Category Archives: Uncategorized

Conflict hampering public school reforms Improvement plans cannot begin until the teachers agree to them

Mary Vorsino:

Continuing turmoil surrounding a new contract for public school teachers could delay key Race to the Top education reforms that require union approval, including several the state pledged to launch in the approaching school year, observers say.
Lawmakers, education analysts and others said strained relations between the state and Hawaii State Teachers Association will almost certainly make for harder discussions about such issues as revamped teacher evaluations, the tenure system and incentive pay.
They also point out those matters, in the short term, are unlikely to be tackled until the overall teachers contract is resolved.
Whether the wrangling could jeopardize the state’s $75 million federal Race to the Top grant Hawaii received last August after pledging to make ambitious improvements of its public education system isn’t clear.
But several onlookers agreed the contract dispute — and the absence of negotiations for now — highlight just how tough making important portions of the state’s Race reforms will be.

The disappearing black middle class

Jesse Washington:

Millions of Americans endured financial calamities in the recession. But for many in the black community, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. And some experts warn of a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve.

“History is going to say the black middle class was decimated” over the past few years, said Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “But we’re not done writing history.”

Adds Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy: “The recession is not over for black folks.”

In 2004, the median net worth of white households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2009, the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median net worth for black households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170, according to the institute.

Reforming the School Reformers

Paul Tough:

In the early days of the education-reform movement, a decade or so ago, you’d often hear from reformers a powerful rallying cry: “No excuses.” For too long, they said, poverty had been used as an excuse by complacent educators and bureaucrats who refused to believe that poor students could achieve at high levels. Reform-minded school leaders took the opposite approach, insisting that students in the South Bronx should be held to the same standards as kids in Scarsdale. Amazingly enough, those high expectations often paid off, producing test results at some low-income urban schools that would impress parents in any affluent suburb.

Ten years later, you might think that reformers would be feeling triumphant. Spurred in part by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, many states have passed laws reformers have long advocated: allowing for more charter schools, weakening teachers’ tenure protections, compensating teachers in part based on their students’ performance. But in fact, the mood in the reform camp seems increasingly anxious and defensive.

Last month, Diane Ravitch, an education scholar who has emerged as the most potent critic of the reform movement, wrote an Op-Ed for this newspaper arguing that raising high-poverty schools to consistently high levels of proficiency is much more difficult and less common than reformers make it out to be. When politicians hold up specific schools in low-income neighborhoods as success stories, Ravitch wrote, those successes often turn out, on closer examination, to be less spectacular than they appear. She mentioned the Bruce Randolph School in Denver, which President Obama singled out in his 2011 State of the Union address as an example of “what good schools can do,” and the Urban Prep Academy in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, which the education secretary, Arne Duncan, praised in a speech in February. Each school graduates a very high percentage of its seniors, but, Ravitch said, test scores at those schools suggested that students were below average in the basic academic skills necessary for success in college and in life.

The Curse of India’s Castes

Sumit Ganguly:

Under the Constitution’s terms, the age-old practice of ‘untouchability’, that had helped create and sustain a hierarchical social order with religious sanction, was officially drawn to a close. Subsequently, the Indian state also launched the world’s most extensive affirmative action program (referred to as ‘positive discrimination’) designed to bring redress for more than a millennial-span of discrimination. Later, in 1993, it attempted to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission Report of 1980 which had called for sweeping reservations in government employment quotas for the socially-disadvantaged castes.

These efforts to bring about social change through constitutional design and enabling legislation did not prove to be a panacea in addressing this social ill. Still, coupled with powerful social movements during the 1960s, in several of India’s southern states, most notably in Tamil Nadu, a virtual non-violent social revolution took place, dramatically challenging sacerdotal authority.

California school districts push to reverse new protections for teachers

Kevin Yamamura:

A budget-related bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday has sparked a division within the education community as school districts push to reverse new protections for teachers.

Lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 114 in the final 45 minutes of the legislative session Tuesday night. The bill protects teachers from further layoffs in the new fiscal year.

It also requires districts to ignore the possibility they could lose $1.5 billion in classroom funding in December as well as $248 million in school bus money.

Teachers say those protections ensure stability through the school year. District officials say those requirements restrict their ability to plan for a midyear reduction. They are also frustrated by the suspension of requirements that districts show how they balance their budgets for three years.

NEA & Teacher Evaluations

The Wall Street Journal:

Congratulations to the National Education Association, whose members have taken the extraordinary, remarkable, unprecedented move of conceding that teachers should be evaluated, at least a little bit, on how well their students learn.

Imagine that.

On Monday, an assembly in Chicago representing the 3.2 million-member teachers union voted for a policy statement that student scores on standardized tests could be a “limited” part of a broader set of teacher performance indicators. So far, no existing student test appears to meet the NEA’s standards as an appropriate indicator. But hey, the union’s previous standard had been something closer to rewarding teachers merely for showing up and time served, a la Woody Allen’s famous quip about 90% of life. The union also voted to give failing teachers one year, instead of the usual two, to shape up.

Credit here goes less to the NEA than to the laws of political gravity. Teachers unions have never been in such bad odor with the public. More than a dozen states are incorporating test scores in teacher evaluations as part of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program.

For four decades, Father Joe has been a beacon of hope for some of Bangkok’s poorest children. Now two filmmakers are hoping to document his inspiring life

AnneMarie Evans:

Father Joseph Maier describes how a hospital contacted him asking if he could look after a little girl who was blind and had Aids. She had been run over – by her parents.
“This is where you really wonder about the world,” the then 69-year-old priest says. “You can understand warlords and pimps and addicts doing these horrible things. But the parents? Oh, boy! [They] used and abused this child and then tried to kill her. I’m not sure if the devil would compete on this level.”
It’s one of several disturbing scenes in a 15-minute film, which its two Australian filmmakers want to turn into a 90-minute documentary, called Father Joe and the Bangkok Slaughterhouse. The central character is Father Joe, a charismatic Redemptorist priest from the United States, who has been living in the Klong Toey slum since 1973. Shortly after he moved in, he set up the Human Development Foundation and its Mercy Centre, which now employs 330 people and runs 22 kindergartens, as well as a hospice, four orphanages and several other establishments, across Bangkok. “The Slaughterhouse” is a particularly poor area, set around the Klong Toey abattoir, where pigs are killed at night.


Hong Kong’s English Schools Foundation at a Crossroads

Anna Healy Fenton:

Heather Du Quesnay and Carlson Tong Ka-shing make an unlikely double act. Fate has thrown together the lofty, rather intimidating British chief executive of the English Schools Foundation (ESF) and the organisation’s new chairman, an engagingly eager retired accountant. Their mission: to forge a new deal that will secure the future of ESF’s 15 publicly funded schools.
On the way they run the gauntlet of parents fuming at the prospect of already high fees rising by another 3.3 per cent this year, teachers grumpy at their 3 per cent pay rise, a government whose view on funding the ESF is unclear and some taxpayers who are asking why they should subsidise privileged parents anyway.
At the heart of the matter is the foundation’s subvention or subsidy. The colonial administration created the ESF in 1967 to provide affordable British-style education for English speakers. The foundation, set up by government ordinance, was given land and buildings and provided with the same recurrent funding per child as government and aided schools.
“They needed to provide both an English curriculum and also Chinese-style education through the local system, whether that meant teaching in English or Chinese,” says Professor Mark Bray, an expert on international education at the University of Hong Kong.

Verbal fireworks at L.A. school board meeting

Jason Song:

After four Los Angeles school board members were sworn in for four-year terms Friday, a verbal skirmish broke out, with one member calling the newly reelected board president a flunky for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Monica Garcia, who has strong ties to the mayor, was one of those reelected. She was also reappointed president of the seven-person panel.
But Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte could not let the meeting end without calling out her colleagues for playing politics. She heatedly criticized the district’s actions, including allowing charter school operators to take over some campuses, and Garcia’s leadership. Garcia has served as president, a largely ceremonial position, since 2006.
“I was personally hoping you’d give someone else a chance,” said LaMotte, who nominated Steve Zimmer for the post. “There’s so much that’s wrong…. Something’s got to change. I hope it will not work as it has for the past four years.”

Smells Like School Spirit

David Brooks:

Diane Ravitch is the nation’s most vocal educational historian. She once was one of the leading intellects behind the education reform movement — emphasizing charter schools, testing and accountability. Over the past few years, she has become that movement’s most vehement critic.
She pours out books, op-ed essays and speeches, including two this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival. She is very forceful, but there are parts of her new message that are hard to take. She is quick to accuse people who disagree with her of being frauds and greed-heads. She picks and chooses what studies to cite, even beyond the normal standards of people who are trying to make a point.
She has come to adopt the party-line view of the most change-averse elements of the teachers’ unions: There is no education crisis. Poverty is the real issue, not bad schools. We don’t need fundamental reform; we mainly need to give teachers more money and job security.
Nonetheless, Ravitch makes some serious points.

Is Detroit Public Schools worth saving? Charter process sparks debate

Chastity Pratt:

The Detroit Public Schools, as we know it, could disappear in a few years.
A DPS action plan would charter up to 45 schools, close 20 and leave about 70 that include the best-performing schools, some newly constructed and a handful of special-education schools that are expensive to run.
The process already is under way with organizations invited to apply to DPS for charters.
With such a concerted effort to shrink DPS, local leaders, educators, politicians and taxpayers are debating a question: Is DPS worth saving?

Why NYC Kids Rule the Chess World

Jill Caryl Weiner:

When 10-year-old Drew French slid his rook down the center of the board to checkmate his opponent, it sealed the victory for his team from P.S. 166 during last weekend’s National Elementary School Chess Championships here. And the Manhattan school wasn’t the only one to bring chess trophies back to the five boroughs: city schools finished on top in five out of nine sections.
“New York teams are so dominant, they might as well call this the state championships,” Matthew Noble, a chess coach at a school in Tucson, Ariz., said during the tournament in Dallas.
The city’s chess prowess extends to all grades. At the junior high championships in April, New York City schools claimed first and third in the top level and won three of the remaining five sections. When high schools from across the country faced off in Nashville earlier this month, traditional chess powerhouses Hunter College High School, Brooklyn’s I.S. 318 and the Bronx High School of Science took all three top spots in the tournament’s highest level of play.

Schools and educators deserve support, not disparagement

George Russell:

These are difficult times for public education. As school districts struggle to choose where to whittle and whack next, it’s easy to suggest that there are simple ways to achieve savings and reduce costs.
What’s troubling, however, is the misleading and sometimes inaccurate information that some folks are using to disparage our schools and educators.
Public schools’ mission is teaching and learning. Our success is measured by the opportunities that we create for our students, both in our classrooms today and later in life.
Throughout these lean economic times brought on by the Great Recession, the Eugene School District has worked steadily to keep cuts away from the classroom as much as possible. Now, facing a $21.7 million budget shortfall, we can no longer avoid further reductions to our teaching staff and the resulting increase in class sizes.
We continue to put the needs of students first and to maintain high academic expectations. We are focused and clear about our priorities. We have made hard decisions to let go of valued programs so that all students have the educational opportunities that they need to be successful. This is not, and will not be, easy for students, parents, staff or our community.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Government Employment Growth Compared to the Private Sector

If you want to understand better why so many states–from New York to Wisconsin to California–are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.
It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?
Every state in America today except for two–Indiana and Wisconsin–has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees–twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida’s ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York’s.

Economic growth and the resulting tax base expansion is, of course critical to public and private sector employment.

Saving Young Black Men

Sunny Schubert:

Kaleem Caire is tired of waiting.
He has watched in frustration as yet another generation of young black men fail to reach their potential, as the achievement gap continues to widen, as the economic disparity between blacks and whites continues to grow.
“We have failed an entire generation of young men of color. We have not provided them with an education, and that is why so many of them end up in jail. It has to stop,” he says.
And if that means taking on the educational establishment and the teachers union, Caire is ready.
“In public schools, you are so strapped by rules and regulations. If teachers work outside the rules of the union, they get slapped,” he says.
Caire believes he knows how to address the needs of minority children in school, because he himself was on the verge of failing and turned himself around to become a national leader in educational reform.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

Why Fire Teachers?

Megan Mcardle:

ED Kain has been blogging a lot about teacher firings, and makes what I think is one of the better cases for the tenure/civil service/union protections from firing that teachers now enjoy.

Teachers need protection from over-zealous bosses and ideological politicians. This is the same thinking behind seniority rules, which protect more expensive teachers (i.e. veterans) from being laid off due to budget cuts. Teaching is not a high-paying job compared to jobs in the private sector, and one of the benefits is some job security. Occasionally this means bad teachers take longer to fire.
But the answer to that problem is not making all teachers easier to fire. This would undermine teacher recruitment. If you take away pensions, job security, tenure, the ability to unionize, and basically all the other perks of teaching, what you’re left with is a very difficult job with no job security, mediocre benefits, and relatively low pay. This is not how you attract good people to a profession, or how you guarantee a good education experience for your children. Paying starting teachers more but making their long-term prospects in the career less certain is also wrong-headed. High turnover is not desirable for any business, teaching included.

Pressure Mounts To Ax Teacher Seniority Rules

Larry Abramson:

Last week, the New York state Senate passed a bill that would end the use of seniority as the sole factor for deciding which teachers get laid off. The bill faces long odds in the state Assembly. But the vote is a sign of growing frustration with what’s known as “last in, first out” — a rule that says the last teachers hired get dismissed first when there is a layoff.
Like local leaders around the country, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will soon have to lay off teachers because of shrinking state aid. And he says he cannot have his hands tied by a system that judges teachers solely on their years of experience.
“We need a merit-based system for determining layoffs this spring,” Bloomberg says. “And anything short of that is just not a solution to the problem we face.”

On Rhode Island Charter School Expansion

The Brown Daily Herald:

Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 elicited concern from charter school supporters when he announced last month that he would take a “thoughtful pause” before expanding the state’s charter schools. The governor made waves again earlier this month when he shook up the state’s Board of Regents, which helps oversee Rhode Island’s public schools. Given the importance of public education, we took a pause of our own to consider these changes.
Former state House Majority Leader George Caruolo will take over the chairmanship of the Board of Regents from former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders Jr. ’71. Flanders, along with several other board members Chafee replaced, supports Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. Teachers’ unions are often at odds with Gist, especially over her support for charter schools, and how well Chafee will work out his disagreements with the commissioner is a looming question. Caruolo is known as an effective politician. We hope he puts his skill to use, shaping conflicts between Chafee and Gist into compromised agreements to take action, not discord-fueled gridlock.

Walker gives Madison Preparatory IB Charter School a better chance

Wisconsin State Journal:

Gov. Scott Walker just gave a boost to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s intriguing proposal for an all-male charter school.
As part of his state budget address late Tuesday afternoon, Walker said he wants to let any four-year public university in Wisconsin create a charter school for K-12 students.
That gives the Urban League of Greater Madison a second potential partner for its proposal, should the Madison School Board reject the League’s idea.
Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League, has made a powerful case for an all-male charter school with high standards, uniforms and a longer school day and year.
Charter schools are public schools allowed more freedom to try new things in exchange for greater accountability for results.

Video of High School Plan Meeting Now On-line
The high school piece begins c. 9 minutes into the video.
Please note that district staff initially present as if the ACT model is a given. As 1 of 7 board members, I would say that I have not seen the compelling case that this is the only model to use. I did not raise questions at the meeting about the ACT model; other members did. I do not take using the ACT model is a given. I am open to learning more and considering other models.
I found the discussion to be helpful despite my impatience with eduspeak, and came away from the workshop with new questions. I also came away from the workshop seeing the potential for benefits by taking up the proposed changes or perhaps alternatives to those changes.
This is a topic that evokes a great deal of passion among board members, staff, parents, and concerned community members. It is a topic that deserves our attention because we must review and enhance the education that our students receive before they graduate and enter the highly competitive worlds of work and/or higher education.

Peking University out to lure Hong Kong’s brightest

Raymond Li & Elaine Yau:

Peking University, once the natural choice for China’s elite students, launches its biggest recruitment campaign in recent years in Hong Kong today as it and other top institutions face growing competition from the region and the world.
In a hard-sell roadshow aimed at Hong Kong students and their parents, it will hold three recruitment sessions, starting with one tonight at the University of Hong Kong.

Are Single-Sex Schools Legal in Wisconsin?

I am not a lawyer, but I can read policy documents. WI statutes were revised to permit single-sex schools and courses. DPI has a very good question and answer page about the law and how DPI is interpreting it, at:
The page begins:
On April 14, 2006, the Governor approved Act 346, which allows school boards and charter schools to establish single-sex schools and courses. Act 346 amended §§ 118.13(1), 118.40(4)(b)2, 119.04(1), and 119.22, Wisconsin Statutes, and created §§ 118.40(4)(c) and 120.13(38), Wisconsin Statutes. You can access Act 346 online at

Wisconsin School choice could expand

Patrick Marley:

Walker said an expansion of school choice likely would be included in the budget he introduces early next year. Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said she would be interested in considering bills on choice even before that.
The other co-chairman, Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), said he would leave it to Walker to decide whether to include it in the budget, but he wants to address school choice at some point in the two-year legislative session.
Both legislators said they initially favored expanding the program to select areas before making it available statewide. They named Beloit, Racine and Green Bay as possibilities.
“I absolutely do not think we have the ability to expand across the state all at once,” Vos said.
Vos in 2007 wrote a budget provision that would have expanded school choice to Racine County. The Assembly, then controlled by Republicans, approved a version of the budget with that provision but it was taken out in a deal reached with Democrats who ran the Senate.

On “Small Schools” in New York City

PBS NewsHour:

MARGARET WARNER: Now: making schools smaller, yet another plan to deliver better educations to urban schoolchildren.
Special correspondent John Tulenko reports from New York City, where the outgoing schools chancellor is a big supporter of the idea.
JOHN TULENKO: Two years ago, when Justin Martinez started ninth grade, he was one of 2,000 students at Bayard Rustin High School in New York City.
JUSTIN MARTINEZ, student: When you walk the halls, it’s, like, so packed. And then, when you’re in the classrooms, some kids don’t even have a seat. So, it’s like you’re standing up, you’re sitting on the floor, you’re sitting on the teacher’s desk. There are so many kids in the room that the teacher thinks you’re doing good, and you may not even understand what’s going on. That’s how bad it was.
JOHN TULENKO: Justin’s high school had a 50 percent graduation rate, but the problems there went deeper.
JUSTIN MARTINEZ: I almost got shot. I was going to my eighth period classroom, going up the stairs, and a gang came up to me, approached me, and asked me questions. And, at the end, he pointed put a gun in my face.
JOHN TULENKO: So, what did you do?

Some see use of ‘smart drug’ Adderall rising at UW-Madison

Adam Riback, Bob Marshall & Alex Morrell

Last school year, two UW-Madison journalism students walked into a campus library with a mission: See how fast they could score some Adderall, a popular prescription “smart drug” that users say improves their ability to study.
They were good to go in 56 seconds.
All it took was a tap on the shoulder of one woman, a stranger at a table of students studying in silence. Asked if she knew where someone could buy some Adderall, the woman offered to call her friend downstairs, who was selling it.
Experts say such easy access and casual acceptance is increasingly common on campuses, including UW-Madison, where students coping with academic demands are turning to illicit use of Adderall and other stimulants. Adderall is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Initial Thoughts on the Madison Prep Proposal

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Thanks to the Kaleem Caire his Urban League team for shining a spotlight on the very troubling issue of the lack of success experienced by so many of our students of color. Thanks even more for proposing a charter school intended to help address this problem. I want the proposal to succeed. But I need to know more about the legality of the proposal’s single-gender approach, a lot more about the projected finances for the school and the extent of the School District’s expected contribution, and more about how the school intends to remain true to its vision of serving Madison’s disadvantaged African-American boys before my sympathetic disposition can grow into active support.

Much more on the proposed IB Charter: Madison Preparatory Academy, here.

Professors sent back to school to brush up skills

Elaine Yau

More professors are being sent back to school to improve their teaching skills or have their promotion prospects linked to their classroom performance.
A new mandatory 30-hour course on teaching was launched by the University of Science and Technology for junior faculty in their first three years at the university.
And Baptist University has new assessment criteria that recognise teaching abilities, to break away from the tradition of using mostly research output as a yardstick for promotion. “Despite not having any formal training in education, academics can take up teaching in Hong Kong,” said Professor Edmond Ko Inq-ming, a course facilitator at HKUST.
There is a need to improve the teaching qualification of academics, said Ko, who is a professor in chemical and bio-molecular engineering and an adviser to the University Grants Committee. “While senior faculty might not want to change, junior faculty is more responsive to changes,” he said. “We want to better prepare them for their future job.

Teaching for America

Melissa Westbrook

Three countries that outperform us — Singapore, South Korea, Finland — don’t let anyone teach who doesn’t come from the top third of their graduating class. And in South Korea, they refer to their teachers as ‘nation builders.’ ”
Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be. There are 3.2 million active teachers in America today. In the next decade, half (the baby boomers) will retire. How we recruit, train, support, evaluate and compensate their successors “is going to shape public education for the next 30 years,” said Duncan. We have to get this right.
BUT he ends saying we also need…better parents. Turn off the tv, restrict the video and the phone and most important “elevate learning as the most important life skill.” It’s funny because some people might say teaching children empathy or kindness or honesty is more important but really those all relate to learning.

Tom Friedman:

Tony Wagner, the Harvard-based education expert and author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” explains it this way. There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.
If you look at the countries leading the pack in the tests that measure these skills (like Finland and Denmark), one thing stands out: they insist that their teachers come from the top one-third of their college graduating classes. As Wagner put it, “They took teaching from an assembly-line job to a knowledge-worker’s job. They have invested massively in how they recruit, train and support teachers, to attract and retain the best.”
Duncan disputes the notion that teachers’ unions will always resist such changes. He points to the new “breakthrough” contracts in Washington, D.C., New Haven and Hillsborough County, Fla., where teachers have embraced higher performance standards in return for higher pay for the best performers.
“We have to reward excellence,” he said. “We’ve been scared in education to talk about excellence. We treated everyone like interchangeable widgets. Just throw a kid in a class and throw a teacher in a class.” This ignored the variation between teachers who were changing students’ lives, and those who were not. “If you’re doing a great job with students,” he said, “we can’t pay you enough.”

School Board Governance: Surrendor Dorothy, or Who Does the Superintendent Work For?

Charlie Mas

What would it be like if we just gave up? I suggest that it would essentially the same as it would be if we continued the struggle.
What would it be like if the superintendent didn’t get any pushback on any of her initiatives? Despite all of the pushback, she has been able to move forward with just about everything that she has wanted to do, starting with the decision to co-locate Sealth and Denny. Elementary and middle school APP were split. Schools were closed. Schools were re-opened. Discover Math was adopted. Millions were spent on STEM, including $800,000 going to NTN. The District bought MAP. The District has paid through the nose for consultants including consultants for high school LA curriculum alignment, consultants for performance management, and consultants for a whole list of strategic plan initiatives.
What would it be like if no one followed up on unfilled promises? Not much different that it has been because she hasn’t fulfilled many – if any – promises. The promises around the Denny/Sealth co-location have been broken. The promises around the Southeast Initiative were broken. The promises around the APP splits were broken. The promises around the school closures were broken. The promises around the school openings were broken. The promises around the math adoption were broken. The promises around curricular alignment were broken. The promises around the new student assignment plan were broken. The promises around capacity management were broken. The promises around the strategic plan were broken. All of the promises were broken and she has successfully evaded any kind of authentic community engagement.

More on “who does the Superintendent work for”, here.

Obama Pointedly Questioned by Students in India

Sheryl Stolberg:

MUMBAI — When Michelle Obama, the first lady, introduced her husband to a group of college students here Sunday, she urged them to ask him “tough questions.”

They did.

“What is your take or opinion about jihad?” came the first question for President Obama at a town hall-style meeting at St. Xavier’s College. Next up: queries about spirituality, Gandhi, the American midterm elections and his government’s negotiations with the Taliban.

All-male Madison charter school a tough sell

School District and School Board members expressed interest in the concept, though they’re still waiting for more details, especially a financial plan.
“I don’t want more charter schools simply for the sake of having more charter schools,” board member Ed Hughes said. “It (has to be for) something we would have a hard time achieving or even attempting under a traditional structure.”
Madison hasn’t approved as many charter schools as other parts of the state. Of the 208 public charter schools in Wisconsin, only two are in Madison, though on Nov. 29 the School Board is expected to approve a third – an urban-agriculture-themed middle school south of the Beltline near Rimrock Road.
The biggest hurdle, however, might involve a proposal to use non-union teachers employed by the charter school’s governing board, as opposed to the School District. Only 21 of the state’s public charter schools have a similar setup.
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said teachers would oppose a non-union charter school.
“It would be foolish public policy and a foolish commitment of the public’s funds to finance a project over which the elected body committing the public’s money does not have full control over both the expenditures and the policies of the operation,” Matthews wrote in an e-mail.
Caire wants the school year to span 215 days, rather than the standard 180 days, and the school day to run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Perhaps Kaleem’s initiative will work with a neighborhing school district. Watch an interview with Kaleem Caire here. Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy here.

Outside help for education raises hackles

Jason Thomas:

The superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools on Friday outlined with passion how he thinks the state could improve chronically low-performing schools: Let the district create and implement its own improvement plan.
In particular, he and others at a state school board meeting said Friday, don’t immediately hand management of those schools over to outside individuals or organizations — one of five options the state has proposed.
“Across the country, these outside companies have taken over school districts to great fanfare,” IPS Superintendent Eugene White said. “They fail, and they silently go out of town without an explanation.”
Friday’s hearing was part of a 1999 state law requiring the board to gather input on its proposed rule for intervening in the state’s 23 chronically lowest-performing schools. It is expected to vote on the rule at its Dec. 1 meeting.

Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools

Gayle Worland, via a kind reader’s email:

The Madison School District will explore creating more charter schools, magnet schools, and schools-within-schools — in part to help keep middle-class families in the district.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said Tuesday he plans to appoint a committee next month to study alternatives to the traditional public school.
The group will include district staff as well as members from the community and will work on the project for about a year, Nerad said Tuesday in a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
“I don’t know what they’ll come back with, but it’s something that I think is certainly worth investigating, and worth discussion,” School Board member Arlene Silveira said of the committee. “It’s kind of exciting — there’s so many ways to deliver education now.”


220K Draft copy of the Madison School District’s “High School Curricular Reform”.
Promising. We’ll see how it plays out.

More teachers are learning how to teach online

Amy Hetzner

Teaching without being able to see a student’s puzzled face or immediately answer a question can be a challenge even for a veteran of the education profession.
And, when that environment is a virtual school, tackling the technological proficiency requirements can be a hurdle, as well.
“You have to be very creative with the technology and your lesson presentation,” said Trina Michalsen, who teaches language arts and math to middle schoolers at the Northern Ozaukee School District’s Wisconsin Virtual Learning school.
As virtual classes with all of the instruction taking place over computers have become more popular in Wisconsin, training teachers on how to employ new online instructional techniques also has become more prevalent.
The effort has been helped by a new state law that required teachers to get 30 hours of professional development by July 1 to teach fully online courses to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Schools and colleges have responded by offering in-house training programs, complete certificates and graduate school credits.

Students and teachers photograph the best–and worst–places in their schools.

Linda Perlstein

While designers are busy creating the classroom of the future, many students are stuck in not merely unimaginative school buildings but actually disgusting ones. The 21st Century School Fund and Healthy Schools Campaign, which work for improvements in education facilities, and Critical Exposure, which uses student photography as an advocacy tool, believe that no one can show what is and isn’t working in school buildings better than the people inside them. Each year, they ask students and teachers to shoot the best and worst of their surroundings. The “Through Your Lens” exhibit features an awful lot of peeling paint and broken windows–the kind of environment you wouldn’t want your kid in for an hour, much less a childhood. But the photographers also highlight examples of spaces that work, flashes of color and sunlight and order in otherwise chaotic surroundings.

Fight over illegals’ tuition reaches high court

Bob Egelko

The issue of benefits for illegal immigrants landed at the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, as out-of-state students challenged a law allowing anyone who has graduated from a California high school to pay in-state tuition at a public university, regardless of immigration status.
The 2002 law, intended to encourage youngsters to attend college, enables undocumented students to pay the same lower fees as other state residents – at the University of California, $11,300 instead of $34,000 a year.
A lawyer for 42 non-Californians who pay the higher fees at UC, state university and community college campuses argued that the statute is discriminatory and violates federal immigration law.
“One of the privileges of U.S. citizenship is not being treated worse than an illegal alien,” attorney Kris Kobach told the court at a hearing in Fresno.

Could ‘Superman’ change Milwaukee’s education discussion?

Patti Wenzel

Everyone knows there are major problems with America’s public schools and that many children are not even receiving a passable education. Even President Barack Obama admits that his daughters could not get the high quality education they’re currently receiving at a private school in a Washington D.C. public school.
That is why Waiting for ‘Superman’ has hit such a nerve with the public and the education establishment. Teacher’s unions claim the film is an attack on teachers and in the weeks leading up to its premiere, a Facebook page was created in opposition to the movie. Meanwhile school reformers say ‘Superman’ is a wake up call, saying that the film comments on the failures in public schools and possible solutions.
Both sides came together following the film’s Milwaukee screening at an educational forum. Local education leaders — Terry Falk of the Milwaukee School Board; Dr. Howard Fuller, former MPS Superintendent and Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University; Mike Langyel,President of the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association; Cherise Easley, Campus Director, Milwaukee College Preparatory-Lindsey Heights; and Garrett Buck, Milwaukee director of Teach for America — discussed the film and more importantly the pros and cons of our current educational system.

Teach For America – You Might Want to Pay Attention

Melissa Westbrook

m still doing research on Teach for America. I’m going to try to do a two-part thread on it and somewhat in reverse because of the urgency I feel about the situation. I’ll do the facts and stats later but I want to try to get to the meat of the issue now. But first…
What is the problem that TFA is trying to solve?
You go to their website and they talk about the lack “educational equity” for low-income students. This is true and most would not dispute it. Okay, but why create a teaching corps?
What is TFA’s “approach?”
Teach For America provides a critical source of well-trained teachers who are helping break the cycle of educational inequity. These teachers, called corps members, commit to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the country, going above and beyond traditional expectations to help their students to achieve at high levels.
Under History, they state:

In Favor of Madison’s Planned 4K Program

Chris Rickert

For a hopeful pessimist like me, it’s always nice when the real world belies your general sense of doom.
After all, the ranks of the poor are expanding, the national debt is skyrocketing, Wall Street bankers are again collecting exorbitant bonuses and no one really cares much about the shrinking polar ice caps. Throw in the mere existence of “Jersey Shore” and you’ve got a real social apocalypse on your hands.
There are a few rays of light amid the darkness, though, including plans by the Madison School District to institute a 4-year-old kindergarten program next year.
I’ve been surprised at the relative lack of controversy over this. You’d think that adding what is basically another grade to the public K-12 education system — at a cost to taxpayers of about $12 million in its first year — would bring out more school-choicers and teachers-union haters to decry the program as too expensive and another unwanted intrusion by government into the private sector.
But it hasn’t, and this is probably partly due to Wisconsin’s long history of supporting early education. The state was home to the first private kindergarten in the United States, opened in Watertown in 1856, and may well be the only state to include a commitment to 4-year-old education in its original constitution, according to The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.
Today, 335 of the state’s 415 eligible districts already offer some form of free, professionally delivered 4-year-old kindergarten, and well over half of the state’s 4-year-olds are covered. A 2009 study by The National Institute for Early Education Research ranks Wisconsin sixth among 38 states in terms of access to 4-year-old preschool. (Twelve states have no formal preschool program.)

Much more on 4K here.

State honors 78 middle schools, including 2 in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal

In the fourth year of a program recognizing student achievement, 78 middle schools in the state — including 2 in Madison — earned Exemplary Middle School honors, the DPI announced Wednesday.
Hamilton Middle School and Spring Harbor Middle School in Madison were recognized in the program, sponsored by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and the Department of Public Instruction. The Exemplary Middle School program reviewed academic achievement records for 334 eligible schools based on grade-level configuration. Schools earn recognition for high three-year growth in reading or math scores, reading or math scores in the top 10 percent in the past year or high growth in reading or math scores for schools with a high poverty population.

Stars Align for Major Education Reforms

Charles Barone:

Education reform is breaking out from coast to coast. Rarely have the stars been so well-aligned for change. The policy challenges and the potential solutions could not be clearer. The political climate for change has never been more favorable, as people across the ideological spectrum seek reform. And the advocacy infrastructure, which is stronger than ever before, is growing stronger and more successful every day.
Back-to-school time typically means an onslaught of education reporting. But last month saw arguably more national media attention paid not just to education but to education reform than in any September in recent memory: the official premiere of the eye-opening film “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” the weeklong NBC News series “Education Nation,” a Time magazine cover story on “great schools” and “great teachers,” and two Oprah specials, the second of which featured Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of a $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools.
This heightened national awareness follows a year and a half of ground-breaking action in states and districts across the country. Fueled by President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative and stepped-up advocacy efforts at the state and local level, dozens of states passed laws and implemented new policies designed to raise standards, develop better tests, improve teaching and turn around the lowest-performing schools. Hundreds of local collaborative efforts were launched around smaller initiatives, such as the Investing in Innovation fund.

Speak Up on D.C. Schools, Mr. President The president remains silent about the fate of Michelle Rhee, the successful chancellor of public schools in the nation’s capital.

William McGurn:

That deafening roar you hear–that’s the sound of Barack Obama’s silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn’t break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington’s children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.
This week President Obama will be out campaigning on the differences between the Republicans and Democrats on education. The primary thrust of his argument–which he repeated yesterday–is that Republicans want to cut education spending. Which may be a harder sell coming on the heels of his admission last week on NBC’s “Today” show that “the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down.”
This debate over education is now coming to a head in Washington. In the first months after he took office, Mr. Obama kept quiet when Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) killed off a popular voucher program that allowed low-income D.C. moms and dads to send their kids to the same kind of schools where the president sends his own daughters (Sidwell Friends). This was followed by the president’s silence last month during the D.C. Democratic primary, in which the mayor who appointed the district’s reform-minded schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, went down to defeat.

Hating ‘Superman’: Teachers unions are on the moral defensive

The Wall Street Journal:

The new film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact.
Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools. “Klein, Rhee and Duncan better switch us jobs, so we can put an end to those hedge fund hogs,” went one of their anti-charter cheers, referring to school reform chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The odd complaint is that donors to charter schools include some hedge fund managers.
Or maybe not so odd. Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

South Carolina Education superintendent race comes back to vouchers

Greg Hambrick

When the dust settled on the 2006 statewide election, private school voucher opponents claimed victory — after all, a Democrat won the race for Education Superintendent. During the campaign, Republican candidate Karen Floyd, now the state Republican Party chairwoman, was understandably cagey about her support for vouchers or tax credits for private school tuitions. But thousands of dollars poured into her campaign from voucher supporters outside of the state, while her opponent, Jim Rex, ran largely on his opposition to the proposal.
Four years later, tax credits are back at the forefront of the superintendent’s race. This time, Democrat Frank Holleman is facing an electorate much more skeptical of Dems, while Republican Mick Zais isn’t shy about his support for private school tax credits.

Taking Your Kids Out of School to Travel? There Are Some Great Travel Deals During Back-to-School Time

Lissa Harnish Poirot

The debate over whether or not to take your kids out of school to travel is certainly controversial. As a parent, an advocate of family travel, the editor of a family vacation site, Family Vacation Critic, and an early childhood educator earlier in my career, I am often asked for my opinion on the subject. To me, taking the kids out of school isn’t so cut and dry.
For some parents, especially those with young kids, the back-to-school steals offered for vacation spots are too good to pass up.

Russia’s Answer to Harvard Business School: A Break With Tradition

Sophia Kishkovsky

A business school created by Russia’s leading oligarchs presented diplomas to its first graduates and inaugurated a $250 million high-tech campus complex in a suburb of Moscow last month, seeking to stake out a role as the Harvard Business School equivalent for students focused on the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
“The whole focus of the program is to develop what we call entrepreneurial leaders for emerging markets and difficult environments, where a typical business school graduate would see all of the problems and none of the opportunities,” Wilfried Vanhonacker, dean of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, said in an interview. “We want them to see the opportunities, recognize the problems, but grab these opportunities, run with them and do something with them.”
After the graduation ceremonies — which were for 21 executive M.B.A. students — students and visitors scurried around the mazelike, light-filled corridors to classes by professors like Pierre Casse, a former World Bank official and dean emeritus at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. The starkly geometric building, by the Tanzanian-born British architect David Adjaye, has skylights and walls of glass and was inspired by Kazimir Malevich, as a way to connect Russia’s artistic avant-garde with economic innovation, the school said.

When the Lights Come Up on Waiting for Superman, Here’s What Teachers Need

Dan Brown

SEED, a tuition-free college-prep, five-day-a-week boarding school, located in Southeast D.C., is an outstanding example of what charter schools are meant for; it’s an innovative alternative to a traditional public school and a place for responsibly experimenting with new models of wrap-around services. It currently serves around 325 students in Washington, D.C. and there’s a new SEED School in Baltimore that is several years away from growing to its full scale.
I love my job teaching English at SEED, and I receive the space and support to excel at it. So what makes it work? Many of the most important parts are replicable en masse in the public system:
Teachers are accountable without feeling terrorized.
My principal, assistant principal, and instructional coach observe my class, both formally and informally, multiple times throughout the year. They read my lesson plans every week. They monitor trends on my interim assessment data. They talk to my students and my students’ families. They are engaging, highly competent people with high expectations and backgrounds in the classroom. No SEED teacher ever feels that there is one test or one data point that could potentially destroy our careers.
Teachers feel ownership over our teaching.
If I can justify what the standards-based educational value of what I’m planning, my principal trusts me to do it. No scripted lesson plans. Order class sets of contemporary novels for literature units? Done. Help me set up partnerships with external organizations? Done with enthusiasm. (Through the PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools program, visiting authors come to my classes. Through the Shakespeare Theatre Company, my students study and perform a Shakespeare play under the tutelage of pros.) The opportunity to conceive and then actually follow through on bringing exciting ideas to life energizes me throughout the long haul of the school year.
The school helps us to become better teachers each year.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate:


Corn syrup, milk chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, coconut, almond, soy lecithin… any consumer can read these ingredients and their nutritional value on every package of a 75-cent Almond Joy. What is provided to a taxpayer with a $5,400 tax bill? Nothing. For many Americans, the amount they pay in taxes is larger than any purchase they make during the year, but studies show they know almost nothing about where that money goes to. This contributes to ridiculous beliefs, like the view that 20% of government spending goes to foreign aid, for example. An electorate unschooled in basic budget facts is a major obstacle to controlling the nation’s deficit, not to mention addressing a host of economic and social problems. We suggest that everyone who files a tax return receive a “taxpayer receipt.” This receipt would tell them to the penny what their taxes paid for based on the amount they paid in federal income taxes and FICA. …

This is a good idea for all tax based institutions, including schools.

Rethinking Teacher Development Days: New ideas for better teachers and schools

Kai Ryssdal

Contrary to what you’d think, teacher development days don’t help teachers that much. So, schools and school districts are employing new tactics to improve teachers and attract new talent to schools.
This is education week for the Obama Administration. The president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board met this morning. They were talking about private partnerships with community colleges. There’s a big community college summit at the White House tomorrow afternoon.
But a lot of the attention paid to education recently has been K through 12. Specifically, whether using kids’ test scores is a fair way to grade teachers. There’s some research out there that says test scores can be used with a bunch of other measurements to help find the most effective and least effective teachers in a given school. The problem is figuring out how to help the broad middle group be better teachers.
A group of schools in Tennessee has proven that can be done, as Emily Hanford of American RadioWorks reports.

Will USC be next to join the Common Application?

One by one, the nation’s elite independent universities have joined the Common Application. A student now can apply to the top 20 national universities on the U.S. News rankings with a single application — well, two, if you count MIT.
The one-click application is a fundamental change in college admissions, one that took hold over the past decade as selective independent universities came to view their “signature” applications as roadblocks.
There are still a few exceptions. One is Georgetown University, whose 38-year admissions dean hews to a signature application as a way to frustrate the noncommittal applicant. Another is MIT, a school that presumably will draw the top math-science applicants even if it makes them submit their papers in person.

Traffic Picks Up in World Education

DD Guttenplan

To the insistent strains of a romantic guitar rising on the soundtrack, a young Asian couple exchange passionate kisses in a hot tub. The camera pulls back, revealing a decidedly disapproving older man and woman scowling amid the bubbles, followed by the punch line to this viral Internet video sensation aimed at students considering overseas study: “Get further away from your parents. Study in New Zealand.”
Welcome to the great education race, a scramble for students, professors, prestige and prosperity that is changing the face of university education around the world.
For decades the United States attracted more than a quarter of all foreign students in college or graduate education. Recently that has begun to change. While the continuing boom in study overseas — an explosion largely unaffected by the economic downturn — means that the number of foreign students going to the United States has continued to grow, the U.S. share of the foreign student market has fallen to just 18.7 percent, according to the most recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile countries like Australia, Russia and New Zealand have all seen their share of the market rise sharply.

CU tuition plan: 9.5% hike next year, up to 9% for four more years Read more: CU tuition plan: 9.5% hike next year, up to 9% for four more years

Brittany Anas:

The University of Colorado filed a formal request with the state Friday seeking to increase its in-state tuition by up to 9.5 percent next year, and outlined plans for four more years of hikes as high as 9 percent.
A 9.5 percent increase, which CU is requesting as the ceiling for next year’s increase, would add $667 to undergraduate tuition in the College of Arts and Sciences, which enrolls most students. That would bring the annual bill to $7,685.
But CU officials say it’s too early to draft specific tuition proposals, and rates are typically set in June and depend heavily on state funding. Friday’s request, if approved by state officials, reserves the option for CU to raise next year’s tuition beyond 9 percent.
“This increase is necessary to continue operations with a reduced level of state support,” according to the plan that CU filed with the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
The plan says CU expects to receive $158.5 million in state support, and may face a revenue gap of $77 million in fiscal year 2011-12.
If in-state tuition were to increase at the maximum rate outlined in CU’s five-year plan, it would reach about $10,850 by the 2015-16 school year. That’s 55 percent more than tuition now.


Breaking down the Eau Claire Area School District budget

While property values have decreased in Eau Claire, school district employees say property tax rates are going up about 4 percent this year.
While Eau Claire’s superintendent Dr. Ron Heilmann notes that the economic times are still tough for many, he says the increase this year will likely be about half of last year’s increase which was right around 7 percent.
The paintbrushes fly in Kriss Webert’s seventh grade art room. And these kids can thank $2.5 million in federal stimulus money for keeping their art classes.
But Superintendent Heilmann paints a much grimmer picture if that money had not been around this year.
“Larger class sizes, we would have seen larger class sizes at the elementary level, and we actually added back some staffing at the middle and high school level. Those dollars have helped mitigate the direct cost to taxpayers in the addition of staff,” he says.
But, the $2.5 million federal jobs dollars are just a piece of the very complex puzzle that makes up the Eau Claire Area School District budget.

Eau Claire’s proposed 2010-2011 budget is $147,973,616 for 10,700 students ($13,829 per student). Madison spent $15,241 per student during the 2009/2010 budget year.

Charters out in the cold

The Memphis Commercial Appeal

It’s apparent that there is something wrong with the picture of Memphis charter schools provided by Commercial Appeal reporter Jane Roberts in today’s Viewpoint.
Some charter school leaders were reluctant to talk at length about their relationship with Memphis City Schools, whose board decides whether to approve charter school applications in Memphis and whose administration funds them.
One who did, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering’s Steve Bares, accuses MCS officials of withholding money and threatening operators who complain.

Philadelphia district keeping charter schools from flexing their muscle

Naomi Johnson Booker

Is president of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence
Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth, showed how the simple act of changing a light bulb could change the world. Now, he asks in his film Waiting for “Superman,” which opened Friday, why can’t we change public education?
We can. We are.
Philadelphia charter schools are succeeding where traditional schools fail. More than 70 percent of the city’s charters met the state’s Adequate Yearly Progress standard, but that is not the only measure to which we hold ourselves accountable. Nearly 100 percent of Philadelphia charter students go to school every day, excited to learn, excited about the possibilities their futures hold. In most of our high schools, 95 percent or more are graduating and going on to college.

Madison School Board Wants To Challenge Gifted Kids

Channel3000, via a kind reader:

Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education members are trying to fight a perception that the school district doesn’t pay enough attention to the city’s brightest students.
School Board member Marj Passman told WTDY Radio that the perception of ignoring gifted students needs, along with the changing demographics of the district, have resulted in a tripling of the number of students transferring out of the district in the past five years.
Passman said despite budget cuts, the board will still strive to launch new partnerships and initiatives this year to push students further, and retain more of them.

Related: Madison School District Talented & Gifted Plan, English 10 and the recent Madison School Board discussion and vote on outbound open enrollment.
A reader mentioned that the Madison School Board meets this evening, but that Talented and Gifted is not on the agenda.
Finally, two Madison School Board seats will be on the April, 2011 spring ballot. They are currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman.

59 yrs. later, it’s thanks for education

Scripps Howard

Fifty-nine years after a U.S. Air Force soldier underwrote his college education, South Korean Han Jung-soo finally tracked down his benefactor here to thank him.
In the winter of 1951, Han, then 19 and a university freshman, asked anybody who would listen at Suwon Air Base south of Seoul if he could work as a houseboy.
Air Force Lt. Gerald D. Winger, then 26 and a squadron adjutant, accepted and underwrote most of Han’s tuition.
Han finished his education, served in the South Korean army, and later served 25 years as a senior officer in the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Last week, Han, now 79, arrived in the United States to reconnect with Winger, 85.

Delaware officials paint troubling picture of state takeover of high school sports

Matthew Stanmyre and Jackie Friedman

Now that a scathing investigation and a fanatical state legislator have taken significant steps toward leveling New Jersey’s governing body for high school sports, it’s not hard to see the future for New Jersey’s 270,000 athletes.
Just go to Delaware.
New Jersey’s neighbor to the south is the only state to have its independent athletic association dissolved and then placed under state control. Eight other states have been investigated, but each avoided the type of death penalty the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association seems destined for now that Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) has introduced legislation to move control to the New Jersey School Boards Association.
In interviews last week and throughout the summer, key players in Delaware who now work for the Department of Education say the move was a mistake.
“It’s hard to be responsive,” Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Kevin Charles said. “There are several layers of bureaucracy above you, and you have to go through those layers to get things accomplished. In a government setting, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But in a business setting, it can slow things down.”

There’s no need to “wait” for Superman

Frank Hill

“Waiting for Superman” is a new documentary about our public education system that is already stimulating a lot of discussion about how to fix our ailing public schools.
But there’s no need to “wait.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of schools around the nation — such as the Durham Nativity School in Durham, North Carolina — have already been fixed.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how children can blossom and perform at their highest level in a manufactured box of a high school with 3,000+ students when most experts believe that the optimum size for a high school is around 1,200 students.
Kids get lost in such large populations and fall by the wayside because they cannot connect with their teachers. The dropout rate is 50% for African-American males in American today, which means that only one out of every two African-American males who start 9th grade finish12th grade. Something must be wrong.

The Huge Dishonest Attack on Teachers

An interview from Truthout, via a Den Dempsey email:

“… We’re living in the darkest times for teachers that I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s hard to fully understand how the conversation about what makes a robust, vital education for citizens in a democracy has degraded to the point where the frame of the whole discussion is that teachers are the problem. It’s true that good schools are places where good teachers gather, but there’s another piece to that: Good teachers need to be protected to teach, supported to teach, put into relationships with one another – and with the families of the kids – so that they can teach. The attack on teachers is a classic example of what [cognitive linguist George] Lakoff calls “framing.” We’re hearing from every politician and editorial board in the land – including The New York Times and The Washington Post and The New Yorker – that we need to get the lazy, incompetent teachers out of the classroom. …
In the past five years, that attack on public education has ratcheted up to dimensions that were unthinkable 30 years ago. And so people talk about the public schools in a way that is disingenuous and dishonest – and also frightening in its characterization: they say the schools are run by a group of self-interested, selfish, undertrained, undercommitted teachers, who have a union that protects them.”

Wisconsin’s SAGE: Schools adjust to the effects – positive and negative – of dropping the class-size reduction program

Amy Hetzner:

ne of the first lessons that Burdick School teacher Vilma Bivens taught her third-graders this year was to not ask her permission for bathroom or water breaks.
Such requests would only take away from time to provide individual attention to her 31 students for daily reading instruction – time made more precious after her school lost funding for class-size reduction efforts.
“The workload is harder,” Bivens said of losing the extra teaching help she used to get during reading time. “It’s not so hard to teach. It’s just hard to plan and make sure I’m meeting all the kids’ needs.”
Teachers like Bivens aren’t the only ones adjusting to changes in the state-funded Student Achievement Guarantee in Education program, or SAGE, this school year.
After years of seeing schools like Burdick drop SAGE because they couldn’t afford subsidizing it any more, either because of demographic changes or because of stagnant per-pupil reimbursement rates, the state Legislature revamped some major aspects of the popular program this year.
Instead of being required to maintain class sizes of 15 or lower, now qualifying schools can enroll as many as 18 students in classes serving kindergarten through third grade. In addition, for the first time in years, new districts have been permitted to receive SAGE funds in 2010-’11.
The state Department of Public Instruction also cannot enter into any new waiver agreements with participating schools that want to get out of the 18-to-1 or 30-to-2 student-teacher ratio.

School dances: Another baby boomer failure

Valerie Strauss

With the new school year in full swing, school dances have begun in earnest. This can’t be what Patrick Swayze had in mind in “Dirty Dancing.”
For those of you fortunate enough not to have had experience with this yet, here’s what kids do today at many school dances (as well as at parties, formal and otherwise): They provocatively grind their pelvises into each other on the dance floor, sometimes standing face to face, sometimes with the boy behind the girl. It’s called grinding.
Sexually suggestive dancing was hardly invented by today’s kids. Young people say it is harmless fun, and sometimes it is.
But sometimes there is something more troubling going on: Boys often walk up to girls who don’t already have a boy thrusting his genitals at them and just start right up, no permission sought. Many girls, who even in the 21st century will do nearly anything to win a boy’s attention, allow them to go ahead without a word. Of course, there are some girls who initiate it themselves. That’s no better.
What this points to is the failure of many baby boomers to teach their daughters to respect themselves and their bodies and make their own choices, and to teach their sons to view women and girls as something other than sex objects.

Harvard, Cisco, BBN bring high-speed Internet to Cambridge Rindge and Latin

Cambridge Chronicle

Harvard University recently announced a new partnership with Boston and Cambridge designed to bring the world to students faster and clearer than ever.
Harvard will share its access to the super high-speed Internet2 Network connection with Boston and Cambridge schools, granting all 148 public schools in the two cities use of the most advanced networking consortium in the world.
In addition, Cisco is contributing Cisco TelePresence equipment to the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School enabling the students and teachers to connect with people around the globe. This interactive collaboration tool will reportedly put them at the forefront of teaching and learning. Raytheon BBN Technologies, an advanced networking research company, has donated the networking equipment that provides connectivity to Cambridge.
“Technology is exciting but it isn’t a goal in and of itself,” said Cambridge Superintendent Jeffrey Young. “Making it easier for students and teachers to access and participate in the world of ideas as players not just observers is what matters. These resources can break down the walls of the classroom and extend teaching and learning to every corner
of the globe.”

Merging Career Tech & College Prep

In this series, Schools That Work, Edutopia takes a deep look at what school successes are made of. How principals and teachers, parents and students, and schools and school districts collaborate to change the futures of their young people.
We share with you the blueprints that the change makers used — the contracts, lesson plans, and teacher-training tools that could be relevant to your school and your path to change.
Then we do one more thing: We put you together with the change makers themselves. You will meet the teachers and administrators of Schools that Work in our groups and discussions. You will hear about the hurdles they overcame. You will discover how reform comes to life, and how it succeeds.

Four Steps to Promote Savings in School (town) Spending

Dr. Armand A Fusco, via email

There is one harsh and undeniable fact that must be accepted with school (and town) spending: There is no strong incentive to save dollars. Unlike schools, the business world’s incentive to save is driven by the “bottom line.” Unfortunately, there is no “bottom line” in school operations because, with rare exception, there is always more money provided every year regardless of productivity or results. Yet, even though the business world has a strong incentive, the American Productivity and Quality Center, estimates that there is still 20%-30% waste in time and money.
Waste is defined as “Anything that adds cost without adding value.” This, of course, is assessed more easily in business organizations; however, it is rarely a consideration in schools. For example, in job descriptions it would be unusual to find any mention that an employee is responsible for controlling and cutting costs; in addition, it is not part of any evaluation process or even as a policy statement. An exception was found in Ann Arbor, MI, and if all superintendents’ job descriptions followed this example, it would have a powerful and meaningful impact on fiscal accountability.
Step One: Job Description
The Superintendent (1) shall diligently identify opportunities to reduce costs and improve operating efficiency in all areas of district operations (2) is charged with the responsibility of seeking ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency while maintaining the organization’s mission and performance (3) will provide guidelines to support constant and continual improvement in the organization (4) will ensure that promoting savings will be a part of every employees’ and department’s yearly evaluation (5) shall regularly inform new and current employees that finding more efficient and economical ways to accomplish the district’s educational mission and that it is an implied component of every job description (6) may call on any employee to assist in a formal investigation to identify more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities (7) will establish a program through which employees may make suggestions relating to more efficient operations and/or cost-reduction opportunities, and be recognized for such efforts (8) will ensure that department heads shall continually monitor their areas to identify any potential cost reduction and/or efficiency improvement and will report quarterly on specific efforts made to promote savings through controlling or cutting costs, as well as, the process or procedure that was used to determine the savings calculation and (9) shall present such findings to the Board and community on a quarterly basis.
Step Two: Policy Adoption
However, the job description and evaluation process is not enough. The BOE must adopt a policy that will clearly establish a culture of fiscal accountability. The following example is edited from Greenwich, CT:
1. The District shall not engage in the mismanagement of financial, physical and human resources and Shall not fail to act as a good fiduciary for all taxpayer assets.
2. Taxpayer assets, including but not limited to, all facilities, equipment, materials, tax dollars, and all other sources of funds may not be inadequately maintained, unnecessarily risked, wasted, or allowed to deteriorate
3. The District shall not fail to maintain procedures and systems to control management of resources, including, at a minimum, accounting; budgeting; data management; purchasing; ordering goods and services; inventories of equipment and supplies, and record retention.
Step Three: A Pledge
All officials, upon election or appointment, shall pledge verbally and in writing the following:
“It is my sworn duty and obligation to manage all physical, human, and financial resources in the most effective, efficient, economical and ethical manner. Furthermore, I will support the establishment of a Citizen’s Performance and Review Audit Committee (CPRAC) to provide independent and objective oversight to ensure that the commitments made for fiscal responsibility will be followed in spirit and action. I will demonstrate my support to the CPRAC by providing all requested public documents and information at no cost and without FOI requirements.”
Step Four: The CPRAC
The committee will consist of local volunteers who will be trained in best financial and management practices and will be self governing. The author of this op-ed piece, a retired school superintendent, will provide the orientation, materials and training at no cost: Such committees have already been established in several communities.
These simple steps only require action on the part of a BOE (the town can do the same) and will have no budgetary implications.
Why would any official refuse to implement such a simple process?
Dr. Armand A. Fusco, 1563 Durham Rd, Guilford, CT
Name Dr. Armand A. fusco
Telephone 203-453-1301
Submit Submit

Ed school professors resist teaching practical skills

Jay Matthews

Amid the chatter about the Obama administration’s Race to the Top funds, NBC’s Education Nation programs and the release of the film “Waiting For ‘Superman'” (warning: I am in it), I am not hearing much about how education schools fit into this new ‘saving our schools’ ferment. A new survey of education school professors reveals traditional teacher training institutes are trying, sort of, to adjust, but still resist giving top priority to the hottest topic among young teachers, learning how to manage the kids.
When researchers Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett asked 716 randomly selected teacher educators at four-year colleges and universities about major challenges for new teachers these days, they did not seem that excited about them.
Only 24 percent said it was “absolutely essential” to produce “teachers who understand how to work with the state’s standards, tests and accountability systems.”
Only 37 percent gave the highest priority to developing “teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom.” Only 39 percent said the same about creating “teachers who are trained to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts.”

Not so shallow after all …

Harry Eyres

The cohort of young people just going to university, which includes many of my friends’ children and my eldest nephew, is, as usual, the target of accusations of degeneracy and warnings about dumbing-down.
In the past, such jeremiads generally concentrated on the moral aspect of things: in one of his rare moments of intemperance, the Roman poet Horace berated the young women of Rome for learning Greek dances (the provocative young minxes), the inevitable prelude to a later career of adultery. He was writing at a time when the Emperor Augustus had instigated one of those doomed back-to-basics campaigns promoting a return to “traditional values”, only to find that his own daughter had been involved in a string of adulterous affairs.
When it comes to the current generation, the accusations centre less on moral looseness and more on an inability to concentrate, brought about by an addiction to computer games and the internet. The direst of the warnings has been issued by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows, buttressed by research carried out by Gary Small, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr Small argues that the very structure of people’s brains has been changed by new media – to the extent, as Carr puts it, that “our ability to learn suffers and our understanding remains shallow”.

The class ceiling

Adam Haslett

Thirty years ago, at another moment of recession and national malaise in the United States, Lisa Birnbach, then 23, edited and co-wrote The Official Preppy Handbook, a guide on how to dress and behave like old money, ie those who went to prep schools (the US term for public schools), and then on to Ivy League colleges.
The hangover of the 1970s was coming to an end, Ronald Reagan was about to enter the White House, and small “c” conservatism of the sexually restrained, personal comportment variety was about to enjoy a resurgence every bit as strong as Milton Friedman. Lacoste was back, the collars were turned up and, after 20 years in the fashion wilderness, the establishment had found its groove again. It was hip to be square, or at least to dress that way. Birnbach’s book spent 38 weeks at the top of The New York Times bestseller list in 1980, helping to launch a remarkably enduring trend in US culture: the commodity fetishisation of that etiolated species, the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Wasp).
For most of the nation’s history, male Wasps more or less ran the place, occupying virtually every position of political and financial power in the US. This is no longer the case. There could be no clearer signal of this than the composition of the Supreme Court, the institution traditionally requiring the greatest educational pedigree. It is made up of three Jews and six Catholics, and is one third female. There is a Latina and an African-American but not a single Protestant.
Strangely enough, it was just around the time when this class hegemony began to fade for good in the late 1970s and early 1980s that people became so enamoured of the clothing worn by Wasps, particularly when on summer holiday. From Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to the revival of Abercrombie & Fitch, the fading old Wasp clothier, via Bruce Weber’s photographs of shirtless young Aryans playing touch football on vast and perfect lawns, mainstream US fashion has for years now been peddling the fantasy of life as an endless Nantucket house party.

Teachers Unions Still Powerful Election Force

Sarah Longwell

Between the success of President Obama’s education reform initiative Race to the Top and the adulation being poured on the pro-education reform documentary Waiting for “Superman” – including appearances on “Oprah” and “Good Morning America,” as well as fawning articles in magazines and newspapers across the country – one would be forgiven for thinking that teachers unions have lost their political clout.
Anyone harboring such suspicions is in for a rude awakening.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reminded us just how much power teachers unions still have by pouring more than a million dollars into the Washington, D.C., mayoral campaign. Spent on organizing efforts and advertising campaigns, this money was crucial in turning the race around for a candidate who is far friendlier to the teachers unions, far more antagonistic to school chancellor and darling of the reform set Michelle Rhee, and far less likely to pursue reforms than his predecessor.
Quashing this Rhee-volution is just the first item on the agenda for the teachers unions.
You can expect to see more of the same in Chicago’s mayoral primary in 2011, where Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, has said that she was ready “to throw the weight of 30,000 members and their families and students and teachers [into the Democratic primary]. I mean, we’re looking at 800,000 people we could affect on some level.” Lewis has worked hard to stymie the reforms implemented by outgoing Mayor Daley; she’s gearing up for a fight to elect someone more amenable to protecting poor teachers at the expense of their students.

The Changing Landscape of Teaching

Tom Vander Ark

Now that anyone can learn anything and learning professionals can work anywhere, a learning ecosystem is being created around the formal public delivery system–sometimes supporting, sometimes competing, sometimes infiltrating.
Online learning is full and part time option for millions of students. Massive foundation and government programs are pushing data driven-instruction and teacher evaluation. The combination of direct intervention and the surrounding web of opportunity means a slow decline in traditional education employment and strong growth in non-traditional roles.
As schools adopt formats that blend online and onsite learning, there will be an increase of tiered staffing models with well paid master teachers in school leadership roles, new teachers in training, paraprofessionals and volunteers. Teachers with proven abilities will have the opportunity to influence the outcomes of several hundred students.
Teachers delivering all or most of their instruction online will grow from about 25,000 to more than 10 percent of the total by the end of the decade with higher penetration in high school, particularly Advanced Placement, science, math, and speech therapy. Most teachers will work in schools that use online and computer based instruction.
During the last decade, funded by new money foundations, we’ve seen an explosion of school developers, managed school networks, technical assistance providers, and advocacy organizations. Teach for America helped to make education cool as a career. A long recession and federal stimulus made it as it an easier choice. Many TFA alum become edupreneurs.

Virginia High school graduation, dropout rates for 2010

Virginia Pilot

The Virginia Department of Education publishes annual reports that detail outcomes for students who entered the ninth grade for the first time together (“cohorts”) and were scheduled to graduate four years later (“on time”). Percentages account for students who transfer, are held back or are promoted.
All public high schools for the seven major Hampton Roads cities are listed here. Choose a school and click “Search” for details on that school.

Schools’ problem is government: Schools No Longer Focus on Teaching & Learning

Deborah Simmons

President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee jump-started the week on national television by discussing public education. They all pushed for more reform, but none of them went on the offensive and mentioned what surely is a huge stumbling block to effective teaching and learning in public schools: federal government interference.
The broadening of federal education policy has tied our local public systems in knots. Local and state school authorities cannot make a single policy move without first making sure they are adhering to laws and regulations established by Washington bureaucrats.
That fact lies at the very heart of several questions posed by a reader of my column from last Friday.
“Do you think that the school system attempts to take on so much responsibility — in addition to education — that the outcome does not change?” the reader asked in an e-mail.
Ding, ding, ding. Our public school “systems” no longer focus on teaching and learning.

School Reform Rainmakers

The Wall Street Journal

It was a banner September for education philanthropy. Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show to announce his $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey, public schools. And this Wednesday the Charter School Growth Fund launched a new $160 million fund that will finance the expansion of high-performing charter networks across the U.S.
Since 1970, average per-pupil expenditures after inflation have more than doubled, yet test scores have remained flat. Today the Newark public school system spends some $22,000 per student, or more than twice the U.S. average, and the high school graduation rate is only 50%. Adding private money to this system would be a dreadful waste. So what excites us about these new donations is not the money per se but the reform agenda to which the dollars are tethered.
Mr. Zuckerberg is entrusting his donation to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a strong advocate of vouchers and school choice, as is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The Newark teachers contract expired over the summer, and Mr. Booker has spoken favorably of the recently negotiated teacher contract in Washington, D.C., where schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee used private donations as leverage to enact reforms that tie teacher pay to student progress.

Milwaukee’s New Teacher Union Contract

Becky Vevea & Erin Richards:

A pay freeze, which retroactively applies to the 2009-’10 school year when teachers were working under the old contract, saves the district from roughly $13.5 million in raises it likely would have paid if the previous contract were renewed. Teachers will be in line for a 3% raise for this school year and 2.5% for 2011-’12. Another 3% raise is set for the 2012-’13 school year. The freeze does not apply to those teachers who were eligible for a step increase, which gives teachers with a certain amount of experience an automatic jump to a higher salary level, union officials said. The average salary of an MPS teacher is $56,000 per year, slightly lower than in districts in outlying areas.
“We didn’t get where we wanted to get, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Superintendent Greg Thornton said, adding that the agreement is still “monumental.”
The contract is the first four-year contract negotiated between the district and MTEA. The previous contract expired July 1, 2009, and teachers had been working under the terms of the expired contract since that time.
The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has recommended that its members not enter into contracts that last for more than two years because of the fiscal uncertainty with the state budget. But Thornton said the longer contract will allow both parties more time to work on reforms in the district.
Contract negotiations stalled repeatedly under the previous administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos, with the major sticking point being revisions to the teachers’ health care benefits.
Under the old contract, MPS offered two health care plans – an HMO plan that costs $16,440 a year for a family, offered by United Health Care, and a PPO plan through Aetna that allows a broader range of choices in doctors and costs $23,820 a year for a family.
In May, the district said that unless various unions agreed to take a lower cost health care plan, it would move forward with layoffs. The district laid off more than 400 teachers in June, though about half of them have since been recalled.
The new agreement maintains the choice of PPO and HMO plans, but both will be provided by United Health Care and will have lower premiums than the Aetna plan did. Under both options, teachers will for the first time contribute a portion of their salary – 1% for single coverage, 2% for family coverage – to their health care package starting in August 2011. The specific costs of the two options are unknown.

In Study, Children Cite Appeal of Digital Reading

Julie Bosman

Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.
These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.
The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in the spring.

GM’s Reuss: We’ll help boost Detroit education

Brent Snavely

General Motors is working with the United Way to explore how best the automaker can contribute to improving K-12 education in Detroit, Mark Reuss, president of North America said today.
In a passionate speech, Reuss said education in Detroit is in a state of emergency.
“We are exploring an idea to take five Detroit schools and essentially divide each school into four academies to train our children to have marketable skills in the city off Detroit,” Reuss during a speech during the 11th Annual Rainbow Push Global Automotive Summit in Detroit.
Reuss said General Motors is working with Detroit Public Schools, the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, charter schools and several other organizations.

Career politician, outsider vie to lead California schools

Two candidates hope to become California’s next superintendent of public instruction, a position that requires the patience to answer a frequent question from constituents: “So, what exactly do you do?”
The short answer is that the state’s top education official runs California’s 9,500 schools, which educate 6.3 million students.
The long answer is more complicated. The superintendent is a bureaucrat, a politician, an administrator and, in worst-case scenarios, the one who takes over bankrupt school districts.
He is a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, and he controls community college cash.

Charter, Shmarter

New Jersey Left Behind

Lady Liberty Academy Charter School in Newark, a K-8 school with 456 kids (273 are on the waiting list), is the subject of a 4-page story in New Jersey Newsroom today that highlights its dysfunction, poor governance, and the unfair firing of a kindergarten teacher. Only two seats are filled on the 9-member Board of Education (there were four, but two members resigned after the teacher was fired), staffers compare elaborate preparations for DOE visits as “a Potemkin village,” and one of the principal’s criticisms of the fired teacher was that she dresses “‘too professionally,’ complaining that ‘you teachers love those long skirts.'”
How do the kids do? According to 2008-2009 DOE data, 62.5% of 3d graders failed the language arts portion of the NJ ASK 3 and 52.1% failed the math portion. Among 8th graders, 43.1% failed the language arts portion of the ASK 8 and 56.9% failed the math portion. Pretty shabby.
Is this the story of a much-ballyhooed charter school that masks lack of accountability, lack of due process for teachers, and inept management in spite of frequent monitoring by the State DOE, a perfect emblem for charter school foes? Seems likely.

Education in Vietnam Low grades for the party The Communist Party’s grip is holding back the country’s best and brightest

The Economist

WHEN Ngo Bao Chau won a Fields Medal, the mathematics version of a Nobel prize, it made headline news in his native Vietnam. The president sent a telegram of congratulations. Mr Chau is the first Vietnamese winner. But he does not ply his trade in Vietnam. Mr Chau is a professor at the University of Chicago and a naturalised citizen of France, where he completed his PhD.
Who can blame him? Vietnam’s university system is “archaic”, says Hoang Tuy, another mathematician. Teaching methods are outdated, universities are stuffed with cronies and smothered by Communist orthodoxy. Censorship and interference are pervasive.
For an emerging economy trying to build a technology sector, this is both discouraging and damaging. Top-notch research universities and innovative manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Vietnamese universities do little original research, and are rarely cited by scientific scholars, says a recent UN-financed study. Graduates are poorly prepared: as many as 60% of new hires by foreign companies needed retraining, according to a Dutch report.

Run to the Hills!

Matthew Ladner

From Education Week:
After five years of providing critical reviews of education-related reports by nonacademic think tanks, education professors Alex Molnar and Kevin G. Welner hope to expand their own reach with a new, broader research center.
The new National Education Policy Center, based at Mr. Welner’s academic home, the University of Colorado at Boulder, will consolidate his Education and the Public Interest Center and Mr. Molnar’s Education Policy Research Unit, previously at Arizona State University. It will review existing research, conduct new research, and, for the first time for both groups, make policy recommendations.
The story goes on to print claims from these guys that they are independent from the unions, quotes Little Ramona taking pot shots at think-tanks, etc.
It’s would be easy to cry foul that the NEA is simply renting the credibility of academic institutions to produce propaganda. They gave Molnar’s outfit a quarter of million dollars a year at Arizona State. Overall, however, I don’t really have a problem with them doing so. Think-tanks always face scrutiny when releasing reports, and more scrutiny is better than less. As Rick Hess notes in the story:

Is Michelle Rhee’s Revolution Over?

Judith Warner

Around the country, supporters of education reform — or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform. In New York, three state-senate candidates who ran on pro-charter-school platforms each failed to garner more than 30 percent of the vote. In Washington, voters overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of the City Council chairman, Vincent Gray, as the Democratic candidate in this year’s mayoral election. The Fenty defeat worried many people particularly because he was inextricably linked with his crusading, nationally celebrated schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.
Rhee, who was appointed by Fenty in 2007 and given unprecedented power to shake up the ailing school system, fired hundreds of teachers and dozens of bureaucrats and principals, even removing the popular head of her daughters’ elementary school in the northwest part of the district. She demanded that the city’s tenure system be replaced with one that would reward teachers for producing measurable performance gains in their students. For her efforts, she became a heroine to some — gracing the cover of Time magazine, earning the praise of the Obama administration and an invitation to appear on “Oprah” — but she also received enormous enmity from teachers, their unions and, surprisingly enough to outside observers, many public-school parents, not a few of whom were profoundly offended when, the night after the mayoral primary, Rhee appeared at the Washington premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s much-talked-about education documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” and told an assemblage of prominent Washingtonians that the election results “were devastating, devastating. Not for me, I’ll be fine . . . but devastating for the school children of Washington, D.C.”

Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause …

Winnie Hu

By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 — for a whole week.
“Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?” said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. “I was like, I don’t know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it’s more open-ended and gets kids thinking.”
The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district’s new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.
Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.

Madison’s Proposed 4K Program Update: Is Now the Time?

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad PDF:

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) recently made a request for proposals (RFP) for early childhood care and education (ECE) centers interested in partnering with MMSD to provide four year old kindergarten (4K) programming starting in Fall 2011. In order to be considered for this partnership with the district, ECE centers must be accredited by the City of Madison or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) to ensure high quality programming for MMSD students. The ECE centers can partner with MMSD to be either a 4K Model II program (in an ECE center with an MMSD teacher) or a Model III program (in an ECE center with the ECE center’s teacher). The budget for 4K will support only 2 Model II programs, which aligns with the proposals submitted. There are 2 ECE centers who applied for Model II participation and 2 that applied to be either Model II or Model III. The ECE center proposals that have been accepted in this first step of the review process for consideration for partnering with the district to provide 4K programming are explained further in the following section.
II. ECE Center Sites
The following ECE center sites met the RFP criteria:
Animal Crackers
Bernie’s Place
Big Oak Child Care
Creative Learning Preschool
Dane County Parent Council
Eagle’s Wing
Goodman Community Center
Kennedy Heights Neighborhood
KinderCare-Old Sauk
LaPetite-North Gammon
Meeting House Nursery
Middleton Preschool
Monona Grove Nursery
New Morning Nursery
Orchard Ridge Nursery
Preschool of the Arts
The Learning Gardens
University Avenue Discovery Center
University Houses Preschool
University Preschool-Linden
University Preschool-Mineral Point
Waisman EC Program
Of the 35 ECE center sites, 28 met the RFP criteria at this time for partnerships with MMSD for 4 K programming. Seven of the ECE center sites did not meet RFP criteria. However may qualify in the future for partnerships with MMSD. There are 26 qualified sites that would partner with MMSD to provide a Model 111 program, and two sites that will provide a Model 11 program.
At this time, the 4K committee is requesting Board of Education (BOE) approval of the 28 ECE center sites that met RFP criteria. The BOE approval will allow administration to analyze the geographical locations of the each of the ECE center sites in conjunction with the District’s currently available space. The BOE approval will also allow administration to enter into agreements with the ECE center sites at the appropriate time.
The following language is suggested in order to approve the 28 ECE center sites:
It is recommended to approve the 28 Early Childhood Care and Education centers identified above as they have met the criteria of RFP 3168 (Provision of a Four-Year- Old Kindergarten Program) and further allow the District to enter into Agreements with said Early Childhood Care and Education centers.

Much more on Madison’s proposed 4K program here.
I continue to wonder if this is the time to push forward with 4K, given the outstanding K-12 issues, such as reading and the languishing math, fine arts and equity task force reports? Spending money is easier than dealing with these issues…. I also wonder how this will affect the preschool community over the next decade?
Finally, State and Federal spending and debt problems should add a note of caution to funding commitments for such programs. Changes in redistributed state and federal tax dollars may increase annual property tax payments, set to grow over 9% this December.

Indiana paid nearly $94 million for 16,315 ‘ghost’ students in 2009

Dan Carden

Indiana taxpayers shelled out nearly $94 million to public schools last year to support “ghost” students no longer attending those schools.
State legislators learned Wednesday that, in 2009, schools got paid for 16,315 students no longer in attendance. How to change the formula to be more fair to all students was at the heart of a Statehouse committee meeting Wednesday.
“That’s just absolutely horrendous that we’re spending $94 million on students that don’t even exist,” said state Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville.
Indiana spends about $8.5 billion on elementary and secondary education each year.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told the committee Indiana needs a systemic change in the way it funds schools. The first-term Republican said education money should follow students and each student should be allowed to use those resources at any school in the state — including private schools.

IBM High: Big Blue to Sponsor School, Mold Future Employees

Ariel Schwartz:

Want your kids to have a plum job after graduation? Send them to a New York City high school currently being planned by the City University of New York and IBM. The school, which will play host to around 600 students, will span grades 9 to 14. Its students will leave with an associate’s degree–and a guaranteed job with IBM. It’s a “a ticket to the middle class, or even beyond,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
WNYC reports that IBM has offered $250,000 for New York City to create the computer science-focused school, which is set to open next fall. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is throwing in $3 million. It will be the first high school in the U.S. to go through grade 14. No word on how students will be selected to attend, but we do know that they won’t be academically pre-screened.
The IBM-sponsored high school is part of the larger trend of corporate-sponsored education that has popped up over the past few years. This past spring, Microsoft graduated its first class at the School of the Future, a Philadelphia high school that trains students in a “culture of innovation.” And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a $100 million dollar donation to Newark, New Jersey’s public school system.

Madison’s Promega Corporation offered to work with the Madison School District on a Middle School (Madison Middle School 2000) during the late 1990’s.

French education: A system under attack for being too tough on pupils, not too easy

The Economist

AT THE end of every academic year, when British school-leavers get their A-level exam results, a chorus rings out about grade inflation and indulgent marking. This year, some 27% of British students who took the exam secured either an A or the new A* grade. Across the channel in France, the worries could scarcely be more different. Some educationalists fret that lycée (upper secondary-school) pupils work too hard, are graded too fiercely and are victims of a system designed to fail them.
A handful of new books are stirring this debate. In one, Richard Descoings, head of SciencesPo, an elite university in Paris, laments that French schools are “training generations of anxious youths, who worry about their future, feel treated like numbers [and] distrust one another and the system”. Last year, Mr Descoings visited 80 schools and met 7,000 pupils as part of a government review of lycées. Pupils told him, he reports, that in school they veered “between boredom and dread”.

American Schools Lax on Cheating

Jay Matthews

The Sept. 1 edition of Education Week had a provocative commentary, “All my favorite students cheat,” by high school teacher Christopher L. Doyle. He and I agree that cheating is rife, but we don’t agree on what causes that.
He thinks students are protecting themselves against widespread insecurity in a declining America. I think the larger problem is that teachers so love and trust their students that the teachers become easy marks.
America used to be tough on cheaters. Before World War II, miscreants could be suspended, expelled or caned. Schools went soft in the 1960s, and although we have little data, cheating probably increased. In a 1995 survey by “Who’s Who Among American High School Students,” 76 percent of high-schoolers with at least B averages said they had cheated at least once. In suburban, upper-middle-class, high-achieving schools, such as the place Doyle still teaches or many Washington area schools, cheating is still common.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an important attempt to get the American public behind education reform

The Economist

FOR America’s children the education system is often literally a lottery. That is the main message of a new documentary about America’s schools, “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” Made by the team that gave us “An Inconvenient Truth”, and supported with the sort of marketing budget that other documentary makers can only dream of, it is intended to create a surge in public support for education reform at least as great as the clamour to do something about climate change generated (for a while) by Al Gore’s eco-disaster flick.
The timing could hardly be better. The “jobless recovery” is finally bringing home to Americans the fact that too many of those who go through its schools are incapable of earning a decent living in an increasingly competitive global economy. The number of jobs advertised but not being filled is increasing even as the unemployment rate stays resolutely high. And despite its depressing enumeration of the failure of so many schools, particularly in poorer urban areas, its miserable ending, and the bleakness of its title, the movie also has a message of hope: there are good schools and teachers in America, whose methods could make its education system as good as any in the world if only they were allowed to.

Creepy Start-Up Or Sign Of The Times?

Nathan Vardi:

A Santa Barbara, Calif., start-up is officially launching a social media screening and monitoring service Tuesday that the nation’s 14.9 million unemployed might want to know about before their next job interview.
Social Intelligence Corp. is essentially taking the traditional background checks that are commonly used by corporate human resource departments to look for things like criminal records and moving them online to track social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, LinkedIn, and individual blogs.
“You cannot believe the things that we see. The amount of references to drugs and alcohol and the amount of provocative photos and the things that people say is jaw dropping,” says Max Drucker, chief executive of Social Intelligence Corp. “People that we see that are applying for jobs that have this kind of really incriminating information out there.”

Race Matters in Milwaukee: Segregation & Education

The Milwaukee Drum:

It has been suggested that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is no question that the black community continues to lag behind when it comes to all matters of education. This is especially so here in Milwaukee, where MPS reading scores lag behind those of other major urban school districts, state black reading scores are the worst in the nation, and the percent of blacks with a college education is lower here than it is in most other places. These are crisis-level facts.
This has not completely escaped the community’s notice. Everybody understands the importance of improving Milwaukee Public Schools. And while massive disagreement concerning proposed changes ultimately resulted in the prevailing of the status quo, rather than some sort of meaningful compromise or reform, at least the community showed that it was energized and willing to fight for local education.
But one thing that seems to continue to escape notice, maybe since the time that Chapter 220 was created, is the impact that segregation has on education.
Segregation and 4th Grade Reading Scores

4-year-old kindergarten could be money-loser for Madison preschools

Gayle Worland

As the director of a Madison pre-school, Sarah Dill believes all four-year-olds should have a chance for an education at that age.
But if the Madison School District launches a free pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds as anticipated next fall, it could cost Dill’s Meeting House Nursery School $50,000 a year.
That’s because the district may not pay the nonprofit pre-school — one of dozens being considered for participation in the new program — its full cost of offering the education, which is now borne by parents. To close the gap, Meeting House might have to hike tuition costs for its younger students.
“It’s a huge chunk of money,” said Dill. “Fifty-thousand may not sound like a lot to some corporations, but for us, that’s big. And we’re now going to have to sell it to our families that, ‘If you’re willing to pay a little bit more when they’re two and three, hang in there with us and when they’re four, it will be free for you.'”
It’s one of the financial tradeoffs of a public/private 4K program that has been in the works off and on for nearly a decade. There’s a good chance the district will have to ask property taxpayers to help foot the start-up costs of 4K. Parents are still unsure about how it will all work — and some preschool providers are unsure of 4K’s effect on the bottom line.

An Emphasis on Adult Employment

Andrew Coulson:

This week, President Obama called for the hiring of 10,000 new teachers to beef up math and science achievement. Meanwhile, in America, Earth, Sol-System, public school employment has grown 10 times faster than enrollment for 40 years (see chart), while achievement at the end of high school has stagnated in math and declined in science (see other chart).
Either the president is badly misinformed about our education system or he thinks that promising to hire another 10,000 teachers union members is politically advantageous-in which case he would seem to be badly misinformed about the present political climate. Or he lives in an alternate universe in which Kirk and Spock have facial hair and government monopolies are efficient. It’s hard to say.

Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%, and Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“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).

Janet Mertz:

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below. I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed. We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade. One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers. It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools. The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers. It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training. However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.

South Carolina College Tuition Summit

Josh Dawsey

College tuition in South Carolina has skyrocketed in recent years, rising to troublesome rates that place financial hardship on many South Carolina families.
In fact, tuition rates have increased by 143 percent since 1999. Compare that to income growth of 50 percent and an inflation rate of 29 percent. They’re the highest in the Southeast.
Simply put, there are problems that need solutions.
On those facts, all parties agreed during Tuesday’s higher education summit at Midlands Technical College.
But how do you fix it?
That’s the question Gov. Mark Sanford, college leaders and others in a packed auditorium debated for more than two hours. There was no shortage of opinions.
And there was certainly no shortage of tension and numbers discrepancies as leaders readily admitted they were dealing with complex issues without a foolproof solution.

Education Reform Goes Mainstream

Jay Green:

I have no idea why a bunch of ed reformers are so gloomy.  Matt has already observed how Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli can’t seem to enjoy the moment when ed reform ideas go mainstream.  Now Liam Julian is joining the poopy parade, lamenting that the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail just as past ones have, and “it never works out.” And continuing the gloomy theme, Rick is worrying that school choice (in the form of vouchers) over-promised and under-delivered, losing the support of people like Sol Stern.  That may be, but as a graduate student observed to me today, choice (in the form of vouchers) may have lost Sol Stern, but choice (in the form of charters) just gained Oprah, the Today Show, and the Democratic Party platform.    Overall, he thought that was a pretty good trade, especially since he had to look up who Sol Stern was.
Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms.  It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.  It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators.

Congress in the Classroom

The Dirksen Center’s monthly enewsletter, via a Cindy Koeppel email:

Sketches of famous and not-so-famous Senators and Representatives
Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
Ichord, Richard II (1926-1992), a Representative from Missouri; born in Licking, Texas County, Mo., June 27, 1926; B.S., University of Missouri, 1949; J.D., University of Missouri, 1952; United States Navy, 1944-1946; lawyer, private practice; member of the Missouri state house of representatives, 1952-1960, speaker pro tempore, 1957, speaker, 1959; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-seventh and to the nine succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1961-January 3, 1981); chair, Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first Congress); chair, Committee on Internal Security, formerly Committee on Un-American Activities (Ninety-first through Ninety-third Congresses); was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-seventh Congress in 1980; professional advocate; died on December 25, 1992, in Nevada, Mo.; interment in Pinelawn Cemetery, Houston, Mo.

Will Anyone at NBC Ask About the 216?

Conn Carroll

There are plenty of issues the journalists at NBC could be asking about but aren’t: the silent push toward national standards, the assault on for-profit learning, the waste in education spending. But most galling is NBC’s continued refusal to ask about the Obama administration’s war on school choice. The closest accountability moment came when an audience member asked President Obama a question on the Today Show:

Viewer: “As a father of two very delightful and seemingly very bright daughters, I wanted to know whether or not you think that Malia and Sasha would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school, as compared to their very elite private academy that they’re attending now?”Obama: “I’ll be blunt with you. The answer’s ‘no’ right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the years to move in the direction of reform; there are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system. And that’s true by the way in every city across the country. In my hometown of Chicago there are some great public schools that are on par with any private school in the country. But it goes to the point Matt and I were talking about earlier. A lot of times you’ve got to test in, or it’s a lottery pick for you to be able to get into those schools and so those options are not available for enough children. I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is: For a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a choice in terms of where they live, they should be getting the same quality education as anybody else, and they don’t have that yet.”

This would have been a great opportunity for Matt Lauer to ask about the 216. Who are the 216? Like each of the families in Waiting for Superman, thousands of parents in Washington, D.C., are dying to get their children out of violent and non-functioning local public schools and into alternatives like the Sidwell School that President Obama chooses to send his kids too. One-thousand-seven-hundred low-income D.C. school children have attended private schools with the help of the $7,500 scholarships awarded through this D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

Neal McCluskey:

But the reforms don’t seem promising. Sure, RTTT got some states to lift caps on charter schools and eliminate some barriers to evaluating teachers using student test scores. For the most part, though, RTTT just prodded states to promise to plan to make reforms, and even things like lifting charter caps do little good when the problems go much deeper. Indeed, the only thing of real substance RTTT has done is coerce states into adopting national curriculum standards, pushing us a big step closer to complete federal domination of our schools. That’s especially problematic because special interests like teacher unions love nothing more than one-stop shopping.
But isn’t the President taking on the unions?
Hardly. While he has lightly scolded unions for protecting bad teachers, he has given them huge money-hugs to sooth their hurt feelings. Moreover, perhaps to further heal their emotional ouchies, on Today he offered union-hack rhetoric about teachers, going on about how they should be “honored” above almost all other professions, and how selfless and hard working they are.
Now, lots of teachers work hard and care very much about kids, but shouldn’t individual Americans get to decide how much they want to honor a profession, and how much they are willing to pay for the services of a given professional? Of course they should — who’s to say definitively whether a good teacher is more valuable than, say, a good architect? – but when government controls education, it decides what teachers “should” get paid.
Unfortunately, the President chose to seriously inflate how long and intensively teachers work, saying they work so hard they are downright “heroic.” No doubt many do work very long hours, but research shows that the average teacher does not. A recent “time diary” study found that during the school year teachers work only only about 7.3 hours on weekdays- including work on and off campus — and 2 hours on weekends. That’s 18 fewer minutes per day than the average person in a less “heroic” professional job. Oh, and on an hourly basis teachers get paid more than accountants, nurses, and insurance unerwriters.

UK Med School Students Get a New Prescription: iPhones

Christina Warren

The University of Leeds announced it will be issuing iPhones to all fourth and fifth-year medical students. The always-connected nature of smartphones coupled with the burgeoning app marketplace has made smartphones an increasingly attractive learning tool.
According to the university, this is the first time a UK medical school has issued smartphones to its students. The 520 students in the medical program will each be loaned a 16GB iPhone 3GS for the remainder of their education.
The phones will be preloaded with apps and textbooks designed to keep students informed, help them take notes and test their knowledge. Students will also be able to download any other apps from the App Store.