Category Archives: Uncategorized

35-Year-Old Man Retakes The SAT?

Drew Magary:

I took the SAT a grand total of one time when I was in dipshit prep school. This was 1993. Like any other kid, I wanted to do well on the test, primarily so that I would NEVER have to take it again, but also because kids at my school were real dicks about their SAT scores. You’d hear through the grapevine about other kids who aced the test, and all that test gossip resulted in an great deal of fear and paranoia about your own performance. It was horrible. If you can, avoid going to high school altogether.
They administered the test at a nearby public high school and herded us into the classrooms. Every classroom had a test monitor, a stack of test booklets, and a large box of sharpened No. 2 pencils. My friend Darren sat in front of me. Thirty minutes into the test, he had to go pee. The monitor denied him a trip to the bathroom. Darren ended up getting a 900 out of 1600. That monitor was a dick.

Why Have Public Universities at All?

Megan McArdle at the Atlantic:

Noah Millman — blogger for The American Conservative
As long as I’m arguing with Matt Yglesias, he wrote something last week about higher education with which I have a bone to pick. His post was an argument with Mike Konczal over whether we should shift from our current system of subsidizing tuition for poor students to a system where we more heavily subsidize tuition for all students at state schools.
Here’s Konczal:

What vision should we advance in response? . . . [O]ne where college is free and grants and loans cover supplemental expenses for the poor. Higher ed would be broadly accessible, with a variety of options ranging from elite schools to community colleges.
Beyond ensuring equality of opportunity, another advantage of this approach is that it would help stop cost inflation. Free public universities would function like the proposed “public option” of healthcare reform. If increased demand for higher education is causing cost inflation, then spending money to reduce tuition at public universities will reduce tuition at private universities by causing them to hold down tuition to compete. This public option would reduce informational problems by creating a baseline of quality that new institutions have to compete with, allowing for a smoother transition to new competitors. And it allows for democratic control over one of the basic elements of human existence–how we gather information and share it among ourselves.

Here’s Yglesias in response:

The Struggle to Save Adult Education in Los Angeles

Robert Skeels:

Using State of California budget shortfalls as an excuse, Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Superintendent John Deasy presented the LAUSD Board of Education (BOE) with a draconian budget that effectively cut some of the most crucial programs in the District. With enthusiastic collaboration from LAUSD BOE President Monica Garcia, Deasy’s chopping block included the District’s Student Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP), Early Education Programs, District-wide Elementary School Arts Programs, and the entire Division of Adult and Career Education (DACE). Deasy, a former executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a graduate of the [Eli] Broad Superintendent Academy, was brought into LAUSD to implement a stark program of neoliberalism. The Superintendent’s proposed cuts are intended to hasten the privatization of the school district, much like his fellow Broad Academy Graduates (or Broadytes), Deborah Gist, Michelle Rhee, and Jean-Claude Brizard have in other cities.

Hopes and Fears for Parent Trigger Laws

Room for Debate:

As many as 20 states have considered enacting parent trigger laws, which would let parents who are dissatisfied with the way a school is being run, turn it into a charter, replace the staff, or even shut it down, if 51 percent of the school’s families agree. The laws — which have been passed in various forms in California, Connecticut, Mississippi and Texas — have generated controversy and even inspired a movie to be released this fall. Do these laws give parents the first real power over their children’s education? Or do they put public schools in private hands and impede real improvements?

Rigorous college prep program (International Baccalaureate) helps CPS students get into selective colleges

Lauren Chooljian, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

New research shows Chicago Public Schools students enrolled in a rigorous college prep program, known as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, are much more likely to get into good colleges.
The IB programs are located in neighborhood high schools around the city. Launched in 1997, the college prep programs were inspired by a long-running IB program in Lincoln Park High School. According to the study, released Wednesday, the programs have increasingly been used by the school district as a to provide a “high-quality education to high-achieving students, regardless of their mobility.”
The study was completed by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Their research found that students in the IB programs have a greater chance of not only getting into selective four-year colleges, but also staying there.

THe the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school featured an International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation

Heather Vogell, John Perry and Alan Judd and M.B. Pell:

Suspicious test scores in roughly 200 school districts resemble those that entangled Atlanta in the biggest cheating scandal in American history, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
The newspaper analyzed test results for 69,000 public schools and found high concentrations of suspect math or reading scores in school systems from coast to coast. The findings represent an unprecedented examination of the integrity of school testing.
The analysis doesn’t prove cheating. But it reveals that test scores in hundreds of cities followed a pattern that, in Atlanta, indicated cheating in multiple schools.
A tainted and largely unpoliced universe of untrustworthy test results underlies bold changes in education policy, the findings show. The tougher teacher evaluations many states are rolling out, for instance, place more weight than ever on tests.

The Headless Horseman (Teacher-Proof Rides Again)

Jeremiah Chafee via Will Fitzhugh:

The high school English department in which I work recently spent a day looking at what is called an “exemplar” from the new Common Core State Standards, and then working together to create our own lessons linked to that curriculum. An exemplar is a prepackaged lesson which is supposed to align with the standards of the Common Core. The one we looked at was a lesson on “The Gettysburg Address.”
The process of implementing the Common Core Standards is under way in districts across the country as almost every state has now signed onto the Common Core, (some of them agreeing to do in hopes of winning Race to the Top money from Washington D.C.). The initiative is intended to ensure that students in all parts of the country are learning from the same supposedly high standards.
As we looked through the exemplar, examined a lesson previously created by some of our colleagues, and then began working on our own Core-related lessons, I was struck by how out of sync the Common Core is with what I consider to be good teaching. I have not yet gotten to the “core” of the Core, but I have scratched the surface, and I am not encouraged.
Here are some of the problems that the group of veteran teachers with whom I was with at the workshop encountered using the exemplar unit on “The Gettysburg Address.”

Each teacher read individually through the exemplar lesson on Lincoln’s speech. When we began discussing it, we all expressed the same conclusion: Most of it was too scripted. It spelled out what types of questions to ask, what types of questions not to ask, and essentially narrowed any discussion to obvious facts and ideas from the speech.
In some schools, mostly in large urban districts, teachers are forced by school policy to read from scripted lessons, every day in every class. For example, all third-grade teachers do the same exact lessons on the same day and say exactly the same things. (These districts often purchase these curriculum packages from the same companies who make the standardized tests given to students.)
Scripting lessons is based on several false assumptions about teaching. They include:

  • That anyone who can read a lesson aloud to a class can teach just as well as experienced teachers;
  • That teaching is simply the transference of information from one person to another;
  • That students should not be trusted to direct any of their own learning;
  • That testing is the best measure of learning.

Put together, this presents a narrow and shallow view of teaching and learning.
Most teachers will tell you that there is a difference between having a plan and having a script. Teachers know that in any lesson there needs to be some wiggle room, some space for discovery and spontaneity. But scripted cookie-cutter lessons aren’t interested in that; the idea is that they will help students learn enough to raise their standardized test scores.
Yet study after study has shown that even intense test preparation does not significantly raise test scores, and often causes stress and boredom in students. Studies have also shown that after a period of time, test scores plateau, and it is useless, even counter-productive educationally, to try to raise test scores beyond that plateau.

Another problem we found relates to the pedagogical method used in the Gettysburg Address exemplar that the Common Core calls “cold reading.”
This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.
Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.
The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.”
(This is baffling, as if Lincoln delivered the speech in an intellectual vacuum; as if the speech wasn’t delivered at a funeral and meant to be heard in the context of a funeral; as if we must not think about memorials when we read words that memorialize. Rather, it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.)
The exemplar instructs teachers to “avoid giving any background context” because the Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.” What sense does this make?
Teachers cannot create such a “level playing field” because we cannot rob any of the students of the background knowledge they already possess. Nor can we force students who have background knowledge not to think about that while they read. A student who has read a biography of Lincoln, or watched documentaries about the Civil War on PBS or the History Channel, will have the “privilege” of background knowledge beyond the control of the teacher. Attempting to create a shallow and false “equality” between students will in no way help any of them understand Lincoln’s speech.
(As a side note, the exemplar does encourage teachers to have students “do the math:” subtract four score and seven from 1863 to arrive at 1776. What is that if not asking them to access background knowledge?)
Asking questions about, for example, the causes of the Civil War, are also forbidden. Why? These questions go “outside the text,” a cardinal sin in Common Core-land.
According to the exemplar, the text of the speech is about equality and self-government, and not about picking sides. It is true that Lincoln did not want to dishonor the memory of the Southern soldiers who fought and died valiantly. But does any rational person read “The Gettysburg Address” and not know that Lincoln desperately believed that the North must win the war? Does anyone think that he could speak about equality without everyone in his audience knowing he was talking about slavery and the causes of the war? How can anyone try to disconnect this profoundly meaningful speech from its historical context and hope to “deeply” understand it in any way, shape, or form?

Here’s another problem we found with the exemplar: The teacher is instructed in the exemplar to read the speech aloud after the students have read it to themselves; but, it says, “Do not attempt to ‘deliver’ Lincoln’s text as if giving the speech yourself but rather carefully speak Lincoln’s words clearly to the class.”
English teachers love Shakespeare; when we read to our classes from his plays, we do not do so in a dry monotone. I doubt Lincoln delivered his address in as boring a manner as the Common Core exemplar asks. In fact, when I read this instruction, I thought that an interesting lesson could be developed by asking students to deliver the speech themselves and compare different deliveries in terms of emphasis, tone, etc.
The exemplar says, “Listening to the Gettysburg Address is another way to initially acquaint students with Lincoln’s powerful and stirring words.” How, then, if the teacher is not to read it in a powerful and stirring way? The most passionate speech in Romeo and Juliet, delivered poorly by a bad actor, will fall flat despite the author’s skill.

Several years ago, our district, at the demand of our state education department, hired a consultant to train teachers to develop literacy skills in students. This consultant and his team spent three years conducting workshops and visiting the district. Much of this work was very fruitful, but it does not “align” well with the Common Core.
The consultant encouraged us to help students make connections between what they were reading and their own experience, but as you’ve seen, the Common Core exemplar we studied says not to.
Was all that work with the consultant wasted?
At one point during the workshop, we worked with a lesson previously created by some teachers. It had all the hallmarks of what I consider good teaching, including allowing students to make connections beyond the text.
And when it came time to create our own lessons around the exemplar, three colleagues and I found ourselves using techniques that we know have worked to engage students — not what the exemplar puts forth.
The bottom line: The Common Core exemplar we worked with was intellectually limiting, shallow in scope, and uninteresting. I don’t want my lessons to be any of those things.

Teacher Performance Data Should Be a Tool to Raise Achievement Levels

Mike Ford:  

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yesterday spoke out against the recent trend of publishing K-12 public school teacher rankings in major city newspapers.  Duncan told Education Week:

“There’s not much of an upside there, and there’s a tremendous downside for teachers. We’re at a time where morale is at a record low. … We need to be sort of strengthening teachers, and elevating and supporting them.”Unfortunately, the debate over whether to publicize the performance levels of pupils by teacher has become a bit of a distraction from the very real need to better measure the impact schools and individual teachers have on academic achievement.  While it is of course true that test scores are not the only way to measure academic success, they can yield powerful information.  Crucial to their value is collecting and measuring scores in a manner which makes them useful to those best positioned to impact student performance.

Seattle’s Superintendent Search

Seattle Public Schools:

The Board of Directors of the Seattle Public Schools, which serves a diverse population of 48,000+ students, is seeking a new superintendent to lead this dynamic urban school district. Seattle, an international city at the center of the high-tech Northwest economy, has shown strong support for innovative public education for many years. Comprised of 8,000 staff members working in 91 schools, Seattle has been recognized as a leading urban district that outperforms the state average in test scores and graduation rates continue to rise.
To read the March 23, 2012 letter from Board President Michael DeBell to the community about the search process, click here.

Good teachers key ingredient for good schools

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

The issue: The debate over public education in Wisconsin.
Our view: Funding is a crucial issue, but we can’t lose sight of the fact Wisconsin has great teachers who often bring us great results.
Like most in her profession, Deb Tackmann doesn’t have a household name – although maybe she should.
Tackmann isn’t a famous actress, reality-show contestant or elite athlete – but she’s a star.
Tackmann is a teacher.

A reprieve for Catholic education

Christopher Reichardt:

“Today I would like to announce that those four schools will remain open.”
That simple sentence uttered by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was enough to send a swell of happiness and relief to students at four Philadelphia archdiocesan high schools that were set to close in June.
A commission had recommended in early January that dozens of elementary schools and four Catholic high schools should be shut down.
The commission had cited a 35 percent drop in enrollment over the last decade. With the high cost of maintaining the facilities, it concluded, closures and mergers would be the best solution.

If Your Evidence Is Changes In Proficiency Rates, You Probably Don’t Have Much Evidence

Matthew DiCarlo:

Education policymaking and debates are under constant threat from an improbable assailant: Short-term changes in cross-sectional proficiency rates.
The use of rate changes is still proliferating rapidly at all levels of our education system. These measures, which play an important role in the provisions of No Child Left Behind, are already prominent components of many states’ core accountability systems (e..g, California), while several others will be using some version of them in their new, high-stakes school/district “grading systems.” New York State is awarding millions in competitive grants, with almost half the criteria based on rate changes. District consultants issue reports recommending widespread school closures and reconstitutions based on these measures. And, most recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used proficiency rate increases as “preliminary evidence” supporting the School Improvement Grants program.
Meanwhile, on the public discourse front, district officials and other national leaders use rate changes to “prove” that their preferred reforms are working (or are needed), while their critics argue the opposite. Similarly, entire charter school sectors are judged, up or down, by whether their raw, unadjusted rates increase or decrease.

How Do K-12 Budget Cuts Keep Resulting in More Spending?

Mike Antonucci:

I had occasion yesterday to peruse the latest edition of NEA’s Rankings & Estimates. It’s always an ediying experience and this time was no exception. There is no denying that teacher layoffs have occurred over the past three years – although not to the extent many believe. But the constant cries of education spending being cut to the bone are difficult to square with the figures on per-pupil spending, which show uninterrupted increases.
Let’s look at the last 10 years for convenience, and the last three to examine the effects of national recession. In 2001-02, there were 2,991,724 K-12 classroom teachers and 47,360,963 K-12 students. K-12 per-pupil spending was $7,676.

Gove tells head teachers school reforms need to be accelerated

Judith Burns:

Education Secretary Michael Gove has told head teachers the pace of school reform in England needs to accelerate.
Speaking to the Association of School and College Leaders, Mr Gove said: “Over the next ten years the world we inhabit will change massively.”
He said education would need to keep pace as technology changed “how we teach and how students learn”.
But ASCL general secretary, Brian Lightman, said he feared schools could not take an accelerated pace of change.

Education in Brazil: A huge scholarship programme could boost economic growth

The Economist:

SELLING her country’s technological prowess and booming IT market was the main order of business for Dilma Rousseff at a big trade fair in Hanover on March 5th. But Brazil’s president made sure to pose for photographs with young compatriots who last month began to study at German universities under her government’s new scholarship programme, Science Without Borders.
By the end of 2015 more than 100,000 Brazilians–half of them undergraduates, half doctoral students–will have spent a year or so abroad at the best universities around the world studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future. That will cost 3 billion reais ($1.65 billion), a quarter of which will come from businesses and the rest from the Brazilian taxpayer.

A closer look at non-instructional expenditures in suburban school districts

The Public Policy Forum:

The Forum released a new report this morning that examines out-of-classroom expenditures in Milwaukee County’s suburban school districts. The examination was prompted by the increased pressure faced by most districts to identify operational cost savings while also maintaining or enhancing academic performance. Given the apparent conflict between the two imperatives, non-instructional areas of spending are likely to receive increased focus for possible cost-saving opportunities, including possible service sharing with other districts or local governments.
The report focuses on the dollars spent on non-instructional support services, including administrative, “back office” functions (e.g. payroll, accounting, information technology); administration of ongoing operations and school buildings; non-instructional pupil services, such as social work and guidance; and instructional staff services, such as curriculum development and staff training.

Hard Lessons in Academic Freedom

Linda Yeung:

Hong Kong’s universities may have risen in the esteem around the world, but local academics believe this hard-won status is being challenged by a growing threat to academic freedom.
Their fears were spelled out forcefully at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s educational panel on March 12, when more than 30 rights activists, university staff and students told lawmakers of what they saw as mounting pressure for curbs on one of the city’s most hallowed rights.

Private Schools for The Poor: Bad state education means more fee-paying schools in poor countries

The Economist:

IT IS Republic Day in Mumbai, and an elderly nun addresses 1,000 silent schoolgirls gathered in the playground of Mary Immaculate Girls’ School. If the writers of India’s constitution could see the state of the country today they would weep, she cries, but this school offers hope. Local parents in the tatty surrounding district agree. They will do almost anything to get their children into the oversubscribed school, even though it charges its primary pupils $180 a year when the state school across the road is free. From the Mumbai slums to Nigerian shanty towns and Kenyan mountain villages, tens of millions of poor children are opting out of the state sector, and their number is burgeoning.
Despite a rapid rise in attendance since 2000, 72m school-age children across the world are still not in school, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa and a quarter in South and West Asia. The United Nations reckons it would cost $16 billion a year to get the remaining stragglers into class by 2015–one of its big development goals. Yet a free education is something that many parents will pay to avoid.

Who Speaks for the 90%?

Mike Antonucci:

In the 2010-11 school year, the San Diego Unified School District employed 7,095 teachers. The best information I can find suggests that about 450 were laid off for the 2011-12 school year and not recalled. That left 6,645 potential teacher members for the San Diego Education Association, the 26th largest teacher union local in the nation. We can only guess at how many are fee-payers and non-members, but historical data in California would put the figure at about 5 percent – or 332 teachers. That leaves 6,313 SDEA members eligible to vote in internal union elections.
That electorate has spoken – sort of. SDEA members re-elected Bill Freeman as president (he ran unopposed), but challenger Lindsay Burningham defeated incumbent vice president Camille Zombro. SDEA’s incumbent secretary and treasurer were also unopposed.
Zombro was a former SDEA president, and was considered to be philosophically aligned with executive director Craig Leedham, who was placed on administrative leave by the union for undisclosed reasons earlier this month. Zombro reportedly won’t be returning to the classroom, but will retain her full-time release position for SDEA in charge of organizing charter schools.

Should low-achieving kids be promoted or held back?

Daniel Willingham:

etention of low-achieving kids. It doesn’t seem sensible to promote the child to the next grade if he’s terribly far behind. But if he is asked to repeat a grade, isn’t there are high likelihood that he will conclude he’s not cut out for school?
Until recently, comparisons of kids who were promoted and kids who were retained indicated that retention didn’t seem to help academic achievement, and in fact likely hurt. So the best practice seemed to be to promote kids to the next grade, but to try to provide extra academic support for them to handle the work.
But new studies indicate that academic outcomes for kids who are retained may be better than was previously thought, although still not what we would hope.

Madison Superintendent Nerad faces student critiques at Centro Hispano

Mario Koran:

At the March 17 meeting on the school district’s plan to eliminate the achievement gap, Superintendent Dan Nerad opened the discussion on a familiar note, laying out the statistics that underline Madison’s achievement gap problem and outlining strategies to bridge the gap.
Describing the situation as “a tale of two school districts,” Nerad said that recent data shows MMSD graduates 87 percent of its white students in four years, compared to 56 percent of its black students and 48 percent of its Hispanic students. An interpreter conveyed his message to the largely Spanish-speaking audience.
But unlike the nine public meetings before, Nerad was confronted by a different set of stakeholders–students. While attendees at earlier discussions have largely been parents and other adults, at Centro Hispano, students took the floor.

The case against tenure in public schools

The New Republic:

Yet there was another noteworthy bill on an entirely different subject circulating in Richmond in recent weeks; and, with the spotlight focusing so squarely on the state’s approach to reproductive rights, it was perhaps no surprise that this measure didn’t attract much attention from the national press. Like the abortion measures, this bill was also pushed by Republicans–but here’s the strange part: It was actually a halfway decent idea. The subject of the bill was an important one: tenure for public school teachers. And, while the proposal wasn’t perfect, it was at least an attempt to rectify what is perhaps the least sane element of our country’s approach to education.

Madison school board candidates address sustainability at Isthmus/Sustain Dane forum

Nathan Comp:

What a difference a few months have made for the four Madison school board candidates, each of whom gave polished A-game performances during Monday night’s game show-style forum that drew around 100 spectators.
Isthmus and Sustain Dane sponsored the four round, 90-minute event, held at the First Unitarian Society, and featuring a three-person panel that asked a variety of questions centering on the role sustainability principles might play in district decision-making.
Panelists included Isthmus editor Dean Robbins, Sustain Dane executive director Kristen Joiner and East High School Junior Erin Barry.
Sustain Dane communications director and Isthmus contributor Phil Busse moderated the event, which featured four rounds of questions in five categories: curriculum, facilities management, community collaboration, leadership development and student health.
During Round 1, candidates made their introductory statements, followed by a 20-question Round 2.

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

Guru in School Row

The Telegraph:

A comment attributed to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that government schools breed Naxalites has sparked a furore, forcing the spiritual guru to issue a clarification today.
Speaking at the 25th anniversary of a private school in Jaipur yesterday, Ravi Shankar had said: “Government ko koi school nahi chalana chahiye. Aksar paya jata hai ki government school se padhe hue bacche hi is tarha naxalvad me hinsa ke marg me chale jate hain. (The government should not run any schools. It is often found that students from government school go into Naxalism and take up violence.)”
He was quoted as saying this does not happen in private schools where students are taught discipline and are focused on certain goals to be achieved in life.
The statement triggered an uproar, with some activists demanding legal action against Ravi Shankar.

Food Trucks: The Hot School Sports Fund Raiser

Bob Cook:

The Los Angeles Times, in its Varsity Times Insider high school sports blog, noted that “food truck mania” is coming to a local school for a football fund-raiser.

Sports programs are always coming up with fundraising ideas, and Los Altos High’s football program is teaming up with 11 food trucks that will be coming to the campus on [March 24] in Hacienda Heights to raise funds.

As it turns out, many schools around southern California have had similar events, not only for sports, but also to raise money for the school bands. These events are popping up elsewhere, including at my old high school, Carmel, outside Indianapolis. It had afood-truck fundraiser to send the marching band to New York for the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Missouri fails to check for standardized test cheating

Elisa Crouch:

One case accuses a teacher of filling in bubble sheets of her students who should have been taking state exams. Another says administrators called pupils into the office so they could have a second chance at questions they missed.
All told, more than 100 reports of standardized testing irregularities, including cheating, poured into the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2010 and 2011, according to documentation obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Thirty-two of those were from the St. Louis area.
And yet, the Missouri education department does nothing on its own to seek out cases of test fraud, despite the availability of effective statistical tools that could weed out potential abuses. Of the $8.4 million the state spends to administer the Missouri Assessment Program, nothing is spent on test fraud detection services.

Charles Murray on Downton Abbey, Smoking During Pregnancy

Paul Solman and Elizabeth Shell:

Recently, the Making Sen$e team traveled to tiny and picturesque Burkittsville, Md., to interview author Charles Murray at home about why he thinks America is coming apart. We interviewed him for hours in the book-lined office shack behind his house before heading to a cash-only diner one town over to finish the conversation.
Though the NewsHour is known for longer-than-normal soundbites and segments, it couldn’t very well air the full interview, or in fact even much of it. But given that more than 70,000 people have already taken Murray’s “How Thick is Your Bubble?” online quiz and our segment with him Wednesday night was among the most watched in recent memory, we thought we’d share more of the interview here, and especially some of the more provocative things Murray had to say.
We’ll follow up with more over the next few days. Here, we start with the basics: why Charles Murray decided on this topic in the first place.

One-Size-Fits-All Legislation Won’t Solve Separate But Unequal

Laura Waters:

Over the past few months, the Christie Administration has intensified its focus on New Jersey’s failure to provide educational equity. While our wealthier kids score top marks on assessments of national achievement, many poor students attend schools where most kids don’t meet basic levels of proficiency in reading and math. In some of our neediest schools over 40 percent of third graders can’t read at grade level.
This disparity in achievement is old news, inflated by our rampant home-rule ethic, which segregates schoolchildren into 590 economically disparate school districts, and by New Jersey’s relatively high test scores, which statistically compound achievement gaps.
But here’s what’s new: New Jersey seems poised to formally acknowledge this bifurcation of our K-12 public education system by forging ahead with a reform-oriented agenda mostly oriented towards failing schools

Madison school board candidates Nichelle Nichols and Arlene Silveira discuss the achievement gap and Madison Prep

Isthmus:

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. This week we ask the candidates how they would address what might be the primary issue of the election: the achievement gap. What would they do to address this gap, and balance the needs of both high and low achieving students? More specifically, we ask about their view of Madison Prep, and whether they would vote for or against it in the future.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Wisconsin Education K-12 Jobs Fund Spending Increased 10.6% from 2006-2011; Higher Ed: 14.1%

Jennifer Cohen, via a kind reader’s email

Despite the revenue drops these state reported, their MOE submissions show that they increased education spending significantly from 2006 to 2011, particularly for K-12 education. For example, Utah’s submission shows a 28.4 percent increase in funding for K-12 education from $1.8 billion to $2.3 billion. Oregon shows an increase of 19.2 percent and Illinois shows an increase of 19.8 percent. Increases in Indiana and Nevada are both over 65 percent. Only three states – Arizona, Minnesota, and Mississippi – showed increases below 3.0 percent.
Of course, it wouldn’t be unusual for states to increase K-12 education spending over a 5-year period under more normal budget circumstances due to increasing enrollment and costs. What the MOE data could be telling us is that many states protected K-12 spending during the economic downturn that began in 2007.
But these numbers are also curious, if not dubious. Large contractions in state tax revenues and repeated media reports of states cutting education spending make some of these data difficult to believe.
The MOE data for the 31 states also show growth in higher education spending, though not at as high of rates as K-12 spending. New York State showed an increase of 22.3 percent from $3.3 billion to $4.0 billion from 2006 to 2011 and Connecticut showed an increase of 17.6 percent. But many states showed increases below 3.0 percent – 13, including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Low growth for higher education in many states is not surprising. States often make cuts (or delay increases) to higher education before K-12 education because it has a smaller constituency and they can rely on tuition increases to make up the difference. However, many public higher education systems have faced dramatic increases in enrollment as a result of the economic downturn, placing greater pressure on their strapped systems.

Fascinating rhetoric: the numbers tell us spending is up, but the writer mentions “data difficult to believe”. In my brief 8+ years observing the K-12 world, spending always goes up. Some want it to increase more than others, which is where the “schwerpunkt” can be found.
View a chart of US State tax collections and Education (K-12 and Higher Ed) spending from 2006 to 2011.
Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding


Politics: Urban League ties would create conflict of interest if Nichols elected to School Board, GAB says

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email:

“She would definitely have to abstain,” GAB spokesman Reid Magney said. “You shouldn’t be accepting anything from anyone that could influence your decision.”
Madison Prep supporters have vowed to continue pressing their case for the charter school. The election could influence the charter school’s chances of future approval as Nichols, who has backed the charter school, is running against incumbent Arlene Silveira, who voted along with four other board members against Madison Prep.
Nichols, the Urban League’s vice president of learning, acknowledged there could be a conflict of interest that would prevent her from voting on the issue. But she said if the Madison Prep board proposes and runs the school as a separate nonprofit entity, she would be able to vote. That’s consistent with state law, according to the GAB.
“If the proposal included any contractual services from the Urban League or shared leadership between the Urban League and the Madison Prep Board, … I believe there would still be a conflict of interest and I would therefore follow all ethical and conflict of interest policies,” Nichols said.

“You shouldn’t be accepting anything from anyone that could influence your decision.” Is the Urban League the only candidate supporter in this position?
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

A broken system: Former Indianapolis School board president says school district needs dramatic overhaul

Kelly Bentley:

The Indianapolis Public Schools district is broken.
I don’t say this because I’m anti-public education. I don’t say this to score political points. I don’t say this to hurt anyone’s feelings or to be disrespectful. I say this because it’s true.
I am a strong supporter of public education. I served on the IPS School Board from 1998 to 2010. My father is a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School. All three of my step-brothers graduated from Tech, my sister and I graduated from Broad Ripple, and my own children attended school in IPS — at Montessori School 91, Shortridge Middle School and Broad Ripple High School, where my youngest child graduated in 2007. My niece and nephew now attend Center For Inquiry School 2.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club.

A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups

Nick DeSantis:

Harsh economic realities mean trouble for college leaders. But where administrators perceive an impending crisis, investors increasingly see opportunity.
In recent years, venture capitalists have poured millions into education-technology start-ups, trying to cash in on a market they see as ripe for a digital makeover. And lately, those wagers have been getting bigger.
Investments in education-technology companies nationwide tripled in the last decade, shooting up to $429-million in 2011 from $146-million in 2002, according to the Na­tional Venture Capital Association. The boom really took off in 2009, when venture capitalists pushed $150-million more into education-technology firms than they did in the previous year, even as the economy sank into recession.
“The investing community believes that the Internet is hitting edu­cation, that education is having its Internet moment,” said Jose Ferreira, founder of the interactive-learning company Knewton. Last year Mr. Ferreira’s company scored a $33-million investment of its own in one of the biggest deals of the year.

Bruno: The *Real* Causes Of “Teaching To The Test”

Alexander Russo:

He doesn’t frame them exactly this way, but Daniel Willingham’s recent posts on the lack of elementary-level science instruction shed more light on a point I’ve made previously: that many concerns about “teaching to the test” are at least partially misguided.
As he points out, much of the marginalization of science in elementary schools predates NCLB, which suggests that curriculum narrowing can’t be entirely explained by high-stakes testing. (A more likely culprit? Only 1/3 of elementary school teachers feel prepared to teach science in the first place.)
Additionally, Willingham elaborates on the importance of teaching content to promote reading comprehension. Even as late as 3rd grade elementary students are spending nearly half of their school time on English Language Arts, which leaves little time for the numerous other subjects – like science and history – that are so important to building students’ content knowledge and, in turn, their ability to understand what they read.

L.A. Unified haunted by an old deal

Sandy Banks:

Today’s lesson, boys and girls, is to be careful what deals you make when your back is against the wall.
Let’s open our history book to 1992, when California was mired in a recession and the Los Angeles Unified School District was forced to cut its budget by $400 million.
Teachers had walked off the job three years earlier and were threatening to strike again if the district followed through on its plan to cut their pay by 12%. So political kingpin Willie Brown brokered a deal that reduced the pay cut to 10% and expanded teachers’ campus rights.
Most of the perks seemed pretty mundane:
Teachers would be allowed to park in the principal’s parking space and use the principal’s private bathroom. They would no longer have to perform “yard duty” when their students were on the playground.

Survey: Teachers work 53 hours per week on average

Francie Alexander:

Teaching is a much talked about yet often misunderstood profession. Educators frequently hear well-meaning comments from parents and friends like “It must be so sweet to spend your days with children” or “How wonderful to be done for the day by three o’clock.” Are they serious?
Teaching is joyous, but it is also hard work! It is fast-paced, multi-faceted, and complex. I should know. I spent many years as a teacher and it is the hardest and most satisfying work I’ve ever done.
A new report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, called Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, finally quantifies just how hard teachers work: 10 hours and 40 minutes a day on average. That’s a 53-hour work week!
These numbers are indicative of teachers’ dedication to the profession and their willingness to go above and beyond to meet students’ needs. It never was, and certainly isn’t now, a bell-to-bell job.

Union Activism Is Not for the Young

Mike Antonucci:

Back in January we noted that, according to the annual report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the age of union members was increasingly skewing older relative to the entire workforce. If the trend continues, unions will correspondingly suffer from member attrition – in addition to all the other challenges they face.
This will be less of an issue in states where collective bargaining laws essentially mandate union membership (or fee-paying). New, young employees will become union members and replace their older, retiring counterparts. But in NEA, at least, there is another problem that legislation can’t address – activism.
The union is launching a major effort to engage younger members to become more active in NEA’s mission, because its internal research shows that while the average age of an NEA member is 46, the average age of an NEA activist is 57.

Minnesota House OKs plan to pay back schools part of $2.4 billion

Megan Boldt:

The Minnesota House on Thursday, March 15, approved a plan that would start paying back the $2.4 billion owed to public schools by using the state’s budget reserve.
The legislation, which passed 74-59, would shift $430 million from rainy-day funds to repay K-12 schools. It also includes ending the practice of laying off teachers based on seniority rather than performance, a measure that already has passed the House and Senate.
“There’s a message today. This is what people have to know. Republicans have a plan. Republicans have a plan to reduce the debt we owe to schools,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, chair of the House Education Finance Committee, said Thursday.

Sex education in schools? Auburn Report finds most parents favor it.

Casandra Andrews:

Among the nation’s young people, those in the South suffer the worst rates of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, according to a new study that finds little resistance among parents in the region for age-appropriate sex education in schools.
The report “Sexual Health of Young People in the U.S. South: Challenges and Opportunities” was released by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Center for Demographic Research. It focused on 10 Southern states including Alabama and Mississippi.
Issues such as high teen pregnancy rates can place heavy burdens on government and taxpayers. According to the study, for example, teen-childbearing expenses in the South cost local, state and federal governments an estimated $2.3 billion in 2008.

Condoms For 12-Year-Olds: Springfield Massachusetts School Committee Approves Contraceptive Policy

Huffington Post:

A Massachusetts school has taken its first step toward giving students as young as 12 free access to condoms at school.
The Springfield School Committee voted 5-1 Thursday in favor of the “Comprehensive Reproductive Health Policy,” which aims to promote safe sex, prevent sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
Under the proposed program, students would be able to acquire condoms from school nurses and high-school based clinics, according to The Republican. Those who receive the contraceptive would be counseled on abstinence and proper storage and use.

WORT-FM Radio Interview with the 2012 Madison School Board Candidates

wort-fm.org 43MB mp3 audio file, via a kind reader’s email.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

Madison school board candidates Mary Burke and Michael Flores discuss the achievement gap and Madison Prep

Isthmus:

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. This week we ask the candidates how they would address what might be the primary issue of the election: the achievement gap. What would they do to address this gap, and balance the needs of both high and low achieving students? More specifically, we ask about their view of Madison Prep, and whether they would vote for or against it in the future.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A

College Presidents Say $10,000 Degrees Available Now

Reeve Hamilton:

Speaking today on a SXSWEdu panel in Austin, officials from a few Texas community colleges and universities said that $10,000 bachelor’s degrees are available now — and more will be within the year.
Gov. Rick Perry famously called on the development of a $10,000 degree in his State of the State address in 2011. The proposal met with criticism at the time, but Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chairman Fred Heldenfels said it was misunderstood. “It’s not intended to be a bargain degree,” he said, offering the metaphor of a no-frills, rapid-rail route rather than an ocean-going cruise.
Called “The Evolving Role of University Systems in Higher Education,” today’s panel mostly focused on efforts to lower the cost of college. It was moderated by Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and featured Heldenfels, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes, and two pairs of university and community college leaders actively collaborating: Texas A&M-San Antonio President Maria Ferrier and Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie, and Texas A&M-Commerce President Dan Jones and South Texas College’s Chief Academic Officer Juan Mejia.

Anatomy of a Troubled School District: Picturesque Bayfield has it all: dreadful student performance, community infighting, a powerful teachers union, outlandish spending. What can be done?

Mike Nichols:

Over 300 miles from the never-ending debates in Madison over how to help struggling schools, in a small, largely impoverished district along the edge of Lake Superior, Liz Woodworth ran unopposed for a spot on the Bayfield School Board this spring.
Woodworth isn’t just another parent. She and her husband, Jeff Kriner, are both teachers; she in nearby Ashland and he in the same district that Woodworth will help run. Kriner, in fact, has served as everything from a co-president of the local Bayfield Education Association to a teachers union negotiator and spokesman who appears before the School Board.
In states such as Arizona and Mississippi, conflict-of-interest laws would bar Woodworth from serving. Not here, where the state has long left local schools to sort out their own problems and conflicts. With Woodworth slated to begin a three-year term in late April, critics fear she will help preserve the status quo in schools that desperately need outside intervention.

School Reform’s Establishment Turn

The Wall Street Journal:

The Council on Foreign Relations is the clubhouse of America’s establishment, a land of pinstripe suits and typically polite, status-quo thinking. Yet today CFR will publish a report that examines the national-security impact of America’s broken education system–and prescribes school choice as a primary antidote. Do you believe in miracles?
American schools have several national-security duties, the report notes. First is educating workers who can keep the U.S. economy strong and innovative amid global competition, which requires skills in reading, math and science, as well as foreign languages and cultures. The U.S. also needs to produce sharp intelligence officers, soldiers and diplomats, as well as techies who can guard corporate and governmental cyber networks. And don’t forget a citizenry that understands how democracy works.
Performance on all these fronts is grim. Only a third of elementary and middle-school students are competent in reading, math and science. Compared to peers in industrial countries, American 15-year-olds rank 14th in reading, 25th in math and 17th in science. Fewer than 5% of college students graduate with engineering degrees (in China it’s 33%), and a third of science and engineering grad students in the U.S. are foreign nationals, most of whom are ultimately denied visas to stay.

MMSD School Board Elections: The Future of Our Public Schools

Madison Teacher Karen Vieth:

Times are rough for public education; there is no contesting that fact. The Madison media is full of talk about charter schools and anti-union sentiment. Next year’s allocations are forcing teachers to face the abysmal reality of our declining budget. Sitting in staff meetings, hearing numbers being crunched, it is difficult to look around and wonder whose job will be cut and what that will mean to our students. Yet, in a recent Wisconsin State Journal article the focus is somehow on a false choice between supporting our teachers or caring for our students. The author neglects the simple fact that teachers exist for the children and the families they serve.
To make matters worse, the author inserts this quote from a school board candidate, “One of the most important needed changes is the use of student learning as a component of a teacher’s evaluation.” This statement discounts the damage that could be caused by this type of assessment. The author doesn’t analyze the perils of making it a more attractive position to teach the students already experiencing success. He also chooses to ignore the many factors of society that cannot be controlled by a teacher or that cannot be evaluated in a test. Student mobility, homelessness and truancy are not mentioned. Nowhere is it referenced that there is cultural bias in our standardized testing or that these tests occur at the end of October, just shortly after students enter a teacher’s classroom for the first time. Unfortunately, these types of simplified solutions have become common place in the mainstream media, where apparently everyone is an expert on the teaching profession. It is another effort to blame the teachers and take the emphasis off of recent budget cuts and a community where poverty is becoming more and more prevalent.

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Rift grows between old and young

Chris Giles and Sarah Neville:  

For the first time in 50 years, young Britons embarking on their careers cannot expect to be any better off than their parents while those approaching retirement have never had it so good.
The stark generational rift emerging in Britain is highlighted by a Financial Times analysis showing that the real disposable household incomes of people in their 20s have stagnated over the past 10 years just as older households are capturing a much greater share of the nation’s income and wealth.
In spite of this financial squeeze on the young, George Osborne, the chancellor, who presents his third budget on Wednesday, continues to shelter older people from his austerity measures regardless of their income.

Learning From Teach For America

Matthew Di Carlo:

There is a small but growing body of evidence about the (usually test-based) effectiveness of teachers from Teach for America (TFA), an extremely selective program that trains and places new teachers in mostly higher needs schools and districts. Rather than review this literature paper-by-paper, which has already been done by others (see here and here), I’ll just give you the super-short summary of the higher-quality analyses, and quickly discuss what I think it means.*
The evidence on TFA teachers focuses mostly on comparing their effect on test score growth vis-à-vis other groups of teachers who entered the profession via traditional certification (or through other alternative routes). This is no easy task, and the findings do vary quite a bit by study, as well as by the group to which TFA corps members are compared (e.g., new or more experienced teachers). One can quibble endlessly over the methodological details (and I’m all for that), and this area is still underdeveloped, but a fair summary of these papers is that TFA teachers are no more or less effective than comparable peers in terms of reading tests, and sometimes but not always more effective in math (the differences, whether positive or negative, tend to be small and/or only surface after 2-3 years). Overall, the evidence thus far suggests that TFA teachers perform comparably, at least in terms of test-based outcomes.

Democrats see defections on education reform

Valerie Bauman:

Lisa Macfarlane used to be a reliable ally for Washington’s Democratic Party leaders.
Now she’s part of a growing band of rebels — including one of the Democrats’ biggest donors from the business world — questioning the party line on education reform.
These critics say 2012 could be the year that public opinion has shifted enough to change course on schools.They argue Democratic lawmakers have deprived Washington children of needed innovations such as charter schools and teacher promotions tied to performance.

Nuestro Mundo May Move to Monona

Matthew DeFour:

Madison’s Nuestro Mundo charter school would move into its own building in Monona next fall, under terms of a six-year lease being finalized by Madison and Monona Grove School District officials.
The move to the vacant Maywood School building in Monona would alleviate crowding at Allis Elementary, where Nuestro Mundo opened in 2004. It also could help Monona Grove pay for building upkeep and close its $1.2 million budget deficit, Monona Grove Superintendent Craig Gerlach said.
The lease agreement, which both boards are expected to vote on later this month, calls for Madison to pay $165,750 next year with the rate escalating annually based on inflation, Gerlach said. The amount was determined by an agreed-upon appraiser.

DFER backs two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in MD

DFER:

Democrats for Education Reform is backing two crucial teacher effectiveness bills in Maryland. Last week, Joe Williams, DFER’s Executive Director, sent two letters to the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee in support of SB 364, a bill introduced by former DFER Reformer of the Month Sen. Ferguson, and HB 613, the House version of the bill introduced by Rep. Rosenberg.
The legislation would offer student loan repayment to the highest performing teachers — not just for those who attended college in-state, but also to those who attended out-of-state colleges. It would also establish a separate grant available primarily for new teachers who receive the highest performance ratings, as determined by Maryland’s teacher evaluation system.
In addition to SB 364/HB 613, DFER is backing SB 876, also introduced by Sen. Ferguson, and the House version of the bill, HB 1210, introduced by Reps. Rosenberg and Hucker, that would end the harmful practice known as Last In, First Out (LIFO). As we’ve seen across the country, LIFO — which requires teacher layoffs to be based strictly on seniority rather than performance — can lead to a decrease in the number of excellent teachers in the classroom. DFER’s own Jocelyn Huber, Director of Teacher Advocacy, submitted testimony in support of both SB 876 and HB 1210.

Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections

Matthew DeFour:

A Madison Teachers Inc. endorsement hasn’t always guaranteed victory for Madison School Board candidates.
But this year, with union members mobilized by Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining changes, the upcoming recall elections, a divisive debate over a charter school proposal the union opposed and a looming rewrite of employee work rules, the endorsement could be influential.
“It will be very hard for someone not endorsed by the teachers union to win,” said former School Board member Ruth Robarts, who won re-election in 2004 despite MTI labeling her “Public Enemy No. 1.”
Robarts is one of four candidates in 13 contested races over the past decade who defeated MTI-backed candidates.
This year the union endorsed incumbent Arlene Silveira over Nichelle Nichols, an executive at the Urban League of Greater Madison, which proposed the charter school plan.
The union also endorsed Michael Flores, who gained attention during Capitol protests last year, over Mary Burke for an open seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak.

Teacher union influence can extend far beyond local school board elections. The influence process can be quite sophisticated and encompasses local and state elections along with the legal system. Teachers are certainly not the only groups to pull different levers, but a complete understanding of the K-12 governance model requires an awareness of the players (it is also useful to consider the “schw­er­punkt“, that is “creating a result around a central theme”). The following links are well worth reading:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators
  • Arbitrator Rules in Favor of MTI vs WEAC over legal fees
  • Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions:

    To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

  • Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman in a 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

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

Matt DeFour’s article failed to include a critical quote: “The school district election is just one piece in the larger chess match”.

Imagining the Future of the University

Prof Hacker:

I sometimes hear that the classroom of today looks and functions much like the classroom of the 19th century–desks lined up in neat rows, facing the central authority of the teacher and a chalkboard (or, for a contemporary twist, a whiteboard or screen.) Is this model, born of the industrial age, the best way to meet the educational challenges of the future? What do we see as the college classroom of the future: a studio? a reconfigurable space with flexible seating and no center stage? virtual collaborative spaces, with learners connected via their own devices?
As Rice University celebrates its centennial and looks forward to its next 100 years, it hosted a dialogue on ” The Future of the Research University in a Global Age” at the De Lange Conference on February 27-28. The conference featured presentations by current and former university presidents such as James Duderstadt of the University of Michigan, Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, and Charles Vest of MIT, as well as by Burton McMurtry, former chairman of the board at Stanford and Rice trustee emeritus; leading thinkers on higher education and learning such as John Seely Brown, Cathy Davidson and Robert Zemsky; and current and former leaders of organizations promoting research and education, such as Rita Colwell, former director of the NSF, and Hunter Rawlings of the Association of American Universities (also former president of Cornell and the University of Iowa). While the speakers discussed many challenges facing higher education, they also articulated strategies for shaping twenty-first century learning and pointed to some innovative models.

The Student Loan Debacle–What a Mess; 61% Not Paying

Andrew Gillen:  

Until recently, much talk about student loans was fact-free: There simply weren’t publicly available figures worth paying attention to.
The official balance of student loans from the NY Fed were unreliable:
There was a bucket of random obligations called “Miscellaneous”, which included things like utility bills, child support, and alimony. And it turns out that if you went burrowing in that miscellaneous debt, there was actually a pile of weirdly-categorized student loans in there. [AG: And these mis-categorized student loans were not included.]
Meanwhile, the official cohort default rates from the Department of Education were even more useless. Until recently, only the two-year rate was reported. Moreover, those in forbearance or deferment were counted as repaying their loans, and it took 270-360 days of not making payments to be classified as in default. When combined with the grace period, this means that to a first approximation, the “cohort default rate” was not a default rate in any meaningful sense of the term, but rather a measure of how many students never made any payment at all.

Nerad’s leadership being judged unfairly

Joann Elder

As a former School Board member and an active member of the Superintendents Human Relations Advisory Committee, I have been very impressed with Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad ever since he arrived in Madison.
I invited him to an outreach dinner shortly after he arrived, and he and his wife attended. At every meeting he was able to attend, he reviewed some program to strengthen minority programs. Informally I talked with him about the terrible cuts in funding for our public schools, and his coping solutions were admirable.
He is criticized for not having more minority teaching hires. Hiring minority teachers has always been a problem in Madison, in large part because good minority teachers can command higher salaries in larger urban centers, and they have a larger support community.
I’ve been impressed with Nerad’s leadership in these difficult times and find the “barely proficient” rating unfair and short-sighted.
Joann Elder, Madison

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

Nonfiction Curriculum Enhanced Reading Skills, Study Finds

Anna Phillips:

Children in New York City who learned to read using an experimental curriculum that emphasized nonfiction texts outperformed those at other schools that used methods that have been encouraged since the Bloomberg administration’s early days, according to a new study to be released Monday.
For three years, a pilot program tracked the reading ability of approximately 1,000 students at 20 New York City schools, following them from kindergarten through second grade. Half of the schools adopted a curriculum designed by the education theorist E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s Core Knowledge Foundation. The other 10 used a variety of methods, but most fell under the definition of “balanced literacy,” an approach that was spread citywide by former Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, beginning in 2003.
The study found that second graders who were taught to read using the Core Knowledge program scored significantly higher on reading comprehension tests than did those in the comparison schools.
It also tested children on their social studies and science knowledge, and again found that the Core Knowledge pupils came out ahead. Citywide, budget cuts and the drive to increase scores on the state reading and math exams have led many elementary and middle schools to whittle down their social studies and science instruction.

Madison School Board to review athletic code in light of retail theft controversy

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board will review the district’s athletic code in the wake of controversy over the discipline handed down to Madison Memorial varsity basketball players for an incident in which they were later charged with crimes.
School Board President James Howard said the board needs to review the district’s athletic code to see if it was followed in the cases involving the four players — including starters Albert “Junior” Lomomba Jr., 19; Jamar Morris, 18; and Brendan Ortiz, 17.
The three were suspended for a single game, which prompted anger from coaches and fans from other teams who said the discipline was not severe enough. The fourth player has played sparingly during the season.
Lomomba and Morris were charged last month with misdemeanor retail theft in connection with a Jan. 21 incident at Boston Store at West Towne Mall. Charges against Ortiz were added to the complaint last week over a similar incident that took place Jan. 13.
All three were allowed to play in the WIAA tournament.

How do children learn to read when you have no books?

Tomi Ahonen:

Rather than a laptop for every child – a noble cause but faced with overwhelming infrastructure problems – Worldreader have given Kindles to school children in Africa that can now harness the wealth of knowledge that exists easily for many of us at a cost which means; access is no longer a barrier to learning. The significance is explained by Brookings:

Being able to read and write is the most basic foundation of knowledge accumulation and further skill development. Without literacy, there can be no quality education. Presently, 1 in 5 adults is illiterate, two-thirds of whom are women. At the current pace, over 700 million adults worldwide will still not be able to read in 2015. [1] In global education discussions, literacy rates are most often reported for adolescents and adults, an ex post facto measure of the failure of primary school systems to impart basic skills in the most formative schooling years. It is clear that much needs to be done to provide these adolescents and adults with access to successful literacy programs. But we must also ensure that children with access to schooling are not growing up to be illiterate.

They cite the enormous potential of the Worldreader initiative

Madison school board showdown: Four candidates face off in the most hotly contested election in years

Nathan Comp:

During a March 1 candidate forum, four candidates vying for two seats on the Madison school board explained their positions to a large audience at the Warner Park Recreation Center.
It was the sixth forum since January, and, for 90 minutes, the audience listened intently, though a lot of them were supporters, campaign volunteers, district watchdogs and union reps who likely already knew whom they would be voting for on April 3.
For many, the battle lines were drawn near the end of last year’s debate over Madison Preparatory Academy, the charter school proposed by the Urban League of Greater Madison that the board rejected on Dec. 19, largely because the teachers union opposed it. Accordingly, two candidates who opposed Madison Prep shored up early union endorsements, including from Madison Teachers Inc.
One of them, two-term incumbent Arlene Silveira, 53, is fighting to retain her seat against Nichelle Nichols, 43, who entered the Seat 1 race in response to the board’s rejection of Madison Prep. Nichols says the race is a choice between new leadership and the status quo. Silveira, on the other hand, says the district needs a board member “who can hit the ground running.”
The Seat 2 race to replace outgoing board member Lucy Mathiak pits firefighter Michael Flores, 34, against philanthropist Mary Burke, 52, in a contest couched in the language of the Occupy movement. Flores, a member of Fire Fighters Local 311, has gained union support in part because of his opposition to Madison Prep, while Burke had donated $2.5 million to the effort. Flores’ most vocal supporters have tried to obscure Burke’s extensive experience by assailing her as an out-of-touch 1 percenter.
Madison Prep engaged the community more than any other educational issue in years, sparking an outsized interest in the schools that shows little sign of waning. Candidates this year will have taken part in an unprecedented 12 candidate forums, among dozens of smaller events and listening sessions. (Candidates in seven of the last nine elections ran unopposed.)

Seat 1 Candidates:
Nichelle Nichols
www.nichols4schoolboard.org
email: nnichols4mmsd@gmail.com
Arlene Silveira (incumbent)
www.arleneforschoolboard.com
email: arlene_Silveira@yahoo.com
Seat 2 Candidates:
Mary Burke
www.maryburkeforschoolboard.net
email: maryburkewi@gmail.com
Michael Flores
www.floresforschoolboard.org
email: floresm1977@gmail.com
new Arlene Silveira & Michael Flores Madison Teachers, Inc. Candidate Q & A
Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

Data shows Madison’s 4K program is reaching low-income families

Matthew DeFour:

When Madison’s 4-year-old kindergarten program began there were concerns about its accessibility to low-income families, but data from the first class suggest the program has been successful in serving low-income students.
Data collected last fall found 52 percent of students who participated in the 4K program this year are low-income students, either because they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, or participate in the Head Start program. That’s slightly higher than the district average of 48 percent.
Some families, however, still weren’t able to access the program.

Half-Crazy, Half-True: Alfie Kohn’s startling message on schools may be hurting Wisconsin’s poorest students

Michael J. Petrilli:

One hundred years ago, a progressive populist barnstormed the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against the gold standard. Today another progressive populist barnstorms the country, delivering fiery speeches and railing against academic standards. Meet Alfie Kohn, the William Jennings Bryan of our age.
The Badger State has always been friendly territory for progressive populists; Kohn is a perfect fit. He’s been an influential voice in Wisconsin education discussions for nearly 20 years.
Kohn is a frequent guest on Wisconsin Public Radio, and his speeches have carried the imprimatur of everyone from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education to the Wisconsin Education Association Council to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Last November, his talk on the UW-Madison campus drew more than 700 people.
Like most demagogues, Kohn knows how to tap into his audience’s raw emotions — anger, feelings of powerlessness and resentment of a ruling elite. In his case, he puts voice to what many educators already believe: That school reform is a corporate plot to turn young people into docile employees; that an obsession with standardized testing is crowding out any real intellectual engagement in our schools; and that teachers have no say over what happens inside their own classrooms.

Madison Teachers’ Solidarity: What Does Your MTI Contract Do For You? School Calendar

MTI Solidarity, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Does it matter to you when school begins in the fall? How about when and how long winter or spring break is? When school ends for the year? Or, does it matter to you how many days you work for your annual salary, or how many hours make up the school day? In members’ responses to MTI’s Bargaining Survey, all of these factors are “very important” to those in MTI’s teacher bargaining unit.
It was MTI’s case in 1966 which gave teacher unions an equal voice on all of the above topics. Ruling for MTI, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the school calendar is a mandatory subject of bargaining, meaning that a school district in Wisconsin must negotiate with the Union to determine each of the factors described above. Governor Walker’s Act 10 in effect overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling because Act 10 removed workers’ rights to collectively bargain.
Impact? Act 10 enables a school board without a good conscience, to engage in mischief or abuse of all MTI represented staff especially teachers because they are paid an annual salary not on an hourly basis.
MTI is fighting to overturn Act 10 and to restore the Union’s right to negotiate over the school calendar.

A great leveller

Tsung-Mei Cheng:  

Tsung-Mei Cheng outlines China’s policy challenges in providing the type of education for the increasing number of urban residents that both meets market needs and increases, rather than decreases, social mobility
Employment was one of the major issues addressed by this year’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. A well-functioning system of tertiary education will be the key to job creation and economic growth.
It is an important topic; failure on this front could lead not only to popular disappointment, but to social unrest.
This was one of the major conclusions of this year’s Emerging Markets Symposium, an annual meeting at Oxford University, which this year focused on tertiary education. An earlier symposium focused on health care and there are, in fact, striking parallels in polices on both health and education. The same concerns abound over equal access and the burden of financing; there are similar problems in measuring quality; and they share issues about the mismatch of supply and demand.

Public meetings continue on school district’s plan to close achievement gap

Anna Asendorf:

Closing the achievement gap in Madison schools takes commitment, courage, collaboration and unity, according to community members present at Wednesday night’s Madison Metropolitan School District input session at CUNA Mutual Group.
About 150 attendees jotted down these key words, along with others, on a small notecard in response to a question posed by Deputy Superintendent, Sue Abplanalp.
“Using one word, what do you think it will take to build and sustain a community-wide movement in Madison to close the achievement gaps in the Madison schools?”
The notecards were then collected and compiled into a word cloud, pictured left, shared at the meeting’s close. Popular words were displayed in a bold, prominent font with less popular words surrounding them.

Much more on the proposed “achievement gap plan”, here.
Comments on the District’s plan are worth reading.

Hong Kong English tests for trainee teachers

Dennis Chong:  

The Institute of Education, which specialises in training teachers, is fighting back against the declining level of English literacy by making all students take an internationally recognised examination.
Students will not be prevented from graduating if they fail to achieve a 6.0 grade (on a 9-point scale) in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam – equivalent to the level most universities in the English-speaking world require of new undergraduates.

See Milwaukee Public Schools Beyond the Negative headlines

Andrew Hinkfuss:

How can an entire state seemingly hate one school system so much? In the midst of the worst cuts to education our state has ever seen, Milwaukee Public Schools is often portrayed as a failed system filled with lazy teachers, violent classrooms and hopeless students. These misinformed views appear to be widely held beliefs.
The comments on a March 3 JSOnline article about the King/Riverside high school basketball game are just one recent example. One commenter lamented that Germantown would have to beat “teams of thugs and criminals” to win the state tournament.
These views do not reflect the MPS I know. This is not the system that delivered me to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my sisters to Harvard and Macalaster College and thousands of others to great universities and productive careers.

Seattle’s Teacher Union Opposes Teach for America

Seattle Education Association:

The Seattle Education Association Stands For A Stronger System of Universal, High-Quality Public Education in Seattle Public Schools!
Bringing Teach For America (TFA) to Seattle Does Not Make Public Education Stronger!
Commit to at least two of the following action items:

  • Use the following points to craft your own letter to school board members. Click here to get contact information.
  • Sign up to speak at the school board meeting on November 17, 2010. Information on what to do Monday, November 15 at 8:00 AM to get on the agenda is here.
  • Attend the school board meeting with signs expressing your opinion about the TFA agreement that will be voted upon. To read the introduction and the agreement, click here.

Read up on Teach For America, inform yourself!

The Higher Education Monopoly is Crumbling As We Speak

Kevin Carey:

In the last years of the nineteenth century, Charles Dow created an index of 12 leading industrial companies. Almost none of them exist today. While General Electric remains an industrial giant, the U.S. Leather Company, American Cotton Oil, and others have long since disappeared into bankruptcy or consolidation. Today, the Dow Jones includes giant corporations that hadn’t even been created when Ronald Reagan first sat in the Oval Office. That transition is generally understood as the natural consequence of innovation and competition in a changing world.
Four years after Dow invented his average, a group of 14 leading research institutions created the Association of American Universities. All of them exist today. While a few have faded from prominence, most of the original members–including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale–are now, as they were then, the most sought-after and well-regarded American universities.
The historic stability of higher education is remarkable. As former University of California President Clark Kerr once observed, the 85 human institutions that have survived in recognizable form for the last 500 years include the Catholic Church, a few Swiss cantons, the Parliaments of Iceland and the Isle of Man, and about 70 universities. The occasional small liberal arts school goes under, and many public universities are suffering budget cuts, but as a rule, colleges are forever.

Recruiting New Teachers With Loan Repayments

Lisa Fleisher:

New York City schools are recruiting teachers by dangling $25,000 to pay off student loans, even though the teachers union hasn’t agreed to the program yet.
In an online job posting, the city’s Department of Education is touting the new incentive, emphasis included in original:

As a New York City teacher, you may be eligible for additional income through a wide array of incentives and school positions that will stretch and challenge you as an educator as well as offer additional compensation. For example, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that top tier graduates may be eligible for a total of $25,000 toward student loan repayment.

The ad refers to a proposal made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January during his State of the City speech to repay student loans for the top quartile of college graduates who become teachers and remain on the job for five years.

New York State to Target Cheating by Teachers

Lisa Fleisher:

As the stakes grow higher for standardized tests in New York, state education officials said Thursday they will create an investigative unit to combat cheating by aiding local districts and probing the most egregious cases.
The announcement came the day after state lawmakers approved a measure under which student scores on state tests will count for up to 40% of teachers’ annual evaluations. Officials said faith in the tests is crucial for the new policy to work.

Census Data Shows Inequality Linked to Education, Not Taxes

Scott Hodge:

There have been a number of reports published recently that purport to show a link between rising inequality and changes in tax policy – especially tax cuts for the so-called rich. The latest installment comes from Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez, Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States.
Saez and others who write on this issue seem so intent on proving a link between tax policy and inequality that they overlook the major demographic changes that are occurring in America that can contribute to – or at least give the appearance of – rising inequality; a few of these being, differences in education, the rise of dual-earner couples, the aging of our workforce, and increased entrepreneurship.
Today, we will look at the link between education and income. Recent Census data comparing the educational attainment of householders and income shows about as clearly as you can that America’s income gap is really an education gap and not the result of tax cuts for the rich.

Related: Dumbing down of state education has made Britain more unequal than 25 years ago; In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

Teacher Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) School District’s Pay-for-Performance Plan

F. Mike Miles:

A teacher’s effectiveness has a tremendous impact on a child’s learning and academic trajectory. Yet knowing that, and being able to create teacher evaluation systems that successfully measure and document teacher effectiveness, are two very different things. In fact, for as long as anyone can remember, a public school teacher’s effectiveness and performance in Ohio classrooms-as in the rest of America- haven’t been measured much at all. These critical factors have had little impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district’s school, or how her professional development is crafted. This report, authored by Harrison (CO) Superintendent Mike Miles, takes a detailed look at the district’s Pay-for-Performance Plan. The Harrison Plan confronted the dual challenges of defining an effective teacher then identifying all the things that demonstrate her effectiveness. This how-to guide is meant to serve as a tool and model for Ohio’s school districts.

Rethinking School

Stacy Childress:

In 2008 the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek developed a new way to examine the link between a country’s GDP and the academic test scores of its children. He found that if one country’s scores were only half a standard deviation higher than another’s in 1960, its GDP grew a full percentage point faster in every subsequent year through 2000.
Using Hanushek’s methods, McKinsey & Company has estimated that if the U.S. had closed the education achievement gap with better-performing nations, GDP in 2010 could have been 8% to 14%–$1.2 trillion to $2.1 trillion–higher. The report’s authors called this gap “the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”
The implications could not be clearer: The United States must recognize that its long-term growth depends on dramatically increasing the quality of its K-12 public education system.

Parent trigger founder: What happened in Florida ‘only a temporary setback’

Gloria Romero:

When Florida’s parent trigger bill sadly failed on a 20-20 vote in the Senate last Friday, parents in the state’s worst performing schools lost an opportunity to change their schools, their lives, and their children’s lives for the better.
The debate seemed to turn mysteriously on fears of privatization through charter schools, even though converting the school to a charter was only one of four options parents could have elected under the legislation. Given that Florida already has many charter schools, I find it baffling why allowing parents access to this option was so threatening to the education establishment.
Fortunately, Florida still has options for parents who want to leave a failing school, but the demand for options such as a tax credit scholarship or a charter school exceeds the supply. To a large degree, though, these kinds of options are not really the point of parent trigger legislation. For most families, the ideal situation is a high-quality neighborhood school. This is particularly true for low-income families that struggle with juggling multiple jobs, child care and transportation.

How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education

Clive Thompson:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?
Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.
Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring–in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees–the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

www.khanacademy.org

Students Demand Right to Technology in Schools

Tina Barseghian:

I’ve heard arguments from ed tech experts about how using technology for learning may in fact deepen the divide between wealthy and low-income kids. Students who have access to technology and are encouraged by teachers and parents to leverage it for new ways of learning, the argument goes, will leap even further ahead than low-income students who are forbidden to use it in public schools.
Those arguments were personified early this month in the collective voices of students from Morningside, Crenshaw, Roosevelt, Locke, and Manual Arts high schools, who presented their case at the Digital Media and Learning conference in San Francisco.
Holding up cell phones, tablets, and video cameras, students spelled out to listeners in the packed conference room a message loud and clear: We demand access to the same technology that privileged students have in order to survive in the working world, to compete in any meaningful way, and to amplify our voices.

Passionate rally for education program an encouraging sign

Alan Borsuk:

Shiloh Baptist Church was packed. More than 250 people were primed for action last Monday night inside the church at N. 48th St. and W. Capitol Drive. They knew what they wanted: A more effective and accountable Supplemental Education Services program.
Huh?
A passionate rally to improve SES?
For a decade, SES has been one of the sleepiest corners of federal education funding.
A big reason the program has been so ineffective is that so few people care about the way many millions of dollars have been spent on outside-the-school-day services (generally, tutoring programs) for students who are not doing well in school.
Since when did anybody but some vendors and their employees and a few policy wonks get revved up about SES?
Since Common Ground latched onto it.

State students demand better education

Diana L. Fuentes

Under Gov. Scott Walker, public education has been the target of dramatic budget cuts that affect directly the quality of education received by Wisconsin’s youth. Our education is decaying. Our governor is not only making budget cuts to public education but is also limiting the futures of tens of thousands of young people. Over 1,000 students across Wisconsin have come together to fight back and demand a high-quality education through passing the Student Bill of Rights.
Walker and his administration have made it clear: They do not care about the education of Wisconsin’s youth. For the past year, we have watched our school and our resources crumble around us. We are seeing class sizes grow to 50 students with just one teacher, a lack of Advanced Placement and advanced classes and elimination of arts, business and other areas.
Education cuts are targeting low-income students of color, particularly students from Milwaukee and Racine’s rapidly growing Latino community. My school, ALAS High School, is the only completely bilingual school within the whole state. As our resources continue to be cut, we are constantly fighting just to keep our school open.

THE BAD OLD DAYS OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsin Public Schools

Steve Gunn, Victor Skinner:

Not so long ago, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the state’s largest teachers union, sported the motto, “Every child deserves a great school.”
The irony of that motto was not lost on school administrators, particularly in more recent years, as they struggled to balance budgets while local WEAC unions refused to accept financial concessions that would have helped maintain quality programming for students.
In school district after school district, layoffs have occurred, class sizes have increased and student programs have been cut, partially because many
unions refused to accept temporary pay freezes, or pay a bit more toward their own health insurance or pension costs.
This was happening all over the state, even before Gov. Scott Walker was elected and his biannual budget slowed the rate of state aid to schools.
The problem is not difficult to understand. Most public school administrators tell us they spend between 75-85 percent of their total budgets on labor costs, mostly for salaries and benefits for union teachers. If a budget crisis hits and spending cuts are needed, school boards will logically look at the biggest part of the budget.
But under the old collective bargaining system, local teachers unions had broad legal power to reject cuts in labor costs, and frequently did so. With 80 percent of the budget often untouchable, school boards had little choice but to cut from the 20 percent that has the most profound effect on students.
Something is definitely wrong with that picture, if you believe that schools exist primarily to benefit children.

AP takes step toward International Baccalaureate-like credential

Jay Matthews:

In the last few years AP has been changing its focus and exams, particularly in the sciences, to become deeper and more flexible, like International Baccalaureate. AP exams have demanded that students answer every essay question. IB exams allow students to choose which essay questions to answer, so that IB teachers can go more deeply into some topics without penalizing students at exam time. AP has moved to adopt that same exam question choice system.
On Monday, AP announced another big change, adding a project component that sounds very much like the IB extended essay required of all students who want to get an IB diploma. But in some ways it goes even further.
The College Board, owner of AP, said it was joining with the University of Cambridge International Examinations to offer an “AP/Cambridge Capstone Program and Credential.” This will be piloted in 15 to 18 schools around the world, including four in the Miami-Dade County school system.

Five ways school reform is hurting teacher quality

Brett Rosenthal:

1. Teacher evaluation systems — Teacher evaluation systems are changing to include as a major factor how well students do on standardized tests. Teachers in New York State have a terrible new evaluation system known as APPR. It is highly inaccurate, meaning that truly good teachers can be deemed ineffective or developing, or truly bad teachers to be classified as highly effective. Forty percent of a teacher’s evaluation is now based on student achievement, which is measured by the student standardized test scores.
But what if a student knows he/she is going to fail a class and decides not to put in effort on the exam or not take it ? This is not unusual. How about seniors who famously put in minimum effort during the second half of their school year since they know they’re going to college? I wouldn’t want to teach them if I knew that my job depended on their scores. Or how about the 11th grade class that contains students from other countries where they were under educated, barely literate, here for a year and are now supposed to show growth on Regents exams?

California’s Endangered Charter Schools

Larry Sand:

Try as the California Teachers Association might, the powerful union cannot realistically organize all of California’s 900-plus charter schools, only about 15 percent of which are currently unionized. Instead, the union is taking an indirect approach, sponsoring legislation that, if enacted, could over time greatly diminish the number of charters in the state–and thus reduce what little school choice Californians have. While other states have readily embraced school choice, including vouchers, Californian’s only real alternative to traditional public schools is charter schools. Charters are, in fact, public schools, but they aren’t bound by the intrusive union contracts that stifle so many traditional public schools. The flexibility that non-unionization offers is a key attraction for teachers and parents. And so the CTA’s long war against the charter option continues.
In 1992, California became the second state in the U.S. to pass a charter school law. Today, about 400,000 students in California are enrolled in charter schools. That might sound like a lot, but charters represent only around 10 percent of the state’s 9,000 public schools. Their record is impressive: the California Charter School Association’s second annual “Report on Charter School Performance and Accountability,” published late last month, shows that charters are more likely than non-charters to have both above-average academic performance and above-average growth on standardized test scores. The CCSA report reinforces the findings of previous studies, including a 2010 Duke University investigation of Boston’s charter schools and a 2009 study of New York City charter schools by Caroline Hoxby that showed how, on the whole, students enrolled in charter schools show large and significant test-score gains, especially in middle school and high school. Of course, not all charter schools perform adequately. But if a school isn’t academically successful, the charter authorizer–usually the local school district–can close it after the initial five-year authorization period is up.

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard names Teach For America veteran as education deputy

J K Wall:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has appointed Jason Kloth as deputy mayor of education, a new cabinet-level position that reflects Ballard’s recent shift toward taking a more active role in education, even though his office gives him little direct influence over schools.
Kloth, whose appointment still requires approval of the City-County Council, is a veteran of Teach For America, the New York-based not-for-profit that puts recent college graduates through two-year teaching stints in urban and rural districts around the country.
Kloth taught sixth-grade language arts in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley for two years and was named teacher of the year by his colleagues.
He later became executive director of Teach For American when the program first came to Indianapolis in 2008. Most recently, Kloth has been Teach For America’s senior vice president of public affairs, overseeing the group’s federal government affairs, media and communications, federal policy, research and evaluations, and community relations.

Scott Elliot has more.

Teacher Union Conflict: Do what’s best for Milwaukee

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Milwaukee teachers union just helped Gov. Scott Walker score “a major victory” heading into his recall election.
Or so says John Matthews, head of the Madison teachers union.
Actually, the real winners were Milwaukee teachers, other school employees and students who now may be able to avoid further cuts in school staff and programming.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, School Board and administration just convinced the Republican-run Legislature to quickly approve a bill during this final week of regular session. It permits Milwaukee teachers to reopen their contract without nullifying it.

WisPolitics has more as does MacIver.

Course Recommendation Engine

Steve Kolowich:

Completing assignments and sitting through exams can be stressful. But when it comes to being graded the waiting is often the hardest part. This is perhaps most true at the end of a semester, as students wait for their instructors to reduce months of work into a series of letter grades that will stay on the books forever.
But at Austin Peay State University, students do not have to wait for the end of a semester to learn their grade averages. Thanks to a new technology, pioneered by the university’s provost, they do not even have to wait for the semester to start.
Tristan Denley, the provost, has built software, called Degree Compass, that analyzes an individual student’s academic record, along with the past grades of hundreds of Austin Peay State students in various courses, and predicts how well a particular student is likely to do in a particular course long before the first day of class. (That includes first-year students; the software draws on their high school transcripts and standardized test scores.)

THE MUDPIE CURRICULUM

What happened on the Ides of March? Oh, something historical, I suppose–it doesn’t matter. But I want to take note of the huge breakthrough that is the introduction of nonfiction informational texts into American high school classrooms.
According to Education Week this week, “employers and college instructors found students weak at comprehending technical manuals, scientific and historical journals, and other texts pivotal to their work in those arenas.” So the decision was made to break the fiction monopoly in American high school classrooms, so that our high school graduates might have some knowledge of something or other when they move on to work or college.
To help me envision this huge change, I have tried to imagine a parallel educational universe, where, for example, high school students might read two or three complete history books each year, write a 5,000-word history research paper each year, and do their reading of novels on their own outside of school. But a problem in this universe would arise if college instructors and employers discovered that they knew nothing about science and/or technology.
So, perhaps like ours, their mammoth Educational Leviathan would move into action in that “dull, heavy, busy, bold and blind” way that ours does, to introduce those subjects into the schools. Of course they couldn’t jump right into math, chemistry and physics, any more than ours could jump into actual history books when considering nonfiction informational texts.
So they would have to start at the beginning, perhaps with curriculum development, assessment strategies, and teacher professional development programs to prepare for a unit in, perhaps, “small drying earth mounds.” This could introduce students to the ideas of water and earth and the processes of wetting and drying, and later perhaps the flaking of dried earth under pressure (aka “The Mudpie Curriculum”).
After a number of innovative units like this one, the curriculum could gradually venture into the ideas of preparing meals as a kind of chemistry, the bouncing of balls as a start on the idea of quantum physics, and of course the introduction of counting on fingers and toes as a start on advanced calculus.
As with our parallel ventures into nonfiction informational texts, the progress of students in science and math would be slow, easily blamed on demographics and insufficient funding for education, and students would graduate with only a smattering, if that is not too strong a word, of the rudiments, if that is not too strong a word, of math and the physical sciences. But the educational establishment in that other universe could honestly claim to have started to remedy the problems caused by the absence of science and math in the schools, and student ignorance in those areas.
Back in our universe, the nonfiction informational texts are planned to include, in addition to the all-important bus schedules, “brochures, catalogs, menus, and other text types” so that students and their parents can not, in all fairness, say that they had never seen any nonfiction offered in our schools.
Nevertheless, our nonfiction equivalent of that parallel universe’s breakthrough Mudpie Curriculum would leave our students in the future in the same spot they are in now, never having read a single nonfiction book in high school, knowing no more history than they did in the second grade, and completely unprepared for college nonfiction book reading lists, not to mention college term papers (also nonfiction).
But we would have been true to our anti-academic, anti-knowledge, anti-intellectual educational traditions, and we would once again have successfully defeated an attempt to introduce significant amounts of knowledge for our students into the schools and once again prevented them from acquiring any worthwhile degree of academic competence.
We will be criticized of course, but that will be, as usual, water off a duck’s back, and after all, it cannot be denied that we were asked to provide nonfiction informational texts and we provided them. Perhaps bus schedules, brochures and menus are not everyone’s idea of worthwhile nonfiction informational texts, but we made a start, and no doubt succeeded in blocking the introduction of complete history books into our nation’s public high schools for perhaps another generation. So don’t say we did nothing for all that extra money!
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
March 15, 2012

US needs to take concrete steps to halt our slide in math, sciences

Elliott Cheu, via a kind reader’s email:

Students in the 21st century face an array of difficult problems ranging from our reliance upon nonrenewable fuel sources to the demands of an ever increasing population.
While education alone is not a panacea to these issues, without a strong educational background, our citizenry will be unable to tackle these problems head-on. The STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), in particular, will serve to guide us in achieving a more sustainable and prosperous future.
In spite of the fact that our world is becoming increasing dependent upon knowledge, and its creation, only 4 percent of the U.S. workforce is composed of engineers and scientists, according to the 2010 report “Science and Engineering Indicators.”

School reform free-for-all has the cash flying

Eric Wieffering:

Education reform has all the hallmarks of a parent-led, grass-roots movement to fix failing public schools.
But it’s become a big business, too. Nonprofits and interests from both ends of the political spectrum are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into reform initiatives, and hundreds of companies — for profit and nonprofit alike — are scrambling for a share of the hundreds of billions spent annually educating students in kindergarten through grade 12.
The Walton Family Foundation, named after Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, gave more than $159 million to education reform initiatives in 2011. The New York Times reported that Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ foundation spent more than $370 million on education reform efforts in 2009, and expects to spend an additional $3 billion over the coming five or six years.

Mapping the College Culture Gap

Matthew Stevenson:

Although the television series “Mad Men” has yet to take up the subject of college applications, I could well imagine an episode in which ad man Don Draper spends his day consuming vast quantities of Scotch and cigarettes, only to come home and have his wife say (while ignoring the lipstick on his collar): “I spoke to Millie today, and she had some good things to say about Williams.”
When Britain still had an Empire, what mattered most was to get your daughters married and your sons into a good regiment. In Homeland America, all that matters to middle-class and affluent parents is getting their children into the best colleges that money can buy or that the Standardized Aptitude Test will allow.
Friends of mine who have college-bound children talk only about test schedules, AP credits, summer programs for gifted children, sports highlight reels, and the easiest routes to Duke or Pomona.

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

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

Erin Richards:

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

Madison School Board Candidates Face Tough Questions At Forum

channel3000:

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

School Standards Wade into Climate Debate

Tennille Tracy:

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

Oakland’s new high school teaching positions

Katy Murphy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higher Education: Save the males?

Times Dispatch:

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

I dare you to measure the “value” I add

Summer:

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

Much more on “value added assessment“, here.

Heads I Lobby, Tails You Are Lobbied

Mike Antonucci:

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

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

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