Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Emphasis on Adult Employment



Andrew Coulson:

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

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

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

Janet Mertz:

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

South Carolina College Tuition Summit

Josh Dawsey

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

Education Reform Goes Mainstream

Jay Green:

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

Congress in the Classroom

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

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

Will Anyone at NBC Ask About the 216?

Conn Carroll

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

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

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

Neal McCluskey:

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

UK Med School Students Get a New Prescription: iPhones

Christina Warren

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

Education Reform a Risky Business: Fenty

NBC

Leaders must be willing to take political risks in order to improve schools, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an NBC “Education Nation” panel discussion in New York Tuesday.
Fenty’s choice of tough reformer Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. schools wound up being a main issue, along with his personality, in his bid for a second term, which he lost.

Cal Thomas: Politicians allow public education to fail kids

Cal Thomas:

“Waiting for Superman” is the new film by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of “An Inconvenient Truth,” and it should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.
As a synopsis on the Fandango movie site says, this film “explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation’s children. …”
Not only do we see children and their parents on the edge of their seats during a lottery that will determine who gets the educational equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card, we also watch the crestfallen faces of those who don’t draw the magic numbers for decent schools, a better education and, thus, a hope for the future. Is this how a poor child’s destiny should be decided, by lottery?

Signal on D.C. education reform from Gray’s camp

Jay Matthews

On Sunday, the All Opinions Are Local page of washingtonpost.com ran a commentary by former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous. I am rerunning it because I think it has unusual importance as we look toward the future of D.C. schools under Vincent Gray. The piece doesn’t indicate ties to Gray. Nor does the identification of Chavous that ran with the piece. But Chavous is close to the presumptive mayor and the commentary provides many clues to what Gray might try to do.
I realize this is a throwback to my China-watching days, reading more into an editorial than it seems to say. But Gray has expressed his support for charters, a theme of Chavous’s piece, so there are clear links between Gray and this line of thought. Chavous is worth reading in any case, and it is important to note that he is probably the best-informed and best-connected person in the Gray camp on educational innovation and education policy issues.

Parental Reform

Michael Jensen

There’s a lot of buzz about education this week. Most of it coinciding with a new documentary that explores the failures of the American public education system. But as a classic cynic, I also suspect the education discussion is a well-timed diversion from the economy — just before the November elections.
Regardless of the motive, there is ample reason to discuss education in America and our slide from education excellence as measured against other nations. The new documentary “Waiting For Superman” has created a stir primarily because it calls into account the teachers’ unions for resisting changes in education reform while protecting their union membership.
President Obama, who depends on union donations for his political survival, even weighed in on the teachers’ unions by saying they too must be accountable if reform is to occur. Those words from this President are both shocking and appropriate.
The Obama administration has touted their Race to the Top initiative for education with mixed results in the early going. That program most certainly cannot match the No Child Left Behind program for ineptitude.

Booker hopes Newark can be a national laboratory for education reform

Patricia Alex

Failing schools in Newark may be shuttered, charter schools expanded and private money used to boost salaries and provide merit bonuses to teachers, Mayor Cory Booker said Tuesday.
The city can be a national laboratory for education reform thanks in part to an unprecedented $100 million pledge from the founder of Facebook, Booker said. The mayor provided broad outlines of the reform plan during a meeting with The Record’s editorial board.
And he signaled a willingness to take on the city teachers union and what he called a “clogged” and bloated bureaucracy in the state’s largest school district.
“If you’re failing my children, get out of the way,” Booker said.

Viva La Rhee-volución

Elizabeth Bloom

There was a significant election on September 14. No, it wasn’t the primary for a senate seat, or even for a governorship. It did, however, have ramifications for Washington, D.C. and for the nation.
I’m talking about the Democratic primary for the office of mayor of the District of Columbia. Council Chairman Vince C. Gray defeated incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in convincing fashion. This election was significant because it could mean the forced or voluntary departure of the D.C. Public School system’s controversial chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee.
Rhee, a former Teach for America corps member and founder of a non-profit that recruits teachers for public schools, took over the school system after Fenty became mayor in 2007. Fenty had written legislation giving him mayoral control over the schools and asked Rhee to run the system. She became chancellor on the condition that Fenty would give her the political cover necessary to make unpopular reforms in the country’s worst school system.

Best Value Law Schools

National Jurist:

With tuitions up, and lawyer salaries stagnant, its more important than ever for law schools to deliver a good value. We crunched the numbers to identify the best value law schools for 2010.
Even though Jennifer Keegan had gone to Florida State as an undergraduate, she wasn’t ready to enter law school at the same university without looking around at other places.
“I had a long list of 15 schools including private schools and schools outside the state, because I like trying new things,” she said. “But when I looked at all the factors – actual cost, the amount of career placement, the bar passage rate — I crossed many of the places off my list. FSU had all the things I wanted at an incredibly good cost.”
She’s now a first-year law student at Florida State.

Governor Seeks Pay and Tenure Changes in New Jersey Education Overhaul

Terrence Dopp

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wants to link public school teachers’ pay and tenure to their students’ performance, and to make it easier for districts to fire their worst educators.
“Pay should go to the people who have earned it,” he said today in a town hall meeting in Old Bridge Township. Tenure has become “a sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system.”
Christie, a Republican who has said the state’s education system is costly and failing many children, plans to administratively overhaul the process of teacher performance evaluations and to spend $20 million during the next two years improving a database that tracks them. He also proposed expanding teacher training and “alternative routes” to becoming a principal.

Related, Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

The irony behind Obama’s Sidwell/D.C. schools remarks

Valerie Strauss:

There is some irony behind President Obama’s comment that his daughters could not get as fine an academic experience in a D.C. public school as they do at private Sidwell Friends School: His education policies promote some practices that Sidwell wouldn’t dream of adopting.
Obama sparked a heated debate when he said during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that schools in the D.C. public system were making progress but were not as good as Sidwell.
My colleague, Jay Mathews, wrote on his Class Struggle blog that Obama was wrong. Jay said that there are some D.C. schools that are “just as good in every important way,” and the important ways he cites are setting high standards and having excellent teachers.
There are indeed teachers in the city schools that are as fine as any teachers at Sidwell, and some D.C. schools set extremely high standards for kids. But high standards and fine teachers do not alone make a great school, not if the fine teachers aren’t given the support and resources they need to help the kids meet the high standards. And, some of these fine teachers have told me, they aren’t.

“In bigger cities, youth sport is overorganized and overcoached,” Dr. Côté says.

Austin Kelley, via a Diane Harrington email

Growing up among the 1,341 people in Taylorsville, Miss., Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell probably didn’t encounter the best coaches or the greatest competition. Which probably helped him reach the NFL. Studies show that small towns are better breeding grounds for athletes than cities, and sports psychologists are using these data to question our ideas about talent development.
Only one-in-four Americans come from towns of fewer than 50,000 people, but nearly half of NFL players and PGA golfers do, according to two recent studies. The small-town figures for golf and baseball are just under 40%. The studies use 1980 Census figures because they most closely represented the birth year of pro athletes.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Household income plunged in 2009

Carol Morello and Dan Keating:

Three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year, with the number of poor African American children rising at a breathtaking rate, according to census statistics released Tuesday.
Among black children in the city, childhood poverty shot up to 43 percent, from 36 percent in 2008 and 31 percent in 2007. That was a much sharper increase than the two percentage-point jump, to 36 percent, among poor black children nationwide last year.
The number of poor minority children also rose in many parts of the Washington suburbs, including Montgomery , Alexandria, Arlington and the northern half of Fairfax County.
But the District, where unemployment has risen to nearly 30 percent in Ward 8, had the most sobering rise. Last year, there were more than 30,000 black children living in poverty in the city, almost 7,000 more than two years before, according to Census Bureau data.

Baltimore Ends Linking Pay to Years of Employment (Tenure)

Liz Bowie & Erica Green

The Baltimore school district and its teachers union have struck a landmark agreement that would end the longtime practice of linking pay to years of employment and place the city at the forefront of a national reform effort, according to sources familiar with the pact.
The two sides have discussed a pay system that would reward skills and effectiveness and are expected to announce the details of the agreement Wednesday.
Experts in teacher compensation said Baltimore was poised to become one of only a handful of places in the country, including Washington, D.C., New Haven, Conn., and Pittsburgh, that have moved toward paying teachers for performance as a way to improve the quality of education in their schools. The Obama administration has been pressing for such changes.

Rick Scott’s education plan would cut taxes, increase private school vouchers

Marc Caputo and Sergio Bustos:

Pledging to cut taxes and increase school choice for parents, Republican Rick Scott rolled out his education plan Tuesday in what could presage a long fight with the state’s teachers union.
“Parents ought to have a right to choose a school for their kids,” said Scott. ”Competition is good.”
To accomplish his education plan, Scott wants to increase taxpayer-backed private school scholarships, charter schools, home schooling and virtual, online education. At the same time, Scott wants to trim $1.4 billion in property taxes for schools and cut up to $700 million more in corporate income taxes — a main vehicle to fund a state educational voucher program.

How High Schools Become Exemplary: Ways That Leadership Raises Achievement and Narrows Gaps by Improving Instruction in 15 Public High Schools

The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, via a kind reader:

In early 2009, the Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI) at Harvard University identified fifteen high schools with unusually strong evidence of student learning as measured by gains on standardized state exams. The schools had improved over a period of years. Most were racially and socioeconomically diverse. The AGI invited leaders of the identified schools to a two-day conference in June of 2009 to explain how their schools achieved such outstanding results.1 This report, How High Schools Become Exemplary, reviews and summarizes the presentations. The featured schools come from Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Washington, DC. Each chapter here details how leaders engaged other adults in successful efforts to improve learning outcomes. The central theme is that schools improved performance by striving relentlessly to improve instruction.
Located at the boundary between adolescence and adulthood, high schools are critically important institutions. Unfortunately, they are the most stubborn part of the K-12 system to reform–the most impervious to change.2 In his recent book, So Much Reform, So Little Change, Charles Payne discusses the difficulty of reforming elementary schools and then comments that “The problems of elementary schools are exacerbated in high schools.”3 High schools tend to be fragmented organizations in which order is sometimes challenging to maintain and where responsibility for improving instruction resides mainly in isolated academic departments and classrooms. Principals are often distracted by crises. Many defer routinely to the subject-matter expertise of department leaders, seldom interfering with how departments monitor, evaluate, or attempt to improve teaching and learning.

4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong

Sam Dillon

A decade ago, Brockton High School was a case study in failure. Teachers and administrators often voiced the unofficial school motto in hallway chitchat: students have a right to fail if they want. And many of them did — only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams. One in three dropped out.
Then Susan Szachowicz and a handful of fellow teachers decided to take action. They persuaded administrators to let them organize a schoolwide campaign that involved reading and writing lessons into every class in all subjects, including gym.
Their efforts paid off quickly. In 2001 testing, more students passed the state tests after failing the year before than at any other school in Massachusetts. The gains continued. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools. And its turnaround is getting new attention in a report, “How High Schools Become Exemplary,” published last month by Ronald F. Ferguson, an economist at Harvard who researches the minority achievement gap.

Related: Small Learning Communities and English 10.

An Interview with Christopher Woodhead: About Ofsted

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

5) What are the main problems that the educational system in Britain currently faces?
Again, see above. It isn’t inadequate funding that ultimately explains poor standards in our schools. It is the progressive, child centred, ideas which are peddled by teacher trainers and administrators. The educational enterprise should initiate the young into the best that has been thought and written. At present we are far from this ideal in the UK. The great and the good who pontificate about education seem to believe that the curriculum can be personalised and that the subjective and ill-informed views of pupils matter more than the authority of the teacher and, beyond the teacher, of the disciplines into which the young should be initiated
6) Let’s talk about children with special needs- How well prepared is the average teacher in England to provide quality instruction for these students?
It depends what you mean by special educational needs. For the last thirty years it has been assumed that one in five children will have a special educational need at some point in their school career. I think this is nonsense. Properly taught, most children can cope, up to a point, with a basic curriculum and most teachers, properly trained, can teach such children. There are, of course, children who have real needs, physical, emotional and/or intellectual. I do not think that mainstream teachers can reasonably be expected to deal with the problems such children experience. The last Government shut down many of the special schools which used to exist for these children. This was a tragedy.

An Interview with Richard D. Kahlenberg: College and Other Issues

Michael F. Shaughnessy, via email

3) Why, in your mind is the book important, and why are the issues important?
There have been dozens of books written about racial affirmative action, but this is the first full-length book devoted to a larger affirmative action program based on lineage. The first part of the book includes chapters on the history of legacy preferences, their current use, whether they in fact help in fundraising (as supporters claim), and their impact on students of color. The second part of the book looks at legal theories and political reforms to curtail legacy preferences.
I think the issue is important because our public and private colleges and universities, which are heavily supported with taxpayer subsidies, are supposed to be serving the public interest. Instead, thousands of hard working students are bumped aside every year at selective institutions because of a system that discriminates based on ancestry. This practice is fundamentally unAmerican in my view.
4) How exactly do you define ” legacy ” and are there any specific colleges or universities that seem to hold ” legacy ” as a variable of importance?
Legacy preferences provide an admissions advantage to the children (and sometimes the grandchildren and siblings) of alumni. They are used at roughly 3/4 of selective national universities and virtually all selective liberal arts colleges. Among highly selective universities, controlling for grades and test scores, a given student’s chances of being admitted are 20 percentage points higher if they are legacies. We have a list of those national universities that use and do not use legacy preferences in a chapter by Chad Coffman that is available on our website. http://tcf.org/list.asp?type=PB&pubid=723

The iPad Project: How It’s Going

Frasier Speirs:

So many people have asked me to explain the educational impact of the iPad. I simply can’t yet get to grips with everything that’s happening. Put simply, the iPad deployment has transformed our school. Not evenly and not everywhere yet, but it’s coming.
There are stages to technology adoption. Two important stages are ‘replacement’ and ‘transformation’. With replacement, you take an existing resource and replace it with an essentially identical digital resource. Think of a paper textbook replaced by the same textbook in PDF form. That’s not to be sniffed at – there are big advantages to that.
What we’re reaching in some classes is the transformation stage. We’re seeing the iPad completely change the way that certain subjects are taught. Our best example so far is Art. I will write and share more about what we’re doing in Art over time but it’s fair to say that it is already far beyond anything I expected in the first year, let alone the first month.
At this point, all I can give you are some practical anecdotes which, I hope, will give you a flavour of the change.

Wisconsin Education: Sounding the Alarm: A Wakeup Call With Directions

Frederick Hess & Oliva Meeks

There was a time when Wisconsin was a leader in school reform, and it wasn’t that long ago. All you have to do is go two decades back, and the state’s performance on reading and math assessments put its students in the nation’s upper tier. The 1990 Milwaukee Parental Choice Program was heralded as a watershed for school choice, and today, it is the nation’s largest school voucher program. Wisconsin was also an early adopter of charter schooling, and its SAGE class-size-reduction program gained national attention in the 1990s.
In the current education landscape, those days of innovation seem a long way off.
Wisconsin is no longer mentioned as an education innovator in the same breath as states like Louisiana, Tennessee, or Colorado. Wisconsin has also seen a tremendous erosion of its once-impressive math and reading performance. In 1990, Wisconsin outperformed 76% of the states in eighth-grade math scores. Today, Wisconsin has fallen to the middle of the pack. In reading, the decline has been even more precipitous.1 And all of this has happened in spite of the fact that statewide per-pupil spending has risen from $7,749 per student in 1990 to $10,041 in 2007 (in constant 2007 dollars), proving that just throwing money at a problem will not solve it.2
Perhaps the most vexing statistic is the racial divide – 93% of white students graduated high school in 2009 statewide, compared to only 66% of African-American students.3 This is a divide that no state or country can tolerate if it intends to remain functioning, let alone successful. The situation is most grim in Milwaukee, where only one-third of African-American tenth-graders–34%–are proficient in reading compared to 67% among their white classmates; in math, 19% of African-American students are proficient compared to 56% of white students.4

Lessons from the Chessboard

Stephanie Banchero

At a school for troubled kids on this city’s tough North Side, life’s lessons are learned on a chessboard.
In Room 103, Marqwon, 16 years old, kicked out of his regular school for bringing in a nail-studded piece of wood, tapped his forefinger in the air as he mapped out his next six moves.
Across the board, 15-year-old Joann, sent here after throwing a punch at a classmate, was losing the match and wasn’t happy about it.
“You’re just embarrassing me,” she said, toppling her king with a smack. “You know it’s over.”
Her action coaxed chess instructor Bill Thompson to the table. “Let’s not give up,” he said. “Let’s think of a way to get out of this.”
Chess has been a part of after-school programs for at least 40 years, but mainly in the suburbs. In the last decade, it has exploded in popularity in urban areas as research showed that students who play chess do better on achievement exams, especially math.
But few schools offer chess as an academic subject–and fewer still require it, especially for students already labeled as troublemakers, like the ones here.

Make Way for Merit Pay

Wisconsin State Journal

Deborah Kenny, CEO of the successful and innovative Harlem Village Academies charter schools in one of the poorest parts of New York City, summed up the need for change in a Wall Street Journal guest column last week:
“We need to stop treating teachers like industrial-era workers and start treating them like professionals,” she wrote.
Kenny lets her teachers choose their own textbooks and design their own courses. But they are then held accountable for how their students perform. So far, the results are promising, with test scores among the best in the nation for math, science and social studies.
Many teachers mistakenly fear that test scores will be the sole determinant of merit. Under most systems being proposed, gains in test scores would be one of several factors. A teacher might get a bonus, for example, for taking on a leadership role in mentoring beginning teachers.
In Washington, D.C., the most effective teachers are now eligible to earn almost twice what they used to make, thanks to merit pay.

San Francisco’s New Student Assignment Plan

Jill Tucker:

The new plan (PDF), a more nuanced approach that’s been in the works for more than four years, hopes to balance the needs of struggling students and the desire for proximity.
Like the old system, the version the school board will take up Tuesday will give parents a choice of schools and rank families based on established priorities whenever demand for a school is greater than the space available.
The assignment scheme varies depending on whether a child is in elementary, middle or high school.
The board established the school assignment process in March. Since then, the district has been hammering out the details, such as the attendance areas for each school.
If those details are approved Tuesday, district officials will use the new system beginning in the 2011-12 school year for kindergarten, sixth- and ninth-grade school assignments.

This is a lot of talk about Eric Bledsoe’s grades

I wonder if, when he was sitting in that fateful Algebra3 class in high school, Eric Bledsoe ever imagined this equation: u + A = UK2K.
Something feels wrong when so much time, interest and intensity is focused on one kid’s grade in a math class. I know people who spent more time lately thinking about the former University of Kentucky basketball player’s Algebra3 grade than they did their own kids’ grades. Come to think of it, I was probably one of them.
Today, UK’s victories (including No.2,000) that were earned last season with Eric Bledsoe’s help look safe.
Though an independent legal investigation found it was “not credible” for a teacher to have changed Eric Bledsoe’s senior year grade in Algebra3 from a C to an A, the teacher told investigators that Eric Bledsoe did makeup work to raise his grade, and Birmingham superintendent Craig Witherspoon said he hadn’t seen anything to suggest the transcript should be changed now.

Putting Newark Mayor Booker in charge of city schools will incite legal action, experts say

Jessica Calefati:

If Cory Booker even thinks of making a decision affecting Newark schools, he and Gov. Chris Christie will find themselves in a lawsuit faster than you can say Facebook, the head of the Education Law Center said yesterday.
David Sciarra, a veteran of numerous court battles involving public education, said it would be “improper and illegal” for Christie to formally offer Booker any authority to make decisions about the Newark Public Schools. Sciarra was lead counsel on the historic — and successful — Abbott suit filed in 1997 against the state to provide more funding for its neediest schools.
“I have no doubt appropriate legal action would be taken on behalf of the residents of Newark to challenge such a move in court,” Sciarra said.

How to Raise Boys Who Read

When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.
According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.
The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Thank you from Singapore

From: Oliver Kim
Date: September 26, 2010 5:17:44 AM EDT
To: fitzhugh@tcr.org
Subject: Thank you from Singapore
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
Thank you for publishing my essay on the Maginot Line in this year’s fall issue of The Concord Review. Receiving your letter was at once joyous and humbling.
From the rise of the standardized test as a measure of academic success, to the subordination and disappearance of the long-form essay in the high school curriculum, the humanities appear to be losing ground in education. In light of the numerous competitions and accolades available to students of math and the hard sciences, options for students of the humanities, especially history, are comparatively few. The Concord Review stands alone as an exemplar for quality writing by lovers of history.
Thanks to your hard work, my school has all freshman students write a long-form historical essay based on the model of the essays that appear in The Concord Review. All students of AP European History are required to do the same, and, even in those classes that do not require long-form essays, The Concord Review is employed as a standard of quality and academic rigor. Though I cannot speak for my whole school, I can say that, anecdotally, this project has sparked historical curiosity and illuminated unexplored talents in my classmates.
Again, thank you for publishing my essay. I hope that the Review will find a solution to its financial woes and continue inspiring future generations of historians.
Warm regards,
Oliver Kim
Singapore American School [Class of 2011]
The Concord Review.

We can measure teacher effectiveness, objectively and transparently Read more: Richmond County Daily Journal – We can measure teacher effectiveness objectively and transparently

Terry Stoops

Is it possible to measure teacher effectiveness? For decades, public school principals have subjected teachers to a battery of observations and evaluations purportedly designed to assess the quality of classroom instruction. Rather than yield appreciable information, however, these kinds of teacher assessments merely served as one of the few formal requirements needed to attain lifetime job security, also known as tenure.
On the other hand, the “value-added” method of teacher evaluation continues to show promise as an objective and reliable assessment of teacher quality. Value-added analysis uses standardized tests to estimate teacher effectiveness. This powerful evaluation method employs advanced statistical techniques to project the future performance of individual students based on their past performance. The difference between the projected and actual performance of students determines the value added or subtracted by the teacher.
Value-added analysis has upended the conventional wisdom on teacher quality. For years, public school advocacy groups complained that the most talented teachers snub minority and low-income schools by migrating to less challenging and higher paying schools in culturally and economically homogeneous suburbs.

Terry Stoops is director of education studies at The John Locke Foundation.

The List: Five of the best campus novels

David Lodge

The campus novel emerged as higher education expanded and novelists increasingly took day jobs in universities. Inherently comic and satirical, it is focused on the lives of academic staff rather than their students, and explores the gap between the high ideals of the institution and the human weaknesses of its members. As the new academic year begins, here are five of the best.
1. The Groves of Academe (1952) by Mary McCarthy
Can claim to be the first campus novel. The plot, like that of many of its successors, turns on the question of whether the central character will keep his job. Henry Mulcahy, an idle, irresponsible, middle-aged Irish-American instructor at a small liberal arts college, is deservedly denied tenure but manages to exploit the weakness and vanity of his colleagues so that they defend his cause. McCarthy’s mordant wit is a joy throughout.

Jefferson County, Colorado schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000 Read more: Jeffco schools to increase some teachers’ pay to more than $100,000

Jeremy Meyer

Top-level teachers in select Jefferson County schools could be paid more than $100,000 a year under a pilot program funded by a new $32.8 million federal grant.
The program would make some educators working in a handful of high-poverty schools the highest-paid public school teachers in Colorado.
Jefferson County’s pilot pay system will roll out in the 2011-12 academic year in a few schools — changing the base pay of all teachers, providing up to $10,000 in annual performance bonuses and creating “master teachers.”
“We’re changing the norms,” said Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “The profession has to change. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it to us.”
Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11 learned Thursday that they were among 62 winners in 27 states of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which support performance-pay plans in high-need schools.

Changes to the Madison School District Student Conduct and Discipline Plan

16 Page PDF:

Attached please find a proposed DRAFT of the Student Conduct and Discipline Plan, The revisions noted in the DRAFT are for the following purposes:
1) Correct a reference to Madison City Ordinance 39,03(2)(t) 2) Add a reference to the Phoenix Program as an alternative to proceeding to an expulsion hearing
Specifically, on page 1 please note that the reference to fornler Madison City Ordinance 3,23(2)(t) has been amended to Madison City Ordinance 39.03(2)(t), This was necessitated by alterations in the numbering associated with Madison City Ordinances,
On pages 4-5 please note that language was added in order to allow the Superintendent or appropriate instructional Assistant Superintendent to consider and implement an “abeyance option” as an approved method of modifying a recommendation ‘for possible expulsion,
Also on page 5 please note that language has been added detailing specific violations of the code of conduct which, if committed, would preclude a pupil from being eligible to participate in the abeyance option. The added language also indicates that a student’s participation in an abeyance option is not a guaranteed right and is within the discretion of the Superintendent or instructional Assistant Superintendent. Finally, the added language also provides a brief explanation of the “abeyance program,”

Schoolwork

Nicholas Lehman

A hundred years ago, eight and a half per cent of American seventeen-year-olds had a high-school degree, and two per cent of twenty-three-year-olds had a college degree. Now, on any given weekday morning, you will find something like fifty million Americans, about a sixth of the population, sitting under the roof of a public-school building, and twenty million more are students or on the faculty or the staff of an institution of higher learning. Education is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; the creation of the world’s first system of universal public education–from kindergarten through high school–and of mass higher education is one of the great achievements of American democracy. It embodies a faith in the capabilities of ordinary people that the Founders simply didn’t have.
It is also, like democracy itself, loose, shaggy, and inefficient, full of redundancies and conflicting goals. It serves many constituencies and interest groups, each of which, in the manner of the parable of the blind men and the elephant, sees its purpose differently. But, by the fundamental test of attractiveness to students and their families, the system–which is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and decentralized–is, as a whole, succeeding. Enrollment in charter schools is growing rapidly, but so is enrollment in old-fashioned public schools, and enrollments are rising at all levels. Those who complete a higher education still do better economically. Measures of how much American students are learning–compared to the past, and compared to students in other countries–are holding steady, for the most part, even as more people are going to school.

Four Kids, Four Languages, One World

Patchworks Films:

At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish.
Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. This charming story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.

The Problem With Kaleem Caire’s (Madison Preparatory IB Charter School) Plan

Forward Lookout:

Before I get into this, Kaleem Caire, who is going to be on Oprah later today, does have a point in that the minority achievement gap in Madison and in Wisconsin is very troubling. Madison and Wisconsin need to do a lot better job making sure all students have opportunities to excel…
But I don’t think his solution is going to do much good:

a male-only charter school using a rigorous curriculum geared toward boys of color in grades 6 through 12

There are two issues I have with this proposal:
1. A segregated school? Really? Seriously? Yeah, okay it’s only targeted towards boys of color and not strictly segregated, but really….it’s not a good idea. It doesn’t matter what the motivations are, segregating by race is unwise…and is race even the right way to look at this? What about economics?

Much more on the Madison Preparatory Academy here.
The Forward Lookout writer(s) appear to suggest that Caire work within the current system to address the achievement gap. An optimist all around, I believe that to be a challenging strategy, for any large organization.

Homeschooling: Achieving Techno-Literacy

Kevin Kelly

This past year my wife and I home-schooled our eighth-grade son. One school day, he and I decided we would make fire the old way — out of nothing but plant materials and our own hustle. Our son watched a seemingly endless series of instructional survival videos on YouTube as part of his research. He chose the bow method based on our physics class about friction. He then constructed a bow from a branch in the woods, carved a stick for the spindle and added a fiber string. It was mighty tough going. We spent hours refining the apparatus. He was surprised by the enormous amount of bodily energy required to focus onto a very small spot, and how a minuscule, nearly invisible bit of fuel, once sparked, can quickly amplify into a flame and then a fire. Chemistry, physics, history and gym all in one lesson. And, man, when you are 13 years old and Prometheus, it’s exhilarating!
Now that the year is done, I am struck that the fancy technology supposedly crucial to an up-to-the-minute education was not a major factor in its success.

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon. The accelerating pace of technology means his eventual adult career does not exist yet. Of course it won’t be taught in school. But technological smartness can be. Here is the kind of literacy that we tried to impart:
• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.
• Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.
• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.
• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
• Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?
• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?
• The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.
• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

Kevin Kelly’s blog.

Correlating Federal Spending and College Tuition

Political Calculations

When we discovered that the average cost of tuition at four-year higher education institutions was largely pacing the growth of total federal government spending in the United States, that was a very surprising result. The reason why that’s surprising is because of how most universities are funded.
According to Table 5 of the Digest of Education Statistics 2009, as of the 2007-08 school year, there were 2,675 Title IV degree-granting institutions (aka “colleges and universities”) in the U.S. Of these, 653 were public institutions (mainly state universities) and the remaining 2,022 were private institutions.
But it is the size of the institutions that matters, not their numbers. In the U.S., 92 of the top 100 universities by enrollment are public, state-supported universities and 77% of all college students attend state-supported institutions. As a result, we would then expect the average tuition figures for four-year public institutions to closely follow state-level government spending and not the federal government’s total level spending from year-to-year.

The School of Hard Drives

Deborah Solomon:

This interview is for a special issue on education and technology, so let me start by asking you about computers in classrooms. As the secretary of education, do you think every kid in America needs a computer?
I think every student needs access to technology, and I think technology can be a hugely important vehicle to help level the playing field. Whether it’s in an inner-city school or a rural community, I want those students to have a chance to take A.P. biology and A.P. physics and marine biology.
What does that have to do with having a computer?
We have thousands of students today taking online classes. We actually have virtual schools today.

Report: Poor science education impairs U.S. economy

Dan Vergano

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.
Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.
Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.
“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

Affirmative Action for the Rich

Richard D. Kahlenberg

The use of race-based affirmative action in higher education has given rise to hundreds of books and law review articles, numerous court decisions, and several state initiatives to ban the practice. However, surprisingly little has been said or written or done to challenge a larger, longstanding “affirmative action” program that tends to benefit wealthy whites: legacy preferences for the children of alumni.
Affirmative Action for the Rich sketches the origins of legacy preferences, examines the philosophical issues they raise, outlines the extent of their use today, studies their impact on university fundraising, and reviews their implications for civil rights. In addition, the book outlines two new theories challenging the legality of legacy preferences, examines how a judge might review those claims, and assesses public policy options for curtailing alumni preferences.

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

685K PDF: Fall Budget Assumption Update.

The district received $51,169,349 in Equalization Aid in 2009-10. The 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget projected the district’s Equalization Aid to be $43,761,095. On July 1 the district received an Equalization Aid projection from the Department ofPublic Instruction for $45,330,641. This equates to a projected increase in aid o f $1,569,546 from the 2010-11 Spring Amended Preliminary budget.
On October 15 the district will receive an updated and certified Equalization Aid calculation for the current fiscal year from the Department o f Public Instruction.
…..
An adequate Fund Balance is necessary for the successful fiscal operation ofthe district. Maintaining a sufficient operating reserve allows the district to minimize short-term borrowing, reduce financing costs, and safeguard against unanticipated and unrealized revenues. The District’s financial condition remains strong and maintains a MIG I rating by Moody’s Investor Service.
On June 30, 2009 the District General Fund Balance was $35.3 million (6/30/2010 Fund Balance was $44,490,453.59, page 13). The 2009-10 was projected to utilize $2.6 million ofthe District’s General Fund Balance, but due to revenues exceeding expenditures in 2009-10 an additional un-audited $5.1 million will be added to the District’s General Fund Balance. The major areas making up this $5.1 million are as follows:

Page 19 discusses the property tax rate (9+%) and levy (5+%) increases.
I did not immediately see a revised 2010-2011 2010-2011 total revenue forecast in this document.

Comments on Zuckerberg’s $100M for Newark Schools

New Jersey Left Behind

Everyone’s abuzz over Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s donation of $100 million to Newark Public Schools on the condition that the State turn over control to Mayor Cory Booker. Here’s some choice quotes:
From detractors of the donation:
Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, (fresh from his guest appearance on Jersey Shore [JK!]): “Vouchers is not going to happen.”
David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center: “It would be improper under the law for the governor to try to delegate authority to the mayor.”

Related: Number of Kids on Waiting Lists for Newark Charter Schools and

Waiting for the Teacher’s Union

Joel Klein

If you do one thing this weekend, go see Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for Superman, which opens in theaters across the country today. The film, which has been met with well-deserved critical acclaim, paints a blunt and at times heartbreaking picture of the state of public education in America, told through the stories of families fighting to get their children into safe, high-performing schools.
First, it’s a terrific film. But more importantly, it has helped catapult the debate on education reform to the national stage.
It’s not surprising that the film is making many people uncomfortable. The truth is harsh. It’s easier to turn away than to watch a crying mom clutch a losing lottery ticket that just cost her child a spot at a top-performing charter school.
What is surprising is that some–including the teachers’ unions–are railing against the film, dismissing it as anti-teacher and pro-charter school propaganda.

Waiting for Solutions

Ruth Starkman

“He’s a rockstar,” says documentary director Davis Guggenheim of Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization that endeavors to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem. Mr. Canada appears as one of the few catalysts of educational reform in Guggenheim’s provocative new documentary Waiting for Superman about America’s notoriously crisis-ridden public school system.
According to Guggenheim, America’s public schools are in desperate need of rockstar teachers and administrators visionaries like Geoffrey Canada. No one watching the charismatic Mr. Canada or hearing about his accomplishments would disagree, as the documentary records Canada’s successes and follows the lives of several talented American children, whose education and future lives hang in balance.
Guggenheim invites viewers’ outrage as he presents the shocking statistics that most Americans already know: our once great public schools are failing our young people and no one seems prepared to take bold steps toward change. Waiting for Superman is also a character-driven tear-jerker, elaborating the desperation of several American children, Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, from a variety of backgrounds, both middle class and disadvantaged, African American, Latino, white in California, New York and Washington. These children occupy the center of the story, but nothing about their fate gives cause for cheer. Instead, the documentary devotes most of its energy to what it sees as the cause for their troubles, the political impasse of American education.

New Jersey districts to post teacher evaluations online

A report card on local teachers will soon be posted on school district websites around the state.
The information will not identify specific teachers but will give parents and taxpayers a basic overview of how many teachers in their schools are effectively teaching their students, based on standards set by the local districts.
The teacher and principal evaluation reports are a requirement of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine allocated $1 billion of the state’s stimulus money to school districts. One of the strings attached to that aid was that districts would have to post on their school websites the results of local teacher evaluations.
The U.S. Department of Education is scheduled to do an audit of New Jersey’s compliance with the law Oct. 19, state DOE officials said. Districts have been asked to have their data posted online by Oct. 15.

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity:

With concern about rising deficits and debt taking center stage in Washington right now, President Obama has formed the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, led by Republican former Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, to make its own recommendations on how to ensure a sound fiscal future for our country. As the Commission deliberates between now and the release of its recommendations on December 1,Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity believes that one critical issue for the Commission and policymakers to consider is how efforts to rein in deficits and manage the budget will impact low-income and poor people.

That’s why, over the coming months, Spotlight will present a diversity of views from policymakers, economists, and many others from across the spectrum to discuss the work of the Commission and how its recommendations will (or should) affect low-income individuals. Entitled “Poverty, Opportunity, and the Deficit,” the series will include the following commentaries:

Parents use ‘digital’ grounding as a 21st century disciplinary tool

Donna St. George

Not so long ago, teenagers in trouble got grounded. They lost their evenings out, maybe the keys to the family car. But lately the art of family discipline has begun to reflect our digital age.
Now parents seize cellphones, shut down Facebook pages, pull the plug on PlayStation.
That’s how it went in Silver Spring last school year, when Iantha Carley’s high-schooler got a midterm grade report that contained letters of the alphabet that were not A, B or C.
Carley decreed there would be no more Facebook until he delivered a report card with better grades. The result: six weeks offline. “He lived,” Carley reports, “with no lasting damage.”
Her approach has become increasingly common as technology has changed so much about growing up, including what teenagers value most. For the digital generation, the priority isn’t always going out with friends. It’s being with them – in text, online.

Why are Alabama schools going broke?

Jon Miltimore:

Alabama made national headlines this week when 25 more schools reported they will likely have to extend lines of credit to remain open, in addition to the five schools that borrowed from banks last year.
According to a CNN report, Alabama schools suffer from a “combination of having the lowest per capita property tax collections in the nation … a constitution that prohibits local governments from independently increasing taxes, and a state-funded education system with funds that stem almost exclusively from income and sales tax revenues.”
Namely, Alabama schools are ailing due to inadequate funding. The reporter buttressed the thesis by pointing to the 20 percent cut in the state’s education budget over the last three years.
“We’re suffering. We are on a decline,” Joe Morton, Alabama’s state superintendent of education, told CNN.
But what Morton failed to note is that state education spending tripled in the decade-and-a-half preceding the economic downturn.
According to U.S. Census records, state education spending increased from $3.57 billion in 1992 to $10.65 billion in 2008.

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

Looking for Baby Sitters: Foreign Language a Must

Jenny Anderson:

When Maureen Mazumder enrolled her daughter, Sabrina, in a Spanish singalong class a year ago, she hoped it would be the first step in helping her learn a second language. But the class did not seem to do the trick, so Ms. Mazumder decided to hire a baby sitter, one who would not only care for her daughter but also speak to her exclusively in Spanish.
“It was a must that she speak Spanish,” said Ms. Mazumder, who said neither she nor her husband was fluent in the language. “We feel so strongly that our daughter hear another language.”
Ms. Mazumder, whose daughter is nearly 3, has company. Although a majority of parents seeking caretakers for their children still seek ones who will speak to their children in English, popular parenting blogs and Web sites indicate that a noticeable number of New York City parents are looking for baby sitters and nannies to help their children learn a second language, one they may not speak themselves.

Competition and Education

Matthew Yglesias:

After all, as Brad DeLong likes to point out the “get a bunch of people in a room to listen to some guy talk” model of education was an organizational response to the high price of books. In principle, it would seem to have been made obsolete by the printing press and the public library. Yet obviously that didn’t happen. Colleges and universities managed to make themselves indispensable sources of credentials and social prestige. And though they’ve of course incorporated information technology innovations into their work, they still engage in an incredible quantity of pre-Gutenberg educating.

The Case For Getting Rid of Tenure

Christopher Beam:

Imagine you ran a restaurant. A very prestigious, exclusive restaurant. To attract top talent, you guarantee all cooks and waiters job security for life. Not only that, because you value honesty and candor, you allow them to say anything they want about you and your cuisine, publicly and without fear of retribution. The only catch is that all cooks or waiters would have to start out as dishwashers or busboys, for at least 10 years, when none of these protections would apply.
It sounds absurd in the context of the food-service industry–for both you and your staff. But this system has governed academia for decades. Tenure–the ability to teach and conduct research without fear of being fired–is still the holy grail of higher education, to which all junior professors aspire. Yet fewer and fewer professors are attaining it. The proportion of full-time college professors with tenure has fallen from 57 percent in 1975 to 31 percent in 2007. The numbers for 2009, soon to be released by the Department of Education, are expected to dip even lower.

Academic Fraud in China

The Economist:

CHINA’S president, Hu Jintao, speaks often and forcefully of the need to foster innovation. He makes a strong case: sustaining economic growth and competitiveness requires China to get beyond mere labour-driven manufacturing and into the knowledge-based business of discoveries, inventions and other advances.
Yet doing so will be hard, not least because of the country’s well-earned reputation for pervasive academic and scientific misconduct. Scholars, both Chinese and Western, say that fraud remains rampant and misconduct ranges from falsified data to fibs about degrees, cheating on tests and extensive plagiarism.
The most notable recent case centres on Tang Jun, a celebrity executive, a self-made man and author of a popular book,”My Success Can Be Replicated”. He was recently accused of falsely claiming that he had a doctorate from the prestigious California Institute of Technology. He responded that his publisher had erred and in fact his degree is from another, much less swanky, California school.

Mobile Education Uprising

Douglas Crets:

Most of the great iterative tech changes to education have happened in higher education. But those changes are starting to drift down into K12, and take on their own shape and meaning. Here is a list we found online that charts those changes and pinpoints the evolutionary steps you should be looking to track to stay ahead of the curve. The clearest example of iterative change is the rise of mobile computing tied to the cloud. I have taken a few paragraphs from a recent report to show you how accelerated the changes will be.
From the ConvergeMagazine report:
In the past two years, netbooks have arrived on the scene, but their sales are already growing more than 200 percent per year. K-12 schools adopt them at a higher rate because many of them provide devices for their students. Netbook trends include 10-inch screens, faster processors, longer battery life and built-in wireless wide area networks.

Despite cost-cutting, most Phila.-area districts are planning tax increases for the coming school year.

Dan Hardy:

In nine districts, taxes went up by more than double the state inflation rate, and in three – Upper Dublin, Southeast Delco, and Bristol Borough – they went up by more than 10 percent. The 2010-11 property-tax increase for all 63 suburban districts averaged slightly more than 4 percent, up from 2.9 percent in 2009-10, even though the education inflation rate for this year was higher, at 4.1 percent.
In Bucks County’s Bristol Borough district, one of the smallest in the area with an enrollment of about 1,225, taxes are going up 15 percent. School Board President Ralph DiGuiseppe III, who was elected in November, said almost the entire increase is because of a 2009-10 deficit, when the board did not raise taxes.
To keep from going even higher, DiGuiseppe said, the board has cut some teaching jobs, and will reduce administrative pay by having the superintendent double as high school principal for part of the coming school year. Another administrator will teach part time. Three sports teams also were eliminated.

Locally, the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget will increase property taxes by about 10%. The increase is due to spending growth, a reduction in redistributed state tax dollars and a decline in property values (assessments).

Soft-Drink Sales Drop in Schools, Group Says

Betsy McKay:

The main trade association representing Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., and other beverage companies plans to release a report Monday showing that sales of soda and other drinks in U.S. secondary schools have dropped sharply since 2004, in a sign that efforts to improve nutrition in schools are progressing.
The report comes as first lady Michelle Obama is leading a campaign to combat childhood obesity and as Congress is poised to consider regulating the drinks allowed in school-vending machines.
Sales volume of beverages shipped to schools from bottlers fell 72% between the first semester of the 2004-05 school year and the first semester of the current academic year, according to the report, which was compiled for the American Beverage Association by economic research firm Keybridge Research LLC. The report showed a 95% decline in sales volume of full-calorie soft drinks, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, and a 94% decline in juice drinks. Full-calorie soft drinks accounted for just 6.8% of beverage volume shipped to schools last semester, while they made up 40% of the product mix in 2004.

All teachers fired at R.I. school. Will that happen elsewhere?

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

All the teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island were fired by the board of trustees this week. More such cases are likely to arise across the US in the coming year because of pressure from the Obama administration – and the incentive of billions of federal dollars.
A small, high-poverty school district in Rhode Island is now ground zero for some of the most explosive debates over reforming America’s worst-performing schools.
To the dismay of many local and national union members, all the teachers, the principal, and other staff of Central Falls High School were fired by the board of trustees this week. The move is part of a dramatic turnaround plan proposed by the superintendent and approved by the state education commissioner.
Because of pressure from the Obama administration – and the incentive of billions of federal dollars – more such cases are likely to arise across the United States in the coming year.
Advocates of the “turnaround” approach say it’s a way to remove bad teachers or change a culture that makes it difficult for good teachers to work effectively. But teachers feel scapegoated. And there’s no clear-cut research guaranteeing that student test scores will improve when schools are reorganized with new staffs.

Roma children segregated in Czech schools

Jan Cienski:

The Czech Republic is continuing to segregate Roma children into sub-standard schools for the mentally disabled, charged a report released on Wednesday by Amnesty International.
The 80-page report prepared by the London-based human rights group found that discrimination in the school system persists despite a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the Czech Republic was sending gypsy children to special remedial schools.
“What is needed is a very strong approach to discrimination,” said Fotis Filippou, the report’s author, adding that Amnesty was calling for a freeze in placements to schools for mental disabilities for the current school year while the system is reviewed.
According to the report, which studied four schools in the area around Ostrava, in the east of the country, Roma children are often sent to special schools, or sent to mainstream schools where they form the overwhelming bulk of the population, and the standards of education tend to be much lower than for Czech children. Many parents, often with little education themselves, are not equipped to keep their children in the mainstream system.

Behind the Classroom Door: A rare glimpse indicates the extent–and persistence–of variation in teacher practice

Robert Rothman:

In recent years, a raft of research has called attention to the importance of effective teaching in influencing student achievement. Yet federal and state accountability policies continue to focus primarily at the school level: using schools as the unit of performance, identifying “failing schools,” and more recently targeting “turnaround schools” for special intervention. One of the best-kept secrets in educational research, it seems, is the fact that differences in the quality of instruction from classroom to classroom within schools are greater than differences in instructional quality between schools. This finding has been documented in a variety of studies, most of which used indirect measures to evaluate instruction (such as relying on teachers’ perceptions or looking at curriculum materials to determine how much time they spent on particular topics). Despite the limitations of these measures, these studies have suggested that there is considerable variation in practice even among teachers in the same building.
Over the past five years, however, researchers led by Brian Rowan, the Burke A. Hinsdale Collegiate Professor in Education at the University of Michigan, have asked teachers in 112 schools to keep detailed logs of their actual practice. The newly released results of the Study of Instructional Improvement (SII) document dramatic differences in the kinds of skills and content taught from classroom to classroom. For instance, the study showed that a fifth-grade teacher might teach reading comprehension anywhere from 52 days a year to as many as 140 days a year. Similarly, first-grade teachers spent as little as 15 percent to as much as 80 percent of their time on word analysis. Thus, the study found, students in some classrooms may spend the majority of their classroom time on relatively low-level content and skills, while their peers in the class next door are spending much more time on higher-level content.

Jay Matthews has more.

4K in Madison : Some Answers but More Questions

On Monday night, the Madison Board of Education will vote on whether to implement 4-year-old kindergarten. It has taken the Madison school district years to get to this point, and for some time it looked like 4K would not happen. Several obstacles were removed in the past year, however, and the district was able to work with community early childhood educators and with Madison Teachers, Inc., to arrive at a model that is acceptable to the district, the community, and the teachers’ union.
That’s the good news. On Monday night, there are two outstanding issues that will need to be resolved: financing for the first two years and, the start date for the first 4K cohort. I speak for myself, but believe that my board colleagues would agree that the need and value for such a program was resolved some time ago, so the issues are not whether to implement 4K, but rather the best way to proceed.
Full post at School Daze blog.

Monthly Update From Madison BOE President Arlene Silveira

Reading Programs: The Board received a presentation on Reading Recovery in the district. A number of questions were raised about our reading programs and how programs worked together to ensure we were meeting the needs of all of our students. Therefore, the Board requested a full evaluation of all reading programs at the elementary level so we have a better understanding of the big reading picture.

Superintendent Goals:
As part of the Superintendent evaluation process the Board, in conjunction with the Superintendent, developed goals for the Superintendent. There are a lot of details associated with each goal. The Goal area and targeted Results of each goal are below:
1. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students who are proficient and advanced in reading. Results: Increased proficiency and advanced proficiency on WKCE or its replacement, other district assessment or standards-based tests. By 2012-14, 100% of students will meet this target.
2. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students at all grade levels who attend school at 96% or more. Results: Increase attendance for students in every grade, with a specific focus on the students in key transition grades. By 2014-15, 96% or more of students will meet this target.
3. Goal Area: Increase the percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation in four years. Results: Increased percentage of students on track for credit attainment for graduation. By 2014-15, 90% or more will meet this target.
4. Goal Area: Completion of a review of the District’s organizational structure and organizational systems/processes and develop a plan to align the work of the Administration to the District’s mission and Strategic Plan. Results: This goal will be assessed by Board approval and successful Administrative implementation of a Plan that aligns the work of the Administration with the District’s mission and Strategic Plan and to principles of quality organizations, and is fiscally sustainable over time.
5. Goal Area: Board relations. Results: Development and implementation of a sustainable system for improving and demonstrating effective communication with the Board of Education.
6. Goal Area: Implement the Strategic Plan action steps targeted for year one as approved by the Board of Education. Results: A report in June 2010 outlining progress toward implementation of the action steps including any evaluation of new programs that has occurred using the approved performance measures.
7. Goal Area: Leadership development goal. To focus on encouraging the heart in others and challenging the process.
What’s Up in January?: 2010 will be a busy year. Items of interest on our January agenda: Decision on the implementation of 4-year-old kindergarten; Race to the Top funds; initial presentation of an environmental charter middle school; core performance measures associated with the strategic plan; and kick-off of the 2010-11 budget process.
Thanks for all you do for our children. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments at board@madison.k12.wi.us .

On Teacher Mentoring

Amy Hetzner:

Every morning before their classes start at North Middle School in Menomonee Falls, teachers Becky Zimprich and Kristi Seston have a chance to catch up with each other.
Everything from instructional questions about how to handle specific issues with students to more technical inquiries about how to navigate the district’s grading system is fodder for the discussions between the two. The fellow teachers of English language learners were paired up by the Menomonee Falls School District’s mentoring program for Zimprich’s first year teaching in the district.
“I find the mentoring program awesome,” said Zimprich, who has 16 years teaching experience, mostly in elementary and technology education. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a new teacher or experienced teacher. It helps you acclimate to the school. It helps you acclimate to the district.”

Menomonee Falls Superintendent Keith Marty is a consultant for the Madison school District’s  “Strategic Planning Process“.

Are Wisconsin Students Progressing?

The Wisconsin Taxpayer [Request a Copy]:

Wisconsin spent more than $10 billion in 2008-09 to educate 861,000 public school students. At more than $11,000 per student, this represents a public investment of over $I50,000 per student over their 13-year elementary and high school career.
The success of any investment-public or private-is measured by comparing its return wilh the amount invested. With public education, measuring returns can be difficult.
In an attempt to measure student progress, Wisconsin has tested public school students using the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) since thc mid-
I990s. The tests are based on Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards. Although not a perfect measure of how students (and schools) are doing, the results can provide useful information on academic progress.
MEASURING PROGRESS
The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was passed with bipartisan support in 2001, requires thai “not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001-02 school year, all students … will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement on the State assessments.” Wisconsin uses the WKCE to test public school students in reading and math in third through eighth grades, and again in 10th grade. In fourth, eighth and 10th grades, Wisconsin tests students in language arts, science and social studies, as well as reading and math. Student test scores are rated as minimal, basic, proficient, or advanced.

Schools of Hope Tutor Training

There will be a “Schools of Hope” tutor training workshop on Tuesday, September 29th, at 4:00 p.m. at Memorial H.S. (218 Gammon Rd).
This training is free and open to the public. Returning and new tutors are invited to attend!
Workshops for all grade levels will include:
Tutoring Literacy
Tutoring Math
Engaging Reluctant Learners
Working with English Language Learners
Schedule:
4:00-4:30 — Registration
4:30-6:15 — Workshops
6:15-6:30 — Break/Light Dinner
6:30-7:25 — Workshops

The truth about grit
Modern science builds the case for an old-fashioned virtue – and uncovers new secrets to success

Jonah Lehrer:

It’s the single most famous story of scientific discovery: in 1666, Isaac Newton was walking in his garden outside Cambridge, England – he was avoiding the city because of the plague – when he saw an apple fall from a tree. The fruit fell straight to the earth, as if tugged by an invisible force. (Subsequent versions of the story had the apple hitting Newton on the head.) This mundane observation led Newton to devise the concept of universal gravitation, which explained everything from the falling apple to the orbit of the moon.
There is something appealing about such narratives. They reduce the scientific process to a sudden epiphany: There is no sweat or toil, just a new idea, produced by a genius. Everybody knows that things fall – it took Newton to explain why.
Unfortunately, the story of the apple is almost certainly false; Voltaire probably made it up. Even if Newton started thinking about gravity in 1666, it took him years of painstaking work before he understood it. He filled entire vellum notebooks with his scribbles and spent weeks recording the exact movements of a pendulum. (It made, on average, 1,512 ticks per hour.) The discovery of gravity, in other words, wasn’t a flash of insight – it required decades of effort, which is one of the reasons Newton didn’t publish his theory until 1687, in the “Principia.

REACH day Wednesday; Pay Your Teachers Well; NO MORE ‘SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER’; comment; A New School Leader in New York; Dollars for Schools; A DC Schools Awakening; Bronx Principal’s Tough Love Gets Results; TFA Young Professionals event

1) A final reminder to please join me (Wednesday) at the REACH Awards Day from 10-12:30 at the Chase branch on 39th and Broadway (see full invite at the end of this email).
REACH (Rewarding Achievement; www.reachnyc.org) is a pay-for-performance initiative that aims to improve the college readiness of low-income students at 31 inner-city high schools in New York by rewarding them with up to $1,000 for each Advanced Placement exam they pass. I founded it, with funding from the Pershing Square Foundation and support from the Council of Urban Professionals.
This past year was the first full year of the program and I’m delighted to report very substantial gains in the overall number of students passing AP exams at the 31 schools, and an even bigger gain among African-American and Latino students (exact numbers will be released at the event). As a result, more than 1,200 student have earned nearly $1 MILLION in REACH Scholar Awards! (An additional $500,000 or so is going to their schools and educators.) Tomorrow the students will come to pick up their checks, Joel Klein will be the highlight of the press conference at 11am, and there will be a ton of media. I hope to see you there! You can RSVP to REACH@nycup.org.
2) A spot-on editorial in yesterday’s WSJ, which underscores the point I’ve been making for a long time: one shouldn’t get angry with unions for advancing the interests of their members — that’s what they’re supposed to do! — but it’s critical to understand that their interests and what’s best for children are often FAR apart… Pay Your Teachers Well Their children’s hell will slowly go by.

The conflicting interests of teachers unions and students is an underreported education story, so we thought we’d highlight two recent stories in Baltimore and New York City that illustrate the problem.
The Ujima Village Academy is one of the best public schools in Baltimore and all of Maryland. Students at the charter middle school are primarily low-income minorities; 98% are black and 84% qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. Yet Ujima Village students regularly outperform the top-flight suburban schools on state tests. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, Ujima Village students earned the highest eighth-grade math scores in Maryland. Started in 2002, the school has met or exceeded state academic standards every year–a rarity in a city that boasts one of the lowest-performing school districts in the country.
Ujima Village is part of the KIPP network of charter schools, which now extends to 19 states and Washington, D.C. KIPP excels at raising academic achievement among disadvantaged children who often arrive two or three grade-levels behind in reading and math. KIPP educators cite longer school days and a longer school year as crucial to their success. At KIPP schools, kids start as early as 7:30 a.m., stay as late as 5 p.m., and attend school every other Saturday and three weeks in the summer.
However, Maryland’s charter law requires teachers to be part of the union. And the Baltimore Teachers Union is demanding that the charter school pay its teachers 33% more than other city teachers, an amount that the school says it can’t afford. Ujima Village teachers are already paid 18% above the union salary scale, reflecting the extra hours they work. To meet the union demands, the school recently told the Baltimore Sun that it has staggered staff starting times, shortened the school day, canceled Saturday classes and laid off staffers who worked with struggling students. For teachers unions, this outcome is a victory; how it affects the quality of public education in Baltimore is beside the point.
Meanwhile, in New York City, some public schools have raised money from parents to hire teaching assistants. Last year, the United Federation of Teachers filed a grievance about the hiring, and city education officials recently ordered an end to the practice. “It’s hurting our union members,” said a UFT spokesman, even though it’s helping kids and saving taxpayers money. The aides typically earned from $12 to $15 an hour. Their unionized equivalents cost as much as $23 an hour, plus benefits.
“School administrators said that hiring union members not only would cost more, but would also probably bring in people with less experience,” reported the New York Times. Many of the teaching assistants hired directly by schools had graduate degrees in education and state teaching licenses, while the typical unionized aide lacks a four-year degree.
The actions of the teachers unions in both Baltimore and New York make sense from their perspective. Unions exist to advance the interests of their members. The problem is that unions present themselves as student advocates while pushing education policies that work for their members even if they leave kids worse off. Until school choice puts more money and power in the hands of parents, public education will continue to put teachers ahead of students.

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Court Weighs Funding For Special Education

Robert Barnes & Daniel de Vise:

The Supreme Court will consider a question this week that has riled parents, cost local school boards here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars, and vexed the justices themselves: When must public school officials pay for private schooling for children with special needs?
The issue has emerged as one of the fastest-growing components of local education budgets, threatening to “seriously deplete public education funds,” which would then detract from the care of students with disabilities who remain in the system, according to a brief filed by the nation’s urban school districts.
It has also become one of the most emotional and litigious disagreements between frazzled parents and financially strapped school officials, with the battles often ending in court. District of Columbia schools allocated $7.5 million of this year’s $783 million budget just for such legal costs.

Charter School Rally Set for Massachusetts State House

Boston Globe:

Parents who want to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts are taking their case to the State House. More than 500 people are expected at a rally Wednesday to urge Governor Deval Patrick and state lawmakers to allow more charter schools. The state has 61 charter schools. Advocates say the schools do a better job of teaching children and engaging parents, and offer a necessary alternative to failing schools. Teacher unions oppose the schools. Patrick has long opposed lifting a cap on the number of charter schools, though this year, he has proposed lifting the cap in underperforming districts.

William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review Presentation

William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review. Varsity Academics®

QT Video
The video of this presentation is about 1 1/2 hours long. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download. MP3 Audio is available here.

We are pleased to have William Fitzhugh, Editor of The Concord Review, present this lecture on history research and publication of original papers by high school students.
From an interview with Education News, William Fitzhugh summarizes some items from his Madison presentation:
“A group of professors, teachers, business people, lawyers and community people invited me to speak at the University of Wisconsin in Madison about the work of The Concord Review since 1987, and about the problems of college readiness and academic writing for high school students.
The Boston Public Schools just reported that 67% of the graduating class of 2000 who had gone on to higher education had failed to earn a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree by 2008. Also, the Strong American Schools program just reported that more than a million of our high school graduates are in remedial education in college each year.
I recommend their report: Diploma to Nowhere, which came out last summer. While many foundations, such as Gates, and others, have focused on getting our students into college, too little attention has been paid to how few are ready for college work and how many drop out without any degree.
In Madison I also had a chance to speak about the huge imbalance in our attention to scholars and athletes at the high school level. I had recently seen a nationally televised high school football game in which, at breaks in the action, an athlete would come to the sidelines, and announce, to the national audience, which college he had decided to “sign” with. This is a far cry from what happens for high school scholars. High school coaches get a lot of attention for their best athletes, but if the coach also happens to be a history teacher, he or she will hear nothing from a college in the way of interest in his or her most outstanding history student.

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School taxes lower than expected

The Madison Metropolitan School District has announced that the school portion of the local property tax will be lower than anticipated in 2008-09.
The drop in the rate translates to an anticipated savings of $67.50 in 2008-09 for a home assessed at $250,000.
“What this means is that property tax rates will be lower because the overall district property values have increased more than we originally expected, while building the 2008-09 budget estimates,” according to Superintendent Dan Nerad.
“The referendum on November 4, 2008 is still necessary to avoid $8.1 million of reductions to direct programs to students within the classroom for the 2009-10 school year,” according to Nerad. “This positive news simply reduces the school portion of individual property tax bills beginning in the 2008 tax year. The Madison School District would still need permission to go above state imposed revenue limits on property tax increases to meet increasing annual expenditures such as utilities, transportation, and employee compensation increases guided by state law.”
With a successful passage of a referendum on November 4, 2008 the Madison School District is committed to creating efficiencies or reducing services by $3.1 million in the 2009-10 school year. This will be accomplished by planned cost saving measures and further financial strategies that will have the least impact on learning in the classroom.
Under the current funding formula in Wisconsin, the property tax levy is set by a state law referred to as the revenue limit formula. The total levy for the 2008-09 school year was approved to increase by $6,039,802 or 2.74% over the prior year. Due to property values increasing at a higher rate than expected, residents within the school district boundaries will see a direct benefit as the property tax bill into the future. With a successful referendum passage for a home valued at $250,000 in 2007-08 the total property tax bill is projected to increase $22 by the 2011-12 school year.
This chart shows the estimated tax impact to owners of a $250,000 in 2007 from 2007-08 through 2011-12.
Estimated school tax rate 2007-08 to 2011-12
Y
Year Tax Rate Tax Bill
2007-08 $10.08 $2,520.00
2008-09 $ 9.81 $2,452.50
2009-10 $ 9.92* $2,480.00*
2010-11 $ 9.70* $2,522.00*
2011-12 $ 9.40* $2,542.00*
*These amounts are estimates
Original estimate of property value increase in 2008 for Madison area property values was 4%
Actual increase in property value in 2008 for Madison area property values was 5.60% (SOURCE: WI Department of Revenue)

Local elected leaders: Vote ‘yes’ Nov. 4 for Madison schools

The Capital Times — 10/27/2008 4:31 am
Dear Editor:
As elected officials, we work hard to make Madison and Fitchburg the best places in the country.
The foundation of our vibrant community is our public schools. Our kids and schools need our support this fall. We urge you to vote for the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4.
Talented professionals, the people who start and build new businesses, don’t do it in a vacuum. They choose communities with the resources for a good life, as well as a good business. First among those resources is quality schools.
Schools in Madison and across Wisconsin are suffering from state-imposed cuts in funding. Some public schools are literally on the verge of bankruptcy. Madison schools have cut programs and services by over $60 million since 1993, when the restrictions began. Every year it’s harder and harder to provide our children the education they need and deserve.
The long-term solution lies with the Wisconsin Legislature. But until there’s a majority working toward a solution, we have to protect our kids.
The Nov. 4 proposal will increase taxes by about $28 on a $250,000 home in 2009, $43 in 2010, and $21 in 2011. The school district’s Web site has details: www.madison.k12.wi.us.
For that investment, we’ll maintain smaller class sizes, keep first rate teachers, help our special needs kids, keep up with basic maintenance — and much more. This referendum is very reasonable. The increase in taxes is modest. The commitment to our kids is enormous.
In America, every child deserves a chance to succeed — not just the rich. Public schools make the American dream a reality.
Join us by voting YES on the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4!
Madison School Board: Arlene Silveira, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman, Johnny Winston Jr.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
Madison Alders: Brenda Konkel, Mike Verveer, Robbie Webber, Marsha Rummel, Eli Judge, Brian Solomon, Tim Gruber, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Julia Kerr, Tim Bruer, Larry Palm, Judy Compton, Joe Clausius, Mark Clear
Fitchburg Alders: Roger Tesch, Bill Horns, Steve Arnold
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk
Dane County Supervisors: Scott McDonell, Barbara Vedder, Brett Hulsey, Wyndham Manning, John Hendrick, Matt Veldran, Carousel Andrea Bayrd, Dianne Hesselbein, Paul Rusk, Chuck Erickson, Melanie Hampton, Dave de Felice, Tom Stoebig, Dorothy Wheeler, Sheila Stubbs, Kyle Richmond

State Senators:
Mark Miller, Fred Risser, Jon Erpenbach
Assembly Representatives: Sondy Pope-Roberts, Joe Parisi, Mark Pocan, Spencer Black, Terese Berceau

Some High Schools Are Dropping Out of the Advanced Placement Program

Eddy Remirez:

Some people say the AP program inhibits top teachers and students from really exploring the subject matter.
One of the nation’s leading private K-12 schools, the Univer-sity of Chicago Laboratory Schools, seems poised to renounce–at least in part–the curriculum most colleges and universities look for on their applicant’s transcripts: the Advanced Placement program. The school is a magnet for the children of the university’s faculty; the daughters of Michelle and Barack Obama are Lab Schools students. The school believes its students might benefit more from a different history and science curriculum, one that teachers say puts less emphasis on memorization and test preparation.
But college admission officers consider the AP program to be one of the best indicators of whether students are prepared for college-level coursework. The question that high schools debating whether to stay with AP face is how to offer the most engaging experience they can while convincing admissions offices their curriculum is academically rigorous.

Dane County High School AP course offerings.

Will West High School’s Tierney Chamberlain “Get In the Picture”?

West High School senior Tierney Chamberlain is one of six East Coast finalists in the reality-t.v. show “High School Musical: Get In the Picture.” Watch the performance that moved her from semi-finalist to finalist.
As many of you surely know, Tierney has a huge and amazing voice. Check out this 2006 video of her singing the national anthem. Tierney was last seen in the role of Cassie in West’s spring, 2008, production of “A Chorus Line.”
Tierney, our hats are off to you back here in Madison, not just at West, but all over town. You are an AMAZING talent. We’re rooting for you all the way!

Meet the Neets

Julie Henry & Miles Goslett:

In 1997, when Gordon Brown announced the “most radical welfare reforms since the Second World War”, he declared that the unemployed young would be first in the firing line. “How,” he asked, “did a society like ours get itself into a position where we are wasting young people’s talents like this?”
The Chancellor had what he thought was a solution. Under his Welfare-to-Work programme, funded by a £5 billion windfall tax on the privatised utilities, the welfare state would be transformed, making it crystal clear that “staying at home is not an option”.
But, 10 years on, the work ethic that Mr Brown was so confident he could inculcate in the nation’s jobless youth remains elusive. In fact, things have got worse: the phenomenon of Neets (young people “not in education, employment or training”) is on the rise.

College Board Cancels One School’s AP Scores After Cheating Scandal

Eddy Ramirez:

A cheating scandal at one Southern California high school has prompted the College Board to invalidate the scores of 690 Advanced Placement exams. Now, hundreds of students from Trabuco Hills High School in Orange County are protesting the decision. The Los Angeles Times is calling the imbroglio “perhaps the most memorable in Southern California since 1982, when the scores of more than a dozen students in Jaime Escalante’s AP calculus class at Garfield High School were invalidated because of suspected cheating. The students retook the exams and passed, and the events were later turned into the film Stand and Deliver.”

Much more, here.

MMSD Retirees — A Season of Thanks

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a link to the list of MMSD teachers, administrators and staff who will be retiring at the end of the year. Take a look and see if maybe your child’s favorite elementary school teacher — or perhaps your own favorite secretary — might be there. If so, consider taking a moment to send them a note of thanks.

http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/today/880.htm

As the 2007-2008 school year winds down, it is the season for saying “thank you.” “Thank you” to all of the teachers and other District staff to whom we feel genuinely and deeply grateful. Does your school host a “teacher appreciation” event? If so, make sure your family participates. Or consider making a contribution to your school’s PTO — especially if there is a special fund for classroom teacher support — or one to your own teacher’s classroom supply fund. (We all know teachers purchase classroom supplies with their own money.) Or just take the time to write a note of thanks, perhaps encouraging your child to do the same. We have found that it feels good to end the year on a note of gratitude.
Whatever else I may say about the Madison school district and particular MMSD administrators, I also think we are blessed to have some absolutely incredible teachers in our schools. Our hats are off to each and every one of them.

Rio School District Voters Approve a $1,270,000 Referendum

Channel3000:

Voters in the Rio School District approved a referendum on Tuesday that some called a last-ditch effort to save the school district.
The referendum was to exceed the levy limits over the next three years for a total of $1,270,000.
The final vote was 627 to 340 in favor of the referendum.
Village leaders and business owners said the existence of the school ensures the small town’s survival.
“I’ve seen towns in other states that have lost schools and they’ve become ghost towns,” said resident Jennifer Wearne.
Wearne has two children in Rio schools.

Meet Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University

I had the great pleasure of spending a couple of days on the Brown University campus last week. Among other things, I learned about the enormous respect and affection Brown students have for their President, Ruth Simmons. Then yesterday, someone sent me this link with the memo “Another Reason to Go to Brown.” (Current high school seniors have until May 1 to decide where they will go next year.) Another reason to go to Brown? Perhaps. But I’d rather call this inspiring video snippet “another reason to dream big and believe in yourself.”

Ruth Simmons — America’s Best Leaders 2007

Madison program helps teens improve driving

Marv Balousek:

hen a car in front of him stopped suddenly, J.R. Acker, 17, of Madison slammed on the brakes of his GMC Envoy.
He stopped in time, but the red light on a camera mounted on his rearview mirror began flashing. He knew he’d have to explain the sudden stop to his mother, Sara, when she received an e-mail about the incident the following day.
A junior at Edgewood High School, J.R. is among about 3,000 young drivers participating in the Teen Safe Driver Program offered by Madison-based American Family Insurance.

Introduction to a standards-based educational system #2

MMSD Department of Teaching & Learning:

The Madison School District is making the full transition to a standards-based educational system. Here is the second in a series of articles about a standards-based system, with this one focusing on curriculum.
Introduction to a standards-based system: curriculum
The Wisconsin Model Academic Standards (WMAS) articulate what students should know and be able to do in each curricular area. Community leaders and staff in the MMSD elaborated upon these state standards to frame district curriculum and instruction.
This article focuses on curriculum, which can be thought of as the planned educational experiences taught in each subject area at each grade level. No matter what specific materials or experiences a student has, he/she should always have the opportunity to learn fundamental ideas and develop skills as identified by the standards. Curriculum is then considered to be “standards-based”.
The remainder of this article will use science as an example of a content area to show how the curriculum in the MMSD is standards-based.

Via MMSD Today, which includes an article on teacher board certification

Despite IB Growth, College Credit is Elusive

Jay Matthews:

Across the Washington area, International Baccalaureate is booming, with more than two dozen high schools offering the college-level program and more signing up all the time. College admissions officers say they love seeing IB courses on transcripts. Students say the IB writing instruction and five-hour, end-of-course exams prepare them well for higher education.
But there’s a catch: Students usually can’t get college credit for one-year IB courses, even though they are similar to one-year Advanced Placement courses, which are eligible for credit. In another complication, students can get credit for passing tests after two-year IB courses, but that credit is equivalent to one year in AP.
Most university officials say they can’t explain these discrepancies. In many local high schools, bewilderment and frustration are growing among students and teachers over college policies about IB that seem at odds with the colleges’ oft-stated support for more challenging high school curricula.
“Imagine the consternation of these students who are getting the very best scores possible and are not seeing any recognition at most colleges,” said Marilyn Leeb, IB coordinator at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County.
“I feel like we were being cheated,” said Chad King, a 2007 graduate of Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County who received no credit for one-year IB courses from Ohio Dominican University in Columbus. “IB puts a lot of stress and pressure on its students, and for us not to get credit just because it is not AP is unfair.”

Hunting the genes of genius

The Telegraph
Colin Blakemore,Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick
If we identify and eliminate the genes that cause mental disorders, do we risk destroying the rich creativity that often accompanies them?
Isaac Newton was able to work without a break for three days. Einstein took a job in a patent office because he was too disruptive to work in a university. HG Wells was so gawky and insecure at school that he had only one friend. Are these psychiatric disorders that should be treated or genius that should be cherished?
In a new book, Genius Genes, Irish psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald argues that special forms of creativity are associated with a variety of cognitive disorders.
Fitzgerald describes how Charles de Gaulle’s Asperger’s syndrome was critical to his success as a politician. He was aloof, had a phenomenal memory, lacked empathy with other people, and was extremely controlling and dominating. He also showed signs of autistic repetitiveness and was similar in many respects to other politicians whom Fitzgerald argues also had Asperger’s, including Thomas Jefferson in the US and Enoch Powell in Britain.
The oddness of many great writers is well documented and a surprisingly high proportion of poets, in particular, had symptoms that indicate manic depression. See Touched with Fire and An Unquiet Mind
The richness of humanity and the power of our culture are, in no small way, attributable to the diversity of our minds. Do we want a world in which the creativity linked to the oddness at the fringes of normality is medicated away?

Battery Arrest at LaFollette High School

Madison Police Department:

On Tuesday afternoon a La Follette High School principal was attempting to escort to the office a couple of students who had been arguing. One student (the 16 year old listed above) did not want to go to the office and became hostile. She began yelling and ended up punching the principal in the face. A Madison Police officer witnessed the act. That officer was also punched in the face while arresting the student. The melee took place during class passing time, and the arresting officer described the situation in a report as “extremely disturbing and disruptive to the school environment.”
Following the arrest pepper spray and a box cutter were found to be in the 16-year-old’s possession. These were grounds for additional tentative charges. The student also spit her gum on the floor, which is a violation of Madison’s Expectorating Ordinance.

Via Isthmus.

Elections create teaching opportunities for students of all ages

Amy Hetzner:

Tuesday is decision day at Genesee Depot’s Magee Elementary School, where a little girl named Hope is running for the Virtualville state senate with the modest proposal “she will do her best,” and where Chloe overreaches a bit with promising “a happy ever after.”
It’s a kinder and gentler primary than the one the students’ parents and others across the state can participate in on the same day. But it’s one that teacher Terry Kaldhusdal said benefits from the presence of a real election being fought at a time when Wisconsin usually is an afterthought.
“It’s always nice when it coincides with an actual election, especially a national election,” said Kaldhusdal, who has made the Virtualville election and government exercise a part of the Kettle Moraine School District for the past decade.
Virtualville’s synthetic state election is just one of the ways enterprising teachers in the Milwaukee area are capitalizing on interest in the Wisconsin primary to teach students about the political process.

Oak Creek launches effort to find jobs for students with disabilities

Laura Thompson:

Oak Creek High School, North Shore Bank, other businesses and the Chamber of Commerce are hosting a “community conversation” on Feb. 20 to help find summer jobs for Oak Creek High School students with disabilities.
Here’s more information from a news release about the effort:
Four out of five Wisconsin high school students with disabilities say they plan to work during summer break. Yet fewer than half that number actually landed a job this past summer. In fact, fewer than 15% of students with the most significant disabilities worked, according to preliminary findings from a University of Wisconsin research study following 375 students with disabilities in 34 Wisconsin high schools.
One of (the group’s) first efforts will be to invite the community to an evening of conversation and free desserts in hopes of gathering great ideas, untapped resources and better connections between schools, local businesses and the greater Oak Creek/Franklin community.

Pangea Day, May 10 2008


Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.
In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
On May 10, 2008 – Pangea Day – sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv will be videoconferenced live to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.

Money Matters: Raising Money Smart Kids by Janet Bodnar

Books for Kids Blog: [RSS]

It’s the time of year, with holiday bills still coming in, taxes not far ahead, not to mention the market going down like a deflating party balloon, that money is on the minds of us grownups more than we’d like.
But how about our kids? Do they have a grasp on the concept of cash flow? Janet Bodnar’s much hailed Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know about Money and How to Tell Them (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance) takes on those money matters–the thorny issues of teaching kids to respect, spend, save, and ultimately earn money sensibly. Bodnar, who writes Kiplinger’s “Money Smart Kids” column, begins with a tough test for parents, “Test Your Money Smarts.” Here’s a sample:
Your 14-year-old son has been saving half of his allowance and mony earned from neighborhood jobs. Now he wants to use the money to buy an expensive iPod.

Five minutes of glory

Virginia Heffernan:

Typically parents justify the price of these videos, which range from $300 to $5,000, as an investment against a scholarship, one that might save a kid tens of thousands on annual tuition. Student-Athlete Showcase, which was founded in 2003 by Rex Grayner, a former college baseball player, also offers clients a full-dress press package — a so-called E-Profile that includes a résumé, a highlight reel, stats and a selective bio that looks suspiciously like a pedigree (the athletic achievements of a student’s dame and sire are underscored). As a sports matchmaker, Student-Athlete Showcase now boasts of winning clients an average of $12,000 in scholarship money, or a total of $1.7 million since the site’s introduction.

Mathiak’s “concerns” about small learning communities

In response to my open records request to Lucy Mathiak for her records about small learning communities, I received a copy of the following e-mail which she sent to Jim Zellmer on July 6, 2007. I asked Lucy whether she wanted to post it or whether she’d prefer that I post it. Since she didn’t respond, here’s the memo:

Hi Jim,
This is provided as background only. I am not ready to go public with my concerns – yet. FWIW, tho, this is what I said to administration and the P&A committee:
Thank you for all of the hard work and time that has gone into developing the SLC grant proposal. I understand that this is an important opportunity to bring resources into the district to help focus on high school transitions and achievement.
While I am, in principle, supportive of the idea of SLC’s, I confess that I am baffled and disappointed by the proposal that I received for the reasons outlined below. I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be a lengthy iteration of what I view as significant problems in the proposal and in the programs if they are enacted.

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