enhancing them with CG, what could the schools do to fight back?

Final recipients of National Merit, Achievement scholarships Unveiled

Wisconsin State Journal:

There were 54 scholarship recipients in Wisconsin. Local recipients included: Alyssa A. Hantzsch, Baraboo, Baraboo High School; Katarina L. Klafka and Mikko S.R. Utevsky, Madison, East High School; Tristan H. Abbott, Shoshana L. Rudin and Joanna Q. Weng, Madison, West High School; Clare M. Everts and Katherine D. Stein, Madison, Edgewood High School; Winifred B. Hoerr, Madison, St. Ambrose Academy; Eva R. Fourakis and Andrew Gilchrist-Scott, Middleton, Middleton High School; Pratyusha Kalluri, Verona, Madison Memorial High School; and Max W. Molina, Whitewater, Whitewater High School.

Comparing Per-Pupil Support in Different Types of Milwaukee Schools: An Update

Mike Ford:

A ways back I compared public support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Though not the perfect (and unattainable) “apples-to-apples” comparison, I came up with something reasonably logical. What follows is an updated comparison that includes independent charter schools in Milwaukee, as well as MPS and the MPCP.

First, MPS. According to the district’s 2013 proposed budget the final adopted total district budget in 2012 (excluding carryover funds) was $1,188,160,523. Within that number:

  • $17,952,177 goes to non-public schools.
  • $20,868,734 (excluding carryover funds) goes to the extension fund. The extension fund is for public recreation and facilities that serve the broader community.
  • $7,060,441 comes from private grants.

Subtracting the non-public schools allocation, the extension fund, and private grants from the MPS budget brings the relevant 2012 MPS budget number to $1,142,279,171. Dividing that number by the number of MPS pupils, 86,089, (MPS grand total excluding students leaving MPS via the chapter 220 program) puts the 2012 comparative per-pupil public support of MPS at $13,269.

The $376,200,000 2012-2013 Madison School District budget spends $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students. Madison’s per student spending is about 45% higher than the Austin, TX school district.

Wisconsin and National School Spending Growth Perspectives

Laura Waters:

Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, has an editorial in the Wall St. Journal this week assailing the “explosive growth” in America’s public school work force. Since 1970, he charges, student enrollment has “flat-lined,” yet the number of teachers and instructional aides has doubled, from 3.3 million to 6.4 million, with concurrent increases in costs.
Coulson writes, “America’s public schools have warehoused three million people in jobs that do little to improve student achievement–people who would be working productively in the private sector if that extra $210 billion were not taxed out of the economy each year.”
But there’s a panacea readily available: create state voucher systems to send all our kids to private schools. (Also, elect Mitt Romney because President Obama’s education agenda is an “expensive and tragic failure.”)
Whoa, Nellie!
While it’s no doubt a challenge to squish a radical paradigm shift within the confines of the WSJ’s 600-word limit, that’s no excuse for specious logic or casual disregard for facts. Worse, this sort of inflammatory rhetoric gives education reform a bad name.
For example, let’s look at Mr. Coulson’s claim that American public schools hire too many teachers and aides (i.e., have too low a teacher/student ratio), and that private schools are cheaper and produce higher-achieving students.
He writes, “If we returned to the student-staff ratio of 1970, American tax payers would save about $210 billion in personnel costs.”

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes:

There is no mystery about the size of the overall pie. The last budget under Governor Doyle appropriated $5,025,190,300 for elementary and secondary school aids for 2009-10 and $5,271,555,900 for 2010-11. Under Governor Walker’s budget, this total was cut to $4,845,083,000 for 2011-12 and $4,913,986,100 for 2012-13. So Governor Walker slashed general state aid to schools by about $538 million over the biennium. This is hardly cause for celebration.
How next year’s $4.9 billion in general state aid is split up among the state’s 424 school districts is determined by the school funding formula. I describe how the formula works here. This year, to just about everyone’s surprise, the formula has turned out to be Madison’s friend.
Last year, application of the school funding formula resulted in MMSD qualifying for about $15 million in general state aid. This amount was increased to about $43 million by virtue of the hold-harmless provision of the law that capped each school district’s reduction in state aid at 10% of the previous year’s total.
How could it be that the same formula that calculated that MMSD was entitled to $15 million in state aid in 2011-12 would determine that the district was in line for $53 million for 2012-13?

Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

Nicholas Ostler on the History and Diversity of Language

The Browser:

It’s widely presumed that the English language will become entrenched as the world’s lingua franca and that minority languages will continue to die out. But you don’t really buy into this theory and have argued that new technology might allow minority languages to thrive. I wonder if you could expand on this?
I try to look at things from a historical perspective rather than just what’s happening in this decade or century. I look at the progress of languages over centuries and millennia – my book Empires of the Word starts in 3000 BC and ends in modern times. Each of us only lives two or three generations, so it’s quite difficult for us to get that perspective without really striving for it. When it comes to languages, we tend to be familiar only with the one that we use on a daily basis. When we are also conscious that in the last century or two that language has spread out all over the world, it gives us a very foreshortened perspective. What I’m trying to do is to correct that.

The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned

Steven Pressfield:

My first real job was in advertising. I worked as a copywriter for an agency called Benton & Bowles in New York City. An artist or entrepreneur’s first job inevitably bends the twig. It shapes who you’ll become. If your freshman outing is in journalism, your brain gets tattooed (in a good way) with who-what-where-when-why, fact-check-everything, never-bury-the-lead. If you start out as a photographer’s assistant, you learn other stuff. If you plunge into business on your own, the education is about self-discipline, self-motivation, self-validation.
Advertising teaches its own lessons. For starters, everyone hates advertising. Advertising lies. Advertising misleads. It’s evil, phony, it’s trying to sell us crap we don’t need. I can’t argue with any of that, except to observe that for a rookie wordsmith, such obstacles can be a supreme positive. Why? Because you have to sweat blood to overcome them-and in that grueling process, you learn your craft.
Here it is. Here’s the #1 lesson you learn working in advertising (and this has stuck with me, to my advantage, my whole working life):

Ball boys demonstrate power of training

Lucy Kellaway:

As Ivo Karlovic whacked a tennis ball at 135 miles per hour towards Andrew Murray on Wimbledon’s Centre Court last week, I found myself staring at something behind his back that wasn’t moving at all. Two kids of about 15 were standing in symmetrical formation, stock still. When a stray ball came their way, they scooped it up, threw it with speed and perfect accuracy into the player’s hand and then returned to being statues once more.
As someone who has spent a decade trying and failing to get teenagers to pick up stray dirty socks from the floor and throw them in the general direction of the laundry basket, I found this performance even more remarkable than the one being given by the grown-up men with the tennis racquets.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch


We are thrilled to announce the release of Proloquo2Go 2.0! Version 2.0 introduces two new, research-based vocabularies: Basic Communication and Core Words. An analysis of commonly used sentences has shown that the Core Words vocabulary reduces the number of steps to build a sentence by more than 30%, when compared to previous versions of Proloquo2Go.
The completely redesigned editing interface of Proloquo2Go 2.0 offers many other new, cool features including:

Teach Your Children about STEM

Matthew DeFour:

Parents can play a key role in swelling the ranks of students pursuing careers in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields, according to a new UW study published in Psychological Science.
Increasing interest in STEM fields is crucial to developing a strong 21st century U.S. workforce, but interest in science and math begins to wane in high school when students choose not to take advanced courses in those subjects, according to the study.
While most efforts to change that have focused on things schools can do to increase student interest in STEM classes, researchers at UW demonstrated the influence parents can have.

Education Predications

Since lower and middle class consumers will earn less money they will have less credit — and their demand won’t be the main driver of the economy. The rich people however will be more able than ever to get loans from the banks which are looking for lending opportunities. They will pick up the slack from the poor and middle class because they have more savings in the banks.
We can already see this because the average savings is zero but we know the lower and middle class are highly in debt (at least until they default, in which case that money disappears from the system and the foreclosed properties drop in value). Basically there will be a growing disparity between the rich and the poor, unless we are able to reform the educational system and align it more with the jobs that will be needed in 4 years. And that’s a tough thing to do.

Has Higher Education Become an Engine of Inequality?

The Chronicle:

Inequality is growing in the United States, and social mobility is slowing. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 62 percent of Americans raised in the top one-fifth of the income scale stay in the top two-fifths; 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.
Education, long praised as the great equalizer, no longer seems to be performing as advertised. A study by Stanford University shows that the gap in standardized-test scores between low-income and high-income students has widened about 40 percent since the 1960s–now double that between black and white students. A study from the University of Michigan found that the disparity in college-completion rates between rich and poor students has grown by about 50 percent since the 1980s.
What role has higher education played in society’s stratification? Are colleges and universities contributing to economic inequality and the decline of social mobility?

Departing Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad looks back and forward

Nayantara Mukherji

The last day for Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad will be July 27. Nerad, who led the Madison Metropolitan School District for four years, will be replaced by newly appointed interim superintendent Jane Belmore. In March, Nerad submitted his resignation to the school board and was subsequently offered the job of schools superintendent in Birmingham, Michigan. He will start there in August.
Isthmus recently sat down with Nerad to discuss his tenure in Madison and his new post.
Isthmus: What were some of the factors that went into your decision to ask the school board to terminate your contract by August 1?
Nerad: We had been in a discussion for several months about my leaving the district, so that is not a brand new thing. But, I have an opportunity to continue this work in another school district in Michigan, and that’s really what drove the more immediate consideration about leaving at this point in time.

“We’re All Above Average”

Joe Klein:

The conversation turned to education. “The fundamental assumption is that we’re all ‘above average’ and that everybody should go to college, but that’s unfair to the kids who are not cut out for college,” Morgan said. “A lot of kids go to college and drop out immediately. My high school class started with 600 and is going to end with 400-there should be other paths, like vocational education, for the ones not suited for college,” she said and later admitted that she’d read my piece about Career and Technical Education in Arizona a few months ago. What a brilliant, discerning girl!
Morgan was one of the three who were taking online courses. She was taking American History from the University of Miami. “It’s more work than all my other AP courses combined,” she said. “I wish I could take all my classes online.” The other girls disagreed about that. Kelly Silnes had a great AP History teacher, “but when I have a bad teacher, it makes me feel dumber.” Abigail Stone loved the social life of her school. Martha Scott* was taking college-level courses in government and economics. She said she had a weekly phone call with her online professors and participated in a chat room with her fellow online students. (This seemed to me a very promising educational development, a way to challenge top high school students and expand the curricula available in smaller high schools.)
I asked the girls about their less-extraordinary schoolmates. “I look at some of them,” Morgan said, “And I think that five years from now, they’ll be the sort of adults you see around town-their glory days were in high school. They won an athletic championship or were a cheerleader, or whatever. I can’t understand that. I’m desperate to get out, see the world.”


The consequences of rising demand for an expensive London education

The Economist:

A CURIOUS WRINKLE in the strange case of Bo Xilai, the fallen Chinese politician, and Neil Heywood, his erstwhile British friend, is that Mr Heywood, who was allegedly murdered by Mr Bo’s wife, is said to have helped their son, Bo Guagua, to get into Harrow, one of London’s leading schools. This is not unusual. Woody Webster, of Bright Young Things, a consultancy that helps get children into London schools, cites “Chinese aristocrats” as a big growth area.
Quality is one reason rich foreigners want to send their children to school in London. According to the OECD, Britain’s private schools are the best in the world, and London’s schools are better than those elsewhere in Britain. Security is another reason for rich people from troubled countries, who are often more determined than the locals to get their children into the right establishments. “I’ve met children whose parents watch them on Skype while they’re working,” says Mr Webster.

Macmillan Knows Publishing Is Doomed, So It’s Funding the Future

Erin Griffith:

Even if the dominant players in a staid, legacy industry see the writing on the wall — that the Internet will eventually kill them — it’s not easy for them to do much about it.
Some publishers are merely waiting for Amazon to put them out of business. (See “We’re in Amazon’s sights and they’re going to kill us.”) Others have taken to suing startups which threaten their business model. (See: Publishers accuse textbook replacement service Boundless of copyright infringement.)
Macmillan Publishing has taken an entirely different route altogether. It’s one that, until now, has remained relatively under the radar. The company hired Troy Williams, former CEO of early e-book company Questia Media, which sold to Cengage. Macmillan gave him a chunk of money and incredibly unusual mandate:

Substantial change is underway in education. Yet, most of the players continue to emphasize our Frederick Taylor, agrarian model.

In Defense of Cursive

Judith Thurman:

As of Independence Day, 2012, forty-five of the fifty United States have adopted the Common Core curriculum in their public elementary schools. Those states are now in the process of phasing out the teaching of cursive writing, which, apparently, does not accord with the mission statement of the curriculum’s framers: to impart skills that are “robust and relevant” to the modern world.
I grew up in the nineteen-fifties, when the art of penmanship was taught to every schoolchild in America, and prized as a sign of cultivation. I loved ruling the blank pages of my copybook, then filling the spaces between the lines with shapely letters–“M” and “W” were my favorite capitals; “j” and “y” my favorite minuscules. If I had not learned to write cursive, I probably never would have learned to read it, and my archival work as a biographer–deciphering the handwritten letters of men and women born in the nineteenth century, or the early decades of the twentieth–would have been extremely arduous, if not impossible. A knowledge of cursive may not be “relevant” to the modern world, but it is essential to a visceral sense of the past, and an ability to examine the literature, correspondence, and history contained in original documents.

Blue Is for Boys, Red Hearts for Girls

Cassie Murdoch:

The idea of putting boys and girls in separate classrooms certainly is not new–private schools have been dividing the genders for eons. But lately, more and more public schools are opting for single-sex education. The ACLU is fighting against the trend, and already some programs have been dropped. But there are still plenty of educators advocating that separate-but-equal is better for everyone.
The AP has an interesting report on this growing conflict, which really ramped up in 2006 when the Department of Education relaxed restrictions on single-sex classrooms. In 2002, there were only about a dozen public schools that had separate classrooms, and now it’s estimated that there are roughly 500 schools that have at least some same-sex classrooms. The interest in teaching the sexes separately grew largely out of research that showed that boys, especially minority boys, didn’t do as well on tests as girls and graduated at lower rates. But the idea is that same-sex ed is supposed to benefit both boys and girls equally.

America Has Too Many Teachers

Andrew Coulson:

Public-school employees have doubled in 40 years while student enrollment has increased by only 8.5%–and academic results have stagnated.
Since 1970, the public school workforce has roughly doubled–to 6.4 million from 3.3 million–and two-thirds of those new hires are teachers or teachers’ aides. Over the same period, enrollment rose by a tepid 8.5%. Employment has thus grown 11 times faster than enrollment. If we returned to the student-to-staff ratio of 1970, American taxpayers would save about $210 billion annually in personnel costs.
Or would they? Stanford economist Eric Hanushek has shown that better-educated students contribute substantially to economic growth. If U.S. students could catch up to the mathematics performance of their Canadian counterparts, he has found, it would add roughly $70 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next 80 years. So if the additional three million public-school employees we’ve hired have helped students learn, the nation may be better off economically.
To find out if that’s true, we can look at the “long-term trends” of 17-year-olds on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress. These tests, first administered four decades ago, show stagnation in reading and math and a decline in science. Scores for black and Hispanic students have improved somewhat, but the scores of white students (still the majority) are flat overall, and large demographic gaps persist. Graduation rates have also stagnated or fallen. So a doubling in staff size and more than a doubling in cost have done little to improve academic outcomes.

A School Fix Without a Fight; Cleveland Mayor Works With Governor and Teachers to Link Pay to Test Scores

Stephanie Banchero:

he Republican governor of Ohio, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and the local teachers union have united to overhaul how teachers are hired, fired and paid, a rare example of cooperation in education that some critics warn could still face challenges in the implementation.
The overhaul, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this month, will allow the district to link teachers’ pay, in part, to student test scores, and to lay off teachers based on performance instead of seniority. It will also let the district fire teachers after two years of poor performance, based in part on test scores.
The district will become the only one in Ohio to share local tax dollars with charter schools–public schools run by outside entities that are now funded by state and federal money–and will have more say in who gets to operate those schools.

Literary classics rebooted as children’s tales

Cheryl Truman:

Lisa Samson is not yet up in the literary firmament with the likes of J.K. Rowling. But the Kentuckybased children’s author, who writes as L.L. Samson, is in the midst of writing a wonderfully arch yet educational series, The Enchanted Attic. It’s based on what might happen if some of literature’s greatest characters wandered into modern times.
In the process, she is sending a message to young readers and their parents that the classics get that designation for a reason. When you pause to consider the characters and themes at their most basic, you learn quite a lot.
In the latest book in series, Saving Moby Dick, Ahab trades his whalebone leg for a comfortable prosthetic and garners a few lessons in internet etiquette. Young readers learn new words, the definitions of which are delivered gently and with humour.

5 Recent Mathematical Breakthroughs That Could Be Taught in Elementary School (but aren’t)

The Suburban Lion:

In a previous blog post, I made the claim that much of the math curriculum is ordered based on historical precedent rather than conceptual dependencies. Some parts of the math curriculum we have in place is based on the order of discovery (not always, but mostly) and while other parts are taught out of pure habit: This is how I was taught, so this is how I’m going to teach. I don’t think this needs to be the case. In fact, I think that this is actually a detriment to students. If we want to produce a generation of mathematicians and scientists who are going to solve the difficult problems of today, then we need to address some of the recent advances in those fields to prepare them. Students should not have to “wait until college” to hear about “Topology” or “Quantum Mechanics”. We need to start developing the vocabulary for these subjects much earlier in the curriculum so that students are not intimidated by them in later years.

In Their Own Words: ‘Study Drugs’

Alan Schwartz:

A 16-year-old, determined to succeed on her own merits, who finally bends under the pressure. Students with legitimate prescriptions who are hounded for their pills. Young men and women whose use of stimulants spirals out of control.
After inviting students to submit personal stories of the abuse of prescription drugs for academic advantage, The Times received almost 200 submissions. While a majority focused on the prevalence of these drugs on college campuses, many wrote about their increasing appearance in high schools, the focus of our article on Sunday. We have highlighted about 30 of the submissions below, almost all written by current high school students or recent graduates.
In often vivid detail — snorting their own pills, stealing pills from friends — the students described an issue that they found upsetting, valuable, dangerous and, above all else, real. Most of them claimed that it was a problem rooted not in drugs per se, but with the pressure that compelled some youngsters to use them.

You can’t teach creative writing. Can you?

Rick Gekoski:

Because my editor here at is unaccountably unwilling to allow italics in my submissions, I suspect you will be unable to understand the following: “You can’t teach creative writing.”
The reason for the sentence’s ambiguity is that, unitalicised and out of context, it is unclear how the stresses work. It might mean any of the following:
You can’t teach creative writing, but I can.
(As if said to oneself): I can’t teach creative writing.
You can teach other sorts of writing, but not creative writing.
You can teach other sorts of creative stuff, but not writing.
I could go on …

The Dalcroze method turns music inside-out

Vanessa Yung:

Playing a lively tune on the keyboard, Chu Sui-ming tells a group of youngsters to follow her instructions. She asks them to imagine that they are rain. They can run in whatever direction they like, but they must follow the pace of the melody.
This will change from fast to slow or from loud to soft to indicate heavy rain or drizzle. The barefooted children dash about in a squash court in the Mui Wo Municipal Services Building, running faster as the music speeds up and stomping when Chu strikes harder on the keys.
Then she cries, “Freeze!” The music stops and the children strike a pose to mimic an icicle in whatever shape they picture it. When the music starts again, it’s to depict the sun that comes out and melts the icicles. So the children slowly fold their bodies, descending to the floor as human puddles.

Carmen’s proposed northwest-side Milwaukee school looks to fill need

Jim McLaughlin, via a kind reader’s email:

Patricia Hoben, a former Washington, D.C., science adviser, experimented with a different kind of school model when she founded Carmen High School of Science and Technology on Milwaukee’s densely Latino south side.
The school has heightened grading policies, gives quarterly assessments on ACT standards, mandates college application boot camp over the summer, holds a January term to salvage credits or enrich high achievers, and requires four years of math, laboratory science, history and English.
Her five-year test yielded one of the best public schools in the city that don’t require an entrance exam.
Like any good scientist, Hoben is hoping to replicate her results in a new school, this time on the mostly African-American northwest side.
Leaders of the south side’s successful Carmen High School submitted a proposal to the Milwaukee School Board last month to open a new grades six to 12 charter school on the northwest side in fall 2013. The proposal for Carmen Northwest Secondary School, as it will temporarily be referred to, earned a rare perfect rating from the charter review panel, which called the proposal “exemplary” for its longer school year and mandatory summer school programs – features that mimic the south-side campus.

A new era for Wisconsin school boards

LuAnn Bird:

What can we expect from our school boards in this new era without collective bargaining? Can our elected school officials, unconstrained by union contracts, spend time creating the conditions for our professional teaching staff to succeed in reaching high levels of learning districtwide? Or will they continue to let operational issues – buses, buildings, personnel, etc. – dominate board agendas?
New Berlin provides an example for how school leaders plan to use their new power to create changes in their district. Is it necessary to lose almost one-third of your teachers in the process? Maybe in a failing school district where total transformation is needed, but New Berlin’s students perform well on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams with around 90% scoring proficient or advanced in both reading and math.
Since some New Berlin students score at lower levels, improvements are still needed, but the district’s teachers deserve respect. New Berlin is one of the higher ranking school districts in the state.
In a recent Journal Sentinel article, some New Berlin teachers were quoted as saying they were leaving because they did not feel respected. School boards need not let that happen in their system. There is a better way.

Filling the Skills Gap

Joe Nocera:

A man named Gerald Chertavian came by my office not long ago, and, by the time he left, I was filled with renewed appreciation for the potential of community colleges to help stem the decline of the middle class. There are few more urgent tasks.
Chertavian is not the president of a community college or even a teacher at one. Rather, he runs a program, Year Up, which he founded, that makes it possible for poor high school graduates to land good jobs. It does so, in part, by imparting important soft skills that the upper-middle-class take for granted, like how to interact with colleagues in an office setting.

More U.S. Business Programs Add Specialized Degrees, but Whom Does It Benefit?

Melissa Korn:

U.S. business schools are trying to master a new corner of the market: specialized master’s degrees.
The courses in topics such as management, accounting and analytics, generally lasting one year and aimed mainly at college graduates with little or no work experience, have a decadeslong history at many European and other international schools.
But the programs have gained particular traction in the U.S. recently, more than doubling student enrollment to 52,014 in the 2010-2011 academic year, compared with the 2006-2007 year, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. (Demand is still higher outside the U.S., where member schools enrolled 84,134 in the 2010-2011 year.)
The benefit for schools is obvious–more tuition revenue and a critical mass of students to entice recruiters when interest in traditional M.B.A. programs is declining. But the long-term value for students remains unclear, as graduates’ salaries and job titles often look very similar to those assigned to new hires coming straight from undergraduate schools.


The Economist:

AT the Macmillan Dictionary Blog, Stan Carey has a nice post on commas. For the life of me I’ve never understood why some people think that their personal comma preference is linguistic law. There are those who think the “Oxford comma” is the last barricade protecting civilisation from the barbarians, and those who are equally convinced of the opposite. I, for one, have always been with Vampire Weekend on the subject, though I omit the Oxford comma as per The Economist’s style (a work habit that has become a personal one).
Marty Peretz, a former editor and owner of the New Republic, insists that commas must always come in pairs. He once made his staff count the commas in an entire issue of the magazine, telling them that the number had better come out even. (The incident, which is not fiction, was made famous in the film “Shattered Glass”.) Where Mr Peretz got this ridiculous view is beyond me, I confess. (Need I point out the fully grammatical, single comma in that last sentence?)

College Students and Their Smartphones

Sam Laird:

College students aren’t just concerned with getting good grades and finding the best parties. More than ever, they’re using their smartphones to navigate life on campus.
On the bus, waiting in line, in bed, on the treadmill and even while driving, college students can’t seem to put their phones down. Fifty-two percent say they often check their phones before getting out of bed in the morning, according to one study. Nearly half do so while in bed at night before they fall asleep.
Thirty-five percent say they sometimes use their phones while driving but stopped at a red light, and nearly 20% say they sometimes use them while the wheels are even moving. But it’s not all addiction and danger. Forty-five percent of college students say smartphones frequently help with school assignments, and 46% say they’re often helpful for work-related tasks.

More Dallas/Fort Worth school districts are offering online courses

Shirley Jinkins:

When Arlington teacher R.J. Williams speaks during her online multimedia classes, high school students all over Texas log on to listen.
Williams is among a growing number of educators who are teaching in the Texas Virtual School Network, a clearinghouse established by the Legislature in 2007. The network offers a statewide catalog of supplemental online courses to students in charter and public schools.
“This year is the only time I’ve had two students from Arlington,” Williams said of her summer online schedule. “They’re usually from Austin and all over the place. I’ve had a few from rural areas.”

New voucher program for dyslexic students deserves a look

Allison Hertog:

Mississippi recently became the first state in the nation to adopt a public and private school choice program in which state and federal monies are provided directly to schools which parents choose. Aimed at students with dyslexia, it’s also the second special needs school choice program in the country designed for children with a single type of disability. (Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program enacted in 2003 was the first.)
What makes this new program interesting is that it may be a starting point for other state legislatures where special needs voucher bills have failed due to concerns about parent accountability – Wisconsin comes to mind – or where special needs voucher laws have come under increased scrutiny due to reports of private school abuse of public money – Florida comes to mind.
Mississippi’s program morphed from a dyslexia screening and treatment bill (supported by a governor who struggled with the learning disorder) into a school choice measure during the proverbial sausage-making legislative process. It’s not as carefully or as broadly designed as it could have been. It also appears there’s currently only one school in the state which is specialized enough to meet the exceedingly specific criteria to participate. But nonetheless, it succeeds in incentivizing the growth of more highly-accountable school options for parents.

Restaurant owners to review school meals

Katherine Sellgren:

Two founders of a restaurant chain have been asked to carry out a review of school food in England.
Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent run the London-based Leon chain, which markets itself as offering healthy fast food.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has invited them to look at nutrition in schools and see how it can be improved.
But TV chef Jamie Oliver, who has long campaigned for better school meals, hit out at the announcement, saying it was “not the time for more costly reports”.

Liberal studies leave no room for thinking

Alex Lo::

Our public education system may be beyond reform. Every attempt at reform either ends up accentuating the very features we were trying to change or making life worse for teachers and students. Take, for example, the new liberal studies curriculum, a signature programme of the government’s dismal, decade-old education reform.
A new study by University of Hong Kong academics has found that liberal studies, introduced in September and compulsory for all pupils in forms four to six, has achieved the opposite of the government’s original intention.
Most teachers, the study found, admitted they just spoon-fed students with liberal studies materials taken directly from textbooks, a practice they were explicitly told to avoid. Predictably, many of the 70,000 students who sat the first liberal studies exam in May simply repeated answers they had learned from textbooks. Nearly 90 per cent of 300 teachers said their main source of teaching materials came from textbooks. Only a small number of teachers believed pupils should be encouraged to explore new ideas through critical thinking. And while more than 200 teachers said bringing different perspectives to students was vital in liberal studies, only 50 of them said they would do so.

The Medication Generation

Katherine Sharpe:

When I was a college freshman in the late 1990s, antidepressants were everywhere. Prozac was appearing on magazine covers, and I’d just seen my first commercial for Paxil on TV. Halfway through the semester, I was laid out by a prolonged anxiety attack and found myself in the school’s campus health center, tearfully telling a newly minted psychiatry resident about my feelings of panic and despair. Given the spirit of the times, it wasn’t a complete surprise when she sent me away a few minutes later with a prescription and a generous supply of small cardboard boxes full of beautiful blue pills, free samples dropped off on campus by a company rep.
Photo Illustration by Stephen Webster
When young people who grew up on antidepressants become adults, should they stay on their medications or try to stop?
The school psychiatrist didn’t suggest talk therapy. She simply asked that I return for a “med check” every few weeks to make sure that the pills were working.

Your E-Book Is Reading You

Alexandra Alter:

It takes the average reader just seven hours to read the final book in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy on the Kobo e-reader–about 57 pages an hour. Nearly 18,000 Kindle readers have highlighted the same line from the second book in the series: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” And on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the first thing that most readers do upon finishing the first “Hunger Games” book is to download the next one.
In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.

Gender Selection

Elaine Yau:

Miss Chan, who has a daughter, did not want to leave anything to chance when she decided to have another child a year ago. For a foolproof way to conceive a boy, she turned to a local consultancy which arranges for couples to undergo gender-specific artificial insemination in Thailand and US. After spending HK$180,000 and 10 days in Bangkok, the 26-year-old’s wish came true six months ago.
“I had a test after returning from Thailand, and it confirmed that I’m carrying a boy. All the money and procedures are worth it as my mother-in-law wants a grandson very much,”she says.
Chan’s treatment consisted of in-vitro fertilisation and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) – also known as embryo screening – which tests embryos for genetic diseases and gender.
Gender selection is illegal in Hong Kong, so couples must travel to have the treatment in the US, Thailand, South Africa and the Middle East, the handful of countries where the process is legal.

Apps & Autism

Rory Cellan-Jones:

New technology can be inspiring, exciting or sometimes infuriating – but I can’t ever remember it being really moving. Until, that is, I met Ruby Dunn, whose life is being changed by a piece of software.
Ruby, who was born 14 weeks premature in 2006, has autism and has never spoken. She does, however, attend her local school – Sandford Primary in Somerset – and is well integrated into every aspect of school life. But it is an app which she uses on an iPod and an iPad which is making a big difference.
Ruby uses the app, Proloquo2Go, to communicate with her teachers, her family and other children. She taps on symbols, constructs a sentence and out it comes, spoken in a child’s voice. So in the playground, she taps “head, shoulders” to choose a game. At lunchtime she chooses “lasagne” and “carrots” adds “please” and “Tina” and hands it to the dinner lady. And in the classroom she reads a story and then taps out answers to questions about it via the iPad version of the app.

Australian student mocked after appealing 99.95 per cent exam score

Jonathan Pearlman:

Sarah Hui Xin Wong, who attended an elite private girls’ school in Sydney, said she had a wrist problem, suffered discrimination and her mark should have been 100. Her result, a university entrance score, meant she beat 99.95 per cent of other students – but she believed she would have received the top mark if treated fairly.
Miss Wong was ridiculed for the appeal, as was her mother, who was inevitably labelled a “Tiger Mom” after it emerged she had lodged the initial complaint to the board of studies.
“What’s the 0.05 mark going to do?” said a comment on the” The mother needs to back down.”
Another said: “It’s probably a publicity stunt by her parents to get others to acknowledge her talent.”

British Columbia School Board Fired for Failing to Balance Budget

CBC News:

Cowichan Valley School Board’s nine trustees have been fired by British Columbia’s education minister after failing to submit a balanced budget for the upcoming school year.
The School Act requires boards to pass balanced budgets, but in May School District 79 approved a budget with a $3.7-million shortfall, saying it had a duty to provide a quality education.
Board members were given until June 30 to comply but failed to do so and on Sunday, Minister of Education George Abbott followed through on his threat to relieve them of their posts.
Former Chair Eden Haythornthwaite said they were simply trying to protect students.

LA Teachers Face New Evaluations

Erica Phillips & Stephanie Banchero:

In the past three years, at least 30 states have begun to use student achievement to evaluate teachers, spurred in part by President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative as well as by some Republican governors. California isn’t one of them.
That could change after a ruling by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. At a hearing Tuesday, Judge James Chalfant said the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the nation’s largest, violated California’s Stull Act, a 41-year-old law that requires teacher evaluations to take into consideration the performance of students.
The current evaluation system in Los Angeles focuses on teaching methods, such as how a teacher demonstrates knowledge or guides instruction, according to the district.
In his ruling, Judge Chalfant contrasted the high rate of positive teacher evaluations in the district–97.6 in the 2009-10 school year–with low student proficiency in English and math.

Lecture 2: Asymptotic Notation, Recurrences, Substitution, Master Method

MIT Open Courseware:

“My name is Erik Demaine. You should call me Erik. Welcome back to 6.046. This is Lecture 2. And today we are going to essentially fill in some of the more mathematical underpinnings of Lecture 1. So, Lecture 1, we just sort of barely got our feet wet with some analysis of algorithms, insertion sort and mergesort. And we needed a couple of tools. We had this big idea of asymptotics and forgetting about constants, just looking at the lead term. And so, today, we’re going to develop asymptotic notation so that we know that mathematically. And we also ended up with a recurrence with mergesort, the running time of mergesort, so we need to see how to solve recurrences. And we will do those two things today. Question? Yes, I will speak louder. Thanks. Good…”

School district budget forums showcase half-truths, contempt for the public

Laurie Rogers:

“As long as he keeps the bad people rich and the good people scared, no one’ll touch him. … What chance does Gotham have when good people do nothing?”
– The Rachel Dawes character in “Batman Begins”
How much does it cost to educate a child? Has anyone in education EVER answered this question? I’ve asked around, and nobody provides a number, but they’re all certain they need more money.
Districts keep saying K-12 education has suffered massive cuts. This stunning deceit is winning hearts and minds – largely because media lapdogs refuse to investigate. Repeat after me: There is no money shortage in K-12 public education. There are very few bottom-line cuts. Money has been shifted – away from classrooms and toward adults. Various groups complain about each other, but they’re all to blame.

Vanishing Languages

Russ Rymer:

One morning in early fall Andrei Mongush and his parents began preparations for supper, selecting a black-faced, fat-tailed sheep from their flock and rolling it onto its back on a tarp outside their livestock paddock. The Mongush family’s home is on the Siberian taiga, at the edge of the endless steppes, just over the horizon from Kyzyl, the capital of the Republic of Tuva, in the Russian Federation. They live near the geographic center of Asia, but linguistically and personally, the family inhabits a borderland, the frontier between progress and tradition. Tuvans are historically nomadic herders, moving their aal–an encampment of yurts–and their sheep and cows and reindeer from pasture to pasture as the seasons progress. The elder Mongushes, who have returned to their rural aal after working in the city, speak both Tuvan and Russian. Andrei and his wife also speak English, which they are teaching themselves with pieces of paper labeled in English pasted onto seemingly every object in their modern kitchen in Kyzyl. They work as musicians in the Tuvan National Orchestra, an ensemble that uses traditional Tuvan instruments and melodies in symphonic arrangements. Andrei is a master of the most characteristic Tuvan music form: throat singing, or khöömei.

Teacher Turnover in New Berlin a Cautionary Tale

Mike Ford:

State aid, curriculum, technology, school boards. All are important factors in K-12 education; none educate a single child.
That task is of course in the hands of teachers. It follows that teachers are the most important employees in schools, and arguably the most important employees in the public sector. After all, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites send their kids to spend the bulk of their childhoods learning from these employees. It only makes sense for the public to treat teachers with respect. But, as Alan Borsuk argues convincingly in the Journal Sentinel Sunday, this is not always the case.
I have written numerous times about the increasing financial burdens placed on teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools and across the state. In general, districts offset some or all of last year’s 5.5% per-pupil reduction in revenue limits by increasing employee contributions to health and pension benefits. This means that teachers across the state received a cut to their take-home pay totally unrelated to their performance. It is easy to see why teachers felt they were being disrespected.

The Brewing Crisis in Science

Henry Miller:

The Golden Goose Award makes use of a formal fallacy, a pattern of reasoning that is illogical and wrong, called “asserting the consequent.” It takes the form of: “If A, then B. B, therefore, A.” An example would be: “If Warren Buffett owned the British Crown Jewels, he would be rich. Buffett is rich; therefore, he owns the Crown Jewels.” The rationale for the award seems to be, “Some criticism of federally-funded research projects has been uninformed and ill-advised. People continue to criticize federally funded projects; therefore, their views are uninformed and ill-advised.”
It’s astonishing that some of the projects awarded passed any kind of peer-review for merit. The first two awards went to the National Science Foundation. The first NSF grant, for $84,000, was intended to discover why people fall in love. The second, for $500,000 (part of which was from two other federal agencies), was to determine which stimuli cause rats, monkeys, and humans to bite and clench their jaws.

Young Americans get the shaft

Matt Miller:

There’s plenty that divides the parties in this pivotal election — from taxes to drones, from public workers to private equity. But there’s one uber-policy that brings Democrats and Republicans together that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
That policy involves you, younger Americans. You’re in big trouble. You don’t even know it. You’re busy trying to get a degree, land a job, start a family, save for a home. You don’t follow the news. But trust me — you’ve been taken for a ride by your elders.
The question isn’t whether such talk will stir up generational war. That’s already being waged — and you’re losing. The question is whether you’ll wake up and engage in a little generational self-defense. Let me see if I can motivate you.
How are you being swindled today? Let me count just some of the ways:
As many as 100 million Americans live in households today that are earning less than their parents did at a similar age. And this is happening well before we feel the full impact of global economic integration with rising economies like India and China.

Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost?

Elizabeth Kolbert:

In 2004, Carolina Izquierdo, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, spent several months with the Matsigenka, a tribe of about twelve thousand people who live in the Peruvian Amazon. The Matsigenka hunt for monkeys and parrots, grow yucca and bananas, and build houses that they roof with the leaves of a particular kind of palm tree, known as a kapashi. At one point, Izquierdo decided to accompany a local family on a leaf-gathering expedition down the Urubamba River.
A member of another family, Yanira, asked if she could come along. Izquierdo and the others spent five days on the river. Although Yanira had no clear role in the group, she quickly found ways to make herself useful. Twice a day, she swept the sand off the sleeping mats, and she helped stack the kapashi leaves for transport back to the village. In the evening, she fished for crustaceans, which she cleaned, boiled, and served to the others. Calm and self-possessed, Yanira “asked for nothing,” Izquierdo later recalled. The girl’s behavior made a strong impression on the anthropologist because at the time of the trip Yanira was just six years old.

Valuable lessons in world awareness

Julie McGuire:

My son is in Primary Five and doesn’t seem to take any interest in world affairs. I try to encourage him to read the newspaper and watch the news on television with me, but he’d rather play video games or watch television. Any ideas?
Computers and other electronic entertainment media have a very strong pull on children and can easily distract them from other interests. Research tells us that the pros and cons of spending a lot of time with them are complex and vary by the individual. In the short term, at least, you could limit your son’s time in front of a screen so that he has the opportunity to take an interest in other things.

Small differences in birth timing tied to test scores

Genevra Pittman:

Researchers have known that babies born premature are at risk for slowed brain development, but a new study suggests that even among those considered “normal term” – between 37 and 41 weeks – a couple of extra weeks in the womb might make a difference.
Kids born on the shorter end of that range scored lower on math and reading tests as eight-year-olds than those born later – but the differences were small and “shouldn’t be alarming,” one researcher who wasn’t part of the study team said.
“Certainly the vast majority of 37-weekers and 41-weekers would end up developing typically,” said Dr. Kimberly Noble, the lead author on the new study from Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
Still, she said, until more research is done, “We would urge caution to both parents and physicians when considering early elective delivery.”

NJ teacher tenure changes born of compromise

Geoff Mulvihill:

Lawmakers and education advocates came to a remarkable compromise in forging an overhaul of tenure laws to make it easier for public schools to oust ineffective educators. But building a consensus meant dropping a change that most other states have already made: Making teachers’ effectiveness a factor in determining which lose their jobs in case of layoffs.
GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who opposes using seniority to determine layoffs, is still deciding whether he’s willing to accept the compromise.
If he vetoes the bill, he’ll undo a deal among a unanimous Legislature and groups who don’t often agree on the details of improving schools.
If he signs it, he’ll have to sacrifice — for now, at least — something that’s been a core principle in his beliefs about school reform and leave New Jersey as one of only 11 states with a last-in, first-out policy for educators in the face of layoffs.

Something Doesn’t Add Up: How marketers can take advantage of consumers’ innumeracy

The Economist:

WHEN retailers want to entice customers to buy a particular product, they typically offer it at a discount. According to a new study to be published in the Journal of Marketing, they are missing a trick.
A team of researchers, led by Akshay Rao of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, looked at consumers’ attitudes to discounting. Shoppers, they found, much prefer getting something extra free to getting something cheaper. The main reason is that most people are useless at fractions.
Consumers often struggle to realise, for example, that a 50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price. They overwhelmingly assume the former is better value. In an experiment, the researchers sold 73% more hand lotion when it was offered in a bonus pack than when it carried an equivalent discount (even after all other effects, such as a desire to stockpile, were controlled for).

Related: Math Forum.

NY city’s controversial ban on cellphones in schools has persuaded kids to leave their devices at a stranger’s home


New York city’s controversial ban on cellphones in schools has persuaded some kids to leave their devices at home — a stranger’s home! The New York Post reports.

Dozens of students at the former Bushwick HS campus have been paying $1 per day to store their phones at an alumnus’ apartment — just down the street from the Brooklyn campus.
Academy of Urban Planning graduate Giovanni Monserrate — known affectionately as either “Gio” or “The Mayor” — has padded his income as a Broadway usher by serving as a cellphone-storage site for between 30 and 100 teens daily over the last seven years.

Small School of thought

Harry Eyres:

My first school was not just a small school but a very small school indeed. I think there were usually around 27 pupils, taught by two remarkable women: a charismatic, creative dynamo called Miss Allen and quiet, wise Miss Bagehot, who apart from keeping us reasonably calm (and providing voluminous bloomers for little girls who had accidents), I guess performed the same role for her gifted, volcanic colleague and friend.
I was always a little bit afraid of Miss Allen because of this explosive tendency but the brightness with which the school shone, the sense of possibilities it gave us, came from her. I went to Little House school aged five, much older than most children arriving at their first schools today, and with considerable reluctance. I had no great wish to go to school at all; I was very happy at home, with the big garden to explore, the vegetable patch where Mr Appleby in his seventies still hoed and dug potatoes and carrots for me to take down to the kitchen, with its wonderful smells of baking and roasting, the marmalade cat Diddles and then the black cat Dusk to play with – not to mention my mother and father and sister.

(1985) Al Shanker on Education Reform, Working Together

Jean Latz Griffin:

“It is idiotic to have an internal war when we are threatened with extinction from the outside,“ said Shanker. “We have to work together to improve public schools or the American taxpayers, in their wisdom, will simply go elsewhere.“
Shanker said public educators must do a better job of heeding the warning signs than automakers did.
“American car manufacturers went to Japan 10 years ago and saw what was happening, but they came back and did nothing,“ said Shanker. “They said that labor and management would have to make too many sacrifices to compete with the Japanese-style factories and predicted that no one would buy those little cars the funny names anyway.“
“We can`t make the same mistake,“ Shanker said. “Labor and management have to make significant changes, significant sacrifices to keep public education alive. Tinkering will no longer help.“
Shanker, head of the nation`s second largest teachers union for 10 years and its chapter in New York City for 20 years, has reversed several traditional labor stands since a number of national reports criticizing education spawned an education reform movement.

Common Core State Standards and Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil:

ExxonMobil supports the efforts of local educators in 45 states who, along with community and business leaders, have come together to develop voluntary, rigorous Common Core State Standards in math and English. For the US to remain competitive globally, we must ensure all children, no matter where they live, are provided the best education possible and are prepared to go to work or college when they finish high school.
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy. The Common Core State Standards are anchored by requirements for college and career success, providing a more accurate and rigorous description of academic readiness.

Exxon Mobil is running Olympic event television advertisements promoting the “Common Core“. Steve Coll’s latest book is worth reading: ExxonMobil: A ‘Private Empire’ On The World Stage.

The Pleasant Valley School Story: A Story of Education and Community in Rural New Jersey

Kathy Cecala:

It’s easy to forget that our crowded state of New Jersey, clogged with suburban sprawl and crisscrossed with busy highways, was once largely rural. Tales of farmers’ children ambling across fields and dirt roads to one-room schoolhouses often seem like bucolic fables when compared with our current era of internet scandals, bullying problems and school budget strife.
But Larry Kidder’s recently published book, “The Pleasant Valley School Story,” not only assures us such schools existed in New Jersey, he describes in affectionate and accurate detail the lives of the Hopewell Township school’s students and teachers, as well as the story of the surrounding agricultural community in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is a truly American story of concerned citizens and hardworking farmers, committed teachers and local pride, with the little school at Pleasant Valley as its centerpiece. Kidder tells the tale with ease; though packed with careful research, photos and statistics, this local history is immensely and almost compellingly readable.
The story is universal, the gradual evolution of a small school through the years, from slate and chalk to mass-produced textbooks; and a school’s vital role in uniting a sometimes far-flung community.

Delaware school board member offers praise for soon-to-be Jersey City superintendent

Terrence McDonald:

“I’m not going to tell you that she’s going to come up there and everybody’s going to like her,” he said “But I’ve never seen her make a spiteful decision about a teacher or an educator.”
A group of local officials, teachers and parents have objected to Lyles’ appointment, arguing that they see acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s influence in the selection. Both Cerf and Lyles are graduates of the controversial Broad Superintendents Academy.
Young said he is “no friend of corporate educational reform,” calling the academy’s founder, billionaire Eli Broad, “meddlesome.” But he added that Lyles only cares for reforms that improve education for children in her district.
“If she didn’t like something Christopher Cerf tried to do, I think she would tell him and I think she would resist him,” he said.

Summer programmes can add a lot of fun to the long holidays, but only if they fit the child

Angela Baura:

With the long summer holidays upon us, many parents will be hoping to keep themselves sane and their children entertained by signing them up for summer classes. But with a plethora of programmes to choose from, selecting one that will entertain and educate your child can be a daunting task.
“One of the most important considerations when selecting a summer programme for your child is their interest,” advises Dr Caleb Knight, an educational and child psychologist at the Child and Family Centre in Central. “It is not productive to push a child into a programme of activity in which they show little motivation.”

Google, Redeem Thyself

Tracy Mitrano:

In response to my last blog, two commenters asked whether the intent was serious. The answer is yes. Why wouldn’t it be? Jumping off their comment as a foil (because I admittedly do not know their reply), allow me to delve a little deeper into an analysis.
Are many people still in the throes of anti-Microsoft views, now long in the tooth of Internet time? Are many still swimming in the miasma of Google glory? Or do they know something about the negotiations that higher education has had with both of these companies over the last many years that I don’t know?
Everyone knows that Google, for obvious business reasons and playing on its company’s consumer sex appeal, took well advantage of “free” to garner the major market share of outsourced mail services in higher education. What many do not know is how painfully difficult negotiating with Google can be for those services. Just getting some one on the phone is an achievement, but don’t expect a lawyer. Google is an engineering company, apparently with a powerful preference for project management where the law used to tread. A glorious revolution, you might say, but think about it from the perspective of the bargainer: for better or worse, at least a contract spells out actionable terms. We are a contracting separate party, not a distant cousin of the company to be project managed.

Children Learn a New Way to Play at Summer Camp That Teaches Tech

Rachael King:

Eight-year-old Daniel Katari isn’t just playing computers games this summer–he’s making them too.
Daniel, who will enter third grade in the fall, built five computer games within a week last month. He did this at iD Tech Camp, which specializes in teaching kids ages 7 to 18 everything from 3D modeling and animation to Web design and programming in C++. Daniel spent a week at the camp at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga.
“The best part is playing the games and seeing how they’re all put together,” says Daniel, who named one of his new creations Brick Braker II. Next summer, he says, he would like to enroll in a session for game design for the iPhone and iPad, which his 12-year-old brother, Michael, just completed.

Schools for Soldiers

Michael David Cohen:

By the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War, Northerners had discovered how ill-prepared they were for a crisis. The peacetime Army had been tiny. Volunteers rallied to defend the Union, but what they brought in enthusiasm they lacked in experience. Many were too young to have fought in the Mexican War and, since most military academies were located in the South, few Northern youths had formal training in combat. To win the war, the Army had to create citizen-soldiers from scratch.
On July 2, 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill designed to change that: the Morrill Land-Grant College Act, which offered federal financing to colleges that taught military tactics. When the next war began, its supporters believed, alumni of those colleges would be ready for battle. The law also required funded colleges to teach agriculture and engineering, thus preparing young men to serve their nation in both war and peace.
Since the United States’ founding, education had remained a local and state concern. Now, in the midst of the Civil War, the federal government began to play a major educational role. Indeed, while its requirements were responses to the country’s security and economic needs, the act proved to be one of the most transformative pieces of legislation in American history, seeding the ground for scores of high-quality public colleges and universities around the country.

New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal: School District Budgets & Salaries

The Sunshine Portal is the official transparency and accountability portal for New Mexico state government. This is your window into government spending, budgets, revenues, employees, contracts and more. Come back often to see new reports, enhanced features, and fresh data!

Albuquerque plans to spend about $1,200,000,000 for approximately 90,000 students during their 2013 budget cycle [PDF], or $13,333/student. Madison plans to spend about 13% more or $15,132 per student during the 2012-2013 budget.
The sunshine portal is a great idea, that should be available in every state.