Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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

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

Jessica Calefati:

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

How to Raise Boys Who Read

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

Thank you from Singapore

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

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

Terry Stoops

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

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

The List: Five of the best campus novels

David Lodge

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

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

Jeremy Meyer

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

Changes to the Madison School District Student Conduct and Discipline Plan

16 Page PDF:

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

Schoolwork

Nicholas Lehman

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

Four Kids, Four Languages, One World

Patchworks Films:

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

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

Forward Lookout:

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

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

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

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

Homeschooling: Achieving Techno-Literacy

Kevin Kelly

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

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

Kevin Kelly’s blog.

Correlating Federal Spending and College Tuition

Political Calculations

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

The School of Hard Drives

Deborah Solomon:

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

Report: Poor science education impairs U.S. economy

Dan Vergano

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

Affirmative Action for the Rich

Richard D. Kahlenberg

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

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

685K PDF: Fall Budget Assumption Update.

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

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

Comments on Zuckerberg’s $100M for Newark Schools

New Jersey Left Behind

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

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

Waiting for the Teacher’s Union

Joel Klein

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

Waiting for Solutions

Ruth Starkman

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

New Jersey districts to post teacher evaluations online

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

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity:

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

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

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

Donna St. George

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

Why are Alabama schools going broke?

Jon Miltimore:

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

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

Looking for Baby Sitters: Foreign Language a Must

Jenny Anderson:

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

Competition and Education

Matthew Yglesias:

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

The Case For Getting Rid of Tenure

Christopher Beam:

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

Academic Fraud in China

The Economist:

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

Mobile Education Uprising

Douglas Crets:

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

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

Dan Hardy:

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

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

Soft-Drink Sales Drop in Schools, Group Says

Betsy McKay:

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

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

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo:

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

Roma children segregated in Czech schools

Jan Cienski:

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

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

Robert Rothman:

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

Jay Matthews has more.

4K in Madison : Some Answers but More Questions

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

Monthly Update From Madison BOE President Arlene Silveira

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

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

On Teacher Mentoring

Amy Hetzner:

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

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

Are Wisconsin Students Progressing?

The Wisconsin Taxpayer [Request a Copy]:

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

Schools of Hope Tutor Training

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

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

Jonah Lehrer:

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

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

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

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

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

Court Weighs Funding For Special Education

Robert Barnes & Daniel de Vise:

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

Charter School Rally Set for Massachusetts State House

Boston Globe:

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

William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review Presentation

William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review. Varsity Academics®

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

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

Continue reading William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review Presentation

School taxes lower than expected

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

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

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

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

Some High Schools Are Dropping Out of the Advanced Placement Program

Eddy Remirez:

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

Dane County High School AP course offerings.

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

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

Meet the Neets

Julie Henry & Miles Goslett:

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

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

Eddy Ramirez:

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

Much more, here.

MMSD Retirees — A Season of Thanks

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

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

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

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

Channel3000:

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

Meet Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University

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

Ruth Simmons — America’s Best Leaders 2007

Madison program helps teens improve driving

Marv Balousek:

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

Introduction to a standards-based educational system #2

MMSD Department of Teaching & Learning:

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

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

Despite IB Growth, College Credit is Elusive

Jay Matthews:

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

Hunting the genes of genius

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

Battery Arrest at LaFollette High School

Madison Police Department:

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

Via Isthmus.

Elections create teaching opportunities for students of all ages

Amy Hetzner:

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

Oak Creek launches effort to find jobs for students with disabilities

Laura Thompson:

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

Pangea Day, May 10 2008


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

Money Matters: Raising Money Smart Kids by Janet Bodnar

Books for Kids Blog: [RSS]

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

Five minutes of glory

Virginia Heffernan:

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

Mathiak’s “concerns” about small learning communities

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

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

Continue reading Mathiak’s “concerns” about small learning communities

Board Talks Will Focus on a New Blueprint

Susan Troller
The Capital Times
September 25, 2007

Football coach Barry Switzer’s famous quote, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple,” could easily apply to schools and school districts that take credit for students who enter school with every advantage and continue as high achievers all along.
But how do you fairly judge the job that teachers, schools and districts with many children who have significant obstacles — obstacles like poverty, low parental expectations, illness and disability or lack of English proficiency — are doing? Likewise, how do you make certain that your top students are adding growth every year as they go through school, rather than just coasting toward some average or proficient standard?

Continue reading Board Talks Will Focus on a New Blueprint

A Beloved Professor Delivers the Lecture of a Lifetime

Moving On
Jeff Zaslow
Wall Street Journal
September 20, 2007

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.
He motioned to them to sit down. “Make me earn it,” he said.
What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? For Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, the question isn’t rhetorical — he’s dying of cancer. Jeff Zaslow narrates a video on Prof. Pausch’s final lecture.
They had come to see him give what was billed as his “last lecture.” This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?
It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O’Connor recently titled her lecture “Get Over Yourself.” At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled “Desire,” spoke about sex and technology.
At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.
He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, “I’m sorry to disappoint you.” He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.
[photo]
Randy Pausch and his three children, ages 5, 2 and 1.
Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he’d won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn’t need them anymore.
He paid tribute to his techie background. “I’ve experienced a deathbed conversion,” he said, smiling. “I just bought a Macintosh.” Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: “Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.” He encouraged us to be patient with others. “Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you.” After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he’d drawn on the walls, he said: “If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let ’em do it.”
While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. “You’d be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away,” he said, but they all rose to the challenge.
He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home’s resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she’d introduce him: “This is my son. He’s a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”
He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation’s foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop “Alice,” a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.
“Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don’t get to step foot in it,” Dr. Pausch said. “That’s OK. I will live on in Alice.”
Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though “I may not get there with you.”
Dr. Pausch’s lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.
Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang “Happy Birthday,” many wiping away their own tears.
Dr. Pausch’s speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they’re older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: “This was for my kids.” Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.
Write to Jeffrey Zaslow at jeffrey.zaslow@wsj.com

Open records request re: private school busing

I want to know who knew what when about missing the August 4 deadline to notify parents of the MMSD decision on busing private school students, so I sent the following to Steve Hartley:

I am sending this message to you because I was told that you are now the legal custodian of district records.
This is an open records request under sec. 19.35 of the Wisconsin Statutes for all records, prepared between August 22, 2006 and August 22, 2007, that relate to or mention in any way the busing of private school students by the Madison Metropolitan School District.
As I hope that you know, Wisconsin statues define records rather broadly. It is my understanding that the definition would include any e-mail between staff on their personal computers or MMSD computers and all e-mail that might have a format such as b710146.admin.admin1@madison.k12.wi.us and b717934.mailpo1.maildomi@madison.k12.wi.us.
I look forward to your prompt response to this request.
Ed Blume

Parents still seek the elusive ‘right’ school

Howard Blume & Carla Rivera:

When it comes to looking out for her children and grandchildren, Patricia Britt, a no-nonsense hospital nursing director, is nobody’s fool. Yet here she is, in late July, beside herself because she hasn’t yet settled on a school for her 8-year-old grandson Corey to attend in the fall.
Britt and her son, who are raising Corey together, gradually became dissatisfied with the private school that’s putting a $400-a-month strain on the family budget. But they have concerns about the quality of the public schools close to their Hyde Park home. And schools that they do like, such as the View Park Preparatory charter school run by Inner City Education, have a discouragingly long waiting list.
“My son has been looking,” Britt said. “He’s getting kind of frustrated. It’s almost to the 99th hour of making the decision.”
No one knows exactly how many students are still without a school, but indicators show that the annual last-ditch scramble for a seat at a school of choice is in high gear:

Troubled Schools Getting Their Own Test Tutors

NPR:

Test scores in low-performing schools rose last year in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act passed more than five years ago. It requires testing and quantifiable goals to reform the country’s schools. Merrill Vargo, consultant and director of Springboard Schools, talks with Steve Inskeep about what she advises schools to do to raise their test scores.

A Model Middle School

Winnie Hu:

Across New York State and the nation, educators are struggling with performance slumps in middle schools and debating how best to teach students at a transitional, volatile age. Just this week New York City put in place a new budget formula that directs extra money to middle schools.
Briarcliff has emerged as a nationally recognized model of a middle school that gets things right, a place that goes beyond textbooks to focus on social and emotional development.
There is no question that the Briarcliff school starts out with many advantages. It is part of a district in Westchester County that spends $24,738 per student, or more than one and a half times the New York State average, and can afford to buy extra sets of classroom textbooks so that students can leave their own copies at home. Its student body is relatively homogenous — 91.8 percent are white — and so well off that less than 1 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. In contrast, in nearby New York City, 72 percent of the population qualifies.
But even affluent districts generally see a drop in student achievement in grades six through eight. Briarcliff has not; it is at the upper end of about 50 middle schools — out of more than 600 — in New York State where test scores have held steady and in some cases even increased slightly from the elementary level, according to state education data.

Pre-K in the South

The Southern Education Foundation [2.3MB Report]:

Over the last 140 years, Southern states have made significant progress in catching up with the nation in education and income, but in recent decades the South’s gains have virtually flattened as the world economy continues to elevate the critical role of education in innovation, productivity and income. Today, most Southern states remain where they were in the early 1980s, closer to the national average than they were decades ago, but still at or near the bottom of the nation’s major rankings in education, income and well-being.
There is an all-important exception to this pattern of Southern underperformance: high-quality, early childhood education – pre-kindergarten (Pre-K). Several Southern states have become the nation’s leaders in Pre-K over the last 10 years. As a result, the South in 2007 leads the nation in offering state-funded Pre-K to three- and four-year-old children:

19% of three- and four-year-olds in the South are in state-funded Pre-K, more than double the rate in non-South states.

Jenny Jarvie has more.

Thoughts on Vote to Reconsider

As other members have posted, it takes 4 votes to place an item on a board agenda. The big issue is that it takes a minimum of 5 votes to change the budget once it has been passed.
I have tried to emphasize that issue in conversations that have taken place in recent days. I have done so, not to be mean, but to encourage people to be highly pragmatic as they try to think through “what next” in this extremely painful time.
I have been asked if I would vote to reconsider. HOWEVER, it seems to me that there are two very different questions at hand:
1)is there a sustainable (e.g. more than a year or two)source of income that was not available or obvious to the board on Monday night. If not, any request to undo the consolidation is likely to fail. I would have trouble supporting it, for example, because of the strong chance that we will be having the same debate in a year or so. That doesn’t seem like a healthy choice for staff or students.
2) is the implementation plan for consolidation structured in the best way for the schools and neighborhoods? This is a very different question and speaks to a number of legitimate concerns that have been raised and which should be considered and addressed by the board and by district administration.
I strongly advise advocates for the pair to ask themselves whether there is a plan that would substantially alter the outcome of a vote on the first question – especially because success requires 5 votes in this case.
I would have a very hard time supporting a reconsideration that rests on reopening other budget decisions that were made on Monday. Similarly, I would have a hard time supporting reconsideration if there is not a viable new scenario to consider.
In short, it is a lot easier for me to envision reopening the consolidation to look at how to proceed in the best and most sustainable way, and to consider how to best work with neighborhoods and staff to rally around the merged school.
I realize that this is not as open ended as some of you may hope. However, IF there is going to be a successful move to reconsider, it will need to be firmly rooted in solid proposals that provide viable alternatives to the existing plan.

School district biting hand that feeds it

A letter to the editor from The Capital Times:


Dear Editor: With the multitude of challenges it’s facing, the Madison Metropolitan School District needs all the friends it can get. But the district is alienating central city neighborhoods that value quality public education and the people who are willing to pay for it.
At election time, voters in Ward 34 on Madison’s near east side always turn out in huge numbers to support schools. In May 2005, Ward 34 cast the most votes in the district in favor of all three referendum questions, including one calling for a new Leopold School on the south side. In fall 2006, Ward 34 cast the most yes votes — 1,849 of them — on the referendum that included building an elementary school on the far west side.
So where is MMSD planning to cut costs to deal with its latest budget crisis? Ward 34!
O’Keeffe Middle and Marquette Elementary (where Ward 34 votes) are two of the most successful schools in the district, by any measure. But for some reason, the district thinks it’s a good idea to save money by uprooting and consolidating Marquette at the Lapham site and transforming O’Keeffe into a mega-middle school of as many as 800 students. That’s some gratitude.
The district will need a lot of support as it struggles with state-imposed spending caps, exploding health care costs, changing demographic patterns, and other threats. But if the district follows through on its plans for Marquette and O’Keeffe, it can no longer take that support for granted.
Joseph Rossmeissl, Madison

Cherokee principal to receive equal opportunity award

A press release from the Urban League:

Media Release
April 26, 2007
Contact: Scott Gray
(608) 251-8550
sgray@ulgm.org
Cherokee Middle School Principal to Receive the 2007 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award
Madison, WI: The Urban League of Greater Madison recently announced that it will present Cherokee Heights Middle School Principal Karen Seno with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award.
The award is given annually by Boards of Directors of Urban League affiliates from across the country in memory of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League. Young was one of America’s most charismatic, courageous and influential civil rights pioneers. He worked tirelessly to gain access for blacks to good jobs, education, housing, health care and social services.

Continue reading Cherokee principal to receive equal opportunity award

MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

There seems to be some confusion about the negotiations between MTI and the school district. The Board WILL be negotiating health insurance with MTI; the Board has NOT taken health insurance off the table. The Voluntary Impasse Agreement (VIA) does NOT eliminate this as a subject of negotiation. The VIA DOES set up a structure for negotiations: a schedule, agreement by MTI that teachers will not engage in job actions, dates for the start of mediation if a settlement hasn’t been reached, name of the mediator, a date for binding arbitration if mediation is not successful and name of the arbitrator. IF no voluntary settlement is reached and we go to binding arbitration, MTI agrees that it will not propose a change to the salary schedule and the Board agrees not to change health insurance. Those agreements are meant to make binding arbitration less attractive to both sides – and to put the emphasis on reaching a voluntary agreement.
Because the Board has not yet provided MTI with our proposals I cannot discuss them in public. I can however talk about the settlement we have reached with our custodians who are represented by AFSCME. The custodians agreed to change their health insurance to a choice of 3 HMO’s (Group Health, Physicians Plus and DeanCare). The savings from this change allowed a greater salary increase (2.5%). A small amount of the savings ($15,000) went back to the budget. These savings are realized only in the first year – thereafter, the base for figuring future costs uses the lower health insurance costs.
One of the most dramatic changes of the last 5 years (and one that has been little noted) is the movement of teachers from WPS to Group Health. This year more than 50% of the teacher’s unit take Group Health Insurance – the lowest priced HMO in the community.
A more complete discussion of this issue can be found at: http://www.madisonamps.org/component/option,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,51/
Carol Carstensen

Board needs Cole and Thomas

Our schools need a new School Board majority, one committed to open government, including transparent budgeting and decision-making, and accountability to the community.
The next board will also hire the new superintendent and handle his or her performance evaluation, something Superintendent Art Rainwater has had little of from the current majority.
We stand at a crossroads with this election. Will it be more of the same top-down, teachers union-directed governance, or independent, open-minded, responsive representation?
There are many good issues-based reasons to vote for Maya Cole and Rick Thomas, but concerns for fair process and superintendent selection stand out for me.
It will take electing them both to gain that new majority.
– Joan Knoebel, Madison
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/opinion/readersviews/index.php?ntid=127085&ntpid=1

How can we help poor students achieve more?

Jason Shephard:

As a teacher-centered lesson ended the other morning at Midvale Elementary School, about 15 first-graders jumped up from their places on the carpeted rug and dashed to their personal bins of books.
Most students quickly settled into two assigned groups. One read a story about a fox in a henhouse with the classroom teacher, and another group, headed by a UW-Madison student teacher, read a more challenging nonfiction book about a grandmother who, as one child excitedly noted, lived to be 101.
In addition to this guided reading lesson, one boy sat at a computer wearing headphones, clicking on the screen that displayed the words as a story was read aloud to him, to build word recognition and reading stamina. Two other boys read silently from more advanced books. Another boy received one-on-one help from a literacy coach conducting a Reading Recovery lesson with him.
“I think what’s so important is that this program truly meets the needs of a variety of students, from those who are struggling to those who are accelerated,” says Principal John Burkholder.

Continue reading How can we help poor students achieve more?

East Side school plan opposed

East Side school plan opposed
DEBORAH ZIFF
608-252-6120
March 19, 2007
Waving bright signs and chanting, dozens of parents, kids, and teachers converged at a School Board meeting Monday night to protest proposed budget cuts that could consolidate elementary and middle schools on the East Side.
Earlier this month, Madison school officials proposed addressing a projected $10.5 million shortfall in next year’s budget by moving Marquette Elementary students to Lapham Elementary and splitting Sherman Middle School students between O’Keeffe and Black Hawk middle school. The move would save about $800,000.
School Board members are still wrangling with at least five options to deal with the budget deficit and were presented with an alternative consolidation plan at Monday’s meeting.
But many affected students, parents and teachers came to the meeting angry about the administration’s recommendation to take students out of Marquette and Sherman, arguing it would eliminate neighborhood schools, force kids who currently walk to school to take buses, and increase class sizes.
“I really don’t want to go to Lapham,” said Kalley Rittman, a Marquette fourth-grader who was at the rally with her parents. “All the kids are going to be squished in one place.”
Currently, Kalley and her sister in third grade, Hannah, walk to Marquette, said their mother, Kit. They would have to be bused to Lapham.
Kalley was also clutching an envelope with letters from other students and teachers at Marquette, and later spoke in front of the board, telling them she created a video on the school for them to watch.
Faye Kubly said her 11-year-old son had trouble in elementary schools before he transferred to Marquette, where teachers developed a system for him to learn successfully. She and other parents called the middle school proposal a “mega middle school” and called on the state to change its funding guidelines.

Continue reading East Side school plan opposed

WSJ Endorses Rick Thomas

WSJ Endorse Thomas for Seat 3
Rick Thomas has run a successful business.
He understands the importance of serving customers. He has made decisions about which employees, equipment and services he can afford and which he can’t afford.
He also understands and appreciates schools. He has been a substitute teacher and a volunteer tutor. He is a father with a son in elementary school.
His concern for Madison schools, enlightened by his business sense, would make him a valuable addition to the School Board.
He proposes more cost-benefit analyses to weed out unsuccessful programs.
He also proposes to improve discipline in the classrooms to create an environment more conducive to learning.
In addition, he wants the School Board and administration to be more open to parents’ ideas and to more partnerships with parents, businesses and community organizations, as well as more involvement by the schools in the community, particularly through student public service projects.

Civics Failure in Public Education

Paul Soglin:

While everyone is weighing in on the best way to teach our kids, I cannot get over the failure to educate youngsters about American institutions.
The more inclusive and more truthful curriculum about our nation’s history that is taught today is a vast step forward. However, when I graduated from high school I could discuss the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the the Declaration of Independence and their inherent contradictions. I knew the three branches of government and their powers.

There are some teachers who emphasize civics. A great teacher friend recently mentioned “if we’re doing such a good job with the students, why are so few people asking questions of our government?”

My Thoughts on Lapham-Marquette

Over the past week, I have had several heartfelt e-mails from residents of the Lapham-Marquette neighborhood, urging me and other board members to oppose closing Lapham School. To put the e-mails in context, let us all remember that there are MANY proposals out there because EVERYTHING is on the table thanks to the $10 million structural deficit that the district faces.
For those of you who are unaware of my background, let me share with you that I have lived in the Marquette neighborhood since 1978, first as a renter and now as a home owner. My membership # at Willy St. is 10. Yes, ten. My roots go deep, as does my memory of community history. After all, I chose to live there when we had to step over drunks to get to the laundromat, and anyone could get a good dose of grease and indigestion at Dolly’s. I moved in when there were crack houses around the corner, and stayed because it was a values choice.
So where do I stand on “don’t close Lapham?” This is the gist of what I am replying to the e-mails:
I have lived in the Marquette neighborhood since 1978 and was engaged in the vigorous and divisive neighborhood debate over whether to reopen Lapham. Having opposed reopening Lapham at the time because the optimistic demographic projections seemed unsupportable, and having predicted that we would end up at exactly this point, I am now disinterested in closing it so that we can debate the issue once more in ten years. I would note that the majority of children in Lapham are still being bused from the Marquette side of the isthmus; after all these years, the school as family magnet argument has not lived up to predictions.
That said, there is a brutal bugetary reality before the district. $10 million in structural – ongoing – deficit is going to mean change for all of our schools. For that reason, I will be supporting a review of staffing levels for the current population and demographics. (I urge everyone considering the debate to look at the demographics http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/topics/stats/2006/byincome.htm for ALL of our elementary schools and understand that as a progressive I must be concerned for the schools that are functioning with high levels of poverty and inadequate staffing.)
I urge the people who are so passionate about not closing Lapham or combining the pair to be proactive about proposals that can make keeping the school open easier to support. This means finding ways to use the space for some segment of district administration or renting space to community groups or finding some other use that goes beyond the current structure. E.g., the district used to rent space to the Tenney Lapham nursery school.
This time around, it is going to take a lot more than rhetoric or advocacy for referenda to address the very real shortage of resources that we face.

Science a la Joe Camel

A reader forwarded this: Laurie David:

At hundreds of screenings this year of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.
The producers of former vice president Al Gore’s film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.
The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.
Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film’s theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Continue reading Science a la Joe Camel

UK ‘Brains register’ for bright children

‘Brains register’ for bright children
By Nick Hodgson, PA
Published: 11 July 2006
A register of talented pupils in England is being launched by the Government.
Head teachers at every secondary school will get letters this week asking them to register their brightest and most talented pupils with the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (Nagty), according to the BBC.
The aim is to help children from poorer backgrounds fulfil their potential.
Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: “We must stop the terrible waste of talent when children don’t reach their full potential.
“This register will ensure they are spotted early and don’t lose out because they come from a deprived background.
“Our brightest children should be helped to reach the top and use their gifts. The pursuit of excellence which benefits the whole country should be open to children of all backgrounds, not just a privileged minority.”
The scheme will involve having specially-trained teachers in every secondary school and in groups of primary schools.
But the plans have been criticised.
Former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead said the problem was not identifying the bright pupils, but offering them appropriate support.
Mr Woodhead, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: “The problem is doing something for them and if secondary schools are not doing enough for the brightest children now why are they going to do anything for them if they are on a register?”
He said if there were more grammar schools gifted children would prosper anyway because “there, bright children are educated in schools for bright children”.
The register follows research from education charity the Sutton Trust which suggested just one-in-five children from poorer homes go on to higher education compared with half of those from the top three social classes.
The Government wants schools to identify the top 5% of 11 to 19-year-olds who are eligible for Nagty membership.
http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article1171813.ece

The Power of Blogs

Marisue, Your comments are closed so I have to open a new post. Curiously, you as one of the regular posters here complain about the influence of blogs and talk radio. I saw lots of your candidates’ supporters at the 92.1 radio forum and many of your associates, especially from the special ed bloc, post here regularly.
So what’s the beef exactly–that folks can speak their minds freely and reference materials and sources not otherwise available in the echo chamber that has until recently been our political scene here in Madison?
I am happy to have this place to debate ideas. I welcome the disagreement so long as it isn’t personal. I think that’s something alot of folks have gotten sick of with the way the current board majority functions–if you don’t fall in step, you’re attacked personally.
So let’s keep talking, posting new data, pushing for answers together–here, and hopefully before a school board dedicated to those same principles.

VOTE FOR COLE AND MATHIAK

VOTE FOR COLE AND MATHIAK
This was a letter to the editor published in the Wisconsin State Journal, March 30, 2006
Dear Editor,
The best reason to vote for Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak: Electing both will change the majority on the school board. Together, Maya and Lucy will restore decorum to a board now typified by bullying and rigidity. Open government, accessible to all, and transparent decision-making will be the new order. Instead of simply rubberstamping administration and union positions, Lucy and Maya will work hard to build consensus, to develop creative answers to knotty issues like budget constraints, curriculum standards, equity; and they will support their decisions with real data gleaned from outside the current echo chamber. A vast improvement over the status quo, they will also exercise genuine oversight, making the board, not the superintendent or the union president, the final arbiter of district policy.
These are women of high standards, integrity and a refreshing honesty, both deeply committed to educating our children. Please join me in voting for Cole and Mathiak on April 4th. Together, they will transform board governance by resurrecting civility, accountability and public accessibility so that our schools can best prepare all children for their and our future.
Joan Knoebel

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Marketing Tools Aid Schools

Elizabeth Redden:

The increased popularity of “school choice” and charter schools has another — often overlooked — consequence: an increased emphasis on school marketing.
“Schools find themselves in a different environment today,” said Dr. Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change in Minnesota.
“It used to be pretty cut and dried who goes to what school.
“As we’ve evolved in the last decade toward more public school choice through the charter school movement, more and more families want to learn about their options.”
Delaware is one of the nation’s leaders in school choice, according to a 2005 report released by the nonprofit Rodel Foundation of Delaware.

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Opinion Journal
CROSS COUNTRY
Black Flight
The exodus to charter schools.

BY KATHERINE KERSTEN
MINNEAPOLIS–Something momentous is happening here in the home of prairie populism: black flight. African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools.
Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools. As a result, Minneapolis schools are losing both raw numbers of students and “market share.” In 1999-2000, district enrollment was about 48,000; this year, it’s about 38,600. Enrollment projections predict only 33,400 in 2008. A decline in the number of families moving into the district accounts for part of the loss, as does the relocation of some minority families to inner-ring suburbs. Nevertheless, enrollments are relatively stable in the leafy, well-to-do enclave of southwest Minneapolis and the city’s white ethnic northeast. But in 2003-04, black enrollment was down 7.8%, or 1,565 students. In 2004-05, black enrollment dropped another 6%.

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Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force

Thanks for the link to the minutes of the October 31 meeting in the other thread. I found the document fascinating, and am posting it here (with the portion of the meeting devoted to expungement deleted for length reasons) for those who are following the equity task force. The discussion leading up to the charge is particularly interesting. The “continue reading” link will take you to the full minutes.

Continue reading Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force

Prevailing Wisdom on Autism Questioned

From University Communications, UW-Madison

Experts question prevalent stereotypes about autism

February 20, 2006
by Paroma Basu
As theories about autism spread like wildfire in the media and the general public, a panel of autism experts will reflect on the validity of four widely held – and potentially inaccurate – assumptions about the developmental disability.
Drawing on the latest in autism research, a psychologist, an epidemiologist, a psychiatrist and a physician will critically assess widespread stereotypes about autism during a symposium entitled “Science of Autism,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“With the surge in both scientists and society turning their attention toward autism, there comes responsibility,” says Morton Gernsbacher, a Vilas Research Professor of psychology at UW-Madison and the symposium’s chair and organizer. “It behooves us as scientists to distinguish uninformed stereotypes from scientific reality and to move beyond myths and misconceptions.”

Continue reading Prevailing Wisdom on Autism Questioned

Elite French Schools Block the Poor’s Path to Power

Craig Smith:

Nothing represents the stratification of French society more than the country’s rigid educational system, which has reinforced the segregation of disadvantaged second-generation immigrant youths by effectively locking them out of the corridors of power.
While French universities are open to all high school graduates, the grandes écoles – great schools – from which many of the country’s leaders emerge, weed out anyone who does not fit a finely honed mold. Of the 350,000 students graduating annually from French high schools, the top few grandes écoles accept only about 1,000, virtually all of whom come from a handful of elite preparatory schools.