Category Archives: Uncategorized

College Waitlists Offer Little Hope

Rachel Louise Ensign & Melissa Korn:

So Harvard has put you–or someone you know–on its waitlist. Great news! Or maybe not.
A spot on a waitlist from an elite school doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate is closer to the finish line. Some may be waitlisted, for example, because though their grades weren’t quite good enough or they didn’t take enough advanced placement classes, they still piqued the interest of admissions officers. Others are offered spots purely out of courtesy, such as family members of alumni or children of donors who failed to make the academic cut.
Schools often pad their waitlists to protect their “yield,” or the proportion of accepted students who choose to attend. They can admit fewer students on the first pass, to maintain their aura of exclusivity, then move on to the waitlist if accepted students turn them down.

UW Dept of Educational Policy Studies Brownbag on MMSD Achievement Gap

Laura De-Roche Perez, via a kind email:

On Monday May 7, 2012 from 12-130 pm, the Department of Educational Policy Studies at UW-Madison will host a brownbag on the topic “What is the Madison Metropolitan School District achievement gap — and what can be done about it?” It will feature EPS faculty and affiliates Harry Brighouse, Adam Gamoran, Nancy Kendall, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Linn Posey.
The brownbag will take place in the Wisconsin Idea Room at the Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall.

Much more on Adam Gamoran, including a video interview, here.

Why getting into Harvard is no longer an honor

Jay Matthews:

You may have seen that Harvard just set a record for low undergraduate admission rate. Only 5.9 percent of applicants for the class of 2016 were accepted. I was going to do one of my many rants on why we should wake up and see that being admitted to the Ivies and certain other schools is no more a sign of depth and brilliance than winning the Mega Millions lottery. I was going to point out that Harvard could admit a full class of its rejects that would be just as good as the students it accepted. But I already wrote a book about that, “Harvard Schmarvard.” And yesterday I got an e-mail that says it better than I ever did.
So I offer this as a theme for this week’s discussion. The writer declined to be identified other than as “Concerned Student.” I usually don’t print anonymous contributions, but I am making an exception in this case since he speaks well for his college age group. Tell us what you think.
By “Concerned Student”

Madison schools prepare for life after Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WANTED: A K-12 schools leader with experience uniting a divided community, managing tight budgets and closing achievement gaps in an urban school setting.
PROBLEM: A shrinking pool of such dynamic leaders and a growing number of urbanizing districts like Madison seeking top talent.
“It is a tight market,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. “The number of experienced superintendents that have done well in their districts and have the reputation of having done well — those are relatively few and those are the ones that everyone is going after.”
Madison will soon be conducting a search for a new schools chief after superintendent Dan Nerad announced he plans to depart by June 2013, when his current contract expires. He recently was named a finalist for a superintendency in Omaha, Neb., and though he wasn’t selected, he hasn’t ruled out moving to another job before the next school year starts.
Though Nerad’s time in Madison will have been short-lived compared to his predecessor, Art Rainwater, who retired after 10 years, the average superintendent in a mid- to large-sized city holds the job for an average of 3.5 years, Domenech said.

Much more on the Madison Superintendent search, here.

With Common Core, changes are coming to curriculum, tests

Paul Jablow:

If you’ve never heard of the Common Core standards, it’s time to take note: They could have a big effect on what students will learn – and maybe also on the tests that measure their progress.
This attempt at creating uniform academic standards stringent enough to ensure that students in every state are ready for college or career has been years in the making. It is being pushed by the Obama administration, with help from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal is to raise the bar nationally and make American students more competitive with those abroad.
Longtime proponents point out that individual state standards are all over the place in terms of rigor and expectations. They argue that clear standards for what students at each grade level should know and be able to do, drawn up by top educators and used nationwide, can benefit everyone. And they say it doesn’t require dictating what happens in the classroom.

School referendums greeted favorably by Wisconsin voters

Barry Adams:

Beloit has the state’s highest unemployment rate at 12.5 percent, and property values in the Beloit School District averge $198,000 per student — one of the lowest ratios in the state.
But on Tuesday, voters in the southern Rock County school district approved one of the costliest referendums in state history.
The $70 million plan to renovate most schools in the district, build a middle school and a pool, is being called historic for the city. It will not only benefit education but, according to supporters, serve as a catalyst for economic development.
“From a marketing aspect, I shuddered every time I saw the figures. It’s a heck of a lot of money,” said Randy Upton, president of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, which publicly supported the plan. “By providing the facilities, it’s going to make people proud and make people look at Beloit as a place to live and invest.”
Beloit wasn’t alone Tuesday in its referendum success.

The Non-Joie of Parenting

Jennifer Conlin:

HARDLY a week goes by without an article or a book suggesting the newest, best — or oldest, but still best — way to raise a child. The most recent fixation is with the supposed superiority of the French.
I have been reading with great nostalgia Pamela Druckerman’s musings on the calmness of French parenting in “Bringing Up Bébé.” I too was a parent in France, having given birth to my son there some 15 years ago, after having a daughter, now 20, in England, and her sister, now 16, in Belgium.
In fact, it wasn’t until 18 months ago, when my husband and I finally returned to the States, that I first experienced motherhood in America. Until then, all I knew were the joys of European parenting as presented by Ms. Druckerman, from the way my children ate everything from coq au vin to kedgeree to our tranquil family life of weekend walks, nightly dinners and relaxing vacations.

Thornton’s tearing-down phase for Milwaukee Public Schools easier than building up

Alan Borsuk:

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton was fired up when he spoke recently to a crowd of about 250 at a north side church. I need your help, he told the audience. Help me tear down MPS and build up a better one.
I don’t think I’d ever heard a school superintendent say he wants to tear down the system he heads, but I understand where Thornton was going. The status quo in MPS is not so thrilling. Some things have to go if you want to get to a better place.
But I have a serious concern that, because of circumstances mostly beyond Thornton’s control, things may be going better on the “tearing down” side of Milwaukee Public Schools than on the “building up” side.
What does it take to have a successful school system? Let’s focus on a few key ingredients: People, money and a unifying, energizing sense of mission.
People, both in terms of quality and numbers. MPS is in a precarious state on these scores. When teachers voted a week ago by a decisive margin not to give up a week’s pay next year to ease cuts in classroom services, they played a serious part in the unfolding plot for 2012-’13 to be a grim year for MPS.

The Real Causes of Income Inequality: Any analysis of taxes paid in high tax-and-spend countries shows that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world

Phil Gramm & Steve McMillin:

In the stagnant days of the Carter administration, when inflation was approaching 13.5% and interest rates were peaking at 21.5%, income was more evenly distributed than in any period in 20th-century America. Since the days of that equality in misery, the measured income of the top 1% of income tax filers has risen over three and a half times as fast as the income of the population as a whole.
This growth in income inequality is largely the result of three dynamics:
1) Changes in the way Americans pay taxes and manage their investments, which were a direct result of reductions in marginal tax rates.
2) A dynamic shift in the labor-capital ratio, resulting from the adoption of market-based economies around the world.

Trying to Find a Measure for How Well Colleges Do

Richard Perez- Pena:

How well does a college teach, and what do its students learn? Rankings based on the credentials of entering freshmen are not hard to find, but how can students, parents and policy makers assess how well a college builds on that foundation?
What information exists has often been hidden from public view. But that may be changing.
In the wake of the No Child Left Behind federal education law, students in elementary, middle and high schools take standardized tests whose results are made public, inviting anyone to assess, however imperfectly, a school’s performance. There is no comparable trove of public data for judging and comparing colleges.

More Act 10 Enabled Changes Approved by Milwaukee Public Schools

Mike Ford:

In other words, MPS had a surplus of teachers because older teachers were not retiring so as not to lose state pension benefits. Hence, a second pension to offset any loss was created. However, since 1982 the early retirement penalty for teacher has been reduced or eliminated, turning the second pension into an additional benefit which MPS states it had “no intent to establish.”
The survival of the second pension long past its justifiable usefulness is a result of a collective bargaining process that rarely gives back established benefits (see, for example, MTEA’s 2011 rejection of concessions that would have saved teacher jobs). Former MPS superintendent Howard Fuller, school choice advocate George Mitchell, and former WPRI staffer Michael Hartman did a good job documenting in a 2000 book chapter (see figure one) the dramatic growth of the MPS/MTEA contract from an 18 page document in 1965 to a 232 page document in 1997. The most recent published contract? 258 pages.

Much more, here.

Group Aims to Counter Influence of Teachers’ Union in New York

Anna Phillips:

Leaders of a national education reform movement, including Joel I. Klein and Michelle Rhee, the former schools chancellors in New York and Washington, have formed a statewide political group in New York with an eye toward being a counterweight to the powerful teachers’ union in the 2013 mayoral election.
The group, called StudentsFirstNY, is an arm of a national advocacy organization that Ms. Rhee founded in 2010. Like the national group, the state branch will promote the expansion of charter schools and the firing of ineffective schoolteachers, while opposing tenure.
Led by Micah Lasher, who is leaving his job next week as the director of state legislative affairs for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the campaign is beginning while advocates of reform have an ally in the mayor. But their eyes are focused on 2014, when a new mayor — most likely one who is more sympathetic to the teachers’ union than Mr. Bloomberg has been — enters office.

There Are as Many Student-Loan Debtors as College Graduates

Richard Vedder:

Here is arguably the most startling statistic you have heard this year: It is likely that there are at least as many adult Americans with student-loan debts outstanding as there are living bachelor’s degree recipients who ever took out student loans. That’s right: as many debtors as degree holders! How can that be? First, huge numbers of those borrowing money never graduate from college. Second, many who borrow are not in baccalaureate degree programs. Three, people take forever to pay their loans back.
Let’s do the math. Recent data suggest there are about 40 million holders of student-loan debt. The New York Fed in a study puts the number a little lower, but estimates by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) suggest a somewhat higher figure. There are, give or take a million, roughly 60 million college graduates. Yet a good proportion, somewhere around one-third, of college graduates, never borrowed money to go to college (that is probably doubly true of graduates in the early 1990s). In other words, at most 40 million adults with four-year degrees borrowed money. Bottom line: an awful lot of people borrow to go to college and never graduate, and/or take forever to pay off their student loans.

Can This ‘Online Ivy’ University Change the Face of Higher Education?

Jordan Weissman:

Traditionally, for-profit colleges have operated on the lowest rungs of America’s educational ladder, catering to poor and lower-middle-class students looking for a basic, convenient degree or technical training. Aspiring Ivy Leaguers have remained far out of the industry’s sites.
That is, until now.
This week, the Minerva Project, a startup online university, announced that it had received $25 million in seed financing from Benchmark Capital, a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm known for its early investments in eBay, among other successful web companies. Minerva bills itself as “the first elite American university to be launched in a century,” and promises to re-envision higher education for the information age. The chairman of its advisory board: Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary and Harvard president. Among others, he’s joined on the board by Bob Kerry, the former United States senator and president of The New School.

UK Teaching unions open door for further strikes

Helene Mulholland:

Schools could be hit by fresh waves of strikes from this summer after two teaching unions put the government on notice that they intend to continue their campaign against the government’s planned reforms to their pensions.
The National Union of Teachers passed a resolution behind closed doors at its annual conference in Torquay seeking fresh walkouts as early as this summer amid concerns over the government’s changes to public sector pensions.
The resolution was passed just hours after the NASUWT, which is holding its conference in Birmingham, agreed to step up its industrial action campaign against what they see as a series of attacks on pay, pensions, working conditions and job losses – raising the possibility of strikes in the autumn term.

Madison School District High School Graduation Rate Discussion

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

This memo is follow up to a discussion of MMSD high school completion rates and on track status from February. Highlights of this follow up are:

  • Preparedness matters. Results from the Kindergarten Screener are predictive of a student’s likelihood of completing high school. Of students starting their school years unprepared, over 25% will drop out and nearly half will take longer than four years to complete high school.
  • Attendance matters. Over half of the students with a high school attendance rate less than 80% will drop out.
  • Credits matter. Students not earning the required number of credits in Grade 9 are less likely to complete high school. Students earning one credit or less face a dropout rate of 63%.
  • Tenure matters. The length of time a student is with MMSD or in one of its high schools has an impact on the likelihood he or she will earn a diploma or equivalency. Getting a student to attend longer than his or her first year is critical.
  • Behavior matters. Students with one or more suspensions per year complete high school only one third of the time.

Revised on track calculations still indicate a decline among Hispanic, black and ELL students. However, the decline is not as pronounced as it was once the numbers for 2009-10 presented in February were revisited.
The Board had also asked about the characteristics of certain students. Students enrolled less than four years with MMSD are more likely to be black, Hispanic, low income, and ELL. They are less likely to have earned 5.5 credits in Grade 9 and are less likely to have high attendance. Interestingly, they are less likely to be identified as special ed and are less likely to have been suspended. These may reflect the shorter duration of their enrollment with MMSD.
Black students known to be continuing beyond four years in high school are more likely to be low income, special ed, enroll in SAPAR, and have at least on out-of-school suspension. They are also less likely to have earned 5.5 credits in Grade 9.

Omaha’s new Superintendent no Stranger to Controversy

Deena Winter:

Omaha’s new school superintendent is no stranger to controversy, having survived nepotism charges as the schools’ chief in Des Moines.
Nancy Sebring’s tenure presiding over 31,000 Des Moines students since 2006 has been controversial at times – particularly when her twin sister was hired as director of Des Moines’ first charter school 15 months ago.
Despite questions about how her sister got the job, Sebring has said she had nothing to do with an advisory board’s decision. The charter school’s launch has been rocky. It opened six months behind schedule and enrollment has not met projections, with 40 percent of students leaving its first year. The school has not provided quarterly reports as required and its budget is nearly twice as big as projected, according to the Des Moines Register.

New IBM App Presents Nearly 1,000 Years of Math History

Alexandra Chang:

Math nerds and historians, it’s time to get excited. Minds of Modern Mathematics, a new iPad app released Thursday by IBM, presents an interactive timeline of the history of mathematics and its impact on society from 1000 to 1960.
The app is based on an original, 50-foot-long “Men of Modern Mathematics” installation created in 1964 by Charles and Ray Eames. Minds of Modern Mathematics users can view a digitized version of the original infographic as well as browse through an interactive timeline with more than 500 biographies, math milestones and images of relevant artifacts.
IBM hopes that classes and students will use the app, provoking more people to pursue math, science or technology-related educations and jobs.
“Careers of the future will rely heavily on creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration — all themes that were core to the ‘Minds of Modern Mathematics’ movement and remain equally relevant today,” Chid Apte, IBM Director of analytics Research and Mathematical Sciences said in a press release. “What better way than a mobile app to reintroduce this timeless classic to inspire a new generation of learners?”

Union hits out over ‘educational failure’

Chris Cook:

A teachers’ union leader has accused ministers of being “like Pontius Pilate”, seeking to avoid responsibility for the “educational failure over which they . . . have more control than anyone else”.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said on Wednesday that schools cannot close attainment gaps on their own: “If we are to raise educational standards we need to look at our schools, yes. But that is not enough.”
The ATL is the third-largest teachers’ union in the UK with 160,000 members. It is renowned for its moderate stance and is the largest union in independent schools. The ATL went on strike for the first time last year over pension rights.

A Guide to Alternative Programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District

Daniel A. Nerad, Nancy Yoder, Sally Schultz:

To meet the goal of “100 percent graduation,” the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) provides a mix of educational choices as diverse as the students and families it serves. The Alternative Education system is designed to give a wider range of appropriate education options to students. These alternatives provide a continuum of choices that allows students to develop skills and successfully transition to their next learning environment, whether that is a regular education classroom, another alternative setting, a post-secondary program, or an adult work setting.
Students with disabilities are eligible to attend any of the MMSD Alternative Programs. These students must meet eligibility criteria like any other student and go through the appropriate referral processes. An IEP [blekko clusty google] committee must recommend a change of placement before the student can attend. Some programs are designated for special education students, for students involved in the court system, for students in a specific high school attendance area or for students who meet

Administration Memo on the Madison Superintendent Search

Dylan Pauly, Legal Services:

Dr. Nerad recently announced his retirement effective June 30, 2013. Consequently, over the next few months this Board will be required to begin its search for the next District leader. While some members of the Board were Board members during the search that brought Dr. Nerad to Madison, many were not. A number of members have asked me to provide some background information so that they may familiarize themselves with the process that was used in 2007. Consequently, I have gathered the following documents for your review:
1. Request for Proposals: Consultation Services for Superintendent Search, Proposal 3113, dated March 19, 2007;
2. Minutes from Board meetings on February 26,2007, and March 12,2007, reflecting Board input and feedback regarding draft versions ofthe RFP;
3. Contract with Hazard, Young and Attea;
4. A copy of the Notice of Vacancy that was published in Education Week;
5. Minutes from a Board meeting on August 27, 2007, which contains the general timeline used to complete the search process; and,
6. Superintendent Search- Leadership Profile Development Session Schedule, which reflects how community engagement was handled during the previous search.
It is also my understanding that the Board may wish to create an ad hoc committee to handle various procedural tasks related to the search process. In line with Board Policy 1041, I believe it is appropriate to take official action in open session to create the new ad hoc. I recommend the following motion:

Dave Zweiful shares his thoughts on Dan Nerad’s retirement.
Related: Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past.

The Madison School District’s two most recent Superintendent hires were Cheryl Wilhoyte [Clusty] and Art Rainwater [Clusty]. Art came to Madison from Kansas City, a district which, under court order, dramatically increased spending by “throwing money at their schools”, according to Paul Ciotti:

2008 Madison Superintendent candidate public appearances:

The Madison Superintendent position’s success is subject to a number of factors, including: the 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. contract, which may become the District’s handbook (Seniority notes and links)…, state and federal laws, hiring practices, teacher content knowledge, the School Board, lobbying and community economic conditions (tax increase environment) among others.

Superintendent Nerad’s reign has certainly been far more open about critical issues such as reading, math and open enrollment than his predecessor (some board members have certainly been active with respect to improvement and accountability). The strings program has also not been under an annual assault, lately. That said, changing anything in a large organization, not to mention a school district spending nearly $15,000 per student is difficult, as Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman pointed out in 2009.

Would things improve if a new Superintendent enters the scene? Well, in this case, it is useful to take a look at the District’s recent history. In my view, diffused governance in the form of more independent charter schools and perhaps a series of smaller Districts, possibly organized around the high schools might make a difference. I also think the District must focus on just a few things, namely reading/writing, math and science. Change is coming to our agrarian era school model (or, perhaps the Frederick Taylor manufacturing model is more appropriate). Ideally, Madison, given its unparalleled tax and intellectual base should lead the way.

Perhaps we might even see the local Teachers union authorize charters as they are doing in Minneapolis.

A Public Education Primer: Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System, 2012 Revised Edition

Nancy Kober and Alexandra Usher, via a kind Richard Askey email:

The 2012 Public Education Primer highlights important and sometimes little-known facts concerning the U.S. education system, how things have changed over time, and how they may change in the future. Together these facts provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s public schools, including data about students, teachers, funding, achievement, management, and non-academic services.

Poland’s Creative Commons’ Free Textbooks

nowoczesna Polska:

Polish Prime Minister Office yesterday accepted „Digital School program” with „Digital Textbooks” component included. With 45 million PLN (approx. 15 million USD) funding it has been the biggest governmental Open Educational Resources initiative in Poland so far. The government has decided to fund creating full set of educational materials for grades 4-6 (9-11 year olds). All those resources will be available under CC BY license, which is fully free license according to the Definition of Free Cultural Works.
„Digital School” program (with „Digital Textbooks” component) was initially drafted and proposed to the Prime Minister Office by Jarosław Lipszyc (Modern Poland Foundation), Piotr Pacewicz, Alicja Pacewicz (Center for Civic Education), Alek Tarkowski (Creative Commons Poland) with cooperation of Witold Przeciechowski (Prime Minister Office). All those organizations are members of Open Education Coalition, a network of NGOs and educational institutions promoting OER in Poland. This draft was accepted by Ministry of Education, but at a later stage of preparations the free licensing requirement was left out. Both Open Education Coalition and Modern Poland Foundation took part in the public consultation process; their comments in support of free licensing were taken on board in the very last minute. The final version of this program was yesterday accepted by the Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major

Melissa Korn:

Undergraduate business majors are a dime a dozen on many college campuses. But according to some, they may be worth even less.
More than 20% of U.S. undergraduates are business majors, nearly double the next most common major, social sciences and history.
The proportion has held relatively steady for the past 30 years, but now faculty members, school administrators and corporate recruiters are questioning the value of a business degree at the undergraduate level.
The biggest complaint: The undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses.

Are Pre-K Programs About To Get Gutted?

Andrew Rotherham:

When a little girl, who I’ll call Tina, arrived in a pre-kindergarten program in Washington, D.C. she was unable to recognize any sounds or letters. By the time she left for kindergarten she knew all her letters and more sounds than D.C.’s standards require. Now, six years later, Tina’s teachers say she’s “on a roll” in school.
There are plenty of legitimate debates about what works in education, but the importance of early-childhood education is not one of them. High-quality early-childhood programs help kids in school and in life. Why? Research shows that good programs can improve a variety of outcomes and University of Chicago economist and Nobel Laureate James Heckman points out that dollars invested early are higher leverage than later remediation. But it’s also common sense. Tina’s teachers say that until she learned behavioral and participatory skills she was simply unable to engage with and benefit from instruction at school. It’s good for parents, too, because good programs teach them about how to be involved and advocate for their child’s education.

Building on the Values of No Child Left Behind

Eric Smith:

Last week, the nation’s top public school officials gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual legislative conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The hot topic, unsurprisingly, was the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Several attendees — charged with implementing the law in their respective states — have applied for federal waivers from this law.
Some school officials have found it difficult to meet the law’s standards requiring that every student — even those that are poor or in minority groups — make progress each year.
NCLB might need some tinkering. As the discussion about reauthorization continues, it’s vital for students and the future of this country that the core principles of accountability, transparency and equality be preserved.
The George W. Bush Institute recently released ten “principles” that serve as guidance for state accountability. These principles show how to build on the foundation established by NCLB and then further improve the key areas of standards, student groups, parental choice, and college and career readiness.

The Assault on Public Education

Noam Chomsky:

Public education is under attack around the world, and in response, student protests have recently been held in Britain, Canada, Chile, Taiwan and elsewhere.
California is also a battleground. The Los Angeles Times reports on another chapter in the campaign to destroy what had been the greatest public higher education system in the world: “California State University officials announced plans to freeze enrollment next spring at most campuses and to wait-list all applicants the following fall pending the outcome of a proposed tax initiative on the November ballot.”
Similar defunding is under way nationwide. “In most states,” The New York Times reports, “it is now tuition payments, not state appropriations, that cover most of the budget,” so that “the era of affordable four-year public universities, heavily subsidized by the state, may be over.”
Community colleges increasingly face similar prospects – and the shortfalls extend to grades K-12.

Chinese Applicants Flood U.S. Graduate Schools

Melissa Korn:

More than ever, Chinese students have their sights set on U.S. graduate schools.
Application volume from that country rose 18% for U.S. master’s and doctoral programs starting this fall, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools that provides a preliminary measure of application trends. Specific programs of interest include engineering, business and earth sciences.
That is on top of a 21% jump last year and a 20% rise in 2010–and is the seventh consecutive year of double-digit gains from China, according to the graduate-school industry group. Applications from China now comprise nearly half of all international applications to U.S. graduate programs.

College-Bound Cast Wider Net


Laura Marino, a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., was spooked last year when a recent graduate there was accepted to only a couple of colleges, despite having top grades and strong test scores.
So Ms. Marino spread applications far and wide, adopting an increasingly common strategy among prospective college students, many of whom have learned the fate of their applications in recent weeks. She applied to 14 colleges, including 1,177-student Haverford College in Haverford, Pa.; University of Michigan, with more than 27,000 undergraduates; and six of the eight Ivy League schools.

Tennessee Is Lab for National Clash Over Science Class

Cameron McWhirter:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is likely in the coming days to sign into law a bill requiring that public schools allow science teachers to discuss purported weaknesses of theories such as evolution and global warming in their classrooms.
Supporters, including a socially conservative organization in the state and supporters of creationism, say the law allows teachers and students to critique scientific theories they believe have flaws. They point out the bill says the law “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”
No major cases of Tennessee science teachers being punished for questioning widely held theories have come to light, but the bill’s proponents argue it will provide a safeguard for those who want to raise questions.

Teachers? When Will We Learn?

George Lightbourn:

How did this happen? How did conservatives come to find themselves glaring across the battleground at tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s teachers? In the long run, the confrontation is not one that is likely to end well for conservatives.
Too often conservatives fall into the trap of equating teachers with the teachers’ unions. While hostility toward the unions might be justified – after all, they have reflexively opposed conservative school reform ideas for decades and have inappropriately intruded into classroom activities with the passive concurrence of union supported school board members – this hostility should not be transferred to teachers themselves. Anyone who ignores the distinction between teachers and teachers’ unions does so at their own peril.
There are several arguments supporting this reasoning; I offer up two of the better ones here.
First, there’s no getting around it, teachers are the people who need to, well, teach. While a handful of misguided teachers might drag their ideology into the classroom, most do not. When the bell rings, nearly all teachers set about doing their best to attain the same goal espoused by every educational reformer: to improve the performance of the students in their charge. Some are better at their job than others, but these are not malicious people.

School Board Winners Face Big Challenges

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial

Congratulations to all of Tuesday’s spring election winners — especially those willing to take on the challenges facing our public schools.
First-time candidate Mary Burke and incumbent Arlene Silveira won big in their bids for Madison School Board.
They and their opponents (Michael Flores and Nichelle Nichols, respectively) deserve credit for leading a community conversation on the future of Madison schools during their high-profile campaigns.
Now comes the time for action. And something bold is needed to boost dismal graduation rates for blacks and Latinos. The status quo isn’t working for a huge portion of minority students.

Ongoing Language Deformation Battles: Past Wisconsin school Spending surveys shed new light on ’11-12 results

Notes: Fund Balance is a District’s reserve cash/assets. The Madison School District’s fund balance, or equity declined significantly during the mid-2000’s, but has grown in recent years.

*The most recent survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and used a different format. The other surveys were conducted by the Wisconsin Education Association Council. WEAC didn’t respond to questions about whether it had results for the 2008-09, 2009-10 or 2010-11.

SOURCE: WASDA/WEAC surveys with comments from local newspaper reporter Matthew DeFour & Clay Barbour:
Matthew DeFour & Clay Barbour:

Wisconsin superintendents survey last fall found state budget cuts prompted school districts to eliminate thousands of staff positions, increase class sizes, raise student fees and reduce extracurricular offerings this school year.
But this week, Gov. Scott Walker’s office said those results don’t tell the full story and that similar surveys from past years show school districts fared better after his education changes went into effect.
Further, the governor’s office contends the organizations that conducted those surveys — the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators and the Wisconsin Education Association Council — were unhelpful, and in WEAC’s case actually worked against the administration as staff tried to compare recent results to past surveys.
“It’s unfortunate that WEAC stands in the way of survey data that they have released in the past, which shows the governor’s changes are working and are good for their members and the state’s schoolchildren,” said Cullen Werwie, Walker’s spokesman.
The older surveys show more school districts increased class sizes, reduced extracurricular programs, raised student fees and tapped reserves to balance their budgets in each year between 2002 and 2008 than they did in 2011-12.
In past years, about two-thirds to three-quarters of districts reported increasing student fees each year. This year, 22 percent of districts reported doing so.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators, Sparks fly over Wisconsin budget’s labor-related provisions and Teachers Union & (Madison) School Board Elections.
Describing the evil effects of revolution, Thucydides writes, “Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.” (P. 199 of the Landmark edition)
Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (1946).

In teaching, seniority trumps quality

Madeline Edison, James Kindle, Alicia La Croix & Sarah Schultes, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

A heavy burden rests on our shoulders as teachers: Alleviate Minnesota’s large achievement gaps, accelerate learning gains, and get all children college- and career-ready. We’re up to the challenge.
Teachers are the No. 1 in-school factor affecting student success. Research says a highly effective teacher can help students achieve as much as an additional year’s worth of academic gains over one school year compared with a less effective teacher.
That’s why it is so disheartening to see great teachers let go without regard to their performance.
Consider what happened late last month, when nearly 50 teachers in Eden Prairie received layoff notices.
These particular teachers were not laid off because they were bad teachers, because they had failed their students, or because parents, students or administrators wanted them to go. They were laid off because of a simple number: their number of years teaching in the district.
It’s become a common scene across the state, and it will repeat itself in the coming weeks and months because of the “last in, first out” teacher layoff policy, or LIFO. The policy requires school districts to look solely at the length of time a teacher has worked in the district when making layoff decisions, without any consideration of performance.

Teacher-Prep Rulemaking: Is Consensus in Jeopardy?

Stephen Sawchuk:

The panelists charged with rewriting federal teacher-preparation rules faced a grueling day today during which major tension points emerged with little resolution, all of which served to call into question whether they will be able to reach consensus by Thursday.
You don’t have to take my word for it: During some of the breaks, I spoke to a handful of negotiators–they all, reasonably, wanted to speak on background since the process isn’t finished yet–and by and large, they weren’t optimistic:
“It seems doubtful.” “Probably not good.” “I don’t know.” “I think the answer is probably no.”
If the panelists don’t reach a final consensus, the U.S. Department of Education gets to go it alone when writing the regulations.
Some of the tensions that emerged today have been brewing under the surface for a while, but as of the last session, there at least seemed to be agreement on the Education Department’s proposal to classify their teacher-preparation programs into four categories: “low performing,” “at risk,” effective,” and “exceptional,” based on a mix of input- and output-based measures.

The Meaning of MTEA’s Rejection of Children’s Week

Mike Ford:

The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) Children’s Week concept was a noble one. The idea was to have Milwaukee teachers, as well as high-profile business and community members, donate a week of their salary to the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Union members, however, rejected the idea on a 2,296 to 1,635 vote.
I call the effort noble for several reasons. First, it would have put a little more money into classrooms at a time when MPS’ budget situation is dire. The district soon will be paying almost $50,000 per-employee in health care benefits for current employees and retirees. The legacy costs in particular are responsible for a perverse situation where MPS’ per-pupil costs (over $14,000 according to DPI) far exceed what a classroom or school actually receives for education purposes. MTEA’s proposed gesture would have at least given classrooms additional resources next year.

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

New Tool for Calculating Participation Grades (downloadable)

Ariel Sacks:

I’ve always struggled with calculating students’ participation grades. I have experimented with rubrics for students to fill out for themselves, or ways for them to track their participation grades daily or weekly. I’ve tried ditching it altogether and just grading students for distinct speaking activities.
Often, I settle for making up a participation grade for each student at the end of the period. I tend to criticize myself for this imprecise method, but this time, I had an idea. What goes through my head when I “make up” this grade? I thought. If I could just find a way to put that down on paper for my students to understand…

Omaha’s new Superintendent no Stranger to Controversy

Deena Winter:

Omaha’s new school superintendent is no stranger to controversy, having survived nepotism charges as the schools’ chief in Des Moines.
Nancy Sebring’s tenure presiding over 31,000 Des Moines students since 2006 has been controversial at times – particularly when her twin sister was hired as director of Des Moines’ first charter school 15 months ago.
Despite questions about how her sister got the job, Sebring has said she had nothing to do with an advisory board’s decision. The charter school’s launch has been rocky. It opened six months behind schedule and enrollment has not met projections, with 40 percent of students leaving its first year. The school has not provided quarterly reports as required and its budget is nearly twice as big as projected, according to the Des Moines Register.
Then 53 laptop computers were not returned by students last year, and the school was dinged by police for not tracking the computers, according to the Register. Despite calls for a new director, Sebring’s sister remains in the job.

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

Max Rivlin-Nadler:

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

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

2011 WISCONSIN ACT 166, via a kind reader:

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


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

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

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email:

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

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

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


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

Chinese set course for foreign universities

Kathrin Hille:

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

Dutch boy’s doodle steals prize limelight

Ralph Atkins:

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

For Prom, Schools Say ‘No’ to the Dress

Elizabeth Holmes:

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

Bloomberg and Tweed: “Our Standards Mean Nothing”

Leo Casey:

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

Louisiana school voucher bill argument centers on local dollars

Associated Press:

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

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


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

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

National Education Standards – A Confidence Game?

Jim Stergios:

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

Grammar school expansion divides Kent town

Tracy McVeigh:

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

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

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

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

The paper can be viewed here.

A statistician’s view of constructivist math programs

Nicole O. Stouffer:

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

Stop Panicking About Bullies

Nick Gillespie:

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

Between A Rock & A Union-Space

Michael Lee-Murphy:

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

Reform School Valedictorian — What Is The Upside Of Underperforming?

Jeffrey Sica:

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

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

Kris Olds:

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

Clumsy teaching happens even in great schools

Jay Matthews:

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

Education’s Hungry Hearts

Mark Edmundson:  

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

Know your Madison School Board candidates

Gretchen Miron:

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

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

Madison School Board Candidates Make Final Push

Chris Woodard:

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

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

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

Sandra Stotsky:

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


Last Minute Letters in Support of Madison School Board Candidates

Dean Anderson in support of Nichelle Nichols:

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

Bob and Nan Brien in support of Arlene Silveira:

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

David Leeper in support of Mary Burke:

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

Karen Vieth in support of Michael Flores:

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

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

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

Pat Dillon:  

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


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

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

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

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

Paul Mooney:

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

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

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:  

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

More, here.

Reflections and questions on Wisconsin school test results

Alan Borsuk:

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


Student Loans on Rise — for Kindergarten

AnnaMaria Andriotis:

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

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

Tim Post:

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

Lawmakers’ Stinting Charter Schools Is A Loss For Children

Hartford Courant:

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

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

Joe Dejka:

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


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

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

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

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

Peter Smagorinsky:

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

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

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

Teachers Unions, Mayors, And Trends

Andrew Rotherham:

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

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

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

What NOT To Do When Teaching Creative Writing

Lindsay Renee Grace:

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

Our debt to Greek culture

Harry Eyres:

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

Where Math Teachers Go to Get Energized

Yasmeen Khan:

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

Closed Schools Ten Years Later: Who Goes There Now?

Jackie Bennett:

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

Researchers blast Chicago teacher evaluation reform

Valerie Strauss:

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

Too much college? History suggests otherwise

Jay Matthews:

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

Vote for candidates who will help our hurting children

Fabu, Madison’s former poet laureate:

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

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

Misplaced Optimism and Weighted K-12 Funding

Eric Hanushek:

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

What Madison can learn from Nerad’s exit

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

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

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

Rhetoric on the Burke – Flores Madison School Board Race

Lukas Diaz:

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

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

Universities and the Price of Ignorance

Richard Vedder:

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

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

redefined staff:

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

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

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

Alex Fitzpatrick:

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

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

Greg Lukianoff:

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

Corporations, Governments, Public Schools, Unions are People

Imagine Wisconsin:

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

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

Elizabeth Bernstein:

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

Madison School Board responsible, too

Wisconsin State Journal:

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

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

Do we really give introverts a hard time?

Vanessa Barford:

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

Turkish protesters denounce education reform bill

Associated Press:

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

Where Could The Next Outbreak Of Measles Be?

Valerie Bauerlein & Betsy McKay:

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

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

Chris Rickert:

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

Former Bucyrus CEO calls for reform of employment programs

John Schmid:

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Resmovits:

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

New Report Shows the Power of Early Childhood Education

Mike Ford:

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

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

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

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

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

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