Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can college be saved? With rising tuition, dropping enrollment and funding, the future looks grim. An expert explains why it need not be

Max Rivlin-Nadler:

During the 20th century, the American college held a vaunted position. It was the mark of a successful upbringing, and the launching pad from a bright childhood to a promising future. In the past few years, however, the idea of college seems to have lost its way. With rising tuition, the need to attain specialized knowledge earlier and earlier, and the massive funding cuts to state institutions, college has become more precarious, isolated and marginal. While undergraduate students will exceed a record 20 million within five years, only a small fraction will experience college in the traditional sense. Most will either attend online or vocational programs, and, at most, only 40 percent will get a degree — and, on average, a college graduate will incur more than $25,000 in student debt. In his new book, “College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be,” Columbia professor Andrew Delbanco acknowledges that the hour is late, but there’s still time to save this valuable institution.
By tracing the history of the American college back to its founding by Protestant congregations looking to fashion constructive members of the community, to its transition to forgotten parts of larger universities, Delbanco illustrates how fundamental college has been to the prosperity of the country. He laments the ways that colleges have ceased to make substantial attempts to offer an education to students of every socioeconomic background, and how more often than not, they just mirror the existing hierarchy. At times a history lesson, an elegy, and a call-to-arms, “College” looks to jump-start a discussion of the importance of a liberal arts education, and why Americans still need the time in life to contemplate a meaningful life.

MTEL Arrives in Wisconsin: Teacher Licensing Content Requirement, from 1.1.2014

2011 WISCONSIN ACT 166, via a kind reader:

Section 21. 118.19 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
118.19 (14) (a) The department may not issue an initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to 5 or in special education, an initial license as a reading teacher, or an initial license as a reading specialist, unless the applicant has passed an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure [blekko]. The department shall set the passing cut score on the examination at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on this state’s standards.
(c) Any teacher who passes the examination under par. (a) shall notify the department, which shall add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that he or she passed the examination.
115.28 (7g) Evaluation of teacher preparatory programs.
(a) The department shall, in consultation with the governor’s office, the chairpersons of the committees in the assembly and senate whose subject matter is elementary and secondary education and ranking members of those committees, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, do all of the following:
1. Determine how the performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory program described in s. 115.28 (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in s. 115.28 (7) (e) 2. and located in this state will be used to evaluate the teacher preparatory and education programs. The determination under this subdivision shall, at minimum, define “recently completed” and identify measures to assess an individual’s performance, including the performance assessment made prior to making a recommendation for licensure.
2. Determine how the measures of performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory or education program identified as required under subd. 1. will be made accessible to the public.
3. Develop a system to publicly report the measures of performance identified as required under subd. 1. for each teacher preparatory and education program identified in subd. 1.
(b) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the department shall use the system developed under par. (a) 3. to annually report for each program identified in par. (a) 1. the passage rate on first attempt of students and graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1.
(c) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, each teacher preparatory and education program shall prominently display and annually update the passage rate on first attempt of recent graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1. on the program’s Web site and provide this information to persons receiving admissions materials to the program.
Section 18. 115.28 (12) (ag) of the statutes is created to read:
115.28 (12) (ag) Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, each school district using the system under par. (a) shall include in the system the following information for each teacher teaching in the school district who completed a teacher preparatory program described in sub. (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in sub. (7) (e) 2. and located in this state on or after January 1, 2012:
1. The name of the teacher preparatory program or teacher education program the teacher attended and completed.
2. The term or semester and year in which the teacher completed the program described in subd. 1.


This is a sea change for Wisconsin students, the most substantive in decades. Of course, what is entered into the statutes can be changed or eliminated. The MTEL requirement begins with licenses after 1.1.2014.

The Day After: What’s Next for Madison’s Public Schools?

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

Dear Friends & Colleagues.
With one of the most competitive and expensive school board races in the history of the Madison Metropolitan School District now behind us, it is time for us to get to work on strengthening public education in our capital city and ensuring that every single one of our children have the schools and tools they need to succeed in education and in life.
We congratulate Mary Burke and Arlene Silveira for their success in securing three-year terms on the Madison Board of Education. They will bring significant experience and business acumen to the School Board. We also give great respect to their challengers, Nichelle Nichols and Michael Flores, for stepping up, taking a stand for children and ensuring that the voices of parents and children of color were front and center during the campaign. They ensured that the discussion remained focused on the alarming racial achievement gap that exists in our schools, and we deeply appreciate them for it.
As the Board of Education moves forward, we expect they will remain focused on our community’s five greatest priorities: (1) eliminating the racial achievement gap; (2) establishing world class schools that attract enrollment and prepare all children to thrive and succeed in college and work after high school; (3) empowering parents and engaging them in their children’s education; (4) developing a highly talented and skilled workforce that is more reflective of the students our school district now educates; and (5) aligning the District’s employee handbook to the priorities, needs and goals of students, staff and schools.
The Board of Education can start by focusing their efforts on hiring an outstanding new Superintendent who possesses significant leadership skill/experience and business acumen, a proven track-record of successfully leading urban schools with significantly diverse student populations; and a strong, clear and compelling vision and plan for public education and our children’s future.
Rather than deciding too quickly on approving an achievement gap plan that was rushed in its development, we hope the Board of Education will avoid getting too far ahead of the next Superintendent in implementing plans, and instead focus their attention on existing efforts where the District can make a difference in the next six months, such as:

  • Implementing the Common Core Standards and related common curriculum in literacy, English/language arts and mathematics in all elementary schools in grades K-5 (to start), with additional learning support for students who are significantly behind or ahead academically;
  • Re-establishing and aligning the District’s Professional Development Program for all educators and support staff to the curriculum, standards and needs/interests of students;
  • Implementing Wisconsin’s new Educator Effectiveness evaluation and assessment program;
  • Providing a full-time principal and adequate staffing for Badger Rock and Wright Middle Schools;
  • Requiring greater collaboration and alignment between the District’s safety-net, student-support programs such as Schools of Hope, AVID/TOPS, Juventud/ASPIRA, PEOPLE/ITA Program and ACT Prep Academies to ensure more effective and seamless identification, support and progress monitoring of students who need or are enrolled in these programs;
  • Partnering with local businesses, educational institutions and community organizations to recruit, hire, acclimate and retain a diverse workforce, and appropriately assign all staff to schools according to their skills and interests and the needs of students;
  • Engaging parents more effectively in the education of their children through community partnerships; and
  • Partnering with the United Way, Urban League, Boys & Girls Club, Centro Hispano, Hmong Education Council and other agencies to effectively build awareness and educate the community about local and national best practices for eliminating the achievement gap and preparing all youth for college and work.

We look forward to working with YOU, the Board of Education, our community partners and the leadership of our public schools to implement immediate opportunities and solutions that will benefit our children TODAY.
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Phone: 608-729-1200
Assistant: 608-729-1249
Fax: 608-729-1205


An expected outcome.
Thanks to the four citizens who ran.
The Silveira/Nichols race was interesting in that it was the first competitive school board election involving an incumbent in some time. Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak defeated incumbent candidates during the mid-2000’s. Perhaps the “success recipe” requires that the insurgent candidate have a strong local network, substantive issues and the ability to get the word out, effectively.
Arlene is a different incumbent than those defeated by Kobza & Mathiak.
That said, she has been on the board for six years, a time during which little, if any progress was made on the MMSD’s core mission: reading, writing, math and science, while spending more per student than most Districts. Perhaps the Superintendent’s looming departure offers an opportunity to address the core curricular issues.
I wish the new board well and congratulate Mary and Arlene on their victories.
Paraphrasing a friend, it is never too early to run for the School Board. Three seats are up in 2013, those currently occupied by Maya Cole, James Howard and Beth Moss.
A reader emailed a link to this M.P. King photo:

Chinese set course for foreign universities

Kathrin Hille:

Chinese students are increasingly heading to western universities for both undergraduate and postgraduate education
Du Jinxiu is only 16, but she knows exactly what she wants – to go to university overseas after she finishes secondary school in China.
“I am going to study actuarial science at Wharton Business School,” says the girl, one of 30 in a special class created by Shijiazhuang’s No 42 Middle School, for those who want to study abroad.
Jiao Bowen, one of her classmates, has his sights set on film school in Los Angeles, while Li Ying is determined to study in the UK because she loves Pride and Prejudice.
The Communist party is preparing to hand its leadership reins to a group of men who grew up during the Cultural Revolution, when higher education was demonised and exchanges with the west were cut. But now, just as the top echelons of the party battle over whether to continue down a path of reform, China’s youth are voting with their feet and getting western educations in rapidly rising numbers, possibly setting the stage for a fundamental shift in values as they return home.

Dutch boy’s doodle steals prize limelight

Ralph Atkins:

An eleven-year-old Dutch boy has stolen the limelight in a UK-organised prize competition on breaking up the eurozone with a scribbled cartoon scheme for ejecting Greece that seemed at least as plausible as some proposals by his grown-up rivals.
Jurre Hermans was awarded a special €100 gift voucher for his pictorial plans in the Wolfson Economics Prize, which invited economists to propose the best ways of dismantling Europe’s 13-year old monetary union.

For Prom, Schools Say ‘No’ to the Dress

Elizabeth Holmes:

This spring, Hal David, principal at Cedartown High School in northwest Georgia, has spent a lot of time thinking about evening gowns.
“Unacceptable,” he has labeled some dresses shown on posters plastered in the hallways to publicize the school’s first dress code for prom. The signs also show styles deemed “acceptable” for the event, set for April 21 at the local country club. “It’s a picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words kind of deal,” says Mr. David. “We don’t want somebody to spend a lot of money on a dress and then show up and there be an issue.”

Bloomberg and Tweed: “Our Standards Mean Nothing”

Leo Casey:

Last Wednesday, the New York City Department of Education (DoE) began holding public meetings for the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools that Mayor Bloomberg announced he would close in his State of the City speech. At the start of each meeting, a Deputy Chancellor reads out a prepared script which purportedly makes the case for closure. For 19 of those 33 schools, nearly 3 in 5, there is a glaring omission in the Orwellian accounts of their “deficiencies”: these schools do not meet the DoE’s own well-established standards for closure.
When the Scho0l Progress Reports were introduced five years ago, the NYC DoE decreed that the decision on whether or not to close a school would be henceforth be made on the basis of the school’s grade. Only those schools which received a “failing grade” — ‘F,’ ‘D’ or three consecutive ‘C’s — would be considered for closing. That scale cut a remarkably wide swath, as the Bloomberg-Klein DoE wanted an ample supply of schools to close: where else would consecutive ‘C’s constitute a failing grade? But whatever else you could say about this policy, it was a fixed and clear standard. Even when the DoE announced that it would grade elementary schools and middle schools on a curve, as too many were scoring ‘A’s and ‘B’s, it still held to this standard. (Since 85% of the grades for elementary and middle schools were derived from student scores on New York State’s standardized ELA and Math exams, school grades rocketed during the period of grade inflation on those exams.)

Louisiana school voucher bill argument centers on local dollars

Associated Press:

State money spent on education should “follow the student” and not an institution, according to the argument often voiced by supporters of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s bill enabling the state to pay private school tuition for some students who want out of low-quality public schools. Critics of the Jindal-backed tuition voucher legislation, however, say there’s a problem: Some of the money following that student is local money, approved by local voters for their local public schools.
They say that’s an issue that could wind up in court.
The Jindal administration says the issue was cleared up with an amendment when the House approved the bill, but the matter arose again this past week during a Senate Education Committee hearing. It could spark more arguments Monday when the Senate Finance Committee discusses the measure.

‘Our teachers are soldiers in the fight for social justice in America’


That quote just had to be a headline. It’s from Louisiana’s state superintendent of education, John White, responding this week in the Baton Rouge Advocate to letters from teachers complaining about ed reform. Sometimes an op-ed is worth printing word for word:

The Advocate has recently published several letters to the editor on public education. I have to say as an educator, I’m disappointed with the prevailing tone and content of those letters opposing change.
Here are some passages that illustrate a common thread:
“We, the public school teachers of East Baton Rouge schools, can’t educate children who don’t want to be educated. We can’t educate children whose parents don’t care and are not involved.”

National Education Standards – A Confidence Game?

Jim Stergios:

As many know, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) came onto the scene between 2006 and 2009, but got greater momentum when adopting the still-under-development standards became a criterion for states seeking grant funding under the US DOE’s Race to the Top contest in 2009-10.
Similar pushes for national standards, driven by various DC-based trade organizations, including Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governors Association, and Clinton administration education officials who later migrated to Achieve, Inc., had been attempted in the 1990s and failed.
This recent drive for national standards reinvigorated a collection of unsuccessful DC-based players; and was fueled by more than $100 million from the Gates Foundation. A few years ago, I blogged on the Common Core convergence. Since then, it’s become increasingly clear that the push for national standards is an illegal, costly, and academically weak effort by D.C. trade groups, the Gates Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education to impose a one-size-fits-all set of standards and tests on the country. And the effort goes beyond that: With the tests come curricular materials and instructional practice guides.

Grammar school expansion divides Kent town

Tracy McVeigh:

When the first expansion of a grammar school in more than half a century was approved last week, the result surprised even those parents who had fought so hard to achieve it.
A campaign in the Kent commuter town of Sevenoaks, which has no grammar school of its own, to provide for its brightest children had raised a petition of 2,600 names.
At present 1,120 of the town’s children have to travel to selective schools in nearby towns. The county council’s decision means an annexe associated with these schools can be built in Sevenoaks. “People power is alive and well,” said Mike Whiting, the Tory county councillor in charge of education in Kent.

The Middle School Plunge: Students who attend middle schools are at risk of dropping out of high school

Martin West and Guido Schwerdt, via a kind Brian S. Hall email:

As compared to students in K-8 elementary schools, middle school students also score lower on achievement tests. Losses amount to as much as 3.5 to 7 months of learning.
A new study of statewide data from all Florida public schools finds that moving to a middle school in grade 6 or 7 causes a substantial drop in student test scores relative to those of students who remain in K-8 schools, and increases the likelihood of dropping out of high school.
In the past ten years, urban school districts such as New York City, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg have reorganized some middle schools along the once-prevalent K-8 model. The study’s findings support these school conversions and “are also relevant to the expanding charter school sector, which has the opportunity to choose grade configurations” when schools are established. An article presenting the research, “The Middle School Plunge: Achievement tumbles when young students change schools,” is available at and will appear in the Spring, 2012 issue of Education Next.
Data on state math and reading test scores for all Florida students attending public schools in grades 3 to 10 from the 2000-01 through 2008-09 years were analyzed. The researchers also conducted a test-score analysis separately for schools in Miami-Dade County, which is Florida’s largest district (345,000 students) and offers a wide range of grade configurations up through grade 8. They find that “the negative effects of entering a middle school for grade 6 or grade 7 are, if anything, even more pronounced in Miami-Dade County than they are statewide.”

The paper can be viewed here.

A statistician’s view of constructivist math programs

Nicole O. Stouffer:

I’ve had 4 years of undergraduate math courses, two years of graduate math courses, and I have taught graduate level math courses. I had never seen the “lattice” method, the Egyptian method, or any of these other alternative algorithms until last year when I looked at Everyday Math homework. Students don’t need them, and those methods will not help a student move onto higher mathematics.
I would have been laughed out of my college classes if I used the “partial sums” method to add. I wouldn’t have been able to take differential equations if I hadn’t mastered long division. There is a reason why traditional algorithms (the math methods you learned in school to add, subtract, multiply and divide) are needed. Traditional algorithms are needed to understand higher mathematics in college. It is extremely important that they are practiced until they are mastered. In fact, the new Common Core State math standards recommend teaching the standard algorithms.
You might think there is no reason not to offer alternative algorithms, as long as they also teach the traditional methods, but I have three reasons why the teaching of alternative programs is a problem.

Stop Panicking About Bullies

Nick Gillespie:

“When I was younger,” a remarkably self-assured, soft-spoken 15-year-old kid named Aaron tells the camera, “I suffered from bullying because of my lips–as you can see, they’re kind of unusually large. So I would kind of get [called] ‘Fish Lips’–things like that a lot–and my glasses too, I got those at an early age. That contributed. And the fact that my last name is Cheese didn’t really help with the matter either. I would get [called] ‘Cheeseburger,’ ‘Cheese Guy’–things like that, that weren’t really very flattering. Just kind of making fun of my name–I’m a pretty sensitive kid, so I would have to fight back the tears when I was being called names.”
It’s hard not to be impressed with–and not to like–young Aaron Cheese. He is one of the kids featured in the new Cartoon Network special “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” which premiered last week and is available online. I myself am a former geekish, bespectacled child whose lips were a bit too full, and my first name (as other kids quickly discovered) rhymes with two of the most-popular slang terms for male genitalia, so I also identified with Mr. Cheese. My younger years were filled with precisely the sort of schoolyard taunts that he recounts; they led ultimately to at least one fistfight and a lot of sour moods on my part.

Between A Rock & A Union-Space

Michael Lee-Murphy:

If you were going by the current public relations efforts from Connecticut’s teacher unions or charter school advocates, you would either think that charter schools are union-busting, anti-labor bastions, or that teacher unions are the biggest obstacle to education reform. But that’s not the case at two schools in southeastern Connecticut, where charter school teachers are themselves union members.
At both New London’s Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC) and Norwich’s Integrated Day Charter School (IDCS), the school’s teachers are part of a union affiliated with the Connecticut Education Association.
ISAAC’s teachers joined the CEA in 2005, eight years after opening. IDCS opened in 1997 and at the time was one of only six charter schools in the country endorsed by the National Education Association, the national affiliate of the CEA.

Reform School Valedictorian — What Is The Upside Of Underperforming?

Jeffrey Sica:

As we begin the month of April, people all over the United States are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Spring; a time for renewal and starting over. Although the winter in the East was milder than in winters past, just the sensibility of not feeling trapped indoors is enough to inspire anyone.
The Wait
For high school seniors, it’s probably one of the most important times of their lives; a time for starting over as high school draws to a close and plans are made for what comes next. For those who want to attend college, it’s around now that most letters of acceptance or decline have been sent and decisions need to be made. For those top performers, with entrance exams and grade point average considerations, it usually is a decision among several of their choice colleges.

Deterritorializing academic freedom: reflections inspired by Yale-NUS College (and the London Eye)

Kris Olds:

To what degree is academic freedom being geographically unsettled – deterritorialized, more accurately – in the context of the globalization of higher education? This was one of the issues I was asked about a few days ago when I spoke to a class of New York-based Columbia University students about the globalization of higher education, with a brief case study about Singapore’s global higher education hub development agenda. Some of the students were intrigued by this debate erupting (again) about Yale’s involvement in Yale-NUS College:

Clumsy teaching happens even in great schools

Jay Matthews:

If you thought my column two weeks ago about a struggling fifth-grader was an indictment of the Prince George’s County school system, please read the flood of comments to my blog about that.
The issue I discussed — some teachers being unable or unwilling to help a bright child with a learning disability — is not a Prince George’s problem, the responses show. It is every district’s problem.
If that is not the case, then why were there so many complaints about insensitive teachers from Montgomery County, which unlike Prince George’s is one of the wealthiest and highest-performing districts in the country? One Montgomery mother said the staff members at her daughter’s high school forgot their own promises and a psychologist’s recommendation to give the girl reminders when assignments were due. “They wouldn’t implement a plan for her because her test scores were too high,” the mother said.

Education’s Hungry Hearts

Mark Edmundson:  

EVERYBODY’S got a hungry heart,” Bruce Springsteen sings. Really? Is that so? At the risk of offending the Boss, I want to register some doubts.
Granted my human sample is not large — but it’s not so small either. I’ve been teaching now for 35 years and in that time have had about 4,000 students pass my desk. I’m willing to testify: Not all students have hungry hearts. Some do, some don’t, and having a hungry heart (or not) is what makes all the difference for a young person seeking an education.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about who should go to college and who should not. And the terms that have guided this talk have mainly been economic. Is college a good investment? Does it pay for a guy who is probably going to become a car mechanic to spend $20,000 to $30,000 going to a junior college for a couple of years? (I’m including the cost of room and board here.) He’s probably going to leave with a pile of debt that will take him years to work off. What’s more, the current thinking goes, he didn’t need that associate degree to end up with his job in the garage. Something similar is true for the young person who is going to become a flight attendant, a home health care aide, a limo driver or a personal security guard. It’s not a good investment, we’re told. It’s not the right way to spend your dough.

Know your Madison School Board candidates

Gretchen Miron:

Madison schools’ Superintendent Dan Nerad’s announcement that he will resign by June 2013 has given the April 3 School Board election new meaning. In addition to addressing the achievement gap and educational budget cuts, the Board will also be responsible for hiring Nerad’s replacement. Madison Commons talked to the four candidates to find out what makes them uniquely qualified for the position, and how they plan to tackle the problems facing the district.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison School Board Candidates Make Final Push

Chris Woodard:

Tonight Madison School Board candidates are making a last minute push for votes.
4 people are battling for 2 seats with some big decisions looming.
Candidate Nichelle Nichols says, “I think it’s really important that people are paying attention.”
It is a much different political world in Madison than we’ve seen in years past.
Incumbent Arlene Silveira says, “I’ve never seen quite this much attention before but I think it’s great”
At this point the arguments are coming fast and furious.
Candidate Mary Burke says, “I sort of have about 20 years more of experience.”
Silveira says, “I think I’m the candidate who has actually made changes.”
Nichols says, “I don’t know that the incumbent is always as honest about areas where we need to improve.”
One of the two battles is between incumbent and 6 year board member Silveira and newcomer Nichols.
Silveira says her experience is important.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

New Reading Teachers Should Pass a Reading Test; The Battle over Teacher Content Knowledge

Sandra Stotsky:

The educators’ biases have held sway for decades. But a new coalition is trying to find a way to make sure prospective teachers have some instruction in what decoding strategies are and why they are effective.
The latest action has been in Wisconsin. The state Legislature passed a bill that will help ensure that teachers no longer receive inadequate training in their preparation and professional development. The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, the Wisconsin branch of the International Dyslexia Association, and a group of parents, educators, psychologists and other professionals supported the measure. I was among the many experts submitting testimony for it.
The group had begun looking carefully at beginning instruction after noting Wisconsin children’s stagnant reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, and comparing those results with the scores in Massachusetts.
Why Massachusetts? Because children there are doing better than pupils in most other states on reading tests.
As noted by Kathleen Porter-Magee in a 2012 Fordham Institute analysis of the impact of high standards on student achievement, the 2009 NAEP reading tests showed that “students scoring in Massachusetts’s bottom 25 percent score higher than students in the bottom 25 percent of any other state in the nation. And students scoring in the top 25 percent perform better than students in the top 25 percent of any other state.”
She attributed this performance to the effective implementation of its highly rated English-language-arts standards, first adopted in 1997 and then re-adopted in a slightly revised form in 2001.
But the Wisconsinites zeroed in on a more specific explanation for the Massachusetts results: the state’s licensing test, in place since 2002, for all aspiring teachers of elementary-age children. The content of the test includes knowledge of code-based beginning-reading instruction.


Last Minute Letters in Support of Madison School Board Candidates

Dean Anderson in support of Nichelle Nichols:

We need nothing short of wholesale change in the Madison public schools. In a city full of well-educated, so-called progressives, the graduation rate for blacks and Latinos should be considered an embarrassment.
If education is to be both a civil right and a social justice issue, we need to treat it as such.
The only real power voters have lies with School Board elections.
Please send a clear message to the school district power brokers by voting for Nichelle Nichols. She will stand up for all students and bring hope back to the school district.

Bob and Nan Brien in support of Arlene Silveira:

Trusted leadership is needed now, more than ever, on the Madison School Board. Arlene Silveira has provided, and will continue to provide, that leadership.
Under her direction, this community passed a $13 million referendum, with two-thirds of voters approving, to allow the district to weather significant cuts in state aid without devastating programs.
Silveira spearheaded efforts to begin early education for all Madison youngsters, and made sure federal dollars offset the cost for local property taxpayers.
She knows that a significant effort must be directed at improving graduation rates for all Madison students, that our highest achieving students must be challenged, and this all must be accomplished while respecting taxpayers.
Silveira is a leader we can trust to move the district forward. And she will do so in collaboration with the city, county and community organizations like the United Way (Schools of Hope) and Dane County Boys and Girls Club (AVID/TOPS).

David Leeper in support of Mary Burke:

I started school at Randall School in 1958. My family moved to Madison in large part because of its excellent schools. My three children have benefited from Madison’s public schools, and my wife is currently teaching there.
We are facing a serious crisis in our public schools. Mary Burke recognizes this crisis. She has the courage to name this crisis, and has put in countless volunteer hours for the last decade seeking to address it.
Madison needs the hard work and strategic planning experience that Burke will bring to the Madison School Board. Goodwill and genuine concern are important, but they are not enough. Madison’s schools need dynamic leadership to go beyond this crisis to a better day. Mary Burke can provide that leadership.

Karen Vieth in support of Michael Flores:

Recently, my Saturdays have been spent meeting with people with the common vision of electing Michael Flores to the Madison School Board. We are amateurs, but that doesn’t stop the level of inspiration.
Flores’ campaign has been a feet-on-the-ground, coffee-at-the-kitchen-table, grassroots campaign.
This is one way I fight for our public schools. I do it because I believe Flores can unite our community and empower our students.
I was shocked when I learned that Mary Burke had spent $28,000 on her campaign. That parallels how much I made my first year teaching.
This makes one difference very clear — Burke has put forth financial resources to get her word out to the community. Meanwhile, Flores’ campaign has come from the heart of our community.
Michael Flores is the change we need on our Madison School Board.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Faces of the achievement gap in Madison: The stories behind the statistics

Pat Dillon:  

In 2010, just five black and 13 Hispanic graduating seniors in the Madison Metropolitan School District were ready for college, according to data from the district and Urban League of Greater Madison. These statistics should make your heart race. If they don’t, and you’re white, you may be suffering from what anti-racism educator Tim Wise calls “the pathology of white privilege.” If you do get it and don’t take action, that is almost worse.
The issue affects all of us and fell a little harder into my lap than it does in most white middle-class families when my daughter told me last summer that I was going to have a biracial grandson. My response? “Not in this school district.”
The dismal academic record of minorities has long been apparent to me, through my own experiences and the stories of others. But many people only hear about the statistics. To help humanize these numbers I asked students and parents who are most affected to share their stories so I could tell them along with mine. The experiences are anecdotal, but the facts speak for themselves.


In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track.  Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

 Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.

In the shadows: Left behind by the mainland’s economic ‘miracle’, life for many disabled people is a desperate struggle for survival

Paul Mooney:

Zhang Yonghong sits on the floor of a busy Beijing subway, a few thin cushions his only protection from the cold ground. Surrounded by hundreds of paper cuttings, he leans forward with a knife, his face creased with concentration. He carefully carves folk images out of a piece of bright red paper. Zhang is 38 years old but no taller than a toddler, the result of a condition the Chinese call the glass doll disease, so-named because sufferers have bones that break easily and they are generally shorter than normal. Unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair, Zhang struggles to make a living selling his artwork, spending his days on the streets of Beijing battling hot, humid summers and bitingly cold winters, and the ever-vigilant Urban Management Corps, a unit whose job it is to keep people such as Zhang out of sight.
On this bitterly cold day, Zhang is wearing a pair of children’s padded pyjamas and several layers of jumpers. His Sponge Bob backpack sits at his side. People stop to glance at the handicapped man’s artwork, some buying a few pieces, others dropping small bills into a red donation box. Many stare at a large plastic sheet on the floor which tells the story of the Shaanxi province native and includes a picture of his four-year-old daughter, Tianyu, who suffers from the same disease. Also on display are Zhang’s recent divorce papers – his wife ran off with another man. In the photo, the little girl lies on a bed crying, casts on one of her arms and a leg. A headline proclaims: “I use my skills to save my daughter.”

Detroit High School Protest: Students Suspended After Demanding ‘An Education’

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:  

About 50 high school students at Frederick Douglass Academy in Detroit were suspended Thursday after walking out of classes to protest a host of issues at the all-boys school.
The concerns included a lack of consistent teachers and the removal of the principal.
The boys, dressed in school blazers, neckties and hoodies, chanted, “We want education!” as they marched outside the school.
Parents organized the walkout because they fear for the school’s future. As recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym, library or cafeteria due to a lack of teachers, parents said.
Worries escalated after district offices moved into part of the building in January, and the school was not listed as an application school for next year. Current students had to apply to attend Douglass.q

More, here.

Reflections and questions on Wisconsin school test results

Alan Borsuk:

So what was new in all the data released last week summarizing results of the standardized tests, known as the WKCEs, that were taken last fall by more than 400,000 students from Kenosha to Superior?
Not much.
Some things a little better, most things the same, the state of meeting our educational needs pretty much unchanged.
But for every answer like that, I have a dozen questions (and lots of sub-questions).
Here they are:
1. Do we have the patience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
The highflying schools I know of all took years to reach the heights.
Are we willing to do the steady, thoughtful work of building quality and resist the rapidly revolving carousel of education fads?
2. Do we have the impatience to pursue solid, significant improvement in how our students are doing?
At the same time we’ve got to be steady, we’ve got to be propelled by the urgency of improving.
Especially outside of Milwaukee, an awful lot of people are complacent about how Wisconsin’s kids are doing, and that complacency is often not well justified.


Student Loans on Rise — for Kindergarten

AnnaMaria Andriotis:

Instead of saving up for their sons’ college education, Bill Dunham and his wife are taking out loans for high school. Their eldest son will begin ninth grade at a school in Boston where annual tuition runs around $10,000 — and they already pay $5,000 a year for their younger child. A project manager for a mechanical construction company, Dunham says the schools referred him to lenders who specialize in pre-college education loans. He’s taking a loan to cover his son’s full high school tuition, which he plans to repay over two years. “If we had the money, we’d pay it now,” he says.

Minn. lawmakers consider giving schools the option to start before Labor Day

Tim Post:

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would give school districts the choice to start the academic year before Labor Day, a measure that has sparked a perennial debate over whether an early school start hurts tourism.
Minnesota is one of a handful of states that, in most cases, doesn’t allow schools to start classes before Labor Day. The long summer is a hit with Minnesota businesses that depend on late-summer trips by families.
Keith and Cherste Eidman, for example, take their active family on at least one week-long Minnesota camping trip every summer.
Their children — 11-year old Martha, 9-year old Sophie and Spencer, 6 — also take part in a number of day camps during the summer months.

Lawmakers’ Stinting Charter Schools Is A Loss For Children

Hartford Courant:

Public charter schools are a key to closing the achievement gap between urban and suburban schools, so it’s no wonder that Gov.Dannel P. Malloyhad proposed increasing funding for charters in his education reform bill this year.
Unfortunately, the legislature’s education committee, apparently at the beck and call of teacher unions, has voted to dial back the increases.
The vote was yet another attempt by majority Democrats to rally around the status quo — at the expense of students who deserve better.

4.1.2012 from Omaha: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad: Narrowing gap a work in progress in Madison

Joe Dejka:

The push to raise achievement for minority and low-income students in Madison Metropolitan School District remains “a work in progress,” said Superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Work has been done on Nerad’s watch, such as drafting a new strategic plan and a multifaceted, $106 million proposal for programs aimed at shrinking test score gaps between students of different races and income levels.
As for results, Nerad and Madison school board member Ed Hughes say there hasn’t been enough progress.
“We certainly haven’t seen, overall, the kind of improvement that we would like to see in reducing the achievement gap,” Hughes said. “But we need to look at whether the steps are being put in place that would give us some hope or confidence that we will see those gaps narrowing in the future.”
Hughes thinks Madison is on the right track.


In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track. Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.
A look at the numbers:
Omaha spends substantially less per student than Madison. The Omaha 2011-2012 adopted budget will spend 468,946,264 for 46,000 students: $10,194.48/student. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $369,394,753 for 24,861 = $14,858.40/student, 31.4% more than Omaha…. Green Bay (Superintendent Nerad’s former position) spent about 10% less than Madison, per student.

How to remake the Education Department (or, it’s time to give teachers a chance)

Peter Smagorinsky:

“If your goal is innovation and competitive ability, you don’t want either excessive unity or excessive fragmentation. Instead, you want your country, industry, industrial belt, or company to be broken up into groups that compete with one another while maintaining relatively free communication–like the U.S. federal government system, with its built-in competition [among] our 50 states.” — Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond reaches this conclusion in the 2003 Afterword to his magisterial analysis of the evolution of human societies, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Diamond argues that a primary reason that Europe and China proceeded along different developmental lines followed from their relative degree of central organization. China, due to a friendly geographic layout, was able to become consolidated as a political entity under unified rule. Europe, in contrast, was broken up by its terrain to create smaller, more competitive states.
To Diamond, the political fragmentation of Europe produced greater innovation as states competed for goods and power, even as transportation routes opened up avenues of exchange and communication. China, in contrast, operated according to a chain-of-command that suppressed innovation in service of conformity to a broad, centrally administered national culture. These two political orientations led to very different degrees of technological advance and its consequences, with the more competitive social arrangement producing the circumstances most conducive to invention and advantage.

Our K-12 system has been overly centralized for some time. I asked the three 2008 Madison Superintendent candidates if they planned to continue on this path, or simply focus on hiring the best teachers and let them teach….
Of course, teachers must have content knowledge.

Teachers Unions, Mayors, And Trends

Andrew Rotherham:

Today’s Washington Post front pager on some realignment among urban mayors, teachers unions, and ed reform is the kind of article (and situation) that a decade or 15 years ago just a few were saying was on the horizon. But still a long way to go. Politically the big problems that I see are twofold. First, this is a hard conversation for union leaders to have. For every sensible statement like Randi Weingarten’s in today’s article:

“We have made mistakes,” [AFT President Randi Weingarten] said. “You have to really focus to make sure you’re doing everything you can so that kids are first. Tenure, for example. Make sure tenure is about fairness and make sure it’s not a shield for incompetence.”

There is another example of her, or someone else, denying these issues and calling the whole thing a right-wing plot, “so called reformers” etc…That speaks to the challenge of moving large organizations along – especially in a contentious time. But, second, it also speaks to how polarized our national debate about education (and most things) is. There are very few places you can go and have a conversation that allows for the political space to acknowledge two things that are true today and fuel these politics. First the unions need to mend their ways and change some key policy positions. Second, there are people who just want to do unions in and for whom this isn’t fundamentally about policy.

What NOT To Do When Teaching Creative Writing

Lindsay Renee Grace:

On this lazy Saturday I’ve been browsing the internet and in my search came across “The Greatest Story Ever Written.” You see, a foolhardy college professor had his students write a “tandem story.” Pairing them up randomly he had them write a story together, one paragraph at a time, via email. Rebecca and Bill’s story, which is the “Greatest Story Ever Written,” is particularly disastrous and hilarious (you should definitely read it!). It reminded me of the worst creative writing class I’ve ever taken (yep, with the same teacher who made me answer three pages of pointless questions about an already published short story).
It was my senior year of high school. I’d already taken Creative Writing once before, my sophomore year with Ms. Hosner. Her class was amazing. I grew so much as a writer and felt that taking her class once again could only improve my writing more. But the idiots who decided who taught what classes had given Creative Writing to another teacher (who I’ll leave unnamed to avoid libel). Her creative writing class was a complete waste of time in every way. The greatest offense, of her many offenses, is that she was continually making us do group assignments. Group Creative Writing? That’s right.

Our debt to Greek culture

Harry Eyres:

A conversation over lunch with the violinist Leonidas Kavakos – maybe Greece’s most gifted classical performer since Maria Callas – made me reflect more generally on the relationship between Greece and gifts. The most famous saying about Greeks and gifts is of course the line from Virgil’s Aeneid, “I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts” (timeo Danaos et dona ferentes), but nowadays this might be reversed. The Greeks have good reason to fear the gifts in the form of bail-outs – designed to bail out creditors, not Greek citizens – that have reduced the country to a province in the European empire controlled, at least as to its purse strings, by Germany.
But Kavakos is not disposed to self-pity à la Grecque. He seems a rather tough-minded character who believes Greeks deserve much of the punishment they are getting. What he finds most unforgivable is the way Greece, or its political class, has betrayed its incomparable legacy of culture, philosophy and art. He reserved especial scorn for a certain Greek politician who decreed that the Greek language should be reduced from 6m words to 600,000. That was an entirely avoidable form of self-impoverishment.

Where Math Teachers Go to Get Energized

Yasmeen Khan:

Gil Kessler, self-described math enthusiast, always carries a four-color ballpoint pen. A former math teacher, he has found the pen to be a helpful tool in channeling his love for numbers and symbols.
“I tell the kids at the very beginning, ‘Anything we do, you can write in your notebooks in black or blue,'” he said. “‘But if it’s really interesting, use red. And if it’s unbelievably interesting, then use green.'”
Mr. Kessler taught math in New York City schools for 30 years, first at Seward Park High School on the Lower East Side, then at South Shore High School in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and finally at Canarsie High School. All the schools are now closed.
At 75, he is now retired. And when he’s not making up new math problems, playing classical piano or square dancing — one of his hobbies — he conducts math workshops for fellow teachers as part of the New York Math Circle, a non-profit organization that holds courses for both teachers and students. Most classes are held at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University.

Closed Schools Ten Years Later: Who Goes There Now?

Jackie Bennett:

In case you have not been paying attention, the mayor is vowing to dismantle about 30 school communities for reasons that pretty much no one can figure out. In fact, things have reached such a level of absurdity in New York that there are very few New Yorkers who actually believe that the campaign against our schools has anything to do with “school quality” or a desire to make things better for at-risk kids.
I mention this because in the face of such a situation, it seems ridiculous for me to continue my private crusade to correct the DOE’s misrepresentations about the schools that close and the new ones that rise up in their midst. The DOE mask, truly, is off. Still, even though no one in New York believes the mayor, New York City mayors often have national ambitions. It can’t hurt to set the record straight.
So, let’s look at a few big old schools and the new ones that replaced them in the same building. In particular let’s look at the schools’ comparative reading levels and comparative math. Until very recently, I didn’t have these files, and until very recently I didn’t think about same-building schools (called campus schools) too much, either. But then, the DOE made an inaccurate and unsupported claim about one of these campuses, and a few weeks later, Communities for Change set the record straight. The DOE’s claim was the usual one (“similar” kids, astronomically better results). But the report from Communities for Change, showed that campus schools across the city were serving much lower concentrations of high-need special education students than the schools that they replaced. Before the old Seward shut down, for example, the concentration of self-contained students was 9%. In 2011, the new campus schools served 0%. Seward Park campus is in Manhattan, and the new schools earned As and Bs.

Researchers blast Chicago teacher evaluation reform

Valerie Strauss:

Scores of professors and researchers from 16 universities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area have signed an open letter to the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago school officials warning against implementing a teacher evaluation system that is based on standardized test scores.
This is the latest protest against “value-added” teacher evaluation models that purport to measure how much “value” a teacher adds to a student’s academic progress by using a complicated formula involving a standardized test score.
Researchers have repeatedly warned against using these methods, but school reformers have been doing it in state after state anyway. A petition in New York State by principals and others against a test-based evaluation system there has been gaining ground.

Too much college? History suggests otherwise

Jay Matthews:

President Obama is a snob for insisting higher education should be everyone’s goal. Some of us blame high-school dropout rates on students tuning out the pro-college assemblies and loudspeaker announcements.
It was that way in 1943 when an Army survey found that only 7 percent of enlisted men expected to go back to school full-time after the war and only 17 percent wanted to go part-time. Even when the new G.I. Bill — the most generous education law ever passed — began paying full tuition and some living expenses, few seemed interested. Only 15,000 veterans were using it 15 months after it passed.
The Saturday Evening Post declared it a failure, said Suzanne Mettler, in her book “Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation.” The magazine said: “The guys aren’t buying it. They say ‘education’ means ‘books,’ any way you slice it, and that’s for somebody else.”

Vote for candidates who will help our hurting children

Fabu, Madison’s former poet laureate:

I’ve listened carefully to all of the School Board candidates — Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira in one race, Mary Burke and Michael Flores in the other. After a panel in the Atrium of the Park Village, I wanted Silveira to look in my face and hear me say as a mother, a tax-paying citizen, educator and poet that I believe she has not done enough to support the success of African-American students in her time on the School Board. I moved on to Flores and we had a lively conversation. Flores said that he supports all children in Madison. I told him that when you have several children, and one is sick, you help the sickest one first even though you love all of your children. Flores told me that “first you have to determine who hurts the most.” Well, I know that African-American children, regardless of economic status, hurt the most in the current school district and we need new board members who will immediately address that pain, as well as to choose a new superintendent to begin the healing process.
After considering the positions of all of the candidates, I believe that Nichelle Nichols and Mary Burke are the candidates who will work urgently to help hurting children.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Misplaced Optimism and Weighted K-12 Funding

Eric Hanushek:

Liberals and conservatives alike have made “weighted student funding” a core idea of their reform prescriptions. Both groups see such weighted funding as providing more dollars to the specific schools they tend to focus upon, and both see it as inspiring improved achievement through newfound political pressures. Unfortunately, both groups are very likely wrong.
The overall idea of weighted student funding–that some students require more resources than others because they require extra educational services–makes sense intuitively and provides a sensible way for states to think about pieces of their school finance systems. The usual categories of students requiring “weights” are those in special education, disadvantaged students as generally defined by family income, and English-language learners.
Indeed, every state in the union currently uses some version of weighted funding, either through explicit inclusion in its funding formula or through allocations using “weighted students” instead of actual students. The federal government’s most significant K-12 spending programs target disadvantaged students (through Title I) and students with disabilities (via the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

What Madison can learn from Nerad’s exit

Those who approve of Nerad’s performance and those who disapprove could agree that he seemed to be exiting in a responsible manner.
And there was not much objection to the $37,500 retirement payout that it was announced he would receive. It sounded, after all, like he was retiring. Or so Madisonians thought.
On Tuesday, however, the news arrived that Nerad was a finalist for a job as superintendent of the public schools in Omaha, Neb.
Madison School Board members confirmed that Nerad had not informed them when he was preparing for his “retirement” announcement that he was in the late stages of pursuing another job.
School Board President James Howard even had to field questions about whether he and other board members were “duped” by the superintendent.

I have received a number of emails inquiring about the $37,500 payout…

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Rhetoric on the Burke – Flores Madison School Board Race

Lukas Diaz:

So a Forward Lookout spy has forwarded me a scan of a Mary Burke attack mailer…If it’s too small to see, you can click on it to make it big.
The interesting thing about this piece is that it simply takes Mary Burke’s person experience and then says Michael Flores doesn’t have the same experience. If you’ll note the section where Mary Burke touts her Budget Experience, she notes her work in the Wisconsin Department of Commerce…I mean, most people have not worked in the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. That hardly makes them unqualified for the school board.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Universities and the Price of Ignorance

Richard Vedder:

My friend and American Enterprise Institute colleague Alex Pollack had a brilliant column in the Wall Street Journal on March 14 that unintentionally speaks importantly to one of the many scandals surrounding higher education: our students are weak in core knowledge about the development of our civilization.
More specifically, Pollack said an even cursory glance through history would tell you that the recent European financial crisis and threatened Greek debt default are hardly surprising–history is replete with scores if not hundreds of other examples. Governments use their sovereign and coercive powers to pressure people to buy their bonds. For example, our system of national banks created in the National Banking Act of 1863 resulted in considerable part because of Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase’s desire to peddle bonds to finance the North’s effort in the Civil War. Banks were coerced to keep U.S. bonds as part of their reserves. Political leaders love bond financing because it is less of an overt form of taxing the people than explicit direct taxation, and thus sometimes imposes a lower political cost.

Parent trigger founder: Teachers unions launched “sweep and destroy” mission to deny parents

redefined staff:

wo weeks ago, Gloria Romero, the former California state senator who wrote the original parent trigger law, wrote in this redefinED piece that the “status quo” killed the parent trigger bill in Florida. Today in this op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Romero uses much tougher language – and singles out a specific foe – to describe the parent trigger battle in two California locales. Some excerpts:

In both Adelanto and Compton, parents trying to exercise their rights felt the full onslaught of a “sweep and destroy” mission launched by the California Teachers Assn. and its affiliates. What had taken weeks to build was destroyed in a few days of heavy-handed lobbying. Parents have reported being told outright lies about charter law and about their rights. Some parents reported that they were even threatened with deportation if they didn’t rescind their signatures …

Will Teaching Kids How to Write Software Help Fix Young America?

Alex Fitzpatrick:

New York City is a hotbed of technological innovation, but many of its public school students aren’t graduating with the skills needed to be a part of “Silicon Alley,” as it’s known. Scott Schwaitzberg, vice president of Activate, is planning to fix that problem by helping to build a public high school designed to teach the city’s youth everything they need to know about writing software and the tech industry.
Schwaitzberg is part of a team that’s creating a revolutionary public high school for software engineering in the heart of New York City. Named “The Academy for Software Engineering,” the school will admit 500 students in grades 9 through 12 when it opens in the fall of this year. There’s a limited screening process: Prospective students attend an information session and sit down with an advisor to be considered for the admissions lottery.

The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: FIRE’s 2nd Annual List

Greg Lukianoff:

Free exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of any university, and for the second year in a row my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), presents its list of the worst colleges and universities for freedom of speech.
Many of the 12 are repeat offenders for refusing to undo serious punishments of what should be clearly protected speech on campus, while others are new additions that have shown particular hostility to student criticism and, in one case, limiting free speech to a tiny zone on campus. Also bound to raise a buzz, Yale and Harvard, two of the most iconic colleges in the country, top the list for disappointing but ongoing retrenchment against the principles that are supposed to animate higher education. Also, check out our short video below about the list.

Corporations, Governments, Public Schools, Unions are People

Imagine Wisconsin:

With the Republican/Tea Party presidential campaigns pandering to conservatives in Wisconsin this week, it is a tough time to try to shake loose from the entanglements of Governor Scott Walker’s dichotomous design. Nonetheless, the beautiful spring weather continues to soften my soul. Light and dark converge, once again, landing me in the twilight zone.
To the chagrin of my progressive friends–who continue to dog the dark-side’s presidential frontrunner for his most famous campaign comment–I concur with Mitt Romney’s remark that “corporations are people.” However, as another Steve logically explains, if corporations are people, then “governments are people, too.” In the same vein, public schools are people, too.

Sibling Rivalry Grows Up: Adult Brothers and Sisters Are Masters at Digs; Finding a Way to a Truce

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Marianne Walsh and her sister, Megan Putman, keep track of whose kids their mother babysits more. They also compete with each other over parenting styles (Ms. Walsh is strict, Ms. Putman is laid back) and their weight.
“My kids play more instruments, so I am winning in piano,” says Ms. Walsh, 38, the younger of the two by 13 months. “But she won the skinny Olympics.”
Adult sibling rivalry. Experts say it remains one of the most harmful and least addressed issues in a family. We know it when we see it. Often, we deeply regret it. But we have no idea what to do about it.

Madison School Board responsible, too

Wisconsin State Journal:

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s departure is probably for the best.
The Madison School Board was split on Nerad’s performance, rating him as barely proficient in an evaluation completed last month.
Among other challenges, Madison is struggling to improve its atrocious graduation rates for black and Latino students.
Yet board members can’t dodge their own responsibility for better results. More than half of the School Board — Arlene Silveira, Beth Moss, Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak — hired Nerad for the district’s top job just four years ago. And, ultimately, the superintendent’s role is to carry out the board’s vision, which hasn’t always been clear.
Nerad has been a measured and thoughtful leader. What he lacked in charm he sometimes made up for in knowledge and diplomacy.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Do we really give introverts a hard time?

Vanessa Barford:

It is often assumed extroverts do best in life, but according to a new best-selling book, introverts are just as high achievers. It claims there is a bias towards extroverts in Western society. So do we discriminate against introverts?
Barack Obama, JK Rowling and Steve Wozniak.
They might not immediately stand out as introverts, but according to Susan Cain, American author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking, they are.
That is because she says, contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not necessarily shy or anti-social, they just prefer environments that are not over-stimulating and get their energy from quiet time and reflection.
Conversely, extroverts need to be around other people to recharge their batteries.

Turkish protesters denounce education reform bill

Associated Press:

Thousands of people have joined a Turkish opposition rally denouncing a government education reform bill they say is designed to boost the influence of Islamic schools.
The protest was staged Tuesday hours before parliament began debate on the proposal. The bill would extend compulsory education from the current eight years to 12 and pave the way for middle school students to attend Islamic schools.

Where Could The Next Outbreak Of Measles Be?

Valerie Bauerlein & Betsy McKay:

Even as more American children are getting immunized against measles, diphtheria and other diseases, public-health officials are increasingly worried about potential outbreaks of these illnesses in certain pockets of the country where vaccination rates are dangerously low.
Parts of Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Montana and a few other states have some of the lowest rates of compliance with vaccination guidelines–and the problem is growing, health officials say. Overall vaccination rates in some of these communities are under 80%, far below the threshold that is needed to prevent an outbreak for certain diseases. Exemptions in many states for philosophical or religious reasons allow parents to opt out of requirements for children to be vaccinated before entering school. Other parents delay immunizations for their young children, leaving them exposed to possible infections for a longer time.

Don’t insult (outgoing Madison Superintendent) Nerad’s social work background

Chris Rickert:

A comment in Tuesday’s story about the resignation of Madison schools Superintendent Dan Nerad caught me short.
“You can’t behave as a social worker and run a massive complex organization,” said Don Severson, head of the conservative watchdog group Active Citizens for Education.
Nerad is a former social worker and, apparently, Severson didn’t think his background did him much good.
I’m bothered by this on two levels.
First, Severson’s comment speaks to a long-standing disrespect for the profession and what Kristen Slack, director of the UW-Madison School of Social Work, called an occasional “misunderstanding.”

Former Bucyrus CEO calls for reform of employment programs

John Schmid:

Taking advantage of what he calls a climate that’s conducive to reorganizing state government, one of Gov. Scott Walker’s top economic advisers said he’s drafting set of recommendations that will change how Wisconsin allocates hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal job training funds and simultaneously reform the state’s education system.
The goal is to repair an “antiquated state workforce” and education system that fails to provide employers with workers, which in turn leaves openings unfilled and hundreds of thousands of working-age Wisconsinites lacking employable skills, said Tim Sullivan, former chief executive officer of Bucyrus International Inc. and chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, a state advisory panel.

Tinkering Toward Transformation: A Look at Federal School Improvement Grant Implementation

Sarah Yatsko, Robin Lake, Elizabeth Cooley Nelson, Melissa Bowen, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In 2009, the federal government committed over $3 billion nationwide to help states and districts turn around their worst-performing schools. The U.S. Department of Education intended for the School Improvement Grants (SIGs) to spur dramatic change.
This report looks at the results of a field study of the first-year implementation of those grants in Washington State, which will receive $50 million in SIG funding over three years. CRPE researchers wanted to see what kinds of school-level changes are underway, how they compare to the intent of the grants, and the role that district play in SIG implementation.
Researchers provide findings from the state, district, and school level. They found that, with some exceptions, districts and schools in Washington state are approaching the turnaround work in ways only marginally different from past school improvement efforts. Despite the hard work of administrators, principals, and especially teachers, the majority of schools studied show little evidence of the type of bold and transformative changes the SIGs were intended to produce.

Teachers’ Support For Reform Depends In Part On Experience — Gates/Scholastic Survey

Joy Resmovits:

Revamping the makeup of the teaching profession through tweaks such as altering tenure and teacher evaluations has become a policy debate du jour, one that has riled many a state house in recent years. As it turns out, teachers themselves support that overhaul, according to recent survey data.
But that support may depend on a factor central to many of these teacher reforms: experience.
A survey released recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with Scholastic Education, asked 10,000 pre-K-12 public-school teachers questions about their satisfaction, environment and views on school policies. The metric of teacher support for certain policies is increasingly important as a chorus of voices claims educators have been excluded from the biggest debates over laws affecting America’s classrooms. An actual metric of teacher support is also crucial as education-reform groups trot out their policies to statehouses, claiming a such a groundswell of educator support.

New Report Shows the Power of Early Childhood Education

Mike Ford:

A report released today by WPRI details the strong connection between early childhood education and economic development. The authors, Minneapolis Federal Reserve economist Rob Grunewald and former Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau analyst Don Bezruki, use existing economic research on early childhood education programs to inform a series of recommendations for increasing the economic development power of early childhood education in Wisconsin.
The authors review four key longitudinal studies on early childhood education and conclude that the return on investment in such programs can be “as high as $16 for every $1” spent. Looking specifically at Wisconsin’s YoungStar system, it is possible to estimate that the additional $20 million in incentive payments required from moving about 10,000 children into higher quality education centers would generate $60 million in future economic benefit.

Recall WEAC “When School Children Start Paying Union Dues, I’ll Start Representing Schoolchildren” – Al Shanker

the Recall WEAC website is live, via a kind reader’s email:

Reforming Education And Demanding Exceptional Results in Wisconsin (READER-WI) is a non-partisan organization devoted to reforming and improving the education system in Wisconsin.
We are facing a critical time here in Wisconsin. Where is education going in the 21st century? Will we have an educational system designed to improve educational outcomes for all children in all income brackets and of all ethnicities? Or will we have an educational system designed to maximize Big Labor revenues, and designed to protect the worst teachers while driving out the best?
Click on the tabs at the top of this page to learn more about the crisis we are in. Then, join us in our fight to reform education. Children can no longer be used as political pawns. Let’s make a real, positive difference.

More, here, including the beltline billboard due tomorrow.
Al Shanker: Blekko or Clusty.
Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators, Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions and Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections.
Joe Tarr:

The quote has been repeated many times, often by conservatives attacking unions as the bane of public education. Joe Klein used it in a June 2011 article in The Atlantic.
However, the Albert Shanker Institute made an extensive effort to find the source of the quote but failed. In a blog post, the Institute concluded: “It is very difficult — sometimes impossible — to prove a negative, especially when it is something like a verbal quotation…. So, we cannot demonstrate conclusively that Albert Shanker never made this particular statement. He was a forthright guy who was known for saying all manner of interesting and provocative things, both on and off the record. But we believe the quote is fiction.”
The Institute speculates that the quote might be a distortion of a speech Shanker gave in the 1970s at Oberlin College, where he said, “I don’t represent children. I represent teachers… But, generally, what’s in the interest of teachers is also in the interest of students.”
The Wikipedia entry lists other quotations from Shanker that are not disputed, including some that would fit perfectly with the stated goals of READER-WI.
Such as this one: “A lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent.”
And this one: “It is as much the duty of the union to preserve public education as it is to negotiate a good contract.”

The Bigger Picture on MMSD School Board Conflicts of Interest

I found the recent Wisconsin State Journal article on the school board elections and Nichelle Nichols’ Urban League employment odd and at the same time interesting. When I was elected in 2006, there was a well established practice that board members would abstain from both discussion and voting if there was a conflict of interest OR the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest. I distinctly remember leaving the room, and watching other board members leave the room when discussions involved employment, financial interests, leadership positions in nonprofits, and other factors involving the board member or a close member of their family. This practice is less codified than it was in 2006, and perhaps should be revisited when the new board member(s) take(s) office.
In tapping members of the community, there are few board members who have zero conflicts of interest. I have stepped out of participation when the discussion involved agreements with my employer, or decisions that would possibly affect the value of property owned by my husband. Arlene has stepped out of discussions involving Promega, her employer. As a retired teacher with related MMSD benefits, Marj has stepped out of negotiations and bargaining. Ed has, in the past, stepped out of decisions involving the Goodman Center where his wife is a board member. More than one of us has stepped out of disciplinary decisions that have affected the children of colleagues or friends of the family.
I believe that this high standard of conduct has been good practice for the district. People openly acknowledge that they oughtn’t discuss or vote on a matter because they may not be entirely neutral or lacking in interests other than the best interest of the district. Which is what board members are elected to consider first and foremost.
Nichelle Nichols has acknowledged the issues throughout her campaign and has indicated that she would step out where discussions and decisions overlap with her ULGM responsibilities. Mary Burke, if elected, will need to do her own soul searching about whether it is appropriate to vote on matters related to AVID, Boys and Girls Club, Dane County United Way, and perhaps other organizations where she plays a significant philanthropy and/or leadership role. If re-elected, I expect that Arlene will continue to take the high road as she has done in the past. The candidate who appears to carry the least conflict of interest baggage is Michael Flores, and I would expect that other board members and district counsel would play a role in helping him to decide how to handle conflicts if they arise.
What concerns me at this time is a subtle shift that has de-emphasized the higher standard to which board members once held themselves. The GAB response to DeFour appears to narrowly focus on whether there is an employment relationship between a board member and an organization that may benefit from a board vote, ignoring other types of relationships that would make impartiality challenging to exercise or demonstrate.
In addition, the post-election orientations for board members that were formerly in place have fallen by the wayside in recent years. As a result, people elected in recent years did not receive the printed copies of board policies and discussion of how they worked – including conflicts of interest – that helped to train and inform myself and other longer-serving board members.
In addition, Board Policy 1540 – School Board Ethics that addresses ethics was rewritten in recent years. That rewrite added a good deal of language about board behavior, but the relevant language on conflicts of interest is relegated to the MMSD “Code of Conduct” Board Policy 9000A, in which the following sections are overshadowed by concern about decisions made to enter into contracts or purchase services:

3 No employee or member of the Board of Education shall participate in or attempt to influence any District decision-making process in which s/he has a substantial personal or financial interest.
4 No employee or member of the Board of Education may use her/his employment or position with the District in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit for the employee.
“Substantial personal interest” or “substantial benefit” to the employee or member of the Board of Education includes, but is not limited to, such interest or benefit that an immediate family member has, as well as an interest in an organization with which the employee or member of the Board of Education is associated.

It is my hope that as the newly configured board takes shape in a few weeks, it will use the orientation and settling period to review and reflecting on the above sections of board policy and procedure. My personal perspective is that such an effort would be time well spent, if only to collectively remember and affirm the fundamental and primary responsibility of elected board members to serving the best interests of the district and its students. There is no question that individual board members ‘get it,’ but there also is something very powerful about making a group commitment to these values at the beginning of the annual school policy cycle.

The New Science of the Birth and Death of Words Have physicists discovered the evolutionary laws of language in Google’s library?

Christopher Shea:

Can physicists produce insights about language that have eluded linguists and English professors? That possibility was put to the test this week when a team of physicists published a paper drawing on Google’s massive collection of scanned books. They claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words.
The paper marks an advance in a new field dubbed “Culturomics”: the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Last year a group of social scientists and evolutionary theorists, plus the Google Books team, showed off the kinds of things that could be done with Google’s data, which include the contents of five-million-plus books, dating back to 1800.

How One Stathead Is Carving Out a New Market: High-School Coaches

Matthew Futterman:

Head coach Keith Guy and the Muskegon Heights Tigers headed into Tuesday night’s quarterfinals of the Michigan high-school basketball playoffs armed with a secret weapon.
On the coach’s iPad, there was a series of charts and diagrams that plotted almost everything that’s plottable about his team and its opponents, Cadillac High School. This included their shot locations and scoring pace, the offensive and defensive potency of every five-man unit they’d put on the floor this season and how effective their star players have been when they’ve received the ball at any spot on the court.

The 1% of the Student Debt Crisis: Owing $150,000 in Loans

Jordan Weissmann:

Meet Kelli Space. She went to Northeastern University to get a degree in sociology. And she graduated in $200,000 of student loan debt. In the economy’s newest trillion-dollar crisis, she is the 1 percent.
Kelli is not the face of America’s student debt problem. Among the 37 million people in this country with student loans to pay off, the median balance is $12,800. A whole 72 percent of borrowers have less than $25,000 left in debt, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

SAT and ACT to Tighten Rules After Cheating Scandal

Jenny Anderson:

Stung by a cheating scandal involving dozens of Long Island high school students, the SAT and ACT college entrance exams will now require students to provide a photograph when they sign up for the exams, and officials will check those images against the identification the students present when they take the test.
The new rules were part of a broad set of changes announced on Tuesday in the aftermath of the cheating cases, in which high-scoring students used fake IDs to take the SAT or ACT for other students. The revelations had proved embarrassing for the testing services, on which virtually every American college relies in making admissions decisions.

Thoreau enrichment program brings ‘community closer together’

Pamela Cotant:

When Rosita Gonzalez proposed an after-school enrichment program for Thoreau Elementary School students this year, she wanted to make sure anyone could participate.
So one of the key components was arranging van rides with parents for students who normally have to leave right away to take the bus.
“It’s done really well and I think it’s really nice that kids get to stay,” said Gonzalez, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization. “We’re a community so we shouldn’t be separating ourselves when the school bell rings.”
While Gonzalez initiated the idea for the volunteer-run program, parent Jill McNaughton also helped organize it and a number of parents and staff members helped by donating their time and offering rides.

Vote for Mary Burke for School Board

The Capital Times

The contest between Mary Burke and Michael Flores presents a tough choice. Both candidates are outspoken critics of Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on public education, and defenders of the unions that represent educators. Both have genuine stakes in the Madison public schools — Flores as a parent and volunteer, Burke as a tutor, mentor and co-founder of AVID/TOPS, an innovative program for closing the racial achievement gap in Madison public schools.
We would be satisfied with either of these fine candidates, but our endorsement goes to Burke. She has a remarkable long-term record of engagement with public education at every level in Madison — as the co-founder of AVID/TOPS, board member of the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, a 13-year veteran of the Schools of Hope tutoring program at Allis Elementary School, a mentor at East High, a volunteer and board member for the Boys & Girls Club. She also knows the broader issues when it comes to state policy on education and achievement gap issues, as a former commerce secretary, Trek Bicycle executive, and active player in an initiative relating to the Milwaukee schools.

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison East High School Team Competes in Euro Challenge 2011 National Finals!

Euro Challenge:

A team of sophomore high school students from Madison East went to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City on April 27 to compete in the final rounds of the annual 2011 Euro Challenge Competition. They advanced to the finals after winning the Midwest preliminary round in March at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, where they competed against high school teams from Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois. For an update on the Euro Challenge winner, please visit the featured news update on the Euro Challenge website here.


The Economic Power of Early Childhood Education

Rob Grunewald and Don Bezruki:

Early childhood education is one of the most cost-effective and potent economic development tools available. Investment in young children supports economic development by boosting the long-run productivity of the labor force and reducing public costs. In the cold calculus of economic analysis, repeated studies have not only confirmed the long-term value of early childhood education, but its economic payback has been estimated as high as $16 for every $1. Early childhood education programs can provide high rates of return when:
They are of proven high quality.
They reach children in greatest need, such as children in poverty.
They reach children well before they start kindergarten.
The YoungStar program, launched in 2010, is Wisconsin’s attempt to leverage existing state and federal funding for childcare subsidies for low-income families to improve the quality of the state’s thousands of child care providers and to help parents make better-informed, quality-based decisions when they select a child care provider for their children.
In 2010, Wisconsin paid over $293 million to child care providers that enrolled children from low-income families through the Wisconsin Shares program. The Wisconsin Shares subsidies program began during Wisconsin’s welfare reform in the 1990s to help parents on public assistance afford child care and join the work force.

We can work it out: What can you do when the kids are driving you crazy?

Tara Jenkins and Karen Pittar:

Parents’ biggest battles with their children are often over the smallest things: refusing to share a favourite toy with a sibling, leaving a supermarket without buying that special snack, saying goodbye at the end of a play date. For Kendra Moran and her eight-year-old daughter, Keira, the flashpoint was clothes.
“We fought endlessly over what she would wear; she wanted flip-flops and shorts when it was cold outside; I wanted her to wear a pretty dress I’d bought for church,” says Moran, a mother of three. “She’s always been eloquent beyond her years and after one of our shouting arguments, Keira said, ‘Mummy, you need to let me make some of my own decisions sometimes’. I realised I needed to change my parenting strategy.”

Union poll gives Gist dismal approval rating from RI teachers

Ted Nesi:

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has plenty of fans in Rhode Island, but few rank-and-file teachers are among if a new poll commissioned by the state’s teachers unions is accurate.
Just 16% of public school teachers in Rhode Island had a favorable view of Gist’s job performance in January while 82% had a negative view, according to a survey of 401 teachers conducted by Fleming & Associates for the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.
The commission was particularly unpopular with long-tenured teachers. Those with 20 years or more experience in the classroom gave Gist a favorable rating of only 9%, significantly below the 23% favorable rating she received from teachers with less than 10 years of experience. (Fleming also conducts polling for WPRI 12.) on the 2012 Madison School Board Candidates

Nichols Sees Need For Change On MMSD School Board
Silveira Seeks Third Term On MMSD School Board
Achievement Gap Top Focus For Flores’ School Board Run
Burke Says She’s Ready To Take On Issues On MMSD School Board
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Burke spends big, Silveira rakes it in

Matthew DeFour, a local newspaper writer:

Madison School Board candidate Mary Burke reported spending six times as much as her opponent Michael Flores between Jan. 1 and March 19, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Madison City Clerk’s Office.
And two-term School Board incumbent Arlene Silveira collected twice as much in campaign contributions as challenger Nichelle Nichols during the same period.
Burke has already spent $27,554 — all of it her own money in keeping with a pledge not to accept contributions — on her campaign so far. She reported contributing a total of $30,025 to her own campaign.
Flores reported contributions of $7,175.34 in the first three months of the year. That includes $1,560 from the teachers union’s political action committee, MTI Voters. He reported spending $4,448.21.
MTI Voters reported spending $4,272 on independent radio, online and print ads for Flores and the same amount for Silveira. That amount is on top of the money the candidates reported spending on the campaign so far.

Nerad resignation adds new wrinkle to School Board races

Matthew DeFour, a local education reporter:

Nichols said declining test scores and low graduation rates for minority students over the past six years have been a reflection of the board and superintendent not having shared priorities. She said a change in board leadership is necessary “because we can’t afford to lose more precious time.”
Silveira did not respond Wednesday to a request to discuss Nerad’s departure.
Burke said she would have liked to see Nerad stay and worries his departure could expend the momentum for addressing the achievement gap that has built up over the last year.
Hiring Nerad’s replacement, she said, is “probably the most important issue now facing the board.”
Flores said he has mixed feeling about Nerad’s departure. On one hand, the district now has a new issue to address on top of the achievement gap and the budget. At the same time, there arises the potential for finding a leader who the community embraces and will make difficult decisions.


Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Omaha Superintendent Search: Wisconsin educator dealt with unions, protesting teachers

Joe Dejka:

When Wisconsin labor unions swarmed their State Capitol last year in a dispute with the governor, Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad found himself in the thick of it.
The Madison Metropolitan School District offices were about a mile from the Capitol, where unions gathered to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to curb collective bargaining.
A representative of the district’s teachers union called to inform him that they would be joining the protest the next day and that he had better prepare to close the schools.
“It was like hitting him between the eyes with a hammer,” said John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc.
Nerad’s handling of the situation was praised Tuesday by Matthews and Madison’s school board vice president, Marj Passman, and board president, James Howard.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Omaha job application (450K PDF).

Nichols’ job may prevent participation

Bill Keys, Madison, former member Madison School Board

Thursday’s State Journal reported on the Government Accountability Board’s warning of potential conflict of interest should Nichelle Nichols serve on the Madison School Board.
Nichols will be unable to work fully with her colleagues, because her election may affect her employer, the Urban League of Greater Madison, should the Madison Preparatory Academy proposal return to board agendas or other items dealing with funds received by the Urban League, such as the Schools of Hope project.
When I served on the board, our attorney instructed me to avoid Madison Teachers Inc. negotiations and not even be in the room during discussions. As a retired teacher, I benefited only from the life insurance policy provided by the district. Even so, discussions or votes on MTI benefits would violate state law.
I had to avoid any discussion or votes taken regarding the district’s appropriations to Kajsiab House, which received a district grant to work with Hmong families. I volunteered there, but it was one of the programs in the Mental Health Center of Dane County, my wife’s employer.
Nichols, whose integrity is intact, will find herself more restricted than I was, and will be excluded from significant board work that may be construed as benefiting her or her employer.
Arlene Silveira will not be affected by such potential conflicts, another reason she will be a more effective board member.

Much more on Bill Keys, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison School board candidates face off in key 2012 election

A. David Dahmer:

“We’re at a critical junction right now. We’re not trending positive,” says MMSD school board seat 2 candidate Mary Burke. “We have to turn the ship around. But I see opportunity. There aren’t any challenges that scare me or that we can’t do something about, but we need a sense of urgency.
“I really believe that if we’re going to make substantial progress, it has to be a collective effort and the school board will have to play a very important part,” she adds. “We need to make it a top priority.”
The achievement gap is a community issue, not just a schools issue, Burke tells The Madison Times in an interview outside of Jade Mountain Cafe on Madison’s near east side. The MMSD’s dismal four-year graduation rate of just 48 percent for Black students and 57 percent for Latinos has been well documented.
“It’s the most critical and pressing issue facing the district. I think we’ve progressed a huge amount just in the last six months in terms of awareness,” Burke says. “I’ve been working on educational and achievement gap and educational issues on a full-time basis for the past five years.”

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Oh, the Places We Go, Madison Superintendents…


Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly $15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

Hired Guns on Astroturf: How to Buy and Sell School Reform

Joanne Barkan, via a kind email:

If you want to change government policy, change the politicians who make it. The implications of this truism have now taken hold in the market-modeled “education reform movement.” As a result, the private funders and nonprofit groups that run the movement have overhauled their strategy. They’ve gone political as never before–like the National Rifle Association or Big Pharma or (ed reformers emphasize) the teachers’ unions.
Devolution of a Movement
For the last decade or so, this generation of ed reformers has been setting up programs to show the power of competition and market-style accountability to transform inner-city public schools: establishing nonprofit and for-profit charter schools, hiring business executives to run school districts, and calculating a teacher’s worth based on student test scores. Along the way, the reformers recognized the value of public promotion and persuasion (called “advocacy”) for their agenda, and they started pouring more money into media outlets, friendly think tanks, and the work of well-disposed researchers. By 2010 critics of the movement saw “reform-think” dominating national discourse about education, but key reform players judged the pace of change too slow.

I’m glad Joanne mentioned teachers’ unions among the other lobbyists. There are a number of useful notes and links on this topic, here and here.

Student test scores show Madison lags state in cutting achievement gap

Matthew DeFour:

Madison and Wisconsin are moving in opposite directions in raising achievement levels of black students, according to state test scores released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.
The percentage of black Madison students scoring proficient or better on the state reading test dropped to the lowest level in six years, while statewide black student reading scores continued to improve.
“The results affirm the work that we need to be doing and are doing to close our unacceptable gaps in achievement,” Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said.
Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.
Madison’s strongest gains were among eighth grade math scores, with the percentage of black students scoring proficient gaining 8 percentage points, Hispanic students gaining 16 percentage points and low-income students gaining 6.5 percentage points over last year.
Overall 77 percent of eighth-graders scored advanced or proficient on math, up from 76 percent last year. In all other grade levels the math scores were down in Madison from last year, whereas statewide the scores were up or the same in each grade level.


Internal Connecticut Education Assocation Memo: No Deal Could be Better

Rick Green:

The Connecticut Education Association- under pressure from the governor, legislators and even the rival American Federation of Teachers – apparently believes that blocking any education reform could be better than what Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing.
UPDATE: Take a look at the email sent out today from CEA President Phil Apruzzese and Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine. The union says that the email was “not directed at CEA members.” My earlier posts today suggested that was the case.
The email sends a pretty clear message to all concerned, particularly about blocking a deal and about what the CEA thinks about the AFT’s efforts to forge a compromise:

Mike Antonucci has more.

India’s ‘tiger mothers’ prove themselves the equal of China’s

Mark Magnier:

Stay-at-home mother Swati Rastogi watches her daughter Krisha play with plastic monkeys as Dhruva, her son, lines up model cars in their two-bedroom apartment, the walls of which are festooned with Hindi and English alphabet posters.
Three-year-old Dhruva asks whether Pakistan is part of India. He is told it is not. “I don’t know where that comes from,” his mother says, watching attentively.

UK School house price premium revealed


Parents face a “premium” of around £91,000 to buy a house near a top state primary school, a new study suggests.
Property website looked at asking prices in the surrounding areas of the top 100 state primary schools across England, using official education figures.
It found that homes in top primary school areas command an average price of £309,732, which is £91,618 or 42% higher than the typical price of £218,114.
Nigel Lewis, a property analyst at, said: “Analysis conducted by in September 2011 revealed that living near one of the 50 best secondary schools in the UK adds an extra £77,000 to the value of a home – £14,000 less than living near one of the nation’s top primary schools.”
Primary schools in the East Midlands were found to command the biggest premiums in percentage terms, with asking prices £82,000, or 48% higher than the regional average of £171,135.

All boys charter school in Fort Wayne gets green light

The Smith Academy for Excellence (SAFE) has been approved to operate as a new charter school on the southeast side of Fort Wayne.
A representative for the school said the Grace College Board of Trustees gave the approval with a unanimous vote on Friday.
SAFE will be one of the first all boys charter schools in Indiana. The school will focus on college preparation, character education and service learning. The academy will also offer extracurricular activities including interscholastic sports.

Why I Decided To Go To College

Nick Jacob:

I’m not writing this as an attack. In fact, I don’t think everyone should go to college. It’s an individual’s choice, and I don’t think it’s ‘necessary.’
But I want to address what I see as a growing belief among the startup community: the notion that, for a certain class of 18 year-olds, college is a waste of time, four years of debt and debauchery. College has been depicted as a limbo, a beaurocratic nightmare that a truly motivated individual could not only circumvent, but improve on. You could learn “everything you needed to know to do.. x” in 2 years, or 1 year, or 10 months. Because, ultimately, experience is the best education.
I agree. If you’re going to college to learn how to start a company, you should drop out tomorrow. If you want to learn how to code so you can build the next X, drop out now.
If that’s your objective, then yes, college is a waste of time. But that’s not college. Before I continue my rant, I want to issue a disclaimer: I’m 20 years old, my perspective on this subject is stricly limited to my own experience. I’ve only ever attended one institution of higher education.

Singapore passes student test

Hong Kong Standard:

The Hong Kong public is concerned about mainlanders competing with locals for facilities ranging from hospital maternity services to school places.
Even expensive international schools are over-enrolled, with expatriate English teachers complaining about being unable to get their own children school places.
Many mainland students also study in Singapore, but that country seems to be faring better in this regard.
Perhaps the government there is more effective, or its people don’t complain as much – or maybe it’s a bit of both.
Singapore’s population grew rapidly over the past decade – from three million to more than five million – partly due to an immigration policy that drew many elites, including mainlanders.
But the city-state isn’t immune from controversies involving foreign students. Recently, a mainland student created a storm by writing on a blog that there are “more dogs than people” in Singapore.

Notes and Links on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Looming Departure

Jonathon Braden:

The Omaha school board on Tuesday narrowed its list of candidates to replace retiring Superintendent John Mackiel to three finalists.
They are:
ReNae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning for the Omaha Public Schools.
Nancy Sebring, superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools.
Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis.
Mackiel, 62, is retiring after this school year. He has been the OPS leader since 1997.

Dave Cieslewicz:

When I first started running for mayor back in 2002, an elder statesman of Madison politics told me, “I don’t know why you want to do this, they’ll chew you up.”
Well, I don’t really feel chewed up. I had a great time as mayor, but I do understand now what he was talking about.
Leading this city in any capacity is tough. Whether it’s as mayor, head of the Chamber of Commerce, editor of a newspaper, schools superintendent, or president of your neighborhood association, working a top job in a city like ours is a challenge.
Face it: we’re a city of kibitzers, back seat drivers, and Monday morning quarterbacks. Our very educated town is full of people who are sure that, whatever it is, they could do it better.

Test scores improve for Milwaukee voucher schools (spending about 45% less per student), but still lag public schools;

Carrie Antlfinger:

Students who received vouchers to attend private or religious schools in Milwaukee improved their performance in mathematics and reading last year but still lagged behind public school students, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction found that in the second year of testing last fall, about 40 percent of Milwaukee voucher students showed they were proficient or advanced in math, up nearly 6 percent from last year. Nearly 49 percent of local public school students and 78 percent of public school students statewide reached that mark.

Related: Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending: Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

Madison school board candidates Arlene Silveira and Nichelle Nichols discuss tests, teacher evaluation, and No Child Left Behind


School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 1, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira is being challenged by Nichelle Nichols, who works at the Urban League of Greater Madison, the main sponsor of Madison Prep.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We focus on evaluation this week, of students, teachers, schools, and the district. What is the importance of student test scores, and how do they reflect upon teachers? What is the impact of No Child Left Behind on Madison schools?

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison school board candidates Michael Flores and Mary Burke discuss tests, teacher evaluation, and No Child Left Behind


School board elections are usually sleepy affairs.
But the proposal this year for Madison Prep, a single-gender charter school, has sparked a lively, and sometimes controversial, conversation about one of the most pressing problems facing Madison schools: the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The debate has, in turn, sparked interest in the school board.
In the race for Seat 2, which is being vacated by retiring board member Lucy Mathiak, philanthropist Mary Burke is running against firefighter Michael Flores.
While there are an unprecedented number of candidate forums and listening sessions under way, we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We focus on evaluation this week, of students, teachers, schools, and the district. What is the importance of student test scores, and how do they reflect upon teachers? What is the impact of No Child Left Behind on Madison schools?

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
Michael Flores
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Learning from Charter School Management Organizations: Strategies for Student Behavior and Teacher Coaching

Robin Lake, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Moira McCullough, Joshua Haimson, Brian Gill: via a kind Deb Britt email

This is the final report from The National Study of CMO Effectiveness, a four-year study designed to assess the impact of CMOs on student achievement and identify CMO structures and practices that are most effective in raising achievement. This report provides an in-depth look at two promising practices that exhibit a strong association with impacts: high expectations for student behavior and intensive teacher coaching.
Researchers from CRPE and Mathematica identified CMOs that have above-average impacts and tend to emphasize teacher coaching or schoolwide behavior programs (or both) more than other CMOs. Five CMOs meet these criteria: Aspire Public Schools, Inner City Education Foundation, KIPP DC, Uncommon Schools, and YES Prep Public Schools. This report delves into how these CMOs put their approaches into practice. The descriptions and examples in the report are based on interviews with CMO central office and school staff, along with data from surveys of CMO staff, principals, and teachers.

How Charter Schools Can Hurt

Lucinda Rosenfeld, via a kind Steve Rankin email:

MY daughter is a kindergarten pupil at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She started there in September, and she loves everything about it: her friends, her teachers and her school-related activities, like Girl Scouts. Intense excitement accompanied both the post office project earlier this year and the Halloween Day Characters Parade, in which her class dressed up as the Three Little Pigs.
A few weeks ago, for three days in a row starting at 3 p.m., a representative from the Success Academy charter school that is scheduled to open this fall in adjacent Cobble Hill stood outside the doors of P.S. 261, handing out fliers and attempting to recruit its students. On day two, outraged teachers asked the man to leave. He refused. On day three, a loose group of teachers, parents and students occupied the sidewalk next to him. Heated words were exchanged. It wasn’t until the next day, when a schoolwide rally unfolded in the front yard — and cameras from NY1 arrived — that the representative vanished. I can’t help wondering if this is the educational future that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had in mind when, in his State of the City address earlier this year, he called for 50 new charter schools to open in the next two years.

Madison Urban League to Provide ACT Test Prep Classes & College Readiness Workshops

Madison Urban League, via a kind email:

Madison, WI (March 15, 2012) – The Urban League of Greater Madison is one of 26 state-wide recipients of the Wisconsin Educational Grant awarded by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. Education Growth Grants are working to help students enter higher education more academically prepared so they are more likely to graduate.
The Urban League will operate 14 ACT preparation academies serving 200 students in the Madison area during 2012. A Partnership between Madison Metropolitan School District and the Urban League, as well as surrounding local high schools will provide access to students with test-taking strategies, practice tests, college advising workshops and individualized coaching. ACT Prep classes are offered at no-cost for families who qualify for free or reduced lunch and on a sliding scale basis for all others.
For information on enrollment, please contact the program director, Stephen Perez, at 608-729-1209 or

Angry Words: Will one researcher’s discovery deep in the Amazon destroy the foundation of modern linguistics?

Tom Bartlett:

A Christian missionary sets out to convert a remote Amazonian tribe. He lives with them for years in primitive conditions, learns their extremely difficult language, risks his life battling malaria, giant anacondas, and sometimes the tribe itself. In a plot twist, instead of converting them he loses his faith, morphing from an evangelist trying to translate the Bible into an academic determined to understand the people he’s come to respect and love.
Along the way, the former missionary discovers that the language these people speak doesn’t follow one of the fundamental tenets of linguistics, a finding that would seem to turn the field on its head, undermine basic assumptions about how children learn to communicate, and dethrone the discipline’s long-reigning king, who also happens to be among the most well-known and influential intellectuals of the 20th century.

Bernanke Lecture One

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: (PDF)

These lectures review some of the causes of and policy responses to the recent financial crisis, focusing on the role of the Federal Reserve.
Understanding the role of the Federal Reserve in the recent financial crisis requires an understanding of
the origins and mission of central banks
the lessons of previous financial crises and how they informed the Fed’s decisions in the recent one

Education reformer Michelle Rhee tells her side

Jill Tucker:

Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, might very well be the most controversial figure in public education these days.
She runs the national nonprofit she started in 2010 called Students First, which advocates for increased parent choice, fiscal accountability at all levels of public education and weeding out ineffective teachers and, last year, Time magazine named her among the world’s 100 most influential people.
But she is vilified by the teachers unions for her support of charter schools and vouchers and her efforts to rid schools of ineffective teachers regardless of their seniority. Her organization has gained national recognition among education-minded reformers and even Oprah.

Cheating our children: AJC’s testing investigation spurs action

Craig Schneider:

A U.S. senator from Georgia and a national teacher union leader on Sunday called for investigations into possible cheating in school districts cited in an investigation into suspicious test scores by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper reported Sunday that 196 of the nation’s 3,125 largest school districts had a high degree of suspicious results on standardized test scores, which could point to instances of cheating.
The results of the AJC’s analysis of test scores from all 50 states do not prove cheating. But several officials said these school districts must now take the AJC’s statistical analysis and find out whether cheating is occurring in their schools. Extreme swings in test scores occurred in several major urban school systems, including Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Mobile County, Alabama. Suspicious scores were most likely to appear in urban and rural school districts that served mostly poor children.

Should Homeschoolers Play Public School Sports?

Andrew Rotherham:

Nick Faulconer isn’t simply homeschooled. He’s also “road-schooled,” as his mother puts it, by audiobooks she plays as she drives the mop-haired 14-year-old 90 miles each way from their home in rural Virginia to twice-a-week soccer practices in an elite private league in Richmond. Other guys on the team know Nick doesn’t attend a traditional school, but it’s not a source of friction, he says, because most of them have friends who are also being taught at home. “It’s pretty normal,” he says. But next year he will be forced to part ways with many of his teammates when they quit…

On Sun Prairie’s 2012-2013 Proposed School Budget


The School Board’s Finance Committee will finally offer a glimpse of the 2012-13 budget this Monday (March 26). Catch it now, because it because the Committee wont discuss the complete budget until July and the first public hearing will not be until July 30th. Don’t get all hopped up on goofballs, though, because–as usual–what is NOT discussed is that of greatest interest…and concern.

UW-Madison Chancellor vetoes student government budget rulings

Anna Duffin:

UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward overruled several of the Student Services Finance Committee’s rulings from this fiscal year Tuesday in a memo sent to committee Chair Sarah Neibart.
While the committee ruled in February not to increase the Wisconsin Union and Recreational Sports budgets as the groups had requested, Ward overruled the committee’s recommendation and opted to fund the groups’ requested budgets.
Neibart said her committee denied the groups’ requests because they did not provide all the information SSFC requested regarding how segregated fees are spent.
Neibart said since students pay for these programs, they should know exactly where their money is going.