Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wisconsin Teacher Union Conflict: Milwaukee vs. Madison, Green Bay, Racine & Kenosha

Leaders of the Madison Teachers Inc. union were among those who signed a letter dated Tuesday telling Milwaukee union officials that the legislation would harm public employees and the recall effort.
“Such legislation will enable Governor Walker to claim victory of his policy to (rein) in public employee wages and benefits,” said the letter, signed by MTI executive director John Matthews and president Peggy Coyne, along with their counterparts in Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha. “Allowing Governor Walker to make such a claim just before the recall election will prove detrimental to recalling him and, therefore, will only enhance his ability to further harm all Wisconsin public employees.”
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said that without the concessions, members of the Milwaukee union may lose their jobs.
“The latest letter from public sector union bosses shows clearly that Democrats and their allies put their politics before everything else, even their own members’ jobs,” Werwie said in a statement.

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee teachers union would get 30 days to negotiate salary or fringe-benefit concessions from employees, under a bill the Legislature sent to Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday.
After a lightning-fast circuit through the Legislature on Tuesday and Wednesday, the bill cleared both houses on a voice vote with no debate. Walker favors it, but leaders of several other teachers unions in large cities criticized the move because they say the action initiated by MPS and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association could undermine the Walker recall effort. Because the bill was passed on voice votes in both houses, there was no roll call that would identify which lawmakers supported the bill or opposed it.
The bill is intended to allow the state’s largest district and its teachers union to open up the teachers’ contract for 30 days to discuss potential economic concessions because of an extra $10 million payment the district needs to make to the City of Milwaukee’s pension system. The city informed the district in January that it needed the payment because of a downturn in the stock market.

Madison School Board Candidates Face Tough Questions At Forum

channel3000:

In a room filled with rough drywall and lives that took left turns when most would have gone right, four energetic school board candidates and students who said they feel failed by Madison’s schools gathered on Wednesday night for a forum featuring Madison school board candidates.
Participants in Operation Fresh Start, a program that helps Dane County youth get back on a path to success, hosted Wednesday’s forum at the program office.
At the front were three newcomers: Mary Burke and Michael Flores are vying for the Board of Education seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. Then, there’s Nichelle Nichols, who is challenging incumbent board member Arlene Silveira, who is working to show she hasn’t always sided with the superintendent.
Some attendees asked the candidates pointed questions: “Do you support the current superintendent?” was one question.

School Standards Wade into Climate Debate

Tennille Tracy:

After many years in which evolution was the most contentious issue in science education, climate change is now the battle du jour in school districts across the country.
The fight could heat up further in April, when several national bodies are set to release a draft of new science standards that include detailed instruction on climate change.
The groups preparing the standards include the National Research Council, which is part of the congressionally chartered National Academies. They are working from a document they drew up last year that says climate change is caused in part by manmade events, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The document says rising temperatures could have “large consequences” for the planet.

Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

Katy Murphy:

OUSD is hiring an unspecified number of teachers (a.k.a. “teacher leaders” or “Acceleration High School: Teachers On Special Assignment”) to work an 11-month year at Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds high school campuses. The jobs, which were posted on EdJoin.org late this afternoon, are open to candidates at other schools and even those outside of OUSD.
As most of you know, teachers already at the three high schools need to apply as well, if they wish to stay at their schools. (Unlike other candidates, they don’t need to submit letters of recommendation or resume — just the Ed Join form and a letter of introduction — and they will be guaranteed an interview, district staffers told teachers at Castlemont this week.)
The application window starts today and ends on March 30. Teachers will be hired on a rolling basis, said Brigitte Marshall, OUSD’s HR director.

Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

Oh, the places we go.
I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

  1. Despite spending nearly $15,000 per student annually, our Reading Results, the District’s job number one, need reform. 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This is not a new topic.
  2. The District’s math program has been an issue for some time, as well (Math Forum).
  3. How does Madison compare to the World, or other US cities? We can and should do much better.
  4. What is happening with Madison’s multi-million dollar investment (waste?) in Infinite Campus? Other Districts have been far more successful implementing this important tool.
  5. Are the District’s tax expenditures well managed?

With respect to the current Superintendent Review, the job pays quite well (IRS income distribution data: table 7), so I believe the position should be fully accountable to parents and taxpayers. Matthew DeFour:

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell’s would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

More, here.
The current rhetoric is quite a change in just 8 years. (Why did things change? A number of citizens care, decided to run for school board – won – and made a difference…) I certainly hope that the Board and community do not revert to past practice where “we know best” – the status quo – prevailed, as the Obama Administration recently asserted in a vital constitutional matter:

Holder made clear that decisions about which citizens the government can kill are the exclusive province of the executive branch, because only the executive branch possess the “expertise and immediate access to information” to make these life-and-death judgments.
Holder argues that “robust oversight” is provided by Congress, but that “oversight” actually amounts to members of the relevant congressional committees being briefed. Press reports suggest this can simply amount to a curt fax to intelligence committees notifying them after the fact that an American has been added to a “kill list.” It also seems like it would be difficult for Congress to provide “robust oversight” of the targeted killing program when intelligence committee members like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are still demanding to see the actual legal memo justifying the policy.

More, here on the political class and the legal system.
The choice is ours. Use our rights locally/nationally, or lose them.
A look back at previous Madison Superintendents.
High expectations surely begin at the top.

Higher Education: Save the males?

Times Dispatch:

Should colleges and universities adopt affirmative action for men? By their own standards, the answer appears to be yes. Economist Mark Perry calls attention to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows that for every hundred men who have a bachelor’s degree by age 24, a whopping 148 women of the same age do.
In every other academic realm, the existence of a statistical disparity — such as the fact that fewer men than women pursue advanced degrees in certain science and technology fields — is taken as definitive proof of gender discrimination.

I dare you to measure the “value” I add

Summer:

(When i wrote this, I had no idea just how deeply this would speak to people and how widely it would spread. So, I think a better title is I Dare You to Measure the Value WE Add, and I invite you to share below your value as you see it.)
Tell me how you determine the value I add to my class.
Tell me about the algorithms you applied when you took data from 16 students over a course of nearly five years of teaching and somehow used it to judge me as “below average” and “average”.
Tell me how you can examine my skills and talents and attribute worth to them without knowing me, my class, or my curriculum requirements.
Tell me how and I will tell you:

Much more on “value added assessment“, here.

Heads I Lobby, Tails You Are Lobbied

Mike Antonucci:

The New Jersey Education Association blamed its record $11.3 million in lobbying expenditures on its evil Republican governor:

“It’s been 2½ years that the governor’s been in office, essentially beating the daylights out of us. Our members rose up and said we cannot be his punching bag, and we agree. They agreed to appropriate money for this ad campaign.”

OK, I’ll buy that. But over on this coast, the California Teachers Association blames its nearly $6.6 million in lobbying expenditures on “the economy and a new Democratic governor after seven years of a business-friendly Republican”:
“[Our members] are really demanding we speak out against cuts.”

Middleton-Cross Plains School Board to appeal ruling on teacher fired for viewing porn at work

Jeff Glaze

The Middleton-Cross Plains School Board will appeal an arbitrator’s ruling that the district should not have fired a teacher who viewed pornographic images at work.
The board voted 8-1 to appeal the decision, which requires the district to pay more than $195,000 to the teacher, Andrew Harris, in back pay and benefits.
“I think that the board and the community feels that this is public policy that needs to be affirmed — that this behavior is not acceptable in schools. This is not a case just about Middleton-Cross Plains School District. It’s a bigger case than that. The board is committed at this point to going forward to make sure that this is changed,” said School Board President Ellen Lindgren.
Between 30 and 40 people showed up for Monday’s meeting.

It’s Now a Grind For 2-Year-Olds

Rachel Louise Ensign:

For some well-heeled New York City parents, preschool starts far too late.
Parents looking to jump-start their children’s formal education are fueling the demand for–and filling the waiting lists at–a new wave of early childhood learning centers where toddlers and infants are cared for by trained teachers.
To be sure, most affluent parents still opt for a full-time nanny instead of an early childhood care center. And many lower-income parents rely on government subsidies to pay for day care. But some are looking for an alternative–one that can come with the same high prices and limited spaces as the city’s top private schools.

Can Lure of Driver’s License Keep Kids in School?

Mike Fritz & April Brown:

For many teenagers, getting behind the wheel is a rite of passage. It’s a step into adulthood that brings new freedoms and responsibilities.
For a growing number of state legislatures, however, the driver’s license is being used as an incentive to keep students from dropping out of high school. The laws vary from state to state, but the general premise is the same: If a student wants to stay on the road, he or she must stay in school.
In West Virginia — the first state to adopt a so-called attend-and-drive law in 1988 — students become ineligible for a driver’s license if they are not on a path to graduate from high school within five years or by the age of 19.

Burke, Nichols best for Madison schools; “More Independence & a Fresh Perspective”

Wisconsin State Journal

A sense of urgency distinguishes Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols in the spring election for Madison School Board.
Madison “can’t accept another 20 years of snail’s pace” on narrowing the achievement gap, says Nichols, a mother of four African-American boys and vice president of education and learning for the Urban League of Greater Madison.
Burke, a longtime child advocate in Madison who served as state Commerce secretary and a Trek bicycle executive, says: “I want to be part of that positive change” that’s so critical in the Madison district.
The State Journal endorses Nichols in Seat 1 and Burke in Seat 2 on the April 3 ballot.
All of the candidates for the Madison School Board offer passion for public education. All are impressive individuals committed to helping more young people succeed.
Yet Burke and Nichols are more convincing when they say they will always prioritize the needs of students above all else.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Khan Academy Enters Next Era With iPad App

Gregory Ferenstein:

Khan Academy, the wildly popular YouTube lecture series, has launched its free, new iPad app in Apple’s store. The enhanced version of Khan Academy includes time-syncing between devices–no Internet connection required–an interactive transcript of the lectures for easy searching, and a handy scrubber for moving between parts of the lectures. Perhaps more importantly, now that more schools have begun adopting Khan’s lectures for their own classrooms, the iPad app could possibly replace or supplement textbooks, saving cash-strapped schools and students a lot of money.
The major benefit of the app is offline learning. “If you’re going on a road trip or if you’re taking mass transit and you don’t have cell service, or whatever, you can get the content,” says Khan Academy Lead Designer Jason Rosoff. The iPad frees Khan Academy from the constraints of a laptop and Internet connection. Rosoff says the app will remember where users left off viewing and sync progress between devices (though, for the initial version, both devices will need to connect to the Internet before going offline to sync).

Who graduates from college, who doesn’t, and why it matters.

college completion:

College Completion is a microsite produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to share data on completion rates in American higher education in a visually stimulating way. Our hope is that, as you browse around the site, you will find your own stories in the statistics and use the tools we provide to download data files; share charts through your own presentations; and comment, start conversations, or provide tips about this important topic.
This microsite is a tool to help you navigate a complex subject: which colleges do the best job of graduating their students. You can also benchmark institutions against their peers and find all the numbers you need to figure out why some colleges succeed while others fail. The site also offers plenty of links to resources for more information, as well as past and current news coverage of this topic.

A Field Guide to the Middle-Class U.S. Family

Shirley Wang:

Anthropologist Elinor Ochs and her colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles have studied family life as far away as Samoa and the Peruvian Amazon region, but for the last decade they have focused on a society closer to home: the American middle class.
Why do American children depend on their parents to do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves? How do U.S. working parents’ views of “family time” affect their stress levels? These are just two of the questions that researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, or CELF, are trying to answer in their work.
By studying families at home–or, as the scientists say, “in vivo”–rather than in a lab, they hope to better grasp how families with two working parents balance child care, household duties and career, and how this balance affects their health and well-being.

Ted-Ed Launch

Chris Anderson:

Today marks a big new chapter in the TED story, as we unveil the first part of our TED-Ed initiative. Announcement. YouTube channel.
Viewed one way, it’s just the release on YouTube of a dozen short videos created for high school students and life-long learners. But we’re committed to growing this archive to hundreds of videos within a year, and I thought it would be helpful to jot down a few personal notes on why we’re doing this… …because there’s a right and a wrong way to interpret today’s launch.
The wrong way is to imagine that we believe this to be some kind of grand solution. “TED claims its new TED-Ed videos will transform education”! Er, no. We don’t.

The Reproduction of Privilege

Thomas Edsall via a kind Steve Rankin email

Instead of serving as a springboard to social mobility as it did for the first decades after World War II, college education today is reinforcing class stratification, with a huge majority of the 24 percent of Americans aged 25 to 29 currently holding a bachelor’s degree coming from families with earnings above the median income.
Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and co-author of “How Increasing College Access Is Increasing Inequality, and What to Do about It,” puts it succinctly: “The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”
These anti-democratic trends are driven in part by a supposedly meritocratic selection process with high school students from the upper strata of the middle class performing better on SAT and ACT tests than those from poor and working class families.

Quality teachers count in the classroom

Esther Cepeda:

Every few months, a handful of education reform advocates push the idea that the public education system’s woes could be fixed if only there were more black or Hispanic teachers in classrooms.
You’ll surely hear this in the wake of the U.S. Department of Education’s alarming data, published last week by the Office of Civil Rights, showing that though Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of public school populations, they account for 56 percent of students expelled under zero-tolerance school discipline policies.
Worse, black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers, and more than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.

Nichols, Burke will put new energy into schools

Joann Pritchett:

Regarding the upcoming Madison School Board election, it’s time to stop hiding the achievement gap and its associated ills under the umbrella of collective bargaining. The gap and other stated concerns existed long before this governor’s assault on collective bargaining.
Instead of addressing these problems head on, Arlene Silveira attempts to curry favor by campaigning on a slogan of how many times she walked around the Capitol demonstrating against the governor and the Legislature. There were countless others (myself included) exhorting those same sentiments.
Her accomplishments during the last three years as a general board member and three years as board chairwoman haven’t addressed the achievement gap. Where was that “leadership and experience” that she now hails as her trademark? Our children cannot be held hostage while Silveira works on an employee handbook (her first priority).
Nichelle Nichols and Mary Burke will provide desperately needed new voices, perspectives and strategies to the board. These include criteria and measurable outcomes that lead to the behavioral changes and best practices that we expect and that are worthy of our investment as we prepare the next generation.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Silveira’s commitment merits another term

Amy Noble:

Challenges coming before the Madison School Board in the next two years include changing the way we educate students of color, working with a staff no longer represented by a contract and approving a budget.
As a taxpayer, a parent and a Madison School District employee, I need a School Board member I can really trust to listen, think and then listen some more during these challenging times. I can trust Arlene Silveira.
I first encountered her in 2004 when she ran a meeting about proposed redistricting to relieve crowding at some of our elementary schools. Silveira was PTO president for Leopold Elementary at that time.
She has made a life commitment to learn about the work of educating children and make quality education happen in Madison. She has courage and a just and kind heart.
She will fight for public education with her actions, not just her words. How many School Board members did you see at the recall training? Arlene was at the one I attended.
I appreciate the hard choice she made when she decided to stick it out and run again. I have complete trust and confidence in her. I celebrate her courage to run again and I will stay with her. Vote for Silveira on April 3.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Budgets & Collective Bargaining: Madison School Board Candidates Q & A

Michael Flores and Mary Burke @ Isthmus
Nichelle Nichols & Arlene Silveira @ Isthmus Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely ‘proficient’;

Matthew DeFour:

If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board’s most recent evaluation.
The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state’s Open Records Law, reveals the School Board’s divided view of Nerad’s performance.
School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad’s achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.
Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad’s contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he’ll vote.
“It’s probably a toss-up,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It’s time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop.”
Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.
The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.
Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.
Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.
Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

Is University of Wisconsin Education Becoming More Elite? A Partial Answer

John Witte & Barbara Wolfe, via a kind Richard Askey email:

There is considerable concern in Wisconsin and other states that accessibility to colleges and universities is becoming more elite; that due to rising costs of education and rising standards for admission universities are increasingly serving only those from higher income families. For example an article in the Christian Sciences Monitor in August of this year entitled “Too Few low income students?” stated that “about 50 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school, compared with 80 percent of high income students” and go on to state that the rate of high achieving low income students is about that of high income students that have far lower achievement scores1. William Bowen, Martin Kurzwell and Eugene Tobin note in their book that students in the bottom quartile of family income make up only 11 percent of elite college enrollment and receive no advantage from college admission programs; they call for an affirmative action program directed at low income applicants to promote equal opportunity and increase economic growth2. In this paper we use family income of University of Wisconsin- Madison applicants and those admitted over more than three decades to shed light on whether there has been a decline of opportunity to attend elite institutions among those with limited family incomes. As the premier public university in the state, this profile can serve more generally to provide insight on the issue of increasing elitism of premier public universities.
How accessible are the best public institutions to students from different socioeconomic groups? And, given the debates about financial aid that have been occurring at both the national and state, it is important to know: (a) How has access to the University of Wisconsin-Madison changed in terms of family income during the last three decades? (b) Are the patterns different for those within the state compared to those from outside the state? (c) Is there an income difference between those admitted and rejected for admission? And (d) What is the trend in the rate of applicants being admitted? This study addresses these questions.
Data on family income of applicants to specific colleges and universities are difficult to acquire. The most common sources are the income questions that students answer when completing ACT or SAT examinations. For a number of reasons these responses are probably woefully inaccurate. There is evidence from other studies that students simply do not have accurate information on family income. Universities could include income information on application forms, but most do not (including UW-Madison). Detailed income and asset data are included on the federal financial aid application form (FAFSA), but only students applying for financial aid complete those forms.

Many high schools still not offering rigorous enough curriculum, report says

Crystal Bonvillian:

Though high school students benefit from a rigorous high school curriculum, equal access to advanced programs still plague many schools across the country, a report released Wednesday shows.
The report, “Is High School Tough Enough,” was released by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education. The center is a national resource for information about public schools, providing research, data and analysis on current education issues.
The report indicates that more than 3,000 high schools in the United States fail to offer classes in Algebra II, a basic component of rigorous curriculum, a news release from the center said.
It also found that two-fifths of high school graduates “are not adequately prepared” by their high school education for entry-level jobs or college-level courses, according to a survey of college instructors and employers.

A report excerpt: Is high school tough enough: Full report:

A closer look at “a rigorous curriculum”
While many decry the lack of rigor in the high school curriculum, it is difficult to find consensus about what rigor is. Dictionary definitions of the word refer to strictness and severity, but when referring to academic rigor, many educators use phrases such as “challenging content” and “competitive curriculum.” Educators, researchers and organizations have defined academic rigor in a number of ways:

  • Rigor is “the need for high school core courses to focus on the essential knowledge and skills needed for success in postsecondary education.” (ACT, 2007)
  • Rigor is “a demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge.” (social research group MDRC as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)
  • Rigor means that students should “raise questions, think, reason, solve problems and reflect.” (former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)
  • A rigorous curriculum is “focused, coherent, and appropriately challenging.” (Michigan State Professor William Schmidt as quoted in Hechinger Institute, 2009)

State and local education agencies also worked to define rigor, most notably through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). After a lengthy development process, a set of standards were released in June 2010, and the vast majority of states have now adopted the standards, which “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn” in grades kindergarten through 12. According to the Common Core Standards Web site, the standards are aligned with “college and work expectations,” and “include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills.” At this writing, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the common core standards (For more information, see http://www.corestandards.org).

SEVENTY per cent of beef contains ‘pink slime’… and 7million pounds of it is set to go into school meals

Daily Mail Reporter:

After an outcry over the use of ‘pink slime’ in restaurants, leading fast-food chains promised to stop using the chemically treated meat.
But the ammonia-infused beef is not yet off American dinner tables, as it has been revealed that 70 per cent of supermarket mince contains the substance.
And the use of pink slime is also set to extend to children’s meals, as the federal government plans to buy 7million pounds of the meat to serve in U.S. schools.

Rochester Student: Frederick Douglass essay led to ostracism

Tiffany Lankes:

When school officials handed out copies of The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, they said they hoped students would connect with the abolitionist’s struggle learning to read at a time when African-Americans were largely prohibited from becoming literate.
That’s exactly what 13-year-old Jada Williams did, drawing a parallel between Douglass’ experience and those of many of her classmates in the City School District. And in an essay that she turned in at School 3, she compared illiteracy among city school students — about 75 percent cannot read at a level appropriate for their age — to a modern day form of slavery.
“When I find myself sitting in a crowded classroom where no real instruction is taking place I can say history does repeat itself,” Jada recently read from her essay. “The reality of this is that most of my peers can not read, and therefore comprehend the materials that have been provided. So I feel like not much has changed. Just different people. Different era. The same old discrimination still resides in the hearts of the white man.”

Labor unions rethinking their role in politics: The influential AFL-CIO almost certainly will endorse Obama for reelection, but many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to the Dem. Party and its candidates

Matea Gold and Melanie Mason:

As top union leaders gather in Florida on Tuesday to determine labor’s political strategy this year, the influential AFL-CIO appears poised to endorse President Obama’s reelection — despite some lingering dissatisfaction with his record.
But the way in which unions back him and other Democrats this year is likely to take a very different form than in past campaigns.
Concluding they need to be more independent of the Democratic Party, many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to candidates and the party.
The shift in tactics is already apparent in this election season: Labor political action committees gave federal Democratic candidates and committees $21 million last year, a drop of 20% from the same period in the 2008 election, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Several major unions, as well as the AFL-CIO itself, now have their own “super PACs,” independent political organizations that can raise unlimited funds.

X Prize Founder, at SXSW, Seeks Ideas to Fix Education

George Anders:

Peter Diamandis wants help. The man whose X Prizes have spurred breakthrough ideas in areas such as space travel and oil-spill cleanup aims to launch a similar initiative to help fix the U.S. educational system. But as he told an audience this past weekend at the SXSW Interactive festival, he isn’t sure how to do it.
Diamandis is best-known for creating the Asari X prize in 1996. That award dangled a $10 million payoff to whoever could build a vehicle capable of taking off from earth, flying a three-person crew 100 kilometers above the planet’s surface, returning to ground — and then repeating the mission within two weeks. Some 26 teams competed to win that award, spending more than $100 million in total. A winner emerged in 2004.
Since then, Diamandis hasn’t encountered much trouble coming up with other tech-centered prize ideas — or companies to sponsor those quests. His X Prize Foundation lists 26 employees on its Web site. It currently is overseeing contests centered on goals such as sending an unmanned rover to the moon.

Slashdot discussion.

Educator upbeat about big changes at Milwaukee Public Schools

Alan Borsuk:

Alan Coulter says he’ll miss Milwaukee.
“I have a deep affection for the city of Milwaukee that I did not have when this began,” he said on the phone. “I talk up Milwaukee whenever I can.”
And he talks up what is going on in Milwaukee Public Schools and the work of its leadership, starting with Superintendent Gregory Thornton.
The generally upbeat tone of Coulter in our conversation last week was not something I forecast at the beginning Coulter referred to – when the Louisiana State University professor arrived in 2009 as the “special expert” appointed by a federal judge to oversee implementation of major changes in Milwaukee Public Schools resulting from a lawsuit over special education that became known as the Jamie S. case.
The scope of the suit grew to cover a wide swatch of what MPS does. Coulter was in a position of such weight that I sometimes semi-jokingly referred to him as the shadow superintendent of MPS.

Madison Teachers’, Inc President Coyne and MTI Activist Kathryn Burns take Political Experience to Japan

Madison Teachers, Inc. via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

The Osaka Social Forum (OSF) is “a coalition of citizens’ groups, trade unions and other issue-oriented groups” in the Osaka and Kansai region, which includes Kyoto and Kobe, in Japan. A four day Pre Forum planning session was held February 24-27 and, at the request of OSF, MTI President Peg Coyne (Black Hawk) and MTI activist Kathryn Burns (Shorewood) were guest speakers and participants in the forum, sharing the stories of the “Wisconsin Uprising”. The Japanese organizers wanted to benefit from MTI’s leadership in fighting Governor Walker’s anti-public worker legislation. As Mr. Yoshihide Kitahata, a forum organizer, OSF host and translator, explained, “It is very difficult to bring the many groups together in Japan, and we want to hear about the struggles against harsh attacks on public education and trade union rights in Wisconsin.”
A series of meetings held in Osaka and Kyoto featured a video produced by Labor Beat and Osamu Kimura, a former Japanese high school teacher and current documentarian; and speeches with question and answer sessions by Coyne and Burns. Many observed that current mayor and former governor of the Osaka Prefecture, Toru Hashimoto, seems to be “taking pages out of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s play book.” Mayor Hashimoto and his backers are proposing 40% pay cuts for city bus drivers, threatening to throw the office of the city workers’ union out of city hall and has introduced an ordinance requiring teachers to stand and sing the national anthem at all school functions. The Mayor’s proposed ordinance “proposes to choose principals by open recruitment and incorporates a clause to dismiss teachers who refuse to stand while singing the Kimigayo national anthem at school functions.”
Coyne and Burns heard stories of teachers fired over the national anthem issue. Ms. Msako Iwashita, a retired high school social studies teacher, said that 200 of her students followed her lead and refused to stand as the flag was raised and the anthem played at a high school graduation. Ms. Iwashita, whose business card displays the words, “Hope, Peace and Article 9” explains that many citizens and older teachers, in particular, are distressed that the government did not replace the rising sun flag and Kimigayo after World War II. It is felt that these two symbols of Japan’s aggression against neighboring Asian countries and the United States are an embarrassment and too militaristic for a modern country that espouses peace. (Article 9 is a Constitutional Agreement that declares Japan’s commitment to peace and refusal to engage in weapons build up.)

Writing Tips for the Gifted Student

Perhaps the first caution to note on this subject is that when giving advice to the gifted, it is wise to remember that they are gifted, and should not be loaded up with unnecessary advice. In fact, my own first preference in encouraging gifted students to do academic expository writing (e.g. history research papers) is to give them the papers of other gifted students to read. This way the goal becomes clear in a way that it often does not when one starts with buckets and bags of technical advice on “How To Write a Paper.”
One problem is that by the time one has gone through all the advice about footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, plagiarism, etc., any motivation to write a paper will very sensibly have evaporated, in all likelihood.
Like other people, gifted students like to see if there is any point in doing something, in this case, writing a long serious academic research paper. I believe that the point is best illustrated by showing them what the finished product looks like, and, by having them read some exemplary papers by their peers, showing them how very interesting serious history can be, even to people their age.

To follow my own advice, and to do unto you as I would have you do unto gifted students, allow me to place a sample of such writing here (from a 6,904-word paper written by a New York ninth-grader who later graduated from Harvard):

“Within this nineteenth-century intellectual context, Cesare Lombroso’s work greatly influenced how Europe’s criminologists and jurists perceived criminals. L’Uomo Delinquente (“The Criminal Man”), published in 1876, was the most influential of his many publications. It was so popular and well regarded that it grew from two hundred pages in its first edition to over three thousand in its fifth. A later work, Le Crime, Causes et Rémédies, ‘Crime, Its Causes and Remedies,’ published in 1899, was also highly influential. By the 1880s he had gained world renown through his studies and theories in the field of characterology, the relation between mental and physical characteristics, criminal psychopathy, the innate tendency of individuals toward sociopathy and criminal behavior. Lombroso’s conclusions stimulated debate among academics, lawyers, judges, prison directors, all those interested in public policy, as well as the general public. In fact, criminal anthropology, the field Lombroso created, received such attention that it was the focus of an international conference every four years for over three decades before World War I.
Extraordinary amounts of documentation in the form of pages of statistics and illustrations strongly influenced readers to believe “that many of the characteristics found in savages and among the coloured races are also to be found in habitual delinquents.” Lombroso used statistics so well that many scientists accepted his conclusion that criminality is biological. Although Lombroso’s theories have now been discredited, they had mass appeal at the turn of the century.
While his ideas were widely popular, Lombroso’s many credentials helped to establish his influence with professional colleagues. Cesare Lombroso, born on November 6, 1835, in Verona, Italy, studied at the universities of Padua, Vienna, and Paris (1862-1876). In 1876 he became a professor of psychiatry, forensic medicine, and hygiene at the University of Pavia. Moving to the University of Turin, he held professorships in psychiatry from 1896 and in criminal anthropology from 1906. He also directed a mental asylum in Pesaro, Italy. Lombroso died on October 19, 1909, in Turin, Italy.
Originally, Lombroso became involved with the classification of criminals after being assigned to do a post-mortem on a criminal named Vilella, who had died in the insane asylum in Pavia. While examining Vilella’s skull, Lombroso discovered an abnormality common to lower apes, rodents, and birds. Lombroso named this abnormality the “median occipital fossa.” Later, Lombroso recognized the importance of his discovery…”

And for those of you who got interested in the story, as I did when I was publishing this paper, here is the conclusion:

“Lombroso may have been refuted by science, but his influence on popular culture remains.
Why does this pseudo-science from the nineteenth century remain so powerful at the end of the twentieth century? Lombroso gave society a visual key for identifying people it feared. It is likely that Lombroso’s descriptions caused “nice people” to avoid tattoos, gentlemen to be either clean-shaven or to have well-kept beards, and good citizens to avoid obviously excessive drinking. Perhaps part of the 1960s antagonism to the hippie movement came from Lombrosian antagonism to unkempt hair and tattoos, especially on women. These were also easy visual signals to identify “bad” people. Even today, people want easy visual keys to identify villains. For instance, after Littleton, many school districts have banned the wearing of black trenchcoats, as if trenchcoats have anything to do with murder. Lombroso’s influence remains because people look for easy answers to complex problems.
Darwin’s The Origin of Species had an extraordinary effect on nineteenth-century attitudes toward man, society, and science. His empirical model required observations over many examples to test hypotheses and to come to validated conclusions that support overall theoretical claims. While Darwin’s work has become influential for many modern sciences from biology to geology to physics, Lombroso’s is no longer considered valid. On the other hand, the questions Lombroso sought to answer–and those which arose from his studies–remain very modern concerns. As Tolstoy wrote in Resurrection in 1899:
‘He also came across a tramp and a woman, both of whom repelled him by their half-witted insensibility and seeming cruelty, but even in them he failed to see the criminal type as described by the Italian school of criminology….’
He bought the works of Lombroso, Garofalo, Ferri, Liszt, Maudsley, and Tarde, and read them carefully. But as he read, he became more and more disappointed…He was asking a very simple thing: Why and by what right does one class of people lock up, torture, exile, flog, and kill other people when they themselves are no better than those whom they torture, flog, and kill? And for answer he got arguments as to whether human beings were possessed of free will or not. Could criminal propensities be detected by measuring the skull, and so on? What part does heredity play in crime? Is there such a thing as congenital depravity?
It is a hundred years since Tolstoy’s hero posed these questions, a hundred years in which we have sought ways to use science to identify criminals and prevent crime. Our understanding of science has dramatically increased and Lombroso’s fame has largely died, but answers to these questions remain just as pressing.”
(endnote citations removed–Ed.)

In my view, the chances of getting a student to write to a history/story/analysis like this, by starting with the mechanics of the well-written essay, are slim to less than slim. I can’t see any historian beginning any history with a study or review of the techniques of the properly-constructed history book.

This is not to throw out those babies of some instructional value with all the bathwater of pedagogical technique. Of course it is important for students to have an outline, take notes in their readings, construct their endnotes and bibliographies in the accepted (Chicago) manner, and so on.
It is my contention that, in order to inspire students to do the hard work of research and writing necessary to produce a good, scholarly, readable history paper, one should start by encouraging them to read history, perhaps starting with some of the better work of others their age who have written successful history papers already.

Too often, it seems to me, the step of having students read history to find out how interesting it can be, and the next step of having them read about a topic in history on which they think they might want to write a paper are the most important ones.

After the motivation to read and report on some historical topic is in place, and a strong first draft is written, then the gods of Rhetorical Correctness can descend and do their duties. But it is not possible to repair a paper written with little research and no enthusiasm, using writing pedagogy alone.
I once talked to a Teachers College expert on reading and writing about the importance of content (knowledge, subject matter, et al) in writing, and she, who had been called, in a national publication, “The Queen of Reading and Writing,” said to me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much.” Here beginneth the death of academic expository writing in the schools.
Educators in the United States talk a lot about “critical thinking,” but I, along with others, believe it is easier to learn and practice thinking of any sort if there is something to think about. If the student has almost no knowledge, then they have almost nothing to think about. When it comes to writing a research paper, if the students has learned a lot about their subject, then when they see whether they have done a good job of presenting what they have learned, that will inspire them to think more about it, and to re-write their paper so it does the job they wanted to do better.
Another difficulty in the United States is that reading and writing in the schools is almost universally in the hands of the English Department, and that means the reading will be fiction and the writing will be personal, creative, or the five-paragraph essay. This set of practices tends to shrink the educators’ vision of the capacities of high school students, so when they see the sort of writing in the following excerpt (from a 7,900-word paper by a New York tenth-grader who later graduated from Harvard and Cambridge), they regard it as the work of some freak and decide it surely has no bearing on the level of expectations in writing they have for their own students:

“Keynes also discusses in The General Theory the danger of excessive saving (which he had emphasized earlier in his Treatise on Money). If an individual saves a greater amount than can be invested by businesses, he or she is failing to return income to the community and the result will be a contraction of the incomes even further. Because of the marginal propensity to consume, everyone else’s savings will also contract. The result will not even be a gain in total savings. Because savings and investment are carried out by different groups in our society, it is often possible that individuals will save more than can be invested. Therefore, thriftiness could lead to a decline in total savings.
The discussions in The General Theory of the marginal propensity to consume, the multiplier, and savings all point to the fact that investment must be increased to increase income and employment. According to Keynes, investment is determined by two considerations–the expected yield of the investment and the rate of interest on the money borrowed for the investment. Economists before Keynes (and also Keynes in his Treatise on Money) believed that excess savings will bring down interest and encourage investment. But Keynes makes the crucial observation that a shortage in investment will cause a decrease in income and, because of marginal propensity to consume, a decrease in savings, which will raise interest rates and further discourage investment. If there is insufficient investment, people will not be able to save as much as they had in the past; in fact, they will begin to use up their past savings. Because of this, even before The General Theory, Keynes advocated the reduction of interest rates by the government to both reduce savings and raise investment. But for Keynes, in The General Theory, even that reduction of interest rates would not be enough to reduce savings or stimulate investment sufficiently. According to Keynes, if certain conditions exist, especially in a depression, a reduction in interest will have little effect on savings. If there was a rise in liquidity preference (people’s desire for cash), such as might be brought about by falling prices, savings would not be reduced no matter how low the interest was. And decreased interest rates would not have a great effect on investment because of the second consideration that affects investment–expectation. The expected yield of the investment is extremely unpredictable. Keynes said of the factors that influence output and employment, “of these several factors it is those which determine the rate of investment which are most unreliable, since it is they which are influenced by our views of the future about which we know so little.” Keynes’s conclusions that neither interest rates nor expected proceeds could sufficiently encourage investment led him to his final conclusion that unemployment could exist at equilibrium–unemployment would not fix itself, and government intervention was necessary to increase employment.
In The General Theory, Keynes contrasts his main arguments with the traditionally held “classical” beliefs. The General Theory is filled with passages in which Keynes shows the inadequacies of what he calls the “postulates of the classical theory.” According to Keynes, “the classical economists” is a name traditionally given to Ricardo, James Mill, and economists before them. Keynes, however, says that he has also come to call more recent economists who “adopted and perfected the theory of Ricardian economics” classical. These economists include John Stuart Mill, and closer to Keynes’s time, Alfred Marshall and Arthur Pigou. Unlike some heretical economists of the past, Keynes had been brought up on classical ideas and had, in fact, remained consistent with them in most of his writings before The General Theory. Keynes’s father, John Neville Keynes, was a noted economist at Cambridge University. And when Keynes attended King’s College at Cambridge, he was a student of Marshall and Pigou, whom Keynes included in his definition of classical economists. Thus Keynes was doubtless taught classical theory from his childhood through the time that he was a student…” (endnote citations removed–Ed.)

It should be said again that these are quite brief excerpts from history papers of 6,000 to almost 8,000 words by students in the ninth and tenth grades. I have published 791 (1,000) such papers by high school students from 35 (39) countries in the last 20 (25) years, and these students have greatly exceeded the expectations I started with in 1987. However, if I had decided to publish the standard five-paragraph essays or the short little “college essays” required by college admissions officers, naturally I would never have discovered what high school students could do.
Which leads me to state another caution when dealing with gifted students. It is important not to try to decide in advance what they are capable of doing. If, in the case of history research papers at the high school level, the choice of topic is left up to the student and there is no specified length, the result will be, in my experience, a huge variety of interesting and serious historical topics, and the longest paper I have published, by a twelfth-grader in this case, was a bit over 22,000 words.
Educators who are accustomed to defining assignments in advance might want to consider my experience, especially when suggesting work for gifted students. Of course, 22,000-word papers take much longer for the teacher to read and comment on, but we might want to make assignments that test the academic efforts and capacities of students rather than choosing them for their demands on us.
Another thing to keep in mind about these gifted students, while we wonder how much to teach them about outlining, note-taking, endnotes and bibliography, is that these are the same students who are taking honors physics and chemistry and preparing for Calculus BC exams. They are not stupid, and they can pick up what they need to know about endnotes et al, in a few moments, especially if they have models in front of them.
They do not need a semester of Writing Techniques Instruction before they pick a topic and start reading about it. We must remind ourselves not to load them up with our own limitations. In addition, they are quite capable of asking questions to find out what they need to do when presenting a research paper. They have been doing that (asking questions), often to the irritation of the adults around them, since they were little kids, after all.
It is also important, at least when working with gifted high school students doing history research papers, to stay out of their way.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®
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Lunch with Charles Murray

Edward Luce:

At the same time, the elites in America have become so tolerant – afflicted with such “ecumenical niceness”, as Murray calls it – that they cannot bring themselves to “preach what they practise”. Partly because of their moral squeamishness, they tend to shield their children against even the tiniest risks in life, Murray says, including mixing with Americans from less fortunate backgrounds.
“There’s a big difference between being good and being nice,” Murray says as he works on his gin martini. “Being good involves tough choices – tough love. Ecumenical niceness is just pabulum. It’s as if, in all our interactions, parents are trying to stop our kids eating food off the floor, when that is what would inoculate them against far costlier things later on in life.”
Because of all this risk-aversion, he continues, the elites are more cut-off from mainstream American culture than ever before. In the 1960s, America’s wealthy brought Buicks rather than Cadillacs, which were then the flashiest cars on the market. They may have been rich but their tastes were still middle-class. Today, they have abandoned such “seemliness”. There is no pretence of sharing a culture with fellow Americans.

Narrowing the New Class Divide

Charles Murray:

THERE’S been a lot of commentary from all sides about my recently published book, “Coming Apart,” which deals with the divergence between the professional and working classes in white America over the last half century.
Some of the critiques are fair, some are frivolous. But there’s one — “He doesn’t offer any solutions!” — that I can’t refute. The reason is simple: Solutions that are remotely practicable right now would not do much good.
The solution I hear proposed most often, a national service program that would bring young people of all classes together, is a case in point. The precedent, I am told, is the military draft, which ended in the early 1970s. But the draft was able to shape unwilling draftees into competent soldiers because Army officers had the Uniform Code of Military Justice to make their orders stick.

Students on course with technical skills

Erin Richards:

On a morning that would otherwise be spent in class at Bradley Tech High School, nine teens were sanding, grinding, measuring and painting this week aboard the Great Lakes schooner the S/V Denis Sullivan, docked off Canal St. on the Menomonee River.
When times were good and grants were more generous, the tall ship wintered in southern Florida, but it’s stayed in Milwaukee for the past three years.
A new program called Schooner Boatworks, supported by several grants and Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, has made the most of that situation for the past two years by allowing about 20 Bradley Tech students to work on the ship for 2 1/2 hours each Tuesday for 12 weeks during their second semester.
Students learn technical skills and collaborate on projects under the guidance of the ship’s full-time captain and engineer, and they do weekly writing assignments about their experiences. A proper sail on the Sullivan at the end of the school year tops off the experience. Participants have to maintain at least a C average and good attendance.

Insight: Public schools sell empty classroom seats abroad

Stephanie Simon:

There are just seven pairs of boots lined up outside the kindergarten classroom in this fading farm town. Just eight crayon drawings are taped to the wall outside second grade.
Enrollment is dropping at the Grant-Deuel School, as at so many rural schools. Fewer students means less state funding and a slow extinction.
But Superintendent Grant Vander Vorst has an improbable plan to save his little school on the prairie – by turning it into a magnet for wealthy foreign students. This year, 11 students from China, Thailand, Germany and elsewhere account for nearly 20% of high school enrollment, bringing cash and a welcome splash of diversity to an isolated patch of the Great Plains.
Grant-Deuel is not alone. Across the United States, public high schools in struggling small towns are putting their empty classroom seats up for sale.

Student loan debt soaring, UW regents told

Karen Herzog:

Average student loan debt at graduation from Wisconsin’s public universities is now more than five times what it was 30 years ago, rising from just less than $5,000 in 1982 to $27,000 in 2011, officials said Thursday.
Tuition at state universities is dramatically outpacing inflation, while state aid to students is dropping and parents are struggling in a tough economy to pay their share of the bills, Mark Nook, senior vice president of academic affairs for the University of Wisconsin System, told the UW Board of Regents at a meeting in Madison.
Seventy-one percent of students attending Wisconsin public universities now take out loans to help pay for college, compared with a low of 50% in 1992-’93, Nook said.
Taking longer to finish a college degree doesn’t explain the increased debt, Nook said. Graduates with $50,000 or more debt typically are finishing their degrees within five years, he said.

Senate rejects Virginia teacher-contract bill backed by McDonnell

Olympia Meola & Jim Nolan:

For a second time, the Virginia Senate has rejected Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed overhaul of public school teacher and principal contracts, sending it back to committee and likely dealing a fatal blow to a key piece of his K-12 education agenda for the session.
With two days left before Saturday’s scheduled adjournment, senators voted 23-17 on a motion by Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, to send House Bill 576 back to the Education and Health Committee for consideration next year.
Three Republicans joined 20 Democrats in the vote. In February, senators had voted 20-18 to scuttle the Senate version of the plan.
The proposal would have phased out a tenure-like contract system in favor of a three-year term contract process under which it would be easier to dismiss teachers.

Turnaround Forum

Mass Insight:

Welcome to our Turnaround Forum, offering a thoughtful and extended look at what’s working, what’s not, and what’s possible in transforming the nation’s lowest-performing schools.
Our issue briefs and blogs will feature commentary, news, research, practical tools, and (we hope) lively discussion from some of the top practitioners and opinion leaders in the country. We’re hoping to provide a platform for many voices — people like us who believe we have a truly unique chance to turn around the country’s worst schools and who want to make sure we’re being bold and bright enough to take advantage of the opportunity.
Issue Briefs
This series of monthly issue briefs focuses on some of the most current and important topics in the turnaround field. Briefs include news from the field, reflections from current state, district, and school turnaround leaders, as well as discussions on policy and promising practices emerging in school turnaround.
Successful Principals Speak Out (324.8 KB)

New teachers getting ready to be graded on classroom work: Wisconsin moving toward portfolio-based assessment

Erin Richards:

For example, in addition to having to publicly post their graduates’ first-time pass rates on the exams required for licensure starting in the 2013-’14 school year, the programs would also have to annually provide the DPI with a list of their graduates and graduation dates.
DPI, in turn, is required in the legislation to include that data in a statewide student-information system, which could allow the state to track which schools new teachers end up in after graduation.
It could also eventually be connected to the performance of those teachers’ students on state tests.
Teacher certification tests have been scrutinized because it’s hard to adequately assess, in one exam, the multitude of skills necessary to be a good teacher. And there’s little research evidence to suggest that the current crop of exams is a useful tool for doing that.
The current tests are developed by the nonprofit Educational Testing Service or the for-profit education company Pearson, and they typically rely heavily on multiple-choice questions.
Cut scores, or the score required to pass the tests, are often set well below averages.
A 2010 analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality (reports) found that on average, states had set the bar so low, that even teacher candidates who scored in the 16th percentile would receive their certification.
In Wisconsin, the pass rates of new teachers on the multiple-choice subject tests required for licensure the same every year – 100%. That’s because the state requires a passing grade on the test before an institution can recommend that teacher candidate for a license.
Nobody is currently required to report how many times a teacher candidate might have taken the certification test and failed.
“The testing technology that is widely used today just can’t get at what is really the fundamental question of ‘Can the person actually teach?’ ” said Sharon Robinson of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which is collaborating with Pearson on the performance assessment.
“We can give a number of different tests about what they know,” she said. “I think the ambition now is to get an assessment that can actually document the candidate’s ability to teach.”

Related: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges and 9.27.2011 Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force Notes

Impact of an act: New report finds big benefits in WI’s Act 10

MD Kittle:

While there is no disputing the divisiveness and political bitterness Act 10 has created, the law that redefined collective bargaining in Wisconsin has made a dramatic difference for the state’s financially struggling school districts, according to a report slated for release this week.
But superintendents tell Wisconsin Reporter they worry about the long-lasting emotional scars left by the contentious reform battle.
Wisconsin school districts have realized significant savings either through the implementation of collective bargaining changes or the threat of them, according to an analysis by the Michigan-based Education Action Group Foundation, known as EAG, a nonprofit research organization promoting school spending reform.
The pointed report, titled “The Bad Old Days of Collective Bargaining: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsin Public Schools,” devotes plenty of its pages to applauding the collective bargaining reforms led by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, but it backs up the assertions with some telling numbers.

What About the Kids Who Behave?

Jason Riley:

The Obama administration is waiving around a new study showing that black school kids are “suspended, expelled, and arrested in school” at higher rates than white kids. According to the report, which looked at 72,000 schools, black students comprise just 18% of those enrolled yet account for 46% of those suspended more than once and 39% of all expulsions.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the administration is “not alleging overt discrimination in some or all of these cases,” but that’s certainly what he’s implying when he bleats on about the “fundamental unfairness” of the situation. “The undeniable truth,” said Mr. Duncan in a press call this week, “is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” Of course, if racial animus toward blacks explains higher black discipline rates, what explains the fact that white kids are disciplined at higher rates than Asian kids? Is the school system anti-white, too?

Andrei Shleifer, Communism & School Reform

Neerav Kingsland:

Andre Shleifer, a professor of Economics at Harvard, recently wrote an excellent article: “Seven Things I Learned About Transition from Communism.” In case you don’t know Andre, some consider him to be the most cited economist in the world.
The analysis is interesting throughout – it deviates from both “progressive” and “conservative” talking points on key issues. Take five minutes and read the whole thing.
For those of us Relinquishers who see opportunity in moving public schooling from government-operated to government-regulated and non-profit run, lessons abound. For those skeptical of these types of reforms – lessons also abound. See below for the summary of Andrei’s lessons – laced with my takeaways for improving our educational system:

The Trouble With Humiliating Teachers: Making rankings public undermines the trust educators need to build collaborative teams.

Wendy Kopp:

When I dropped my kids off at school last week, I had a hard time looking their teachers in the eye. The New York City government had just posted their performance assessments online, and though I’m a strong supporter of teacher accountability and effectiveness, I was baffled and embarrassed by the decision.
So-called value-added rankings–which rank teachers according to the recorded growth in their students’ test scores–are an important indicator of teacher effectiveness, but making them public is counterproductive to helping teachers improve. Doing so doesn’t help teachers feel safe and respected, which is necessary if they are going to provide our kids with the positive energy and environment we all hope for.
The release of the rankings (which follows a similar release last year in Los Angeles) is based on a misconception that “fixing” teachers is the solution to all that ails our education system.

Nashville Metro Schools Director Delivers State Of Schools Address

News 5:

Metro Schools director Dr. Jesse Register gave his “State of Metro Schools” address on Thursday.
In the speech Register spoke about issues facing the school system, including the possible expansion of charter schools here in Tennessee. He also highlighted some of the some of the accomplishments the district has made over the past year- as well as the challenges they continue to face.
The past year has been busy for the Metro Schools district. At the beginning of the school year US Education Secretary Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee to become the fastest improving state in the country.
This school year the district hired the Tribal Group to help turn around its lowest performing schools. The England Based consultants are working with more than 30 schools, interviewing staff, parents and students- and making individualized recommendations about how to improve student achievement.

Iowa Department of Education releases dropout rates by district

Kate Allt:

The Iowa Department of Education released the dropout rates for the state’s districts from 2010 to 2011.
Reform has been the word when it comes to education in Iowa the past few months, with the governor’s plan to reform the state’s system.
Statewide, the graduating class of 2011 saw a decline of less than one percent in the graduation rate from the previous year.
In Southeast Iowa, rates varied for four-year cohort graduation rates, with over 96 percent of students graduating from the Van Buren School District and just over 86 percent in Fairfield.

How are New Jersey public schools doing? Depends on where you live

Laura Waters:

The New Jersey Education Association, NJ’s primary teacher union, trumpets, “New Jersey’s schools are the best in the nation!”
But a non-profit, Advocates for Children of New Jersey, counters, “an analysis of third graders’ performance on state reading tests from the 2009-2010 school year shows only 42 percent of traditional public school students and 46 percent of charter school students are proficient.”
Which is it? Well, it all depends on your zip code.
NJ’s public school system is characterized by the juxtaposition of great schools nestled next door to chronically failing ones. And, no, I’m not talking about our 31 poorest Abbott districts, our Camdens and Trentons and Asbury Parks.
For an example of this pattern of educational inequity, travel no further than Burlington County. First stop: Willingboro Public Schools, now on its fifth superintendent in six years. The NJ Department of Education ranks districts socio-economically, on a District Factor Group (DFG) scale from A (the poorest) to J (the richest). Willingboro rank is CD: not wealthy by any means, but not an Abbott either.

It’s About Control

South County Independent:

t’s not about bullying. It’s not about educational quality. Any time the National Education Association, the commissioner for higher education, local school committees and superintendents talk about each other these days, it’s about one thing: control.
In South Kingstown, the teachers union has launched into an all-out assault on the School Committee in respect to the firing of three special education teachers. Accusing the committee of bullying because it dismissed the nontenured teachers, the union members showed up at a recent School Committee meeting en masse, bearing signs reading “Hatchet Job” and “Stop the Bullies. Speak Up.”
The union has a vested interest in protecting its members. The School Committee wants the ability to dismiss teachers who aren’t working up to par. The issue is who is going to have control over who will teach in the classroom: the union or the School Committee. To call the School Committee or school administrators “bullies” because they exercised their right to dismiss an employee is a stretch. If they used this right to threaten all other teachers – which they can’t do any way, since most teachers are tenured – the administrators and School Committee might then be accused of the B word. But to say that the administration can’t fire a teacher without being accused of bullying is akin to giving every teacher who is hired a lifelong contract.

Meet the Republicans, Education Bashers

Michael Medved:

The angry, populist tone of a seemingly endless battle for the GOP presidential nomination could damage the Republican Party in building a long-term connection with the fastest growing group of swing voters: college graduates.
While candidates focus on the white working class as the key battleground in their frantic struggle for advantage within the GOP, it’s actually voters with four-year college degrees who will play the key role in defeating or re-electing Barack Obama.
In 2008, exit polls showed that an unprecedented 44% of all voters held bachelor degrees or higher, compared to just 28% of the electorate in Ronald Reagan’s landmark victory of 1980. The Gipper, however, crushed Jimmy Carter among college grads (52% to 35%) while John McCain lost this segment of the population to Barack Obama (45% to 53%). In other words, the Republican nominee went from a 17-point advantage (in both ’80 and ’84, as it turns out) to an eight-point loss among those who completed college–a crippling swing of 25 full percentage points.

Invitation to 2012 EdSource Symposium

EdSource, via a kind email:

This path-breaking EdSource symposium in collaboration with the California State PTA will look at the impact of the state’s budget deficit and the continuing impact of the Great Recession on schools, and on the ability of children living in economically distressed households to succeed academically.
California’s highly regarded Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor will lead off the discussion with the latest developments on the state budget and its effect on schools.
Leading researchers will identify emerging data showing the impact of the economic crisis (including housing foreclosures and unemployment) on school performance.
A panel of representatives from school districts and nonprofit organizations will describe innovative school and community strategies to help ensure that an entire cohort of students does not fall through the cracks.

UFT Members ‘disgusted and angry’

Maisie McAdoo:

Teachers reacted with dismay and anger when they returned to school on Monday, Feb. 27, after the release of deeply flawed Teacher Data Reports that ranked them against their colleagues based on student test scores.
“They feel the city has done nothing but try to bash them,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told reporters in front of PS 321 in Park Slope, where he stopped by to support returning staff. “These reports were never meant to be used this way. The mayor has done a great disservice to school communities, students and teachers.”

Education Department slush fund money eventually went back to state of Oklahoma

Megan Rolland & Randy Ellis

Two accounts that a state investigation found were used as slush funds by the state Education Department over the course of 10 years were closed in 2011 with about $780 remaining, after holding more than $90,000 a year earlier, according to Education Department officials.
The investigation was released Wednesday by the state Auditor and Inspector’s Office and detailed how state Education Department officials spent about $2.3 million over the course of 10 years out of two undisclosed funds.
The accounts were used to purchase food and alcohol at annual education conferences hosted under the leadership of former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett.
Garrett said the use of the funds was not only legal and appropriate, but saved taxpayers money by soliciting private donations to pay for food and drinks served at the conferences.

Metlife Survey of the American Teacher

MetLife, Dana Markow, Andrea Pieters:

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy (2011) examines the teaching profession and parent-school engagement at a time when there has been a prolonged economic downturn.
The survey explores how teachers, parents and schools are working together to promote student learning and healthy development in the context of reduced budgets, reallocation of resources, and continued attention to improving teaching and learning. These issues are examined from the perspectives of teachers, parents and students.
Teachers are less satisfied with their careers; in the past two years there has been a significant decline in teachers’ satisfaction with their profession. In one of the most dramatic findings of the report, teacher satisfaction has decreased by 15 points since the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher measured job satisfaction two years ago, now reaching the lowest level of job satisfaction seen in the survey series in more than two decades. This decline in teacher satisfaction is coupled with large increases in the number of teachers who indicate that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation and in the number who do not feel their jobs are secure.
Several factors distinguish teachers with high job satisfaction from those with lower satisfaction. Teachers with high job satisfaction are more likely to feel their jobs are secure and say they are treated as a professional by the community. They are also more likely to have adequate opportunities for professional development, time to collaborate with other teachers, more preparation and supports to engage parents effectively, and greater involvement of parents and their schools in coming together to improve the learning and success of students.
Overall, majorities of both parents and teachers say teachers are treated as professionals by the community and that teachers’ health insurance and retirement benefits are fair for the work they do. However, majorities of parents and teachers do not feel that teachers’ salaries are fair for the work they do.

Charting the K-12 Productivity Implosion

Matthew Lardner:

Previously on JPGB, I wrote about how the world is getting better all the time, with the notable exception of K-12 education. That post included the following chart from Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute:

So just how did we manage to pull this off? The Digest of Education Statistics illustrates how we managed it on the spending side. First, the number of teachers per pupil expanded substantially. Now I am writing this in my pajamas before having my morning caffeine, so feel free to double-check my numbers from the source.

Teacher Evaluations Pose Test for States

Stephanie Banchero:

Efforts to revamp public education are increasingly focused on evaluating teachers using student test scores, but school districts nationwide are only beginning to deal with the practical challenges of implementing those changes.
Only an estimated 30% of classroom teachers in the U.S. work in grades or subjects covered by state standardized tests. Currently, most states test students only in math and reading in third through eighth grades and once in high school, as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Few states test students in other core subjects, such as science and social studies, and for many other subjects there is no testing at all.
Rolling out systemwide tests and devising ways to measure educator effectiveness require additional spending for states and districts, many already low on cash. And some parents and teachers complain that the effort has translated into more testing for children, taking away from classroom learning.

The conservative case for the Common Core

Chester E. Finn:

Writing last about the “war against the Common Core,” I suggested that those English language arts and math standards arrived with four main assets. (In case you’re disinclined to look, they boil down to rigor, voluntariness, portability, and comparability.)
Let me now revisit a fifth potential asset, which is also the main reason that small-government conservatives should favor the Common Core or other high-quality “national standards”: This is the best path toward getting Uncle Sam and heavy-handed state governments to back off from micro-managing how schools are run and to return that authority to communities, individual schools, teachers, and parents.

Obama, GOP governors share many views on education

Associated Press:

A funny thing is happening between President Barack Obama and many Republican governors when it comes to improving America’s schools: They are mostly getting along.
After Obama spoke recently to the nation’s governors, Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal publicly praised the administration’s efforts on education, and Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said there was a lot of room for “common agreement” on fixing schools. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, another Republican, introduced Obama in September at the White House before the president announced that states could be freed from stringent rules under the No Child Left Behind law if they met certain conditions.

Can Parents Take Over Schools?

Andrew Rotherham:

If your child’s school is lousy, would you want the option to band together with other parents and take it over? That’s the idea behind “parent trigger” legislation that enables parents in low-performing schools to vote to change the governance of their children’s school — and remove teachers and the principal if they want to. Although only four states have enacted such a law (California was the first to do so in 2010), legislators in Florida are debating this week whether it should become the fifth, and similar bills are pending in a dozen states.
But so far parents have yet to make a trigger vote stick. Yesterday, parents in Adelanto, Calif., resubmitted a petition to take over a school there after their first petition was rejected by the school board following a frantic campaign by the teachers union to dissuade parents from signing. At a school in Compton last year, parents backed away in the face of pressure so intense a Los Angeles court found their First Amendment rights had been violated. In perhaps the most offensive allegation, teachers union activists have apparently told immigrant parents that supporting the trigger campaign could result in their deportation.

Chazen plays key role in African art project in Madison schools

Susan Day:

For Susan Curtis, a retired school nurse, art appreciation is not just academic.
She knows that art also has the power to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes, inspire creativity, and foster community. With Africa Connects!, a K-12 art history and service-learning project in Madison, Curtis puts that idea into practice.
Children from Sherman Middle School take notes while viewing African art and beaded works on exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art. The group is participating in a grant-funded project — called “Africa Connects!” — led by volunteer coordinator Susan Curtis (background at right) and offered through the Madison Metropolitan School District.
With help from the Chazen Museum of Art and others in the community, Curtis worked to forge a partnership between local schools that opened the door for high school and middle school students to learn more about African art.

Tennessee Education “Innovation Zones”

Joey Garrison:

Duplicating a Metro strategy, the Tennessee Department of Education is challenging the three school districts with the state’s lowest-performing schools to create so-called “offices of innovation” to find creative ways to spur turnarounds.
The plan, including its terminology, is identical to an approach Director of Schools Jesse Register unveiled for Metro in July when he announced the district’s 10 weakest achieving schools would be isolated into a special innovation cluster.
Now, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Memphis City Schools and Hamilton Schools are all in the process of drafting formal plans for innovation zones that require state approval, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters at an inaugural “brown bag” lunch gathering Thursday.
“Metro Nashville was already going to do this,” Huffman said. “It seemed like an interesting model, so we tried to sketch out some parameters.”
The three districts are required to turn in Office of Innovation proposals by March 31. At stake is $35 million in federal school improvement grants to be spread out among the districts over three years

Oak Park schools embark on curriculum audit

Terry Dean:

Oak Park Elementary School District 97 will undertake an audit this spring to identify strengths and weaknesses in its curriculum.
The district plans to hire an outside firm, or individual, to conduct the audit, which is scheduled to take place between April and June. It comes as D97, and school districts nationwide, prepare to implement new state-led standards on improving students’ learning skills.
Lisa Schwartz, D97’s curriculum coordinator, said results from the audit should be complete by late summer or early fall. The district is currently looking at potential firms, she said. Administrators talked with teachers last fall about pursuing an audit this spring. Once completed and with results in hand, Schwartz said the district will look at implementing immediate and long-term changes to the district’s curriculum.

The Charter School Authorization Theory

Matthew DiCarlo:

Anyone who wants to start a charter school must of course receive permission, and there are laws and policies governing how such permission is granted. In some states, multiple entities (mostly districts) serve as charter authorizers, whereas in others, there is only one or very few. For example, in California there are almost 300 entities that can authorize schools, almost all of them school districts. In contrast, in Arizona, a state board makes all the decisions.
The conventional wisdom among many charter advocates is that the performance of charter schools depends a great deal on the “quality” of authorization policies – how those who grant (or don’t renew) charters make their decisions. This is often the response when supporters are confronted with the fact that charter results are varied but tend to be, on average, no better or worse than those of regular public schools. They argue that some authorization policies are better than others, i.e., bad processes allow some poorly-designed schools start, while failing to close others.
This argument makes sense on the surface, but there seems to be scant evidence on whether and how authorization policies influence charter performance. From that perspective, the authorizer argument might seem a bit like tautology – i.e., there are bad schools because authorizers allow bad schools to open, and fail to close them. As I am not particularly well-versed in this area, I thought I would look into this a little bit.

What Teacher Preparation Programs Teach about K-12 Assessment

National Council on Teacher Quality:

A review of coursework on K-12 assessment from a sample of teacher preparation programs
SUMMARY
Over the past several decades, federal and state governments, school districts and education leaders have invested significant resources to develop assessments and data systems to track student performance.Yet little attention has been paid to the importance of building the capacity of teachers in assessment so that they are prepared to use data on student learning to inform and improve instruction. As part of our National Review of Teacher Preparation Programs, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) is examining the extent to which teacher preparation programs train teachers to understand assessment data and use that data to make informed instructional adjustments. Our preliminary findings are cause for concern: At best, teacher preparation programs in this preliminary sample are providing limited training to candidates in the field of assessment and data use. As a result, schools end up employing teachers who lack the training necessary to make use of information increasingly at hand.

Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending

Mike Ford

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.
DISCLAIMER: if you not interested in school funding, prepare to be bored.
Per-pupil support for MPS
Note I am not trying to calculate per-pupil education funding or suggest that this is the amount of money that actually reaches a school or classroom; it is a simple global picture of how much public revenue exists per-pupil in MPS. Below are the relevant numbers for 2012, from MPS documents:
…….
Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

In long-expected move – legislators, school districts outlaw the children (Satire)

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email

Perched up there the tears of others are never upon our own cheek.”
― Elizabeth Goudge, The White Witch
“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground
Republicans, Democrats, progressives, communists, anarchists, elitists, corporatists and fascists are finally working together – in a multi-partisan effort to look the same. Having outlawed logic several sessions ago, Washington legislators are fixing education by breaking it some more.

  • HB 2799 would pay the deep thinkers in the colleges of education to “partner” with K-12 on “innovation,” thus sending all of us farther into financial, academic and social ruin.
  • HB 2337 would pay the geniuses at the state education agency to write online curricula in alignment with the unfunded, unproved, arguably illegal, obscenely expensive de facto federal mandate called the Common Core. Legislators who had promised to help fight off the Common Core defended their support of HB 2337 by saying, “Shut up. Don’t be so negative.”
  • HB 2586 would pay for mandated standardized testing of kindergartners, getting them started early with government brow-beating and low self-esteem. Legislators explained the idea: “Why should kindergartners feel good about themselves? Nobody else gets to do it.”
  • HB 2533 was affectionately dubbed “Fund the Education Mob First.” Legislators defended their support of this bill by refusing to discuss it.

School districts already suffering from a phenomenal growth in their operating and capital projects budgets over ten years have been forced to consider doing things properly and efficiently. Desperate, they begged for help, and lawmakers came to their aid by voting to eliminate everything from school buildings other than administrative staff. As a matter of efficiency, the measures became law before they were written.
As a result of these measures, school district buildings in Washington State soon will have nothing in them but administrators, support staff and “Vote Yes for Kids!” signs. Forums were held around the state to pretend to gather feedback. In Spokane, administrators shrugged and said, “So what? We’ve already begun to do that. We’ve been trying to get rid of the little buggers for decades.”
As a result of these measures, school district buildings in Washington State soon will have nothing in them but administrators, support staff and “Vote Yes for Kids!” signs. Forums were held around the state to pretend to gather feedback. In Spokane, administrators shrugged and said, “So what? We’ve already begun to do that. We’ve been trying to get rid of the little buggers for decades.”

The Wrong Approach to Discipline

The New York Times:

Distressing new federal data on the disciplinary treatment of black students adds urgency to investigations into the treatment of minority children in a dozen school districts around the country by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. The agency, which is negotiating policies with some of these districts, needs to push for procedures that keep children in school.
The new 2009-10 federal data, drawn from more than 72,000 schools, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students, covers a range of issues, including student discipline and retention.
Black students made up only 18 percent of those in the sample but 35 percent of those suspended one time and 39 percent of all expulsions. Blacks, in general, are three-and-a-half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, and more than 70 percent of the students who were involved in arrests or referred to law enforcement agencies were black or Hispanic.

Better Schools Through Better Politics: The Human Side of Portfolio School District Reform

Sam Sperry, Kirsten Vital, Cristina Sepe, Paul Hill, via a kind Deb Britt email:

This working paper series examines the politics of portfolio school district reform, with a primary focus on the issues surrounding high school closures. The authors take an in-depth look at how school closure policies have played out in four urban districts–New York City, Chicago, Denver, and Oakland–and offer a political assessment of what worked or failed and why. The political analyses, case studies, cross-district comparisons, and analysis frameworks may help education leaders anticipate and better address the challenges of closing schools within their own communities.

Can D.C. handle gifted education?

Jay Matthews:

Gifted education rarely draws headlines. Gifted classes are most common in affluent suburbs with many academically oriented families. The kids do well. The parents are happy. No news there.
Gifted education receives little notice in low-income urban school districts because it often doesn’t exist there. Big-city schools have more pressing issues than serving children with unusual intellectual talent. Such districts might designate some students as gifted but rarely do much with them.
That is going to change in D.C. public schools when the new academic year begins. D.C. officials are installing an unusual method of gifted education for all in two very different neighborhood middle schools, Kelly Miller and Hardy. At the same time, a new charter school called BASIS D.C. is opening, with the most academically challenging program ever seen in this region.

New standards may kill desire to rate teachers by test scores

Jay Matthews:

Last week, I examined the nation’s move toward Common Core learning standards from the lofty perspective of scholars and policymakers. Let’s see what it looks like to a smart but confused high school English teacher in San Leandro, Calif.
Jerry Heverly has been teaching for 10 years. He has an intense interest in what the new standards might do for his mostly minority students in the East Bay community. “I really want to find a way to get involved in the political process around these changes,” he said, “but I don’t quite know how to do it.”
So he showed up at a February conference in San Jose sponsored by his union, the California Teachers Association. Marlene Fong and Vernon Gettone, association experts, promised “A Look at the New California State Standards and a New Generation of State Assessments.”
Heverly appreciated their behind-the-scenes revelations from Sacramento. But the session materials jarred him. They said that the Common Core standards, agreed to by the District and 45 states (including California and Maryland, but not Virginia), would be “internationally benchmarked so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society.”

ACLU sues school district for student’s social media free speech rights

Cory Doctorow:

The ACLU has brought suit against the Minnewaska (Minnesota) Area Schools and Pope County over invasions of students’ privacy relating to a pair of incidents. In the first incident, a 12-year-old student was disciplined for complaining on Facebook that she “hated” a hall monitor who was “mean” (the school characterized this as “bullying”). In the second instance, a sheriff’s deputy and school administrators required the student to turn over her Facebook password after her boyfriend’s mother complained that the student and her boyfriend had been talking about sex on the social network.
In both instances, the student used her own, off-school computer to make the contentious remarks, after school hours.

Could Many Universities Follow Borders Bookstores Into Oblivion?

Marc Parry:

Higher education’s spin on the Silicon Valley garage. That was the vision laid out in September, when the Georgia Institute of Technology announced a new lab for disruptive ideas, the Center for 21st Century Universities. During a visit to Atlanta last week, I checked in to see how things were going, sitting down with Richard A. DeMillo, the center’s director and Georgia Tech’s former dean of computing, and Paul M.A. Baker, the center’s associate director. We talked about challenges and opportunities facing colleges at a time of economic pain and technological change–among them the chance that many universities might follow Borders Bookstores into oblivion.
Q. You recently wrote that universities are “bystanders” at the revolution happening around them, even as they think they’re at the center of it. How so?
Mr. DeMillo: It’s the same idea as the news industry. Local newspapers survived most of the last century on profits from classified ads. And what happened? Craigslist drove profits out of classified ads for local newspapers. If you think that it’s all revolving around you, and you’re going to be able to impose your value system on this train that’s leaving the station, that’s going to lead you to one set of decisions. Think of Carnegie Mellon, with its “Four Courses, Millions of Users” idea [which became the Open Learning Initiative], or Yale with the humanities courses, thinking that what the market really wants is universal access to these four courses at the highest quality. And really what the market is doing is something completely different. The higher-education market is reinventing what a university is, what a course is, what a student is, what the value is. I don’t know why anyone would think that the online revolution is about reproducing the classroom experience.

New AP Courses to Emphasize Critical Thinking and Research

Caralee Adams:

The College Board is piloting two new Advanced Placement courses designed to focus on research skills that admissions counselors say are too often missing in high school graduates.
The new program for juniors and seniors, developed in collaboration with Cambridge International Examinations, will be tested over three years in 15 to 18 high schools starting this fall, the College Board announced today.
The AP/Cambridge Interdisciplinary Investigations and Critical Reasoning Seminar will be offered in 11th grade. Students will work in teams to research and write topics of global relevance. Each school can choose its own topic and pair different disciplines, such as history and English.
The AP/Cambridge Capstone Research Project taken in 12th grade involves writing a 4,500 to 5,000-word paper that will be evaluated on the students’ ability to design, plan, and manage a research project, analyze information, and communicate their findings.

The Concord Review.

More Election Tea Leaves: UW-Madison Ed School Dean on K-12 Tax & Spending: Defunding and privatization threaten public schools

UW-Madison Ed School Dean Julie Underwood:

Public education currently stands under twin towers of threat — de-funding and privatization. This is consistent with a conservative agenda to eliminate many public programs — including public education.
In Wisconsin, school districts have been under strict limits on their revenues and spending since 1993. These limits have not kept pace with the natural increases in the costs of everyday things like supplies, energy and fuel. So every year, local school board members and administrators have had to cut their budgets to comply with spending limits. Throughout these years, school boards and administrators have done an admirable job of managing these annual cuts, but taken together, reductions in programs and staff have had a significant and very negative impact on our schools and the education they can provide to children.
Unfortunately this year, these same districts have received the largest single budget cut in Wisconsin history. For example, high poverty aid was cut by 10 percent during a time when poverty in children has increased in Wisconsin. As a result, schools are cutting programs and staff. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction data, the cuts in 2012 are greater than the two previous years combined. These cuts will be compounded when next year’s cuts come due.

Related:

Florida Education Reform

The Economist:

hese efforts thus represent an attempt to seize from Democrats one of their signature issues, public education. The states with the best schools, such as Massachusetts, still tend to be Democratic, with relatively high taxes and school spending. And some Democratic places, such as the District of Columbia and New York, have made aggressive attempts at reform. But voters increasingly see Democrats as beholden to teachers’ unions and the status quo, says Eric Hanushek, an education expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The Republican reformers, by contrast, promise reform without higher taxes, in part by confronting the unions.
This is why they look to Mr Bush. What he proved in Florida, claims Jaryn Emhof, his spokesman at the education foundation he now runs, is that “it’s not about how much you’re spending, but how you’re spending, how you’re teaching.” Although school spending did rise slightly under Mr Bush, Florida still spends very little per pupil compared with other states. With a Republican legislature, Mr Bush instead made Florida the only state to adopt an entire bundle of reforms simultaneously, in the teeth of the teachers’ unions.
First Florida started grading its schools from A to F, based on the proficiency and progress of pupils in annual reading, writing, maths and science tests. The state gives extra money to schools that get an A or improve their grade, and children at schools that get two F grades in four years are allowed to transfer to better schools. Second, Florida stopped letting third-grade pupils who could barely read go on to fourth grade (a practice, common all over America, called “social promotion”).

Excellence in Education explains Florida’s reading reforms and compares Florida’s NAEP progress with Wisconsin’s at the July 29th (2012) Read to Lead task force meeting.
Florida, along with Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Carolina took the TIMSS global exam in 2011. Wisconsin, did not.

AP college arms race: how to survive

Jay Matthews:

The number of high school students taking AP, IB, Advanced International Certificate of Education and local college courses has been rising. College admissions officers feel those courses prepare students better than regular high school courses for higher education. They tell applicants if their high school has such courses, they should take them. The admissions people add that if your school only offers five AP courses, they don’t expect you to have as many on your transcript as a student at a school that offers 25. But you weaken your case if your AP course taking is not in step with classmates applying to your favorite college.
Jodi Siegel, a College Bound educational consultant in Potomac, said if a student’s classmates “take an average of 6 or 7 APs and this student has taken 3 or 4, in all likelihood that student’s level or rigor will appear less impressive.” This is clear, she said, from admission decisions at schools like the University of Maryland.
The Washington area and other affluent regions have many public and private high schools with two dozen or more AP or IB courses. This is hard on students proficient in only a few of subjects available.

When school fights land on YouTube

Donna St. George:

Two boys are fighting in a Calvert County middle school. A crowd of students laugh and jeer until a teacher arrives to break it up. Later discipline is meted out.
But the fight is not nearly over.
A video goes up on YouTube — 32 seconds of personal humiliation for the boy who is taking most of the punches. He has often been bullied in middle school, according to his family, and now is shown being hit in the head and side and placed in a headlock.
There is no apparent serious injury, and the clip is posted as “Weak People Fighting.”
It is uploaded onto Facebook, tweeted, shared and commented on.
“I showed my dad, he bust out laughin,” one girl writes on Facebook at 5:09 pm.

Most public schools closed Monday due to teacher strike

Janet Steffenhagen:

Teachers were planning to distribute leaflets outside B.C. public schools Monday morning at the start of what is likely to be a three-day strike.
Because picketing is not legally permitted in this job action, schools were expected to remain open, with principals, vice-principals and support staff on the job. But almost all districts have cancelled bus services and are urging parents to make other arrangements for their children rather than sending them to school.
“It is not possible for school administrators … to provide appropriate supervision for more than 70,000 students,” Surrey, the province’s largest school district, says in a statement on its website. “Even if just a fraction of the total number of students were to attend, their safety and well-being may be seriously compromised.”
StrongStart Centres and child care programs on school property around the province are not expected to be affected.

What Does it Mean to Be Literate

Daniel Russell:

I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but maybe the question is better framed like this: “How illiterate are you?”
Technically, to be literate means you can simply read and write (that is, code and decode) in the representation system of your social group. But even that simple definition assumes that there is a shared coding scheme. If you’re a kid in the US in the early 21st century, that’s probably English; but it could also just as well be Spanish or Chinese.
But it also has the sense of having knowledge or being competent in a specific area. You can say, “he’s literate about wine,” “literate about netsuke,” or “literate about the Old Testament.” A quick search reveals a whole host of literacies that are common these days: media literacy, information literacy, financial, bible, multicultural, interactive, news, environmental… on and on.

Public response to Iowa education reform a ‘mixed bag’

Mike Wiser:

Charter schools, online learning, third-grade retention, teacher seniority and a dozen more topics were part of a two-hour public forum Monday night at the Iowa House.
About 40 of the 70 who signed up to give their views on Iowa education were able to in the two-hour time limit imposed by the House. Speakers included teachers, school administrators, parents, lobbyists, students and even the state’s chief executive
Gov. Terry Branstad was first to take the microphone. Right off the bat, he took on critics of three of the most controversial parts of his education reform package.
He told lawmakers that third-grade retention for poor readers, end-of-course exams for high school seniors, and more frequent and rigorous evaluations for teachers and principals are all needed to put Iowa back on top of school rankings.

Create schools where kids don’t have to fight for honor

Angela Dye:

The issue of violence in our schools is a gateway to explore other problems in society. For individuals who are willing to move beyond the micro discussion of blaming students and think critically about the macro phenomenon of systemic oppression, school violence provides insight into the community hopelessness with which children are left to contend.
Before delving into the social context of violence that is occurring in Milwaukee, let’s first examine the socioeconomic and instructional conditions of student learning at the local and state level:
88% of students enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools are of color, while only 26% of students enrolled at the state level are of color.
19% of MPS students have a special education classification, while only 14% of students at the state level are classified as special education.

Partnerships with schools can help reduce violence

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Public schools have a problem with youth violence because the city has a problem with youth violence. There is no magical solution that will fix this multilayered problem, but one thing is certain: Milwaukee Public Schools cannot fix the problem alone.
While the district can put scanners at the doors of every high school to make sure weapons do not enter the building, it will take a communitywide approach that includes parents, social service agencies, community groups, businesses and mentors to help kids deal with the many problems they face, problems that increase the risk of violence.
Matthew Boswell, principal at Vincent High School, said a collaborative approach will help students succeed and make schools safer. In fact, schools and school districts with the strongest community support are safer and have the best student achievement, he said.

Did Obama Really Say He Wants Everyone to Go to College?

James Altucher:

There’s a weird debate happening out there. Apparently Rick Santorum “accused” Obama of insisting that every child go to college. Other websites have said that Obama has never said this but instead has encouraged every kid to seek a higher education. I don’t care about Obama or Santorum. I don’t care about politics at all. But it’s interesting to me how this issue has again sparked a debate.
Expect lots of lies and cutting and stabbing for the next few months until the election. Santorum clearly lied. Obama lies. Everyone will lie about everyone else. Which is why I hate politics, why I think Congress should be abolished, and why I think Nobody should be voted in as President. (Quick: name the last President that actually improved your life as a direct result of their policies.)
And now suddenly, and sadly, “to go or not to go” to college has become a political issue. Yet another pressure trying to ruin the lives of our children.

Achievement Gap Plan Front And Center At Madison School Board Candidate Forum

Amelia Wedemeyer:

About 20 people attended a 2012 School Board candidate forum, co-sponsored by the Northside Planning Council (NPC) and the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition (EAAPTOC), held at Warner Park Community Recreation Center on March 1.
Community members were introduced to the four candidates running for two available seats on the School Board.
The candidates, who include incumbent, Arlene Silveira, vice president of education and learning at Urban League of Greater Madison, Nichelle Nichols, former Commerce Secretary, Mary Burke, and firefighter, Michael Flores, gave brief introductory statements and then answered questions posed by the NPC and the EAAPTOC.
Nichols will take on Silveira, and Burke and Flores will face each other at the polls on April 3.
One of the first questions of the night referred to the recent achievement gap plan proposed by the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate was asked what they thought the single most important part of the plan was.
Burke mentioned the significance of the broad array of programs designed to affect students of all ages, while her opponent, Flores, likened the plan to his job as a firefighter.

2012 Madison School Board Candidates
Seat 1:

Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com

Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com

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

Tea Leaves in the Madison School Board Election: Arlene Silveira: “After budget cuts, school board needs priorities”

Madison School Board Member Arlene Silveira

Let me tell you a bit about why I’m running and what issues the Board faces.
Public schools face unprecedented challenges. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently called public school systems “anachronistic.” Walker’s budget contains the biggest cut to education in Wisconsin history.
Here in Madison, the Board of Education faces many significant issues: an upcoming budget with a multi-million dollar deficit; children of color, often living in poverty, who do less well in school and graduate at lower rates and a difficult transition from collective bargaining agreements, which Walker eliminated, to a personnel “handbook” that will define our relationships with teachers and staff.
When our schools face multiple challenges, board members must have the backbone to focus on what is most effective in helping all children learn and achieve. We must prioritize initiatives that provide the biggest bang for our buck. When there are hard choices to be made, we owe it to the children we serve to engage in respectful debate in order to find solutions.
I approach my work on the board from many perspectives: as a parent, businessperson, taxpayer and advocate for public education. I will continue to fight against assaults on public education, whether they are attempts to privatize public education or ones that demonize teachers.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
Several related notes & links:

Bernanke Gets Back to His Academic Roots

Kristina Peterson:

When George Washington University adjourns next week, 30 students will be doing 50 pages of assigned monetary policy reading while on their spring break.
The homework wasn’t a deterrent to the students who applied to take BADM 4900, a business course that started Tuesday. Boosting the popularity of the half-semester, 1.5-credit course, “Reflections on the Federal Reserve,” is its headlining guest lecturer: the central bank’s chairman, Ben Bernanke.
Later this month, Mr. Bernanke will become the first sitting Fed chairman to deliver a college lecture series. The move highlights the former professor’s push to make the central bank more transparent and accessible by using his academic bona fides to explain the Fed’s many unconventional actions since the financial crisis.

Mental Math with Tricks & Shortcuts

Mathema Tricks:

These days we have become so much dependent on the mechanical devices that we have almost forgotten how to use our mind. We need calculators (if not computers) to add our shopping bills. Daily life tosses plenty of math problems our way. Of course, normal calculation can get boring. Here’s the secret: Tricks & Shortcuts. Mental calculation comprises arithmetical calculations using only the human brain, with no help from calculators, computers or even pen and paper but easily and quickly.

In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books

David Streitfeld:

RICHMOND, Calif. — In a wooden warehouse in this industrial suburb, the 20th century is being stored in case of digital disaster.
Forty-foot shipping containers stacked two by two are stuffed with the most enduring, as well as some of the most forgettable, books of the era. Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive, many of them donations from libraries and universities thrilled to unload material that has no place in the Internet Age.
Destined for immortality one day last week were “American Indian Policy in the 20th Century,” “All New Crafts for Halloween,” “The Portable Faulkner,” “What to Do When Your Son or Daughter Divorces” and “Temptation’s Kiss,” a romance.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: As Stockton struggles, so does California

Dan Walters:

So Stockton has suspended payments to its bondholders and is seeking to renegotiate its debts in hopes of averting a formal bankruptcy.
Sound familiar? It’s what Greece, which also is head-over-heels in debt, is doing.
The parallels are uncanny. Stockton and Greece spent heavily to keep money flowing to those with political pull, and borrowed heavily, all in the name of societal improvement.
Stockton wanted to improve its poor municipal image – crime-ridden and corrupt. So it borrowed to build a new sports arena, a baseball park, a hotel and a marina – the latter so over the top that boaters visit just to gawk at its grandiosity – while giving extravagant benefits to its employees.

Arrested dad wants answers after daughter draws gun pic

Kris Sims:

Jessie Sansone and his family are reeling after he was arrested and strip searched by police after his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a man with a gun in her Kitchener, Ont., kindergarten class.
The 26-year-old father of four said Saturday the sketch was supposed to be him, getting the bad guys and monsters.
The school must have thought differently, as after Nevaeh drew it Wednesday, the school contacted Family and Children’s Services and they called police.

Madison School District “Handbook” must make students top priority

Chris Rickert:

Assuming Democrats aren’t able to take over state government early next year and reinstate full-fledged public sector collective bargaining, we’re talking about the replacement of some 400 pages of detailed contract language for five district bargaining units.
Madison teachers union-backed board candidates Arlene Silveira, an incumbent, and Michael Flores have indicated to the union that they would essentially be OK with the handbook becoming the collective bargaining agreements by another name.
Mary Burke, who is running against Flores, and Nichelle Nichols, who is challenging Silveira, have not.
“One of the most important needed changes is the use of student learning as a component of a teacher’s evaluation,” Burke told me, while Nichols predicted that employee evaluations, compensation practices and a longer school day or year are likely to be contentious handbook topics.
Silveira told me she’d like the handbook to allow for more flexible scheduling, possibly including more classroom time.
Whatever the specifics of the final product, though, it’s unlikely to be anything but a fair — if not a better-than-fair — deal for employees. Madison, with its public worker union sympathies, won’t stand for anything less.

Madison school board candidates Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira discuss why they are running, poverty in the schools

Isthmus Take Home Test (Nichelle Nichols & Arlene Silveira):

WHAT QUALIFIES YOU TO BE ON THE MADISON SCHOOL BOARD ? WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STAKE IN THE MADISON SCHOOLS?
Nichelle Nichols
Our school board must be a governing body that is effective in setting the direction and priorities of our district. We need to elect board members who are honest about our current realities and who share a fundamental belief that we must make bold changes in order to better educate all students. Our students, families and taxpayers deserve it.
I bring a future-oriented mindset to the table and a commitment to solutions. Our heart-breaking graduation rate for Black and Latino students eloquently testifies that we do not fully understand the dynamics of poor student performance or the educational changes required to remedy it. I am personally and professionally committed to making systemic changes to close the racial achievement gap. It is time for defenders of the status quo to step aside.
I am qualified as a parent, as an engaged community member, and as a professional who has worked the last 15 years in community-based organizations throughout Madison. I bring a critical perspective from the service delivery level focused on equity for those who are most disadvantaged. As a woman of color, a parent of African American sons, and through my work at the Urban League, I am immersed in the realities of our minority students, yet in touch with the experiences of all students and parents. I am informed beyond the constraints of the boardroom.
I have a personal stake in the Madison schools that spans two generations. I am a Madison native who attended Longfellow Elementary, Cherokee Middle, and graduated from West High. I have a B.S. from UW-Madison and a master’s degree in Business Management from Cardinal Stritch University. I am the mother of four African American sons. My eldest graduated from West High School in 2011, which leaves me with three yet to graduate. Based on the 48% graduation rate, the odds are that two of my sons won’t graduate. This is unacceptable.
My experience transcends the experience gained from currently sitting on the board, because where we must go will not rely strictly on what we’ve always known. I welcome the challenge.
Arlene Silveira
Our schools face multiple challenges, and board members must have the backbone to focus on what is most effective in helping all children learn and achieve. We must prioritize initiatives that provide the biggest bang for our buck. When there are hard choices to be made, we owe it to the children we serve to engage in respectful debate in order to find solutions.
That is my record on the school board. My commitment to public education, to Madison’s 27,000 students, to our outstanding teachers and staff, and to staying in the fight for good public schools are the reasons I am running for re-election.
My belief in public education has roots in my personal story. I am the grandchild of immigrants, the daughter of two working class parents, and the mother of a child of color who graduated from the Madison schools. I have a degree in secondary education, biology and chemistry from Springfield College (Massachusetts), and a masters in molecular biology from the University of Connecticut.
I have seen first-hand the advantages public education brings and the equalizing effect public schools have in our society. I have seen first-hand the struggles a child can face in the schools. I am a businesswoman who works at a global scientific company. I know the need for an educated workforce, and I know that good schools strengthen a city because they attract businesses and families.
I am also a taxpayer. The state funding system for public education is not sustainable. We must find a way to better fund our schools, not on the backs of taxpayers. I will continue to advocate for fair funding.
The skills I use on a daily basis as Director of Global Custom Sales at Promega Corporation are also skills I use as a board member — budgeting, communication, evaluation, facilitation, negotiation and project management.
In short, I approach the board’s complex work from many perspectives: parent, businessperson, taxpayer, and advocate for public education. I will continue to fight against assaults on public education and advocate for what is most effective for all the students we serve.

Isthmus Take Home Test (Mary Burke & Michael Flores):

WHAT QUALIFIES YOU TO BE ON THE MADISON SCHOOL BOARD? WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL STAKE IN THE MADISON SCHOOLS?
Mary Burke
When I began tutoring two brothers on Madison’s south side, I saw how tough it is for children with serious challenges at home to learn and thrive in school. School was a refuge for these boys, and education was the best way for them to build a better future. I have worked with teachers striving every day to meet the needs of each student, to challenge the gifted child and the one just learning English. In the past 13 years, I have mentored five youth, have seen great things in our schools, and opportunities to do better.
I care about our children. My broad experience in education, non-profits, government, finance, and business will make me an effective school board member. After receiving an MBA from Harvard, I was an executive at Trek Bicycle, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce under Governor Doyle, board president of the Boys & Girls Club, and co-founder of the AVID/TOPS program. AVID/TOPS is the district’s premier program to address the achievement gap, and has 450 students across all four Madison high schools. For those in the program, grade point averages are 30% higher, school attendance higher, discipline issues down, and 100% of seniors have gone onto college. I’ve served on the boards of United Way, Madison Community Foundation, Evjue Foundation, and Foundation for Madison Public Schools. One current school board member said, “Mary Burke stands out. Mary may be the best-qualified candidate to run for Madison School Board in quite a while.”
Success in school for our children is important to me and to our entire community. Our public schools shape our future neighbors and workforce. Success in school is a leading factor in whether a student is on the path to UW-Madison, Madison College, or the county jail. Nothing is more important and critical to our city’s future than our public schools.
I have been a catalyst for positive change in Madison. On the school board, my focus will be bringing our community together to ensure students learn and thrive — taking smart action for them, for our neighborhoods, for all of Madison.
Michael Flores
I have real world experience. I am part of a minority group and have walked the path that a number of our students are encountering. I have worked since I was 14, and supported myself from the age of 17 on. I have worked as a bank loan officer and small businessman, and know what it means to face budget constraints. My training as a paramedic has made me skilled in high emergency prioritizing and urgency in decision-making — skills that will translate to the work on the school board. As a parent and member of this community, I have a vested interest in education.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio
Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.

Mary Burke for Madison School Board

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Mary Burke and Michael Flores are vying to replace Lucy Mathiak on the Madison School Board. Judged by their background, experience and skills and by the extent to which they’re prepared to grapple with the tough issues the Board faces, there is simply no comparison between the two. Mary Burke stands out. Mary may be the best-qualified candidate to run for Madison School Board in quite a while. (She’s far better qualified than I was when I first ran, for whatever that’s worth).
Let’s run through some of the dimensions of experience that can be helpful for School Board service. Involvement with our schools? Check. Mary is the co-founder and co-chair of the AVID/TOPS program, a widely-praised partnership between the school district and Boys and Girls Club that started at East High and is now in all our high schools and spreading to our middle schools. She is a mentor to a sophomore at East and to a foster teen in the district’s program for school-aged parents and she tutors first graders as a Schools of Hope volunteer at Frank Allis School.
Business experience? Check. Mary has started a business, worked for Trek Bicyle, worked as a business consultant and served as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. Board experience? Check. Mary has served on the Boards of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, the Madison Community Foundation, the United Way, and the Evjue Foundation, and was a long-time president of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club.

Much more on Ed Hughes, here.
Madison School Board Election Notes and Links:
Nichele Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Photos & Audio
Listen to the event via this 77MB mp3 audio file.
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
The “status quo” vs. reform battle appears to be underway. Change is very, very hard at the local, state and federal levels. Progress is further subject to lobbying….

Alice Waters in Houston: ‘Shelling Peas’ for the Greater Good

Emily Deprang:

Alice Waters, the famed chef, author, and activist, addressed a packed house at the Wortham Center’s Cullen Theater in Houston on Monday night, sharing her values and advocating for an “edible education” in public schools.
Waters is widely credited with revolutionizing New American cuisine through her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, Chez Panisse, which has focused on organic, local, seasonal foods prepared simply ever since its inception in 1971. Her influence as an early champion of farmers markets and school lunch reform can hardly be overstated, though she’s been well recognized along the way. Chez Panisse was named Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine, Waters was named Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2009, Waters became the only American chef to receive the French Legion of Honor.

A geek’s guide to writing

Ben Werdmuller:

I’ve had this idea for a story for years. We live in a world where truth is curated for us, everything we do can be tracked and used to infer things about what we’re going to do next, and identity is defined by what we broadcast. What happens when we no longer fit into the narrative?
This year, I’m writing it. It’s called Profiled, and I’ll be releasing it in installments later this year, alongside a blog about taking a lean startup approach to writing a novel. You can sign up for free here. (And yes, these posts and the signup form are my minimum viable product.)
I can’t tell you too much about my actual writing thought process, because I don’t know what to say. I’m getting into the story, which is probably a good sign, but there’s no getting away from the fact that I’ve never done this before. I need professional advice and editing. More on that another time.

Fixing schools with brawn and brains

Matthew Tully:

I receive the same two questions every time I stand before an audience to talk about the year I spent chronicling one of the worst-performing schools in the state of Indiana.
“What’s the solution?” and “What did you learn?”
The solution, I argue, can be found in the failing schools themselves. Despite all of the problems I found during my year at Manual High, there were pockets of excellence that can serve as a guide. Such as:

  • The 25-year-old choir teacher who worked so hard to engage his students that he was often sweating at the end of his classes. By his second year at the school, the choir program had more than tripled in size and previously at-risk students were working harder than ever.
  • The Army veteran turned school police officer who spent every day trying to build relationships with students, aware that many needed a mentor and that the relationships he forged today would pay off in times of crisis later.
  • The special-needs teacher who was nearing retirement age but just couldn’t imagine walking away from a group of students who suffered from the most profound learning disabilities. Her students wouldn’t go to college, but she knew that if she worked hard enough some would ultimately be able to live semi-independently.

When people ask me for a quick-hit solution to America’s education problems, I instead share the words of Earl Martin Phalen, who runs a program in Indiana that seeks to prevent low-income students from suffering a summer learning loss. Two years ago, a schools superintendent introduced Phalen at a news conference as: “The brains behind the operation.”

Searching for Hope, Life at a Failing School in the Heart of America by Matthew Tully