Category Archives: Uncategorized

Changing the Economics of Education

John Hennessy and Salman Khan:

Is there anything to be done about the rising price of higher education? That was the question posed to John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, and Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, a nonprofit online-learning organization. They sat down with The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg to discuss how technology might be part of the solution.
Here are edited excerpts of their conversation.
Cost Curve
MR. MOSSBERG: Is it either moral or sustainable for elite colleges and universities to be charging what is approaching $60,000 a year to go to college?
MR. HENNESSY: I think the real question is whether or not what we’re charging is a worthwhile investment for the American public and for families. That’s the key question. The elites have the advantage in that they have been able to significantly subsidize what they charge with financial aid. It’s a really interesting business we’re in. First we charge less than it costs us to provide an education, because we subsidize everybody to some extent. And then if you can’t afford it, we give you a discount.
MR. MOSSBERG: You have a lot of money at Stanford. I’ve been, until recently, a trustee of Brandeis University. It’s a very good university. It charges about what you do. But it doesn’t have your money, and there are a lot of colleges like that.

The Expense of Teacher Union Contracts

Steve Gunn, Research by Victor Skinner:

The School District of Philadelphia is facing a $218 million budget deficit in fiscal 2013, with forecasts for a $1.1 billion shortfall by 2017.
The district’s School Reform Commission has responded with a controversial plan to close as many as 60 schools over the next five years and divert about 40 percent of the district’s students into public charter schools, according to media reports.
The plan has been met with a great deal of resistance from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Nobody knows at this point if the money-saving plan will be implemented, or how the district will find its way out of its deficit situation.
In the meantime, it’s clear that the school district is in the midst of a severe financial emergency, and must find a way to cut costs without negatively impacting students.
A good place to start would be the PFT’s collective bargaining agreement.
We recently inspected a copy of the agreement, then used a freedom of information request to measure the costs of various provisions in the contract for the 2010-11 school year.
We found numerous examples of huge costs that could have been postponed, trimmed or cancelled to save the district millions of dollars without affecting anyone’s base salary.
The list included $14.4 million to cover a three percent salary increase for teachers, a $66 million contribution to the union’s “Health and Welfare Fund” and $165 million for free- or low- cost employee health insurance.

Peterson, Howell and West: Teachers Unions Have a Popularity Problem

Paul Peterson, William Howell & Martin West:

However Wisconsin’s recall election turns out on Tuesday, teachers unions already appear to be losing a larger political fight–in public opinion. In our latest annual national survey, we found that the share of the public with a positive view of union impact on local schools has dropped by seven percentage points in the past year. Among teachers, the decline was an even more remarkable 16 points.
On behalf of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next, we have asked the following question since 2009: “Some people say that teacher unions are a stumbling block to school reform. Others say that unions fight for better schools and better teachers. What do you think? Do you think teacher unions have a generally positive effect on schools, or do you think they have a generally negative effect?”
Respondents can choose among five options: very positive, somewhat positive, neither positive nor negative, somewhat negative, and very negative.

Oregon’s new education chief: ‘Poor for now’ won’t be a problem for Rudy Crew

Susan Nielsen:

Rudy Crew’s mom died when he was 2. His dad had plenty of reasons to stay in bed in the morning, as Crew put it, but he got up every day and worked hard to raise his children right.
“My father,” Crew wrote in a 2007 book, “made sure I had a safe place to take risks, to learn independence, and eventually to believe that poor for now did not mean poor forever.”
Now Crew is Oregon’s first chief education officer, tapped by Gov. John Kitzhaber and formally hired last week to lead the state’s education enterprise from preschool to college. This core tenet of Crew’s belief system — that poor for now doesn’t mean poor forever — drove him to the top of the national heap of K-12 superintendents. It also makes him a bracing choice to help Oregon shake off the poverty mentality that drags down education in this state.

Cozy Board/Superintendent Relationship?

The Des Moines Register, via a kind reader’s email:

Beyond the personal side of this story, the emails raise questions about the school district’s management and the relationship between the superintendent and the school board.
For one, Sebring meddled far too much in a new Des Moines charter school that had been overseen by her twin sister, Nina Rasmusson. Scores of emails reveal Sebring was directly engaged in internal affairs of the school, and that Sebring sought to use her influence to shield her sister from criticism. Rasmusson resigned from the job on Sebring’s advice to avoid being fired because of problems in the charter school.
One email reveals Sebring’s attitude about her relationship with school board members: “We’re having a little trouble reigning (sic) in two of our new board members,” she wrote in a Feb. 10 email to Rasmusson. “They are well-intentioned but crossing the line.”
It’s easy to see how Sebring might have had the idea the board worked for her, not the other way around. Other emails suggest Sebring had a close personal relationship with at least one member of the board.
It appears she’d had them under her thumb for years. Members allowed Sebring to hire her sister, even though that clearly posed a conflict. They said nothing when she failed to promptly deliver a state accreditation report showing problems with the district.
And, to the end, board members seemed more concerned with protecting her than holding her accountable and being accountable to the public. They held a closed-door meeting to discuss her unexpected resignation May 10.
They knew Sebring had violated the district’s technology policy forbidding the use of school computers or email for personal correspondence and the exchange of sexually explicit messages. Yet they issued a release that misled the public by failing to disclose the full story about why she resigned early.
This school board thanked Sebring for her service and let her go on her way, protecting her to the very end.
This is the same school board the public now must rely on to find and supervise the next superintendent. Members should be taking responsibility for their mistakes. They should be learning from them and making changes in how they do business. A school board is the boss of a superintendent. It’s time for this board to finally figure that out.

Why is Qatar investing so much in education?

Sean Coughlan:

When oil rich countries get involved in global education projects, it is easy to be cynical and only expect some air-brushed philanthropy and gold-plated business school sponsorships.
But the Gulf state of Qatar is providing something more substantial.
So much so that it is becoming one of the most significant players in the field of education innovation, supporting a raft of projects from grassroots basic literacy through to high-end university research.
As well as trying to fast-forward its own education system, it is supporting projects in some of the toughest environments.

Recruiting More Black Teachers Should be a Madison School District Goal

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Howard, who supported Madison Prep, also favors launching pilots to test new approaches to helping struggling students.
“The assumption is that everything is working,” he said, “and it’s not.”
The district should boost efforts to involve more parents in their children’s educations, though that’s not easy.
At the same time, the district needs to pay for a backlog of school maintenance projects without balancing the district budget on the backs of struggling homeowners. Madison is already a high-spending district, so more and more money isn’t the solution.
The school administration’s plan has some merit but mostly stays the course. And more of the same won’t cut it.
The best path now is to recruit more black teachers, try even harder to engage parents, and seek innovation.

Related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009” and the Madison School District’s strategic plan update.

The Reforms I’m For

Charlie Mas:

We spend a lot of time talking about the reforms promoted by Education Reform Advocacy Organizations which we oppose. I also spend a lot of time correcting them when they say that those who oppose them are fighting for the status quo. So folks might wonder what reforms I actually support. It’s a fair question.
I absolutely believe that public K-12 education in Washington, and across the country, needs serious reform. It is build on a model that, in turn, is built on the faulty assumption that the students will fit a narrow mold. The system is set up to expect and serve students who come able and ready to learn in a traditional school setting. The whole thing needs to be reconfigured around a different, more accurate, set of beliefs around who the students are, what they need, and how public schools can deliver it.
The solutions presented by Education Reform Advocacy Organizations, such as LEV, are not serious reforms. They do not address the problem. Some of them, such as charter schools, create an opportunity to bypass the problem – an opportunity which, sadly, often goes unused. Some of them, such as merit pay for teachers, have nothing to do with the problem.

Big education issues won’t change with Wisconsin election results

Alan Borsuk:

In the closing moments of Thursday night’s debate between the two candidates for governor, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett raised a point that intrigues me. In fact, separate from all the other aspects of Tuesday’s historic recall election, I think it resonates across the debate about education in America:
Brass knuckles or handshakes?
Share a cup of coffee or send incendiary tweets?
What’s the best way to get things done amid differences?
Facing Scott Walker, the Republican governor who sat next to him at a round table at Marquette Law School, the Democratic challenger said, “You and I know that if you had accepted back in February of 2011 the offer from those employees to allow them to pay towards their health care and towards their pensions, we wouldn’t be sitting here tonight.”
Walker replied, “That’s just fundamentally wrong.” He said that even as public union leaders offered to accept cuts in benefits for their members, following Walker’s proposal to strip public unions of almost all their powers, local unions across the state were rushing to make contract deals that protected their benefits.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said.

The questions we should ask when it comes to class size in N.J. schools

Laura Waters:

Mitt Romney visited a charter school in West Philadelphia last Thursday and, either brazenly or cluelessly, addressed that third rail of education politics, class size.
“In schools that are the highest-performing in the world,” he said, “their classroom sizes are about the same as in the United States. So it’s not the classroom size that’s driving the success of those school systems.”
An opportunity for a rational discussion of the costs and benefits of small class size?
More like a greedy Democratic pounce on Romney’s education street cred. President Obama’s spokeswoman sneered, “What planet does he live on?”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter emoted, “I’m not sure what universe he’s operating in, but we certainly know in Pennsylvania, every parent knows, every second-grader knows, that smaller class sizes are preferable.”

Nancy Sebring resigns from Omaha superintendent job

Mary Stegmeir & Jens Manuel Krogstad:

In a stunning reversal of fortune, former Des Moines Superintendent Nancy Sebring went from presiding over Iowa’s largest school district to losing a new job she had landed to lead the Omaha schools, after disclosure she had used Des Moines school equipment to send and receive sexually explicit emails.
The Omaha school board voted Saturday afternoon without discussion to accept her resignation from the job she was to start July 1.
The vote capped a rapid-fire series of developments that unfolded in less than 20 hours:
8:46 p.m. Friday: The Des Moines Register publishes an online story reporting that Sebring’s abrupt, earlier-than-scheduled departure from the Des Moines district May 10 came after she was confronted by school board members about the discovery of the explicit emails.

Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad interviewed for the Omaha position.

University Information Services with API’s

Kin Lane:

APIs are making information more accessible across many industries and sectors, but one area I haven’t seen a lot of movement, until recently, is at Universities.
Last month, Harvard openly licensed their library meta data and through a partnership with the Digital Public Library of America, made it available via APIs. But today’s story is more about APIs driving the operations side of higher ed at the University of Washington.

A Game of Inches

Matthew DiCarlo:

One of the more telling episodes in education I’ve seen over the past couple of years was a little dispute over Michelle Rhee’s testing record that flared up last year. Alan Ginsburg, a retired U.S. Department of Education official, released an informal report in which he presented the NAEP cohort changes that occurred during the first two years of Michelle Rhee’s tenure (2007-2009), and compared them with those during the superintendencies of her two predecessors.
Ginsburg concluded that the increases under Chancellor Rhee, though positive, were less rapid than in previous years (2000 to 2007 in math, 2003 to 2007 in reading). Soon thereafter, Paul Peterson, director of Harvard’s Program on Educational Leadership and Governance, published an article in Education Next that disputed Ginsburg’s findings. Peterson found that increases under Rhee amounted to roughly three scale score points per year, compared with around 1-1.5 points annually between 2000 and 2007 (the actual amounts varied by subject and grade).
Both articles were generally cautious in tone and in their conclusions about the actual causes of the testing trends. The technical details of the two reports – who’s “wrong” or “right” – are not important for this post (especially since more recent NAEP results have since been released). More interesting was how people reacted – and didn’t react – to the dueling analyses.

Why privatize education?

kelli lundgren:

Something is wrong with conservatives’ free market argument for privatization of Utah’s public schools as promoted by several Republican legislators and their ally, the corporate lobbyist American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
If a free market were truly free, by definition our society would need to completely remove education from federal and state control, including eliminating funding by taxes.
Vouchers could not be used. This, too, pools society’s money for redistribution. No, for pure competition, a family would need to use its own direct tax savings to pay for the education of each child. Conservatives may respond, “Federal and state governments still need to collect taxes, but then distribute the money for private schools of choice.”

Hold education bureaucracy accountable, or lose your right to do it

Laurie Rogers:

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.”– Ichabod Crane, in the 1999 film version of “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”-Walt Disney
Those who still think America’s public schools are focused on academics are behind the times. Money, control and influence are the priorities now. You can tell because of the battle being fought behind the scenes in our school districts over open government.
Citizens who want to know what government schools are doing with our dollars and children are finding that many in leadership don’t want us to know. As we push for information, they’re pushing back. This struggle is taking place earnestly – even fiercely. It’s also happening quietly, largely because the media aren’t much help. (Many of those whose job is to inform the public have become sycophantic defenders of the government and aggressive attackers of the people.)

NJ Report Cards Cause Consternation Re: “Real” Cost Per Pupil

New Jersey Left Behind:

The NJ DOE released the 2010-2011 School Report Cards yesterday, with a few new bells and whistles. One new feature is accurate graduation rates, previously self-reported by individual districts; another spotlights the cost per pupil when other costs – mandated preschools, out-of-district tuition, debt, transportation – are added to the mix.
(Weirdly, Trenton Public Schools is missing from the database.)
Here’s a rundown of local coverage, which is primarily focused on school costs.
NJ Spotlight (its interactive Report Card here) comments on the impact of NJ’s fiscal difficulties on school costs:

California School district earns ‘independence’ from state control

Jill Tucker:

Richmond Unified, the first school district in California to go bankrupt and require a bailout loan, made its last payment to the state Friday – four years early.
District officials, in what is now called West Contra Costa Unified, squirreled away enough money during tough economic times to pay off the $29 million loan made 21 years ago.
The final payment of $8,130,607.58 was handed over to state Superintendent Tom Torlakson at Richmond’s Ford Elementary Friday morning.
The settling of the debt ends two decades of state control over the district, which serves 30,000 students in 50 schools across five cities.
“We’re ready to pay you off and get you out of our hair,” school board President Charles Ramsey told Torlakson as he handed him the oversized check.

Why California Should Scrap the Academic Performance Index

Richard Lee Colvin:

A few years ago, the symptoms of academic failure at Audubon Middle School southwest of downtown Los Angeles were obvious. Students roamed the trash-strewn campus during class hours, unafraid of consequences. The principal was rarely around, and when he was, he almost never visited classrooms. Observations required for teacher evaluations often were not done, yet teachers still received good ratings. The faculty divided into camps. Some closed their classroom doors and did the best job they could. Others did little more than show videos, knowing it didn’t matter. The nearest Subway restaurant did a brisk business delivering sandwiches to classrooms during instructional time. “This was not a functioning school,” one teacher said. “It was sink or swim, and we were just barely keeping our heads above water.”

Dan Nerad a Semi-Finalist for the Birmingham, MI Schools Superintendent; District spends about 10% less per student than Madison

Pat Schneider:

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad made the cut Saturday to become one of two finalists for the top job at a school district in suburban Detroit, according to an online report.
Nerad was selected as a finalist for superintendent of the Birmingham Public Schools at a special Saturday session of the School Board, the Birmingham Patch reports.
He apparently made a big impression on school board members in Michigan, particularly with his handling of controversy over the race-based achievement gap in Madison schools.

Much more on Dan Nerad, here.
A few comparisons:
Birmingham’s 2011-2012 budget is $107,251,333 for “more than 8000 students”, or roughly $13,406/student. That is about 10% less than Madison’s $14,858.40/student.
Birmingham’s per capita income is $69,151, more than double Madison’s $29,782. Birmingham’s median household income is $101,529 while Madison’s is nearly half: $52,550.
Birmingham had 6 national merit semi-finalists this past year while Madison featured 41. Michigan’s 209 cut score was identical to Wisconsin’s this past year.
Madison continues to spend more per student than most American school districts.

Vouchers, Mini-Vouchers: Louisiana’s bold bid to privatize schools

Stephanie Simon:

Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools.
The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers that they can use to pay a range of private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools. The money can go to industry trade groups, businesses, online schools and tutors, among others.
Every time a student receives a voucher of either type, his local public school will lose a chunk of state funding.
“We are changing the way we deliver education,” said Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican who muscled the plan through the legislature this spring over fierce objections from Democrats and teachers unions. “We are letting parents decide what’s best for their children, not government.”

The University: Still Dead

Angus Kennedy:

In the course of tracing the changes from the religious foundations – the colleges – of the early American colonists through to the vast ‘multiversitys’ of today, Andrew Delbanco usefully draws attention to the fact that putting a big sign up on a college saying Committed to Providing Excellent Higher Education for All would probably signify that the very opposite was happening inside. He notes a grand inscription at Columbia University from the beginning of the twentieth century: ‘Erected for the Students that Religion and Learning May Go Hand in Hand and Character Grow with Knowledge.’ At the time, the buildings were actually going up for research staff, not for undergraduates, religion was ‘certainly no longer at the center of campus life’, tradition and the canon were being thrown over for the modern, and the idea that professionalised career academics should bother themselves with the moral improvement of undergraduates was quaint at best.

Chicago schools battle closely studied across country

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and Joel Hood:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s star power within the Democratic Party has put a national spotlight on the fight over the future of public schools in Chicago and attracted support from education reform groups eager to see how much change can be effected in a pro-labor city.
“The headlines from Chicago are emailed around to mayors and policymakers every morning,” said Joe Williams, head of Washington,D.C.-based Democrats for Education Reform, a group started by Wall Street hedge fund managers. “I think people want to see what’s possible, both politically and on the ground in schools and in communities.”
Democrats for Education Reform and another major education organization, Oregon-based Stand for Children, have each established themselves in Chicago and are working to build backing for Emanuel’s education agenda.

Revealed: How Banks Skim Millions From Student Aid Using Debit-Card-Linked Student IDs

Common Dreams:

Over 9 million students are at risk for increased educational debt, due to bank-affiliated campus debit cards that come with high fees, insufficient consumer protections, and few options. Financial institutions now have affinity partnerships with almost 900 campuses nationwide, grafting bank products onto student IDs and other campus cards to become the primary recipient of billions in federal financial aid to distribute to students.
“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” observed Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Advocate and report co-author. “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”
The Campus Debit Card Trap, a new report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, finds that banks and financial firms now control or influence federal financial aid disbursement to over 9 million students by linking checking accounts and prepaid debit cards to student IDs. For decades, students would receive their aid by check, without being charged any fees to access their student aid. Now, students end up paying big fees on their student aid, including per-swipe fees of $0.50, inactivity fees of $10 or more after 6 months, overdraft fees of up to $38 and plenty more. Financial institutions aggressively market or default students into their bank accounts to maximize these fees.

School choice helps with entrepreneurship

Jonathan Moules:

The privilege bestowed on pupils from independent and grammar schools extends to greater links with business founders and lessons about what it means to be an entrepreneur, a report claims.
The study of 1,002 young people by The Pearson Think Tank, funded by Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, and the Education and Employers Taskforce found that those studying at grammar and independent schools were twice as likely to have been involved in a long-term entrepreneurship competition than their peers in non-selective state schools.

Student-Loan Debt Rises 8% to $904 Billion

Josh Mitchell:

Americans are stepping up borrowing to pay for college while they cut other debt as a weak job market contributes to increased college enrollment, new Federal Reserve Bank of New York data show.
Americans owed $904 billion in student loans at the end of March, nearly 8% higher than a year ago, the New York Fed said Thursday in its quarterly report on consumer credit. That is more than the $679 billion on their credit cards at the end of the first quarter.
The New York Fed estimates of student debt are slightly lower than the the more than $1 trillion figure cited earlier this year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The New York Fed’s estimate is based on a sampling of consumer-credit-agency accounts; the CFPB estimate is based on government data and a survey of private lenders.

The National History Club

Robert L. Nasson, via a kind email:

The National History Club (NHC) was formed in March 2002 to promote the reading, writing, discussion, and enjoyment of history among secondary students and their teachers by giving after school history clubs around the country a clearinghouse to share history-related activities and information with each other. We now have 445 chapters in 43 states and there are over 13,000 students involved. Each chapter sets its own course, and this has led to a wide array of activities that include: Veterans Day ceremonies involving local veterans, participation in National History Day, historic preservation outreach in their communities, and trips to such historic sites as the 16th Street Baptist Church, Valley Forge, and the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site.
This makes the organization unique. By encouraging students to take charge of the direction of their clubs, the NHC uses a bottom-up approach, where students passionate about history are doing the history activities they choose. Rather than a traditional top-down method, which often leads to apathetic students, the NHC has given an ownership stake to every chapter that has joined the organization.
History is the only topic taught in every secondary school that can engage students in learning from past to achieve understanding of, and tackling human problems in, the world today. In history there is truly something for everyone. History is political, artistic, social, economic, military, athletic, scientific, cultural, religious, technological, literary, philosophical, geographic, ethnic, and mathematical. History can be as contemporary as yesterday and as ancient as Mesopotamia, as near as the city one lives in and as far away as Andromeda. History can be seen and touched, read and written, made and remembered. Everyone is a part of history.
More importantly, the study of history builds the critical skills students need to become responsible citizens and effective leaders. Researching and discovering new information, as well as reading, synthesizing, and communicating that information effectively: these are the skills that help make someone successful in business, in civic life, and even in science.
We produce a tri-annual Newsletter that features chapter accounts from throughout the country, and run a number of award programs with various history organizations such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and The History Channel. Chapters are frequently sharing ideas and activities with each other, and this leads to an active and involved membership. Through this interaction, students and Advisors see that they are not alone in their passion for the study of history, and this encourages more schools to join.
The work of the NHC is as important as ever considering the deteriorating history standards in our schools. A 2010 Civics Assessment administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress displayed the lack of understanding of civics among students in our secondary schools. Among some of the key findings:
Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights.
Only one in 10 eighth graders demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
Three-quarters of high school seniors were unable to name a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.
While there are many people and organizations now complaining about the historical illiteracy of the younger generation, we are one of the few actually doing something about it. The NHC has a sustainable model in place, and we are constantly adding chapters in schools from big cities and rural towns to our community. We want students, teachers, and schools that have a passion for history to join our movement. To view our latest Newsletter or to find out how to create a chapter and join the NHC please visit
Robert L. Nasson
Executive Director,
National History Club
P.O. Box 441812
Somerville, MA 02144

Local voucher school’s teachers go months without pay

Lindsay Fiori:

A local voucher school has not paid teachers in months and has lost nearly two-thirds of its students, staff said Wednesday.
St. John Fisher Academy, a private high school that opened in Racine last fall using state voucher money, has reportedly not paid staff members since March and has seen student enrollment dwindle from about 50 children to only 26, according to teachers who filed complaints this month with the state Department of Workforce Development.
Teachers have continued to show up for work each day despite going without pay from mid-December to February and from March to now, they said.

Sal Khan’s ‘Academy’ sparks a tech revolution in education

Marco R. della Cava:

It’s not much past 9 a.m., and Khan, 36, founder of the online educational non-profit Khan Academy, gets set to record his 3,081st video lecture in a small office with a view of air conditioning ducts.
“In 1997, you see, there was a devaluation of the Thai currency,” Khan says into a beefy microphone as he makes crude sketches on his monitor.
If you want gleaming high-tech, go down the road to Google’s campus. If you’re looking for a revolution, this is the right address.
Ever since quitting his job as a successful hedge-fund analyst two years ago to dedicate himself full time to this labor of love, Khan has managed to win fans worldwide and goad skeptical educators.

Measuring Teacher Effectiveness


Research and experience make this clear: Great teachers change lives. They inspire and motivate students, and set them on a path for future success. By contrast, just one underperforming teacher can have a lasting negative impact on a student.
Given this reality, significant time and attention has rightly been focused on ensuring that all children have outstanding teachers at the front of their classrooms. This includes improving how teacher performance is evaluated and using evaluations to guide a range of decisions about prepration, recruitment, training, assignment, salary, tenure and dismissal.
As states, districts and school systems across the nation work towards effective teacher evaluation systems, they must tackle difficult questions about design and implementation. This research report aims to help by offering a detailed look at the key components of 10 teacher evaluation models

Candidates — and endorsements — in Oakland school board races

Katy Murphy:

Great Oakland Public Schools, a school reform-minded coalition of families and school employees supported by the Rogers Family Foundation and other groups, has become increasingly involved in Oakland school district policy since its founding a few years ago. Now, for the first time, its board of directors has endorsed school board candidates in the November election, through this process.
GO Public Schools announced today that it had endorsed two of the four candidates for District 3 (West Oakland): incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challenger Sheilagh Polk. The organization is also backing one of its founding members, James Harris, who is challenging incumbent Alice Spearman for the District 7 seat (East Oakland-Elmhurst).

A Tale of Five Cities

Neerav Kingsland:

A devastating natural disaster destroys one of the nation’s most under-performing school districts. Leaders of state takeover agency (Recovery School District, or RSD) focus energy on human capital, charter school development, and autonomous district schools. National philanthropy invests heavily. Entrepreneurial educators head south. Five years in, the RSD’s third superintendent announces he will charter all schools and develop the nation’s first charter school district. His successor, the fourth superintendent in six years and a former New Orleans teacher, commits to continuing down this path. Charter school and human capital efforts continue with full force. Test scores are up but there is still a long way to go. No plans exist for long-term governance of system.

When to Pursue Governance Reform

Mike Ford:

Governance reform is a seductive idea because it is usually presented as a silver bullet for addressing a policy problem. For example, if the elected school board does not provide students with an adequate education, let’s replace it with one that will.
If only it was that simple. The inconvenient fact is that a school board does not educate pupils, teachers do. A school board governance change alone will not turn Milwaukee schools around.
The same is true for other local governments. The actual delivery of services is performed by street level bureaucrats that go about their duties regardless of who happens to be in charge of the City or County.
But this does not mean governance is irrelevant. Governance, whether it is the setting of specific policies or merely the setting of an organizational culture, can be the difference between creating an environment where an organization can thrive, or one where mediocrity is the ceiling.

Preschool: The Littlest Job-Readiness Program?

Chana R. Schoenberger:

Can finger-painting, cup-stacking and learning to share set you up for a stellar career?
Research says yes, according to Dr. Celia Ayala, chief executive officer of Los Angeles Universal Preschool, a nonprofit that funds 325 schools in Los Angeles County, Calif., using money from tobacco taxes.
“When they enter kindergarten ready to thrive with all the social, emotional and cognitive skills, they perform at grade level or above,” she said. “When they don’t, that’s where that achievement gap starts.”
Kids without that early boost have been shown to be more likely to get special-needs services, be held back a grade or two, get in trouble with the law and become teen parents. Preschool alumni have a better chance, she said.
“Those who go to preschool will go on to university, will have a graduate education, and their income level will radically improve,” she said.

Madison School District Strategic Plan Update

Madison School District 600K PDF:.
I recently attended the third annual update to the 2009 Madison School District Strategic Plan. You can follow the process via these notes and links.
I thought it might be useful to share a few observations on our local public schools during this process:

  • General public interest in the schools continues to be the exception, rather than the norm.
  • I sense that the District is more open to discussing substantive issues such as reading, math and overall achievement during the past few years. However, it does not appear to have translated into the required tough decision making regarding non-performing programs and curriculum.
  • MTI President Kerry Motoviloff recent statement that the District administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”.
  • Full teacher Infinite Campus use remains a goal, despite spending millions of dollars, money which could have gone elsewhere given the limited implementation. Unfortunately, this is a huge missed opportunity. Complete course syllabus, assignment and gradebook information would be a powerful tool when evaluating achievement issues.
  • The implementation of “standards based report cards” further derailed the Infinite Campus spending/implementation. This is an example of spending money (and time – consider the opportunity cost) on programs that are actually in conflict.
  • The District continues to use the oft criticized and very low benchmark WKCE as their measure. This, despite starting to use the MAP exam this year. Nearby Monona Grove has been using MAP for some time.
  • Three Madison School Board members attended: Mary Burke, James Howard and Ed Hughes.
  • UW-Madison school of Education dean Julie Underwood attended and asked, to my astonishment, (paraphrased) how the District’s various diversity programs were benefiting kids (and achievement)?

The only effective way forward, in my view, is to simplify the District’s core mission to reading, english and math. This means eliminating programs and focusing on the essentials. That will be a difficult change for the organization, but I don’t see how adding programs to the current pile benefits anyone. It will cost more and do less.
Less than 24 hours after I attended the MMSD’s Strategic Plan update, I, through a variety of circumstances, visited one of Milwaukee’s highest performing private/voucher schools, a school with more than 90% low income students. The petri dish that is Milwaukee will produce a far more robust and effective set of schools over the next few decades than the present monolithic approach favored here. More about that visit, soon.

Higher Education’s Online Revolution

John Chubb & Terry Moe:

The substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-caliber education.
At the recent news conference announcing edX, a $60 million Harvard-MIT partnership in online education, university leaders spoke of reaching millions of new students in India, China and around the globe. They talked of the “revolutionary” potential of online learning, hailing it as the “single biggest change in education since the printing press.”
Heady talk indeed, but they are right. The nation, and the world, are in the early stages of a historic transformation in how students learn, teachers teach, and schools and school systems are organized.
These same university leaders mentioned the limits of edX itself. Its online courses would not lead to Harvard or MIT degrees, they noted, and were no substitute for the centuries-old residential education of their hallowed institutions. They also acknowledged that the initiative, which offers free online courses prepared by some of the nation’s top professors, is paid for by university funds–and that there is no revenue stream and no business plan to sustain it.

We Should Only Hold Schools Accountable For Outcomes They Can Control

Matthew DiCarlo:

Let’s say we were trying to evaluate a teacher’s performance for this academic year, and part of that evaluation would use students’ test scores (if you object to using test scores this way, put that aside for a moment). We checked the data and reached two conclusions. First, we found that her students made fantastic progress this year. Second, we also saw that the students’ scores were still quite a bit lower than their peers’ in the district. Which measure should we use to evaluate this teacher?
Would we consider judging her even partially based on the latter – students’ average scores? Of course not. Those students made huge progress, and the only reason their absolute performance levels are relatively low is because they were low at the beginning of the year. This teacher could not control the fact that she was assigned lower-scoring students. All she can do is make sure that they improve. That’s why no teacher evaluation system places any importance on students’ absolute performance, instead focusing on growth (and, of course, non-test measures). In fact, growth models control for absolute performance (prior year’s test scores) so it doesn’t bias the results.
If we would never judge teachers based on absolute performance, why are we judging schools that way? Why does virtually every school/district rating system place some emphasis – often the primary emphasis – on absolute performance?

What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out With an iPad

Ben Worthen:

More than half of the young children in the U.S. now have access to an iPad, iPhone or similar touch-screen device. For parents, their children’s love of these devices raises a lot of questions.
Kids for years have sat too close to the television for too long or played hours of Madden on family room game players. But pediatric neuroscientists and researchers who have studied the effects of screen-time on children suggest the iPad is a different beast.
A young child will look away from a TV screen 150 times an hour, says Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. His studies over the past 30 years also showed children have trouble knowing where on a TV screen to look.

A different class: the UK expansion of Steiner schools

Jeevan Vasgar:

The number of Steiner schools is set to expand, thanks to state funding via the coalition’s ‘free schools’ policy. Their alternative approach is appealing, but do they offer a rounded education?
The school run resembles the exodus from a festival. There are vans with hippyish bumper stickers – Homeopathy Heals, says one – bouncing down a track to the sprawling car park, where women in ponchos hug their babies and chat.
Inside the Steiner Academy Hereford, which occupies a renovated Victorian school and converted farm buildings in the village of Much Dewchurch, it’s a picture of pastoral charm. There’s a babbling water feature in a courtyard lined with potted shrubs, and a pleasingly old-fashioned wooden staircase leading up to classrooms.
The kindergarten is just that – a triangular garden fringed with pine, apple and cherry trees laden with blossom where children in woolly hats sit on the ground making mud pies.

Wisconsin DPI Mathematics Education Videos

Wisconsin DPI Connected email:

Wisconsin’s alignment of Teaching Channel videos to new mathematics standards is so useful it’s being recommended on the national level.
For each of the eight skills of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice, the creators of DPI’s Mathematical Literacy website found at least one video to help teachers visualize how to address it in their classrooms.
Wisconsin’s site was created by Diana Kasbaum, the DPI’s mathematics education consultant, along with Jackie Herrmann and Becky Walker of the Appleton Area School District and Jeff Ziegler of the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Council for Chief State School Officers recommended the site in a nationwide email to help educators implement the Common Core.
The website simultaneously addresses the Common Core State Standards requirement of Disciplinary Literacy—the idea that students need subject area educators to teach them ways to read, write, think, listen, and speak that are specific to those fields. In mathematics, a team of Wisconsin educators found that the Mathematical Practice standards effectively address disciplinary literacy as well.

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district’s ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap — Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year.
And then there are the maintenance needs. “It’s HVAC systems, it’s roofs, it’s asphalt on parking lots,” Nerad says. “It’s all those things that don’t necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they’re safe for children.”
He pauses, and adds, “My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now.”
Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker’s campaign against teacher rights.


California vs. Other States

California Budget Challenge:

How does California’s budget compare to other states? California represents the ninth-largest economy in the world and its 38 million residents give it the largest population in the United States. California is not alone in its fiscal challenges.It was reported that for the 2012 fiscal year, 42 states and the District of Columbia will have a combined $103 billion shortfall. States that do not anticipate a budget shortfall include Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming (according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). California’s projected deficit of $9.2 billion represents 10 percent of its total General Fund budget of $92.6 billion.
According to the Tax Foundation, California’s total state and local tax burden in 2009 ranks 6th, at a rate of 10.6% of per capita income compared to the national average of 9.8%. According to the California Budget Project, we ranked 10th in 2007-08 for total state and local taxes. According to the California Department of Finance, the state ranks 19th in state and local taxes and fees, at $16.42 per $100 of personal income.

Using Value-Added Analysis to Raise Student Achievement in Wisconsin

Sarah Archibald & Mike Ford:

Past attempts to improve student assessment in Wisconsin provide reasons to view current efforts with caution. The promise of additional funds, the political cover of broad committees, and the satisfaction of setting less-than ambitious goals have too often led to student assessment policies that provide little meaningful information to parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers. A state assessment system should provide meaningful information to all of these groups.
Data on student progress can make the work of teachers, students, parents, administrators and policymakers more effective. It can ensure that during the course of the school year, students make progress toward their own growth targets and those who do not are flagged and interventions are done to get those students back on track. It should not come as a surprise that to have meaningful, timely data, one must administer meaningful, timely tests, and Wisconsin is falling short in this department in a number of ways.
School-level value-added analyses of student test scores are already being calculated for all schools with third- to eighth-graders statewide by a respected institution right here in Wisconsin. This information should be used by schools and districts to raise school and teacher productivity. We should continue to explore the use of value-added at the classroom level, a necessary step to implementing the new teacher-evaluation system proposed by the DPI that is statutorily required for implementation in 2014-’15.


Schoolboy ‘genius’ solves puzzles posed by Sir Isaac Newton that have baffled mathematicians for 350 years

Jill Reilly:

A 16-year-old has managed to crack puzzles which have baffled the world of maths for more than 350 years.
Shouryya Ray has been hailed a genius after working out the problems set by Sir Isaac Newton.
The schoolboy, from Dresden, Germany, solved two fundamental particle dynamics theories which physicists have previously been able to calculate only by using powerful computers.
His solutions mean that scientists can now calculate the flight path of a thrown ball and then predict how it will hit and bounce off a wall.
Shouryya only came across the problems during a school trip to Dresden University where professors claimed they were uncrackable.
‘I just asked myself, ‘Why not?’,’ explained Shouryya.

Schools with many APs but few passing

Jay Matthews:

In the 30 years I have been studying the growth of Advanced Placement and other college-level courses in American high schools, no development has been more surprising or controversial than what I call the “Catching Up Schools.”
That is my label for about three dozen schools across the country in low-income neighborhoods that offer an unusual number of AP classes despite the fact that very few of their students are able to pass the difficult three-hour final exams.
Each year, I rate local and national high schools based on AP test participation. My latest rankings appeared this week. In 2008, I removed schools from the main lists of what we call the “High School Challenge” if their passing rates were below 10 percent. I put them on a separate “Catching Up” list. I calculated that once a school with high participation rates reached a 10 percent passing rate, it was producing as many successful AP students as a school with average participation and passing rates.

On School Choice

Jeanne Allen:

Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools” (front page, May 22) doesn’t mention facts and data showing that more choices in education lead to increased student achievement without doing harm to traditional public schools.
School choice programs increase student achievement and graduation rates, while costing only one-quarter of the money per child that conventional public schools do. Scholarships and tax-credit programs stimulate healthy competition that yields dramatic improvement in achievement among students of every income level.
Contrary to the article, choice programs are embraced by the largest and most diverse coalition in recent history — a coalition that includes Republican and Democratic legislators, civil rights leaders, business leaders, local officials and educators. Most important, it includes parents who want and deserve the power to choose the best school for their child.
Center for Education Reform
Washington, May 24, 2012

For-Profit Private School Is Calling Its Own Shots

Jenny Anderson:

Here are a few of the ways that Ronald P. Stewart, co-founder and headmaster of the York Preparatory School, thinks his school is different from other New York City private schools:
It has no board of directors (“why would I hire someone who could fire me?”). It accepts more than half the students who apply (“we do not seek to be the most exclusive school in Manhattan”). And after York takes $36,000 or more from parents each year, Mr. Stewart has no qualms about telling them to back off. “The student is our client,” he says.
Even the school’s origin is evidence that it is a different species. While many schools have century-old histories that began with educational or religious visionaries, Mr. Stewart, a British barrister who once defended Charles Kray, an infamous London mobster, founded the school with his wife because they wanted to work together and have their summers free to spend at a camp in Maine.

Houston Community College Helps Expand Educational Options in Qatar

Reeve Hamilton:

Ahmed Mohamed al-Hassan hit an educational glass ceiling. He needed a higher-education degree to move up the ladder at Aspire Logistics, the company that manages Doha’s massive sports complex. Although he had graduated from high school a decade before, his grade-point average was too low to enroll at Qatar University.
“There were no options,” said Mr. Hassan, 31. “If I wanted to study, I would have to leave my job.”
That changed in September 2010, however, when Qatar partnered with Houston Community College and opened the Community College of Qatar, the country’s first such college. Now, Mr. Hassan is the first in his family to go to college, mostly taking night classes as he continues to work full time.

How to count student ‘leavers’ troubles state, school districts

Jennifer Radcliffe and Silvia Struthers:

Officially, 817 Hispanic students in HISD’s class of 2010 dropped out of high school.
That’s one in every nine Hispanic students in the Houston Independent School District, but it’s a figure experts say doesn’t begin to shed light on the actual number of Latinos who fail to graduate, often hampering their futures and burdening the city.
More than 1,400 other Hispanic students disappeared from class under the auspice of enrolling in private school, starting home school or leaving the state or country.
A stunning 8 percent of all Hispanic students in the class are listed as having returned to their “home country,” according to state records.

Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Solidarity Newsletter by Madison Teachers, Inc. (PDF):

MTI President Kerry Motoviloff addressed the Board of Education at its May 21 general meeting. At issue is the District’s plan to introduce more new programs into elementary teachers’ literacy curriculum, including Mondo and 3 new assessments. At the same time, elementary teachers are being told that they will be losing release days for the administration of K-2 testing.
Motoviloff listed more than 13 current K-5 assessments, explaining to Board members that each assessment comes with a set of non-comparable data or scores. She noted that the District has introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009.
Motoviloff stressed that all teachers are concerned about the achievement gap, and that the District needs to walk its own talk relative to ensuring fidelity in the curriculum process. She challenged the District to prioritize essentials, instead of swamping teachers with initiatives while reducing teachers’ time to implement the curriculum with fidelity, and emphasized the need to include time not only for assessments, but also time for teachers to analyze and plan. She also urged the District to stop pitting professional development against planning/prep time.


I’ve long suggested that the District should get out of the curriculum/program creation business and focus on hiring the best teachers. Like it or not, Oconomowoc is changing the game by focusing efforts and increasing teacher pay. Madison, given our high per student spending and incredible community and academic resources, should be delivering world class results for all students.
I don’t see how more than 18 programs and initiatives can be implemented successfully in just a few years. I’m glad MTI President Kerry Motoviloff raised this important issue. Will the proposed “achievement gap plan” add, replace or eliminate programs and spending?
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Madison tenure, which began in 2008, appears to be quickly coming to an end.

US High School Challenge Rankings, Some Private Schools Included

Jay Matthews:

I always say “please” and “thank you.” I tip at least 20 percent. I never abuse editors or waiters. Many people have told me that I am a nice guy.
So why do so many private schools these days treat me like a loathsome intruder? They don’t actually say they wish I would drop dead, but it is clear that they don’t want to hear from me. I am asking them for information — how many graduates and Advanced Placement tests they had last year — that they consider none of my business. Thousands of public schools have provided the same data to me for the past 14 years.
For the first time, I am including a sampling of private schools in my annual high school rankings, just posted. Most people think the main difference between public and private schools is that the latter charge tuition, sometimes exceeding $30,000 a year. That’s true, but there is also a great gap in accountability to the public — particularly for parents trying to find the best school for their children — because most private schools withhold vital data about their academic programs.

Wisconsin Schools that were included on the list can be found here.
Middleton (1285) and Memorial (1385) were the only two Madison area high schools to make the list. Both were far, far down the roster.

Education Lite

When I read about education in Finland, where they accept only one of every ten applicants for teacher training, require those to earn a master’s degree in a (content) subject area, and then support them and trust them to do professional work, I have to agree with Diane Ravitch that our practices–of accepting anyone into teacher training, putting them through several years of edubabble on pedagogicalisticalism, and then treat them like untrustworthy assembly line workers whose jobs hang on each year’s student scores on bad tests–are mistaken.
We do mistrust and mistreat the teachers we have, and we have lost sight, in the race to the bottom of “objective” tests, of some very simple facts, such as that classes usually differ in their performance from year to year, even with the same teacher, and that students bear the main responsibility for their own learning.
Our teachers have responded to this dismal situation, on many occasions, by saying that the current punch-card, standardized regimens for curriculum and “assessment” (if you want to dignify it with that label) are limiting the time and opportunity for them to exercise their creativity in teaching.
Now, who, other than Samuel Johnson, who wrote that “The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight a-while, by that novelty of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest, but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted…,” could be against creativity in teaching?
The question for me, however, is how do so many seem to want to apply that creativity? Too often, in my view, it is in the service of FUN, and “hands-on” (and brains-off?) activities to entertain students in an age-appropriate and “relevant” way, to make everyone feel good about themselves, no matter how little they know and how little academic competence they have achieved.
The Chief Academic Officer of a major educational publisher recently spoke in an interview about all the Summer reading activities that could help students lose less knowledge and skill in that gap. But the emphasis, along with using a stopwatch to keep track of “reading minutes” (shades of industrial management practice), was on digital games to provide FUN. has a regular feature of suggested activities for high school students, and for some reason, they never suggest that students read a complete nonfiction book or work on a long serious history research paper, as some of their more diligent peers are doing. Instead, they recommend group games which they hope will provide, above all, relevance to teen lives, and, of course, FUN.
For comparison, think about the approach taken by high school coaches with their athletes. It is true that sometimes they urge their athletes to “have fun out there,” but it is always after hundreds of hours of grueling and un-fun training and practices. They may want their players to be “loose” and upbeat, but they mostly want them to know what they are doing and to be as competent as possible at doing it. One local sports shop where I live sells sweatshirts for high school athletes, which say “Work all Summer, Win all Fall!” And it means training work-outs, not summer employment.
I am not sure where our educators’ obsession with FUN comes from. Where went the old view that “hard work never hurt anyone”? Is it the result of laying aside the time-honored authority and role of “The Old Battleaxe,” who represented to students the goals and hopes of the community, and whose academic expectations and standards were not only high, but remembered for years after graduation, usually with profound gratitude? Perhaps too many now seek to be a good friend to students instead? They should try to remember that friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and they don’t put FUN before a teacher’s job to take academic work seriously practically all the time.
The sad thing is that usually Education Lite, with its digital games, etc. turns out not to be much FUN, and, in the end, students really do want to grow up and gain a good deal of knowledge and competence, in academics as well as in sports.
If educators labor to keep it Lite, they will rightfully earn, not the friendship of their students, but their contempt, for laying down their responsibilities, and they lose the respect of the community, as well. In Finland, a Lower Education teacher is held in high regard by the society, just a bit behind that for doctors. In the United States, it is otherwise. Where I taught, in Concord, Massachusetts, it was quite clear that while parents and others in the town thought “the world” of their teachers, they would definitely not want their son or daughter to be one, or to marry one.
Keep in mind the Disney version of Pinocchio, where he is led off to a place where he could have nothing but FUN, and was turned into a jackass. It would be nice if our teachers used their creativity on serious academic work with students, and let somebody else do the “friendly and FUN” work of turning our students into jackasses.

Are charter schools bad at special ed?

Jay Matthews:

Critics say public charter schools have an unfair advantage over regular public schools because they are less likely to have students with learning disabilities. That is not always true. Consider one D.C. charter management organization, DC Prep, with more than 1,000 students.
Its Edgewood Middle Campus, a fourth-through-eighth-grade middle school, has a larger portion of special education students than the District’s average. Seventeen percent receive services and are showing progress.
I do not mean to disparage regular D.C. schoolteachers who are doing special education work. I have seen enough programs for students with learning disabilities to know that fine work can be found at schools otherwise labeled as failing because of their low test averages.
Emily Lawson, founder and chief executive officer of DC Prep, describes her school’s methods this way:

Hard Lessons Follow Rocky Start For Chicago Teacher


Tyrese Graham is a second-year science teacher at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on the West Side of Chicago. When he started teaching there, Marshall was among the worst public schools in the city.
When Graham walked into his first class, he could hardly speak over the noise of the students. He tried to make a point by not talking.
“I’ll let you finish, but realize, every moment that I’m not talking and providing you instruction, you guys will be giving that back to me,” he told them.

College Goes to High School

Donna St. George:

They reflect a growing interest in many areas of the country to go beyond work that is college-level and try college itself.
At their school, Gaithersburg High, that’s easier to do than at most places, with eight courses taught this spring by professors in the same classrooms where students take high school English and algebra. More than a third of the class of 2012 has taken at least one college course. “It’s a boost of confidence when they say, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ ” said Principal Christine Handy-Collins.
Early college opportunities are often overshadowed by the immense popularity of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, which teach college-level material and can lead to college credit when students test well on exams. But college courses in high school are on the rise in many states, said Adam Lowe of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

Calif. schools expand lessons via computer

Christina Hoag:

Math is so popular at Ritter Elementary School in Watts that kids arrive before the morning bell and line up to do extra work before class, but it’s not the subject that’s the real attraction as much as the method–computers.
“It’s a lot more fun this way,” said 8-year-old Erica Quezada, fitting colorful cubes into a shape on her screen as another third-grader leans over to point out another way she can solve the problem.
Stand-and-deliver is increasingly giving way to point-and-click in schools across California and elsewhere as computers are being used to supplement, and in some approaches, supplant textbooks and teachers.
Known as “blended learning,” the concept has been particularly embraced by charter and independently run schools as a way to boost student achievement quickly at time when dwindling state dollars are resulting in larger class sizes and fewer programs. But it’s also generated some controversy as critics see it as a ploy to reduce teachers.

Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities

The figure above shows the average undergraduate GPAs for American colleges and universities from 1991-2006 based on data from: Alabama, Appalachian State, Auburn, Brown, Bucknell, Carleton, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Centre, Colorado, Colorado State, Columbia, Cornell, CSU-Fullerton, CSU-Sacramento, CSU-San Bernardino, Dartmouth, Duke, Elon, Florida, Furman, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Georgia, Hampden-Sydney, Harvard, Harvey Mudd, Hope, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Kent State, Kenyon, Knox, Messiah, Michigan, Middlebury, Nebraska-Kearney, North Carolina State, North Carolina-Asheville, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina-Greensboro, Northern Iowa, Northern Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Pomona, Princeton, Purdue, Roanoke, Rutgers, Southern Illinois, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas State, UC-Berkeley, UC-Irvine, UCLA, UC-Santa Barbara, Utah, UW-Oshkosh, Virginia, Washington State, Washington-Seattle, Western Washington, Wheaton (IL), William & Mary, Winthrop, Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Wisconsin-Madison. Note that inclusion in the average does not imply that an institution has significant inflation. Data on the GPAs for each institution can be found at the bottom of this web page. Institutions comprising this average were chosen strictly because they have either published their data or have sent their data to the author on GPA trends over the last 11-16 years.

Mark Perry has more.

Retiring Madison Principal Colleen Lodholz says schools can’t do it alone

Todd Finkelmeyer:

After spending more than three decades working within the Madison Metropolitan School District, Colleen Lodholz is retiring next month.
Lodholz, who came to Madison 31 years ago and started her career as a speech and language clinician in special education, has served as principal of Sennett Middle School for the past nine years. In between she worked as a program support teacher in special education, picked up a second master’s degree and was an assistant principal at La Follette High School.
Before Lodholz, who is a native of Antigo, Wis., wraps up her career, she sat down with the Cap Times to share her thoughts on Madison schools, the achievement gap and political upheaval in the state, among other topics. Following is an edited transcript:
The Capital Times: What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the Madison schools over the past 30 years?

Washington Charter School “Plan A”

Charlie Mas:

Okay, let’s suppose – for the moment – that the money behind the charter school initiative is successful at both getting it on the ballot and getting it passed. So now Washington State has a charter school law as outlined in this document. I really encourage folks to read this document and learn what the new rules may soon be. You’d be surprised what strategies present themselves once you know the rules. If you know how to look for them, you’ll see some holes in this proposal that create opportunities to subvert the whole deal.
I don’t know if the Washington State Charter School Initiative provides much accountability, but it sure does have a lot of process. First there are authorizers. The Authorizers are the folks who can review and approve applications for the creation of charter schools and then must provide those schools with oversight. They get 4% of the school’s operating budget for these services. The law creates a new state commission which will be an authorizer. School districts, if they want to participate in their own destruction, can apply to the commission to also be authorizers.

Paul Vallas Madison Talk Notes

About 100 parents of Madison schoolchildren looked toward a longtime superintendent on Saturday for answers on how to fix the achievement gap plaguing the district.
Paul Vallas, the superintendent of the Bridgeport, Conn., school district, previously led New Orleans schools during the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County brought him to La Follette High School to help answer questions about the shortcomings of Madison schools.
Parents asked questions on several topics, but mostly focused on the minority achievement gap.
“They want perfection, and the achievement gap is that one big hurdle that they’re struggling to get over,” Vallas said in an interview after the two-and-a-half hour town hall. “This is a community that cares and sometimes when people care strong enough and have different viewpoints they have a tendency to shout at each other.”

High Ed Opportunity is Bigger Than Facebook

Robert Tracinski:

That’s what is just beginning to happen. It all became official when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology appointed as its new president the guy who is responsible for MITx, the school’s free online education program.
What makes MITx so interesting is that it isn’t just a bunch of lectures posted online. It also includes discussion groups and coursework and a certification program for completion of the work. My first thought when they launched MITx was that it’s a little unclear how such a “certificate” differs from a “degree.” In turn, that raises questions about how universities are going to be able to keep on jacking up their tuition every year and expecting that students go $100,000 in debt, when so much top-quality education is becoming available for free.
The article notes that the new president’s main job will be to raise money: “Left unspoken were the unquestionable expectations for Mr. Reif as a powerhouse fund raiser. MIT raised $3 billion over the course of Ms. Hockfield’s presidency, and the university is preparing to embark on a new capital campaign.” Well, that’s one potentially viable new business model: raise billions in donations so that you can use the Internet to offer a top-quality education to a huge number of people for free.

Students scrambling to enter the world’s elite universities are turning to coaching centres for extra help, but some educators question the tactic

Elaine Yau:

Many parents hope to give their children Ivy League or Oxbridge educations. For some, such as Karen Leung, nothing else would do. A chartered accountant, Leung was far more upset than her son was when his teachers at Island School said that his academic record didn’t look strong enough to get him admitted into the law faculty at Oxford. Her son’s grades were just above average, and they had to be top-notch to get him in.
“I lost 5kg,” she says.
However, Leung refused to give up and enrolled her son in Arch Academy, a coaching centre that helps students get into top colleges in the US and Britain. She paid HK$15,000 to enrol him in a 10-session programme covering topics such as how to write a personal statement to go with his university application. It was money well spent: last year her son won a full scholarship to study law at Oxford.

Schools may be killing dialect

Simon Parry:

Education officials have been urged to review their policy of using Putonghua to teach Chinese language and literacy in Hong Kong, amid fears that Cantonese is becoming marginalised and is at risk of dying out within generations.
More than 160 of the city’s 1,025 government primary and secondary schools are using Putonghua in Chinese language lessons after a government policy encouraging a switch was introduced in 2003. Before that Cantonese had been used.

Are we asking the right questions?

Leon Neyfakh, via a kind reader’s email:

On a recent Friday morning, a classroom of teenagers at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School broke up into small groups and spent an hour not answering questions about Albert Camus’s “The Plague.” It wasn’t that the students were shy, or bored, or that they hadn’t done the reading. They were following instructions: Ask as many questions as they could, and answer none of them.
The kids wrote in rapid fire on sheets of butcher paper. “Why is everyone acting normal when people are dropping dead?” “Are the doctors aware of this great danger?” “Is there any benefit from the plague? Will it help anyone change or grow?” By the end of the exercise, the class had generated more than 100 questions and exactly zero answers.

For Would-Be Cougars, the Prom Is a Good Start

Jennifer Conlin:

RECENTLY, as I heard my daughter, a junior in high school, and her friends discuss their plans for the prom, I had a vaguely troubling thought: can a 16-year-old be a cougar?
Her best friends wanted to take boys younger than themselves (much younger … two entire grades younger) to the prom. And one of those boys just happened to be my ninth-grade son.
Back in my prom days (when the big slow dance was still “Stairway to Heaven”), I went with a boy who was not just taller than me, but older as well. O.K., I was only a few months younger than him, but that still mattered to my friends and me. We would never have even considered venturing out to the prom, let alone the school parking lot, with a boy in a lower grade, unless we were baby-sitting him.

Ending Tenure Could Alter Education Landscape in California

Stephen Frank:

What is the lawsuit filed by students against LAUSD and its policy to fire based on seniority, not quality is won?
“According to Troy Senik in the Los Angeles Times,
… teachers in California — even terrible ones — are virtually never fired. A tiny 0.03% of California teachers are dismissed after three or more years on the job. In the last decade, the L.A. Unified School District, home to 33,000 teachers, has fired only four. Even when teachers are fired, it’s seldom because of their classroom performance: A 2009 expose by this newspaper found that only 20% of successful dismissals in the state had anything to do with teaching ability. Most involved teachers behaving either obscenely or criminally.”
In LAUSD it will cost up to a million dollars to fire a teacher charged with being a pervert. Dozens of teacher for years sit in a “rubber room” at district HQ reading newspapers, playing computer games and getting full pay and benefits.

Candidate Should Get Out and Stay Out, Democratic Official Says – No Room for Dissent on Charter Schools

Erik Smith:

Apparently not even President Barack Obama could run as a Democrat in Washington’s 1st Legislative District. In a blistering email to a candidate who filed as a Democrat in a suburban King County district, Nicholas Carlson, chairman of the 1st District Democrats, says no one who supports charter schools can ever consider himself a true Democrat. And he tells candidate Guy Palumbo to get out and stay out.
“I demand you cease campaigning as a Democrat immediately,” he says.
It’s the kind of email that might make you wonder how much room there is for dissent within Democratic party ranks – at least in the area surrounding Seattle, where the party is strongest. A copy of the email, obtained by Washington State Wire, is presented in full below.

Teacher unions fight to keep clout with Democrats

Stephanie Simon:

“Education reform is really a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” said Derrell Bradford, who runs a political group in New Jersey that recently helped elect two union-defying Democrats to the state legislature.
The reform movement’s goals include shutting down low-performing public schools; weakening or eliminating teacher tenure; and expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but often run by private-sector managers, some of them for-profit companies.
Wealthy Democrats have joined Republicans in pouring millions into political campaigns, lobbying and community organizing to try to advance these goals nationwide. They can count on their side several influential Democratic mayors, including Newark’s Cory Booker and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel.

The Worst Union in America: How the California Teachers Association betrayed the schools and crippled the state

Troy Senik, via a kind reader’s email:

In 1962, as tensions ran high between school districts and unions across the country, members of the National Education Association gathered in Denver for the organization’s 100th annual convention. Among the speakers was Arthur F. Corey, executive director of the California Teachers Association (CTA). “The strike as a weapon for teachers is inappropriate, unprofessional, illegal, outmoded, and ineffective,” Corey told the crowd. “You can’t go out on an illegal strike one day and expect to go back to your classroom and teach good citizenship the next.”
Fast-forward nearly 50 years to May 2011, when the CTA–now the single most powerful special interest in California–organized a “State of Emergency” week to agitate for higher taxes in one of the most overtaxed states in the nation. A CTA document suggested dozens of ways for teachers to protest, including following state legislators incessantly, attempting to close major transportation arteries, and boycotting companies, such as Microsoft, that backed education reform. The week’s centerpiece was an occupation of the state capitol by hundreds of teachers and student sympathizers from the Cal State University system, who clogged the building’s hallways and refused to leave. Police arrested nearly 100 demonstrators for trespassing, including then-CTA president David Sanchez. The protesting teachers had left their jobs behind, even though their students were undergoing important statewide tests that week. With the passage of 50 years, the CTA’s notions of “good citizenship” had vanished.

Dedication to educational opportunity is Marty Stein’s legacy

Alan Borsuk:

There is a parable about a rich man who was asked how much money he had. He answered with a large amount. But, the questioner said, you have more than that.
The rich man said the amount was how much he had given away to others. That money never will be taken away from him, he said. It was his real wealth. Everything else he had he could lose in an instant. He didn’t count money as his until he donated it.
It’s been six years since Marty Stein died, and I’m sitting in a Boys & Girls Club meeting room with nine students who are part of the Stein Scholars program that the club has been running for five years. Two of them graduated from Marquette University a week ago. The seven others are graduating from high school this spring and heading to college. There are more than 100 others in the program who have completed high school and gone on to higher education.
They are an important part of Marty Stein’s real wealth.

Time to start the conversation over charter schools in Washington state. Sign the initiative to start the conversation.

The Seattle Times:

THE charter schools ballot initiative proposed for the November election was born out of parental frustration with the Legislature’s failure to move on a key education reform.
The effort is not a Democratic strategy, although many in the party support it, but an educational strategy acknowledging that our schools aren’t working for all students. Let lawmakers and the state teachers union argue about money and control. The bottom line: Our schools need new and creative approaches.
You may soon be stopped while shopping and asked to sign the charter-schools petition. Whether you agree or disagree, help start the conversation by adding your name. Nearly 250,000 valid signatures must be collected by July 6.

Are advocacy organizations changing the politics of education?

Patrick McGuinn:

Every few weeks, a group of education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs) gathers in Washington, D.C., to compare notes and plot strategy in what is (half in jest) referred to as “fight club.” Like the subject of the 1999 David Fincher movie, this fight club sees itself as the underdog in an epic struggle for freedom and equality. While the target of the film’s ire is consumerism, these national ERAOs and their counterparts at the state level are focused on enacting sweeping education policy changes to increase accountability for student achievement, improve teacher quality, turn around failing schools, and expand school choice. As Terry Moe documents in his recent book, Special Interest, for decades the politics of school reform have been dominated by the education establishment, the collection of teachers unions and other school employee associations derisively called the “blob” by reformers. But the past two years have witnessed an unprecedented wave of state education reforms, much of it fiercely opposed by the unions. The ERAOs played an active role in pushing for these changes, and it is clear that they are reshaping the politics of school reform in the United States in important ways. But does the reform blob really stand a chance of defeating the education blob?

School choice movement can’t give grenades to opponents

John Kirtley:

First, I want to thank Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute for his engaged dialogue on the vital subject of tax credit scholarship program design. I also want to say that I have been an admirer of Cato for over a decade, and even attended its wonderful “Cato University” in the late 1990’s.
The main point of my response is this: as someone who is trying to pass, grow and protect parental choice laws in Florida and across the country, I live in the real world of legislation and politics. We are trying to change something that has been the same for 150 years. Those who don’t want change are extremely powerful, well-funded, and have willing allies in the press. We have to fight hand-to-hand legislative and political combat state by state. And we can’t hand our opponents grenades with which to blow us up.
Adam is absolutely correct that you can only drive so much excellence through top-down accountability. Our scholarship organization’s president, Doug Tuthill, and I constantly talk about the “new definition” of public education we would love to see — a transformation from “East Germany” (pre-Berlin Wall fall) to “West Germany.” We see a system where end users allocate resources and choose among many providers and delivery methods – public or private. Of course I understand, as Adam asserts, that such a system will produce better results. I’m a businessman! Or at least I used to be, before this movement took most of my time. But we can’t wave a magic wand and create that transformation overnight. And as in any free market system, there is a role — though many will argue over the extent – to be played by government.

Students Complain about New Dress Code at Stuyvesant


The dress code is meant to protect students and to preserve the academic atmosphere of Stuyvesant- or so it seems. Ever since the beginning of the school year, countless students, both male and female, have clashed with the administration regarding these requirements. The conflicts have not been a result of a conscious student rebellion against the code. Rather they were an expected outcome of the administration’s faulty, subjective enforcement of the policy. Here are the experiences of a few students:

Number of the Week: Student Loan Bubble

Phil Izzo:

368%: The jump since 2007 in the measure of consumer credit held by the government comprised primarily of student loans.
If a student loan bubble were to pop, the government, not private banks, would be the one standing around with gum in its hair.
Issuance of student loans has soared in recent years, hitting $867 billion at the end of 2011, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than credit cards or auto loans. The jump has led some to classify the student-lending market as a bubble, comparing it with the housing mess that nearly brought down the banking system in 2008.
But there are some big differences between student loans and housing. For starters, mortgage credit absolutely dwarfs lending for higher education — by nearly a 10-to-1 ratio. Troubles in an $8 trillion market pose a much higher systemic risk.

Does Tom Barrett Still Support a Milwaukee Public Schools Governance Change?

Mike Ford:

Barrett first floated the idea of a mayoral-appointed MPS school board in 2003, and actually took a serious crack at making it happen in 2009 and 2010. That effort, which was well chronicled by Alan Borsuk, could politely be described as a political train-wreck. Despite the support of Barrett, Governor Doyle, the two most powerful Democrats in the Milwaukee legislative delegation, and the editorial page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the proposal never made it to the floor of the legislature.
At the time I failed to see much point in a governance change. Predictors of the success of such reforms, such as unity of purpose among relevant actors, were absent in Milwaukee. More troubling to me was the failure of anyone to articulate what a mayoral-appointed board could do differently than an elected one. No matter how board members came to serve, they were severely constricted by state and federal mandates as well a union contracts.

Intel Science Fair winner detects pancreatic cancer early, cheaply


Kai Ryssdal: Ahhh, the high school science fair. For most of us, it was no more than your baking soda volcano.
But for the big one — the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — the competition is fierce. And the prizes are big: $75,000 in scholarship money to the winner and about $12,000 in cash.
The grand prize this year went to Jack Andraka, high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. It’s only a little bit of a stretch to say he’s trying to cure cancer by finding it early.
Hey Jack, how are you?
Jack Andraka: Great, how about you?

Field Guide to Connecticut Education – 2012


66% of students attending Connecticut State Universities and 73% of students attending community colleges require remedial math and/or English.
Dropouts of the Connecticut high school class of 2011 will lose more than $1.4 BILLION in lifetime earnings because they lack a high school diploma.
Related: 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.”

How did this parent end up in jail?

Julianne Hing:

Kelley Williams-Bolar is giving a speech in the dark. The Ohio mom is rattling off the standard remarks she’s delivered in public appearances since being catapulted onto the national stage last year. It’s an unseasonably warm day and the lights in the room are off, her face lit only by the glow of the computer screen in her father’s home. The address on the door outside is the one she used on her now-famous falsified documents–the ones that landed her in jail for nine days for illegally enrolling her daughters in a neighboring public school district.
“First, I talk about how I received my indictments, and then I give the laundry list of stipulations for my probation,” says Williams-Bolar, who is halfway through her two-year sentence. The 42-year-old single mother, with an otherwise spotless criminal record, is not allowed to drink, must submit to drug tests and reports monthly to a probation officer. She had to perform 80 hours of community service and pay $800 in restitution, as well as the cost of Summit County’s prosecution against her.

Appreciating the value of differentiated instruction

Stephanie Kindistin:

As teachers of the 21st century, we are all familiar with the buzzword “differentiation,” but is it just “buzz” ? I regularly hear teachers ponder the effectiveness of differentiated instruction. They raise questions such as, “Are we setting them up for success in the real world?” and “Is it worth the extra time spent to create the differentiated lesson?” These are both valid questions that could open up a lengthy debate in any crowd of teachers. My answer to both of these questions is YES!
Preparing students for success in college and the real world is a consistent focus in our field. When we think about other accomplishments in our lives that we prepared for, there was always a learning curve or ramp-up, if you will. For example, when we learned to ride a bicycle, we started with a tricycle, then went to a bike with training wheels, then a bike with an adult holding the back steady … then, voila, we were riding a bicycle.
A similar learning path should be considered when acquiring knowledge in the classroom. We all need “training wheels” to some degree when learning a new skill or idea. These training wheels can translate in the classroom to something that makes the information more accessible to us. This can be through entry points, modified tasks, mini-lessons or scaffolding.

Democrat party is deeply divided on the question of how best to improve schools.

Jim Newton:

Gloria Romero is a Democrat. She was elected to the California Assembly as a Democrat and later to the state Senate. She served as Democratic leader of the Senate, the first woman to do so. Ben Austin is a Democrat too. He worked in the White House under President Clinton and was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Both Austin and Romero support reform of the nation’s education system, and when Romero helped found an organization to push that effort, she and her co-founders (fellow Democrats) called it Democrats for Education Reform.
Eric Bauman chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he takes offense at that name. It creates confusion, he says, especially when the group supports a candidate. Specifically, he cites the group’s endorsement of Brian Johnson, who is running as a Democrat (though not the only Democrat) in the June primary for the Assembly in the 46th District. Bauman says the endorsement by a group with the word “Democrats” in its name suggests that the party itself is behind Johnson, whereas it hasn’t endorsed any candidate.

The Answer to High Student Debt: Quality is the Next Great Frontier

Bill Henderson:

My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from “how much does higher education cost?” to “how much is higher education worth?” And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an “Apollo Project” approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the “how high” and “how fast” possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.

Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

TJ Mertz

As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education:, Supt. Dan Nerad: I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.

Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.

On Charter, Virtual & Traditional School Governance: Identical or ?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I know how the issue would appear to me if I were on the McFarland school board and I were considering whether to revoke the school’s charter or decline to renew it on the basis of the school’s abysmal graduation rates.
On the one hand, continuation of the arrangement and hence of the income stream from K12 would mean that the district could spend at least $150 more per student on the education of the kids who actually live in McFarland, which is a not insignificant sum. On the other hand, revocation of the charter would mean that K12 would shop around for some other relatively small school district in the state that would be willing to host the virtual school, cash K12’s checks and provide even less oversight. K12 wouldn’t miss a beat and nothing would be accomplished. On top of this, as the McFarland superintendent pointed out, no one’s complaining. I suspect that I wouldn’t be leading the charge to revoke the charter and kiss away that very handy K12 money.

Are traditional public schools, budgets and staff held to the same standards?
Much more the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

School Goes International With Boarding

Sophia Hollander:

A relative newcomer on New York City’s private-school scene will open the city’s first international high-school boarding program as it looks to boost enrollment and its reputation among elite competitors.
About 40 students from at least three continents will enroll in Léman Manhattan Preparatory School this autumn, officials said. They will share studio apartments at 37 Wall Street, a luxury building several blocks from the high school building.
“Certainly, the time has come–probably it’s past due,” said Drew Alexander, the head of school at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School. “New York City is such a tremendous destination, has such an international flavor and is such a highly sought-after location.”

Nimble Minds

Nancy Connor:

The mantra of “graduating our students ready for college and the workplace” is so ubiquitous these days that people have begun to forget the underlying question: What do we really want our students to know and be able to do when they graduate from high school? We hear a lot of talk about a 21st century education. What does that mean? How is a 21st century education related to our college preparation? What sort of workforce do they need to be ready for?
I went to a presentation by the chief economist of a major bank last week. It was interesting to hear him talk about understanding changes in sectors such as manufacturing when making investment decisions. He talked about more and more manufacturing in the U.S., but with robots, not people. And the fact that many companies currently making big profits have a large global presence or put a sexy spin on ordinary items. Housing was mentioned, as well as the emerging trend for young families to move back to the city for shorter commutes and smaller lawns. He called it the “new realities,” a seismic shift in priorities.

Fixing the War College System

Gary Schaub Jr.:

What sort of senior military officers are the U.S. military creating with its system of professional military education (PME)?
If one were to examine the curricula of the war colleges, one would likely discover three types of military professionals that they are attempting to develop: service professionals, joint professionals, and national security professionals. Unfortunately, the difference between these three types of professionals is vast and expecting an officer to master all three in 10 months is a tall order. The faculties and services ought to recognize this and use it as an opportunity to revamp the war college system, re-instituting the differentiated missions that Admirals Leahy and King and Generals Marshall and Arnold envisioned in the aftermath of the Second World War.
A military professional is an officer who is an expert in the management of violence. This is not the same as being an expert in the application of violence. Although many war college students have been “operators” and “trigger-pullers” for substantial portions of their careers, and have achieved their current rank by demonstrating their mastery of tactical engagement and command of those immediately engaged in tactical applications of force, this is not what their service expects of them once they reach the rank of lieutenant colonel or colonel.

The Decline and Fall (in the U.S.) of the Public Intellectual

John MacArthur:

Last week I spoke at my alma mater’s Class Day ceremony, which at Columbia College serves as the central event for seniors, even though Columbia University, of which it’s a part, conducts the formal commencement and awarding of degrees on the next day. I won’t reprise my speech since I’m reluctant to promote a contribution to a genre of public speaking that many people equate with sedatives. (It is available on As my fellow Columbia graduate Tom Vinciguerra wrote in Newsday, “The days of memorable, even historic, end-of-academic-year speeches are long gone,” replaced mainly by “throwaway sentiments equally trite and hortatory–e.g., ‘seize the day,’ ‘don’t forget to give back,’ ‘dare to be different.’ “

Oakland’s black male students: school-by-school data

Katy Murphy:

This morning, Urban Strategies Council released a series of reports about the experience of black boys in the Oakland school district: one on out-of-school suspensions, one on chronic absenteeism, and lastly, an analysis of numerous factors to estimate how many children are on track to graduate high school — beginning in elementary.
There is so much data here that the short story in today’s Tribune (which is long by today’s standards) and blog post can’t do it justice. Each school will receive a data profile to further the district’s African American Male Achievement initiative. These reports were produced in partnership with OUSD as part of the initiative.

Mitt Romney Wades Into The Education Debate – There Is A Political Logic To His Proposals, But A Net Win For President Obama

Andrew Rotherham:

The long rumored Mitt Romney education doomsday weapon was revealed today. And it’s basically President George W. Bush’s education policy – but without the accountability.
Let’s take the major parts quickly. The emphasis on school choice is politically smart but unlikely to have a big impact given how much it is fundamentally a state by state issue. Mostly, this will help Romney draw contrasts with the President, which will help at the margins with independents and certainly help with his base. In the early 1980s when Nation At Risk was being published someone told President Reagan that the report would outrage the teachers union and other vested interests. Another presidential aide apparently responded something to the effect of ‘that’s fine, the Democrats can have them, we’ll take the parents.’ This is an extension of the logic of those politics, leave Democrats with the stakeholder adults, take everyone else.

Behind the Rhetoric: Wisconsin School budgets in the years ahead

Dave Umhoefer:

Districts already have some picture of what will happen in terms of cuts and layoffs. When we did an in-depth look at 17 Milwaukee-area districts about the impact of the budget and its many changes, we also asked about how they are situated for the future.
It is one of many issues that are at the center of the debate between Walker and his June 5, 2012, recall opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett.
A PolitiFact Wisconsin survey of 17 school districts found some officials have deep concerns about how state funding cuts past and future will affect education long-term.
But officials don’t see fiscal calamity in their 2012-’13 budgets and say the freedom provided by Walker’s union limits will provide new or continued chances to trim back employee costs from school ledgers.
Those controversial changes were a result of Walker and Republican legislators curtailing collective bargaining for most public employees in the budget, allowing districts to force employees to pay more for pensions and health care. The limits will extend to additional districts in 2012-’13, as more labor contracts expire.
But some aren’t eager to push for deeper compensation cuts after many got significant budget relief already.

In Rhode Island, an Unusual Marriage of Engineering and Languages Lures Students

Karin Fisher:

The University of Rhode Island colleagues each had a problem.
Hermann Viets, then dean of engineering, felt strongly that his students needed international experience to be competitive in a globalizing job market–and, like many engineering majors, they weren’t getting it. His fellow administrator and next-door neighbor, John M. Grandin, associate dean of arts and sciences at the time, saw the writing on the wall with declining numbers in his German language and literature

Teaching kids real math with computers

TED Talks:

From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity’s most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach — calculation by hand — isn’t just tedious, it’s mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.

School about-turn angers parents

Bangkok Post:

Parents are furious after a Bangkok high school at the centre of bribery claims overturned its earlier agreement to accept all the 57 students it had previously rejected.
Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat said Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School has admission regulations and education management standards to uphold and cannot accept as many students as it had agreed.
The move reversed an agreement between Pornpichit Sukannan, an adviser to Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, and parents on Monday that the school would enrol all 57.
Obec’s decision follows a meeting yesterday between parents, Obec representatives and the education minister.
The decision sparked uproar from parents. One left a note in the meeting room accusing the Education Ministry of leaving the children scarred.
“Obec has more than 2,000 schools under its supervision.

Vote for education board members who will put kids ahead of ideology

Jack Christie & Jim Nelson:

Contests for the presidential and U.S. Senate nominations are at the top of primary ballots, but it’s important that voters pay attention to races down the ballot this year especially those for the State Board of Education.
Because of redistricting last year, all 15 seats on the board are now up for grabs in the May 29 Republican and Democratic primaries and the November general election.
That means voters this year have a unique opportunity to shape public education policy in Texas for a generation.
By approving curriculum standards and textbooks, the board determines what millions of students learn in Texas public schools.
In fact, candidates elected to the state board this year will decide in 2013 and 2014 which science, social studies and math textbooks will be used in most public schools for perhaps the next decade. Additionally, recent changes in law have given districts much more control over the instructional materials, both hardbound and technology-based, than before.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Email More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on twitter Print Text Size Lon Morris College President resigns


As you know, the College has experienced significant financial and liquidity difficulties and has missed its last 3 payrolls. The Board and a special Restructuring Committee of the Board has retained Bridgepoint Consulting as a restructuring advisor and appointed Dawn Ragan as Chief Restructuring Officer (“CRO”). The CRO is responsible for the day to day operation of the college and for making decisions relative to continued operations and exploring various potential restructuring alternatives. Given insufficient cash flow, the college cannot continue to employ personnel and further cannot allow employees to continue to work even on a “volunteer” or unpaid basis. Your loyalty to the College, and especially to the Mission, is very much appreciated, but unfortunately due to the current circumstances all employment by the College is hereby terminated on the earlier to occur of either immediately as of 5.22.12 or the last day worked prior to 5.22.12, subject to confirmation where appropriate, excluding a minimal core group. Vacation accruals, pursuant to company policy, are extinguished upon termination of employment.
In any case where an employee or other representative may have been extended campus housing or other room/board type benefits, those benefits are also hereby terminated, and the employee/tenant will be provided 10 (ten) days to vacate.

Flyer targets Janesville teachers


School officials are outraged by a flyer that’s calling some of its teachers “radical” and suggesting they’re bringing their politics into the classroom.
“I was flabbergasted. I was outraged that they would have that flyer. I was really surprised,” said Dr. Karen Schulte, the Janesville School District superintendent.
About 2,500 copies of the flyer went out to people in Janesville over the weekend.
It asks how much WEAC teachers make in the Janesville School District, then lists the names of more than 300 teachers and their salaries, ranging from $59,000 to $75,000.
“It does affect teachers’ morale. I think it affects all of our morale when educators are being vilified in this manner,” Dr. Schulte said.

Matthew DeFour:

Janesville teachers and their supporters expressed outrage this week after an anonymous group distributed fliers listing their salaries and urging parents to request their child be assigned to a “non-radical teacher” next year.
The fliers, which included the names, titles and salaries of the 321 highest-paid Janesville teachers, also urged readers to go to to determine if the teachers signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Orville Seymer, an open records specialist with the conservative Milwaukee-based activist organization Citizens for Responsible Government, said the group responsible for the flier has asked to remain anonymous “for obvious reasons.”
On behalf of the anonymous group, Citizens for Responsible Government filed an open records request with the Janesville School District seeking teacher names, salaries and titles. Seymer provided the information to the anonymous group, but was not involved in drafting or distributing the fliers, he said. No other requests of a similar nature have been filed with other districts, Seymer added.

Madison West High activists form Students for Wisconsin political action committee to take on Walker; Paul Vallas Visit

Dean Robbins

We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).

Matthew DeFour:

United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.