Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chicago South Loop battles over who will get a new school

Greg Hinz:

Nothing unites a community and makes people want to live there like a good school for the kids, particularly a high school. But in these days of very tight finances, what you want and what you can get often are two different things.
Add in some stark socioeconomic differences plus a dash of good ol’ Chicago politics and you get an idea of what’s at stake in a revealing dispute over what kind of public schooling to offer in the fast-growing South Loop.
On one side are Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, and a group of constituents who want Chicago Public Schools to convert the old Jones College Prep high school on South State Street to a neighborhood school when the new controlled-enrollment Jones opens in the fall of 2014.
On the other side is the Board of Education, which insists that there just aren’t enough students in the South Loop and adjoining areas to warrant the expenditure. The board now plans to demolish the old Jones.

Nerds of the World, Unite! iTunes U Just Got Interactive

Megan Garber:

If you are a nerd, or just an aspiring one, there are few things more fantastic on the Internet than iTunes U. One of the earliest online education initiatives, the feature — a little corner of the broader iTunes content environment — brings together video- and audio-recorded lectures from colleges and universities around the world. Want to learn philosophy from Oxford? Download the 41 lectures from the university’s eight-week-long General Philosophy course. Curious about the history of ancient Greece? Turn Yale’s lectures on that subject into podcasts that you listen to as you’re doing your dishes. iTunes’ education initiative is an occasionally overwhelming and often enlightening smorgasbord of digitized, customized learning.
And! The whole thing is free for users. Which means that you — the nerd, whether current or aspiring — can recreate the university lecture experience for pretty much any subject, for pretty much nothing save your time.

Asians Top Immigration Class

Miriam Jordan:

Asians are the fastest-growing, most educated and highest-earning population in the U.S., according to a new report that paints the majority-immigrant group as a boon to an economy that has come to rely increasingly on skilled workers.
The number of Asians in the U.S. quadrupled between 1980 and 2010 to about 18 million, or 6% of the total population, according to “The Rise of Asian Americans,” a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The bulk of Asians in the U.S. trace their roots to six countries: China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam.
As a group, Asians place more value than Americans overall on marriage, parenting, hard work and careers, according to the report. Irrespective of their country of origin, Asians overall believe that American parents are too soft on their children.

Confidence in U.S. Public Schools at New Low

Jeffrey Jones:

Americans’ confidence in public schools is down five percentage points from last year, with 29% expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them. That establishes a new low in public school confidence from the 33% measured in Gallup’s 2007 and 2008 Confidence in Institutions polls. The high was 58% the first time Gallup included public schools, in 1973.

A ‘radical’ reform goes mainstream, but New York State retreats.

The Wall Street Journal, via a kind Rick Kiley email:

The U.S. is stress-testing Herbert Stein’s law like never before, but maybe the economist’s famous dictum–trends that can’t continue won’t–is being vindicated in education. Witness the support of America’s mayors for “parent trigger,” the public school reform that was denounced as radical only a few years ago but now is spreading across the country.
Over the weekend in Orlando, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution endorsing new rules that give parents the running room to turn around rotten schools. At “persistently failing” institutions, a majority of parents can sign a petition that turns out the administrators and teachers in favor of more competent hires, or dissolves the school, or converts it to a charter. Teachers unions loathe this form of local accountability.

On The Collapse of the National Defense University

Best Defense

I read your piece on the resignation of Hans Binnendijk, the head research guru of the National Defense University and one of America’s leading strategic thinkers. It comes amidst much turmoil imposed on the university from the top. It isn’t pretty, and it will surely not serve the national interest. I am not directly involved in it, but this is what I have been told by many who are.
The new uniformed leadership of the Armed Forces, i.e., General Dempsey and his staff, apparently intend to prune NDU back to where it was a few decades ago. There will be some modest resource savings, but since the entire university budget doesn’t amount to the cost of a single joint strike fighter, one has to wonder what is motivating all of what is happening here. In the cuts that have been discussed, Dempsey’s deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn has wielded the meat axe, often with the aid of micromanaging action officers. No one here in the rank-and-file is sure if the urbane chairman is on board with the details of all of this. (Ironically, both the chairman and J-7 are NDU graduates with advanced degrees.)

Stanford’s Coding Together Class

Stanford’s iPhone and iPad Development class has had over 10 million downloads on iTunes U, making it one of the most popular online courses on earth. And it’s about to get better, because now you can do it with friends.
For the first time, Stanford’s most celebrated iTunes U course includes peer collaboration, so you can learn alongside fellow mobile developers from around the world. If you’ve tried it alone and gotten stuck, now there will be people to help. If you’ve taken it before and aced it, now you can sharpen your knowledge by helping others. And if you’ve been meaning to learn Apps for iPhone & iPad, there may never be a better time.

Students should invest in themselves

Christian Schneider:

As modern government has become a framework for ameliorating grievances, I have a proposition: Let’s construct a hierarchy of gripes, beginning with those who deserve the most sympathy at the top. The highest spots would be populated by, for instance, women who have been abandoned by their children’s fathers, men in their 50s who are let go from their jobs after 20 years, and Native Americans.
Nowhere on this list would be America’s latest theatrically aggrieved group: people who don’t want to pay back their student loans.
It is true, student loan debt has risen rapidly over the past several decades. The average college graduate in 2011 finished school with $24,000 in debt, while tuition and fees have increased by 440% in 30 years. Last year, total student loan debt in America outpaced credit card debt for the first time in history.
Thus, while the Occupy movement struggled to find a common issue upon which to coalesce, student loan debt forgiveness seemed to tie them together. Yet one Occupier in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, wielding a sign that read “Throw me a bone, pay my tuition,” made national news when he failed to articulate a single reason the government should bail him out. Asked by National Review reporter Charles C.W. Cooke to explain his sign’s meaning, the young man simply said, “just because it’s what I want.”

Wait, Did This 15-Year-Old From Maryland Just Change Cancer Treatment?

Bruce Upbin:

If you’re feeling anxious about how U.S. kids lag the world in science and math, or just in a funk about politics or the mess in Europe, take in this story of a high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. who came up with a prize-winning breakthrough that could change how cancer and other fatal diseases are diagnosed and treated.
His name is Jack Andraka, and he loves science and engineering with every inch of his 15-year-old soul. Just spend a minute or so watching this video. Seriously, do it now before you read more. Nothing from the Oscars or Grammys comes close to the unabashed excitement and joy of Andraka charging up to the stage to accept his $75,000 grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. This is the Olympics of youth science, with more than 1,500 entries from 70 countries competing, each of which already won their national competitions.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Fiscal Indulgences

Mike Ford:

Young men and women used to dream about starting a business in their garage, or discovering a way to make a living while doodling on the back of a napkin in an all-important moment of inspiration. Today, they’re more apt to dream about finding a taxpayer subsidy or low-interest, government business loan.
Subsidies are easy to find. Wisconsin’s Legislative Audit Bureau published a review of the state’s economic development programs the other day, and found that since 2007 there have been 196 of them that dispersed up to $1 billion in financial assistance.
No one, I suspect, has any real idea just what these programs accomplish.
There’s a small problem. Many of the recipients, the audit discovered, don’t always submit the reports that are supposed to help taxpayers determine whether the loans and grants and tax credits are a good investment. But there’s also a much larger problem the audit ignored. The case of Mercury Marine, the Fond du Lac engine and boat manufacturer, shows why.
In March of 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce gave Brunswick Corp., the parent company of Mercury Marine, a $10 million grant. The cash, federal stimulus money actually, was funneled through the State Energy Program and was spent on new windows, HVAC improvements and energy-efficient lighting at the Mercury Marine plant, among other things.

Disrupting education

Dave Winer:

Jeff Jarvis wrote provocatively about disrupting journalism education.
Pretty sure he would agree with this, but I’d like to add my own two items.
1. Every j-school student operates their own server. A requirement. Installs software to run a linkblog, river of news, and whatever else they want.
2. Every undergrad, no matter what their major, is required to take a semester of journalism. Today’s students are going into a world where blogging is something many if not all educated people will be doing, for a lifetime. Prepare them to do it well.
Write a story that grabs the readers’ attention and holds it. Learn how to interview someone. Learn how to listen (that is actually a skill that can be taught, btw). The importance of multiple sources. How to care for the Internet (especially important for future VCs).

Dinner for Outgoing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, Birmingham 7.1.2012 start official

Rafael Gomez, viaa kind email: If you are interested to have a dinner for Dr. Nared contact Rafael Gomez at
Laura Houser:

It’s official: the Birmingham Board of Education passed a resolution Tuesday night officially hiring Daniel Nerad at the district’s next superintendent.
School Board President Susan Hill said Nerad — the current superintendent of the Madison (WI) Metropolitan School District — signed a contract with the district earlier Tuesday, with an official start date of July 1.
The school board selected Nerad, 60, as the next superintendent on June 11 after a two-month search process. Nerad was one of two finalists after five semifinalists interviewed in late May and early June.

Much more on departing Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.

The Most Important Challenge For Colleges Isn’t Price–It’s Attention

Kara Miller:

This is one of my favorite anecdotes: Last year, the University of Phoenix enlisted renowned Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen to record a lecture. The university reserved a harbor-view room for Christensen and populated it with young people, so that the camera operators could record their reactions.
Before he began to speak, Christensen noticed that the audience appeared unusually engaged and attractive.
“What school do you guys go to?” he asked.
“We’re not students,” a young man told him. “We’re models.”
When Christensen told me this story, I laughed. (Hear the whole interview here.) But the University of Phoenix is serious — and smart. Putting a Harvard professor in front of a lecture hall filled with models is an acknowledgment that, in a Web-recorded lecture, appearance counts — even the few seconds of cutaways to reactions from gorgeous, engaged “students.”

It’s OK to eat alone: Q&A with Susan Cain


What was it like giving a TEDTalk, as opposed to some of the other talks you’ve given?
It was a lot scarier, for one thing.
So how did you get through that?
Well, there was “How did I prepare for it?” and then “How did I get through it when it was really happening?” One of the things I did, which I wouldn’t usually do, is I worked with a coach for the week beforehand. Partly just for the moral support of preparing when somebody is there. But also, the coach did this really smart thing: I had told him at the beginning that I’m comfortable talking with people one-on-one, but the whole thing of performance on a stage, a red-carpeted stage, freaks me out a little bit. And he said, “You’re going to go through your TEDTalk as if it were a regular conversation.” And that’s what we did. It really, really helped, because it got me more emotionally comfortable with the words. It felt more like it was me, as opposed to this other creature who was supposed to be the performer.
I tried to bring that with me, even when I was standing under those lights. I was also trying to talk as if it were just me talking. But it’s funny, if you ask me, “What was it like to be actually standing up there and delivering it?” I don’t know, because it was such an otherworldly experience that I can’t remember it exactly. I know I was there. I know that much. But the details kind of escape me.
The best part of the experience was not the moment of being up on stage — it was the aftermath. I was lucky to be one of the earlier speakers. That meant that all week long I got to talk to people one-on-one about how they had reacted to what I’d been saying. And that was really, really special.

From the SAT to the NFL, the problem with short-term tests

Jonah Lehrer:

In the early 1980s, Paul Sackett, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, began measuring the speed of cashiers at supermarkets. Workers were told to scan a few dozen items as quickly as possible while a scientist timed them. Not surprisingly, some cashiers were much faster than others.
But Mr. Sackett realized that this assessment, which lasted just a few minutes, wasn’t the only way to measure cashier performance. Electronic scanners, then new in supermarkets, could automatically record the pace of cashiers for long stretches of time. After analyzing this data, it once again became clear that levels of productivity varied greatly.

Try parent visits, not parent takeovers of schools

Jay Matthews:

A modest program in Missouri — similar to one in the District — has found a way to help parents improve their children’s education. But nobody is paying much attention.
Instead, something called the parent trigger, the hottest parent program going, has gotten laws passed in four states even though it has had zero effect on achievement.
The Missouri program, the Teacher Home Visit Program or HOME WORKS!, trains and organizes teachers to visit parents in their homes. It is quiet, steady, small and non-political.
The parent trigger, begun in California by a well-meaning group called Parent Revolution, is also authorized in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana and is deep into electoral politics. Both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns have embraced it.

Reading program aims to halt ‘summer slide’

Noelle McGee:

School’s out, but that’s no excuse to stop reading, according to a local educator and avid reader.
“We’re really trying to encourage students to read over the summer, so they won’t lose any of the skills that they gained last year,” said Louis K. Morris, the East Park Elementary School librarian.
Morris is encouraging Danville schools K-5 students — and their parents — to participate in the district’s Summer Accelerated Reading Program at the Danville Public Library.
“Last year, our main focus was to get more kids involved. This year, it’s to get more parents involved,” said Morris, the program coordinator. “When a parent shows enthusiasm for something, the child will, too.”
“When parents read with their children, it shows the kids that reading is important, and it’s a lifelong skill,” added Julie Cox, a Title 1 coordinator for the school district.

Diane Ravitch’s Verdict on NJ’s Proposed Tenure Reform Bill:

Laura Waters:

“New Jersey Has a Bad Idea.” She pontificates further on Sen. Ruiz’s tenure reform bill,

It is part of the rightwing assault on the teaching profession. The state gets to define “effective,” then can take the right to due process away from those who don’t meet the benchmarks arbitrarily created by the state, which is eager to fire teachers and make room for teaching temps. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Teachers without the right to due process may be fired for any reason or for no reason. Teachers without the right to due process will never teach anything controversial. Teachers without due process rights will never disagree with their principal. Teachers without due process rights have no academic freedom.

Walker, UW System announce online degree model

In an announcement that could have implications for the affordability of education and professional development, and possibly help address the skills gap, Gov. Scott Walker, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, and UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross have announced a competency-based degree model that they claim will transform higher education in Wisconsin.
Under the self-paced, competency-based model, students will be allowed to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own.

State Income Tax Collections Per Capita, Madison’s 4.95% Property Tax Increase

via Taxprof.
Meanwhile, the Madison School Board approved a 4.95% property tax increase Monday evening.

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education passed a budget on Monday night for the 2012-2013 school year.
The $376.2 million budget passed late Monday increases overall spending by 0.8 percent, and the levy by 4.95 percent.
Taxes on the average Madison home are expected to increase by approximately $85 a year. The board also decided to dip into its “rainy day” fund to cover additional expenses.

The $376,200,000 2012-2013 Madison School District budget spends $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students. Madison’s per student spending is about 45% higher than the Austin, TX school district.
Related: Madison’s property taxes flat in 2011 after a 9% increase in 2010.

Austin school board sets hearing on $724.2 million budget, vote on spending, 43% less per student than Madison

Melissa B. Taboada:

Residents will get a chance to voice their thoughts on the Austin school district’s $724.2 million operating budget for 2012-13 at a public hearing tonight.
The school board then will vote on the district’s spending, though it will not approve the final budget, which includes district revenue, until August.
Board members originally considered voting on the entire budget tonight but put off the decision because they haven’t decided whether to move forward with a tax rate election in November.
The spending plan includes using $14.2 million from the district’s reserves to give employees a one-time payment equivalent to a 3 percent raise. That bump in pay could become permanent if the board moves forward with, and voters approve, a tax rate increase.
School trustees have said they want to wait on the tax decision until they know what other jurisdictions are doing.

Austin will spend $724,200,000 for 86,697 students ($8,353/student). The 2011-2012 Madison school district budget spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student), or 43% more than Austin.

High School Challenge: Hiding private school data not so popular

Jay Matthews:

When I trashed private schools in a recent column because they hid their data to avoid comparison with other schools, I expected criticism. But the reaction was surprisingly friendly. I am apparently not the only past or present private school parent who rejects the widespread view among headmasters that we cannot intelligently assess comparative statistics.
The one complaint was from Washington International School head of school Clayton W. Lewis, after I ranked his school very high on my latest High School Challenge list. He sent this message to his school community:
“By their nature, ranking systems are based on minimal and inconclusive data and highlight only a small window of what a school has to offer, leaving out the particular strengths that are quite often the final determination in finding the best fit for an individual student. Because we realize choosing a school is a significant, very personal experience, we prefer individuals to develop their own ‘ranking’ based on informed research, including visits to the school.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Los Angeles Appraisals Probed

Tamara Audi & Erica Phillips:

Property values in the ritzy communities of Beverly Hills and Brentwood have fallen along with those elsewhere amid the recession. But prosecutors here say that for some of those houses and businesses the drop isn’t because of the economy, it’s criminal.
An investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office last month led to the arrest of a former county appraiser on felony charges for allegedly improperly lowering dozens of property values by a combined $172 million.
The arrest was part of an continuing criminal investigation of the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office to determine whether homeowners and businesses in some of the nation’s richest neighborhoods were given tax breaks in exchange for campaign contributions to the assessor.

The Sad State of Diabetes Technology in 2012

Scott Hanselman:

I’ve been diabetic for almost two decades. It’s tiring, let me tell you. Here’s a video of my routine when I change my insulin pump and continuous meter. I’m not looking for pity, sadness or suggestions for herbs and spices that might help me out. I’d just like a day off. Just a single day out of the last 7000 or the next, I’d like to have a single piece of pie and not chase my blood sugar for hours.
Every time I visit the doctor (I do every 3 months) and every time I talk to someone in industry (I do a few times a year) I’m told that there will be a breakthrough “in the next 5 years.” I’ve been hearing that line – “it’s coming soon” – for twenty.
I used to wait a minute for a finger stick test result. Now I wait 5 seconds but we still have blood sugar strips with +-20% accuracy. That means I can check my sugar via finger stick twice and get a number I’d take action on along with one I wouldn’t. Blood sugar strip accuracy is appalling and a dirty little secret in the diabetes community.

Diversity lags at highly selective Thomas Jefferson High School

Jay Matthews:

When I first heard complaints that the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology had gone soft, I guessed that the cause of the unrest was an effort by our nation’s most selective school to become more diverse.
Of the freshmen who entered the Fairfax County public school in 2010, only 13 were Hispanic and four were black. That amounted to 3.5 percent of the class, even though 52 Hispanic and 29 black applicants had academic records good enough to survive the first cut. I assumed that the school, reacting to those numbers, had begun to admit more Hispanic and black students, which in turn might be the source of criticism for a downturn in this year’s freshman grades.
I was wrong. More freshmen this year needed remediation, but growing ethnic diversity cannot be the reason.

The man who started the hacker wars

David Kushner:

Hotz talked about how he wrote his first computer program when he was five, while sitting on his father’s lap at their Apple II. By fifth grade, he was building his own video-game console with an electronic-projects kit from Radio Shack. His parents often found household appliances (remote controls, answering machines) gutted. “He always liked learning stuff, and if that was how he did it, great,” his father, George Hotz, Sr., a high-school computer teacher, told me. Hotz, bored with his classes and letting his grades slide, became known at school as an inventive joker who rolled down the hallways in wheeled sneakers and once hacked several classroom computers to simultaneously play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. His mother, Marie Minichiello, a social worker, told me that although she punished him for his acts of mild disobedience, she always supported him. “I didn’t want school to kill his passion,” she said.
When Hotz was fourteen, he beat thousands of students from more than sixty countries to reach the finals of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He appeared on the “Today” show with his invention, a small robot on wheels that could plot the dimensions of a room using infrared sensors, and wirelessly transmit the information to a computer. “Well, I think it’s very cool to be good in science,” Katie Couric told her viewers, as Hotz, in an ill-fitting dark suit, stepped forward, “and George Hotz is an example of that.” Couric asked if the technology could improve automated vacuum cleaners. But Hotz was more excited about helping soldiers fight terrorists. “They can send it into a complex before the military infiltrates it!” he said, his voice not yet broken. “Well, I’m impressed, George,” Couric replied, nudging him in the shoulder. “You’re a little brainiac, you.”

On the Madison School District’s “Achievement Gap” Plan and Looming Superintendent Departure

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s impending departure raises questions about the future of this year’s biggest budget initiative: the School District’s $49 million achievement gap plan.
“It’s a big question mark” whether a new superintendent will want to adopt the plan or make changes, said Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
“I don’t think (the School Board) should adopt the whole plan and hand it over to the new superintendent,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t take a job if a board of directors said, ‘Here’s the plan we came up with and want you to execute.'”
Nerad said Friday he plans to accept a superintendent job offer in Birmingham, Mich., and leave Madison by September.

Homework and the Achievement Gap

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

When I reviewed the many sound initiatives in the Achievement Gap Plan (AGP), I came to think that a piece was missing. The plan addresses the need for our teachers and schools, our community partners, and our parents all to do their part to assist in the academic achievement of our students. Nowhere in the plan, however, do we acknowledge the basic fact that ultimately our students are the ones responsible for their own learning.
The only way students who are behind will be able to catch up is by putting in the time and effort necessary to expand their learning and increase their skills. It’s pretty simple. If we are to narrow the achievement gap in the sense that we expect students of color to achieve at the same level as white students – and not merely expect that a higher percentage of students of color will achieve proficiency as measured on standardized tests – then the students of color will have to work harder than the white students in order to make up the ground between them. There is simply no other way. The white students aren’t going to just sit around and wait for the others to reach their level.

Related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”

Teaching unions urge rethink of phonics checks

Judith Burns:

Leaders of three teaching unions have written to MPs urging a rethink of the phonics checks for six-year olds which are starting in schools.
The unions say the controversial tests are an expensive way to tell schools what they already know and will do nothing to improve children’s reading.
They describe the checks on how well children can read both real and made-up words, as “flawed”.
Schools minister Nick Gibb called the unions’ position disappointing.
Mr Gibb said: “Many of their members have already told us how this quick check will allow them to identify thousands of children who need extra help to become good readers.

Grieving Father Struggles to Pay Dead Son’s Student Loans

Marian Wang:

A few months after he buried his son, Francisco Reynoso began getting notices in the mail. Then the debt collectors came calling.
“They would say, ‘We don’t care what happened with your son, you have to pay us,'” recalled Reynoso, a gardener from Palmdale, Calif.
Reynoso’s son, Freddy, had been the pride of his family and the first to go to college. In 2005, after Freddy was accepted to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, his father co-signed on his hefty private student loans, making him fully liable should Freddy be unwilling or unable to repay them. It was no small decision for a man who made just over $21,000 in 2011, according to his tax returns.
“As a father, you’ll do anything for your child,” Reynoso, an American citizen originally from Mexico, said through a translator.

Can Montessori shift save Milwaukee Public Schools?

Alan Borsuk:

So what’s so cool about Montessori schools?
“I was a slow convert,” Meagan Holman answers. It took until she saw her 6-year-old son bloom in first grade at Fernwood Montessori School in Bay View for her to be convinced about the distinctive Montessori approach, built on a child’s choices to pursue learning in a classroom without conventional grades and textbooks.
“They get them where they need to be,” she said of Montessori programs, which, among other things, emphasize hands-on projects for learning and classrooms where students range across three ages (6- to 9-year-olds, for example), with students staying with the same teacher for three years.
Now, Holman, who represents the southeast side on the Milwaukee School Board, has become a key figure in a drive to increase Montessori offerings in the city – and, in her view, improve the prospects for Milwaukee Public Schools to rebound from the buffeting it has taken for years.
The prospects for a Montessori surge were underscored when a School Board committee voted Thursday to support opening a new program on the south side in September. Isn’t this MPS, where the wheels grind slowly? Not in this case.

Tanzania: Dar es Salaam Education System Best in East Africa

THE Vice-President, Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, on Friday launched the Tanzania 21st Century Basic Education Structure in Mtwara and urged the public to adopt and accept it saying it is the best compared with other systems in East Africa.
He said the structure was aimed at enhancing the development of primary education in Mtwara Region. The ceremony was held in Kambarage Primary School in Mtwara Region.
The project is implemented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the information and technology system. According to Dr Bilal, most people have developed poor perception with the structure calling on such people to accept and adopt it for the betterment of education.

Students assigned to cheat on exam use doctored Little Brother cover and many other clever methods

Cory Doctorow:

The IEEE’s Computer and Reliability Societies recently published “Embracing the Kobayashi Maru,” by James Caroland (US Navy/US Cybercommand) and Greg Conti (West Point) describing an exercise in which they assigned students to cheat on an exam — either jointly or individually. The goal was to get students thinking about how to secure systems from adversaries who are willing to “cheat” to win. The article describes how the students all completed the exam (they all cheated successfully), which required them to provide the first 100 digits of pi, with only 24h to prepare. The students used many ingenious techniques as cribs, but my heart was warmed to learn that once student printed a false back-cover for my novel Little Brother with pi 1-100 on it (Little Brother is one of the course readings, so many copies of it were already lying around the classroom).

Next Steps for Madison Schools’ 2012-2013 $374,700,000 Budget

Todd Finkelmeyer:

But as the School Board prepares to sign off on a final, scaled back version of the district’s achievement gap plan on Monday night, it appears a little wind has been taken out of the sails of an initiative that had many in the community talking this past winter.
“This whole discussion has been a bit hard to follow in recent weeks,” says Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The plan started out as one thing and then became something else and then became something else. To be honest, though, I’m not sure this issue ever got the momentum in the community that I thought it would.”
The School Board is meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the district’s Doyle Administration Building (545 W. Dayton St.) to give preliminary approval for a 2012-13 budget. Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $374.7 million budget proposal released late last month includes $4.4 million next year to fund the achievement gap plan, which is down significantly from the $12.4 million price tag that was originally attached to the project.
“When the original plan was presented it was based on a view that there isn’t just one thing that any school district can do, and there isn’t any one thing that the community can do, to solve this problem,” says Nerad. “Instead, we needed to look at the many things that need to be in place if we’re going to have the elimination of this disparate achievement. But in the end, we also had to make sure we took into account other budget needs and to present a sustainable plan, so reductions were made.”
Nerad’s budget proposal also includes a $3.5 million increase in funding for maintenance. The entire budget, as proposed by the superintendent, would increase the amount the district levies for taxes by 4.1 percent — to $11.78 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average-priced home in Madison, it’s estimated that school property taxes would increase $68.12.

Related: notes and links on the 2011-2012 Madison school district budget, which spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student).
And, more from Birmingham, Michigan on their Superintendent search. Birmingham spends about 10% less per student than Madison.

Dumb Kids’ Class: The benefits of being underestimated by the nuns at St. Petronille’s

Mark Bowden:

Catholic school was not the ordeal for me that it apparently was for many other children of my generation. I attended Catholic grade schools, served as an altar boy, and, astonishingly, was never struck by a nun or molested by a priest. All in all I was treated kindly, which often was more than I deserved. My education has withstood the test of time, including both the lessons my teachers instilled and the ones they never intended.
In the mid-20th century, when I was in grade school, a child’s self-esteem was not a matter for concern. Shame was considered a spur to better behavior and accomplishment. If you flunked a test, you were singled out, and the offending sheet of paper, bloodied with red marks, was waved before the entire class as a warning, much the way our catechisms depicted a boy with black splotches on his soul.
Fear was also considered useful. In the fourth grade, right around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, one of the nuns at St. Petronille’s, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, told us that the Vatican had received a secret warning that the world would soon be consumed by a fatal nuclear exchange. The fact that the warning had purportedly been delivered by Our Lady of Fátima lent the prediction divine authority. (Any last sliver of doubt was removed by our viewing of the 1952 movie The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, wherein the Virgin Mary herself appeared on a luminous cloud.) We were surely cooked. I remember pondering the futility of existence, to say nothing of the futility of safety drills that involved huddling under desks. When the fateful sirens sounded, I resolved, I would be out of there. Down the front steps, across Hillside Avenue, over fences, and through backyards, I would take the shortest possible route home, where I planned to crawl under my father’s workbench in the basement. It was the sturdiest thing I had ever seen. I didn’t believe it would save me, but after weighing the alternatives carefully, I decided it was my preferred spot to face oblivion.

Wired for speed

The Economist:

ARE geniuses just born with their brains wired differently? Or do their early experiences fashion a richer set of neuronal interconnections that let them view the world through a sharper lens? The literature is replete with accounts of people who went on to accomplish great things–in the arts, sciences, philosophy or even politics–after exhibiting little promise in their youth. It would be encouraging to think that, if nurturing does indeed play a crucial part, there could yet be hope for the rest of us.
An outfit in San Francisco called “tenXer” has begun testing a service that aims to help people boost their mental accomplishments by up to tenfold–hence its name. That has made your correspondent wonder what distinguishes the truly talented from the journeymen of any trade. And what, if anything, the rest can do to improve their more menial lot.
Several years ago, your correspondent wrote a column about innovative operating systems (see “Heading for the clouds“, June 17th 2010). The software he admired the most was PC/GEOS, from a tiny firm in Berkeley, California, which crammed a full multitasking operating system and a whole suite of applications with scalable fonts and a stunning graphical interface into a couple of megabytes. The Microsoft equivalent of the day needed nearly ten times more memory and came with half the tools and none of the applications. In the early 1990s, GeoWorks Ensemble (as the program later became known) was the hare to the Mac and Windows tortoises.

An E-Reader Revolution for Africa?

Geoffrey Fowler & Nicholas Bariyo:

It is time for a vocabulary lesson in Bernard Opio’s sixth-form class at the Humble Primary School in Mukono, Uganda. One new word the students have already learned this year is “Kindle.”
Mr. Opio instructs them to pull out their Kindle e-reading devices. Within seconds, most of the teenagers have a digital Oxford English Dictionary open on their screens. “It took the kids just a few days to learn how to use them,” says Mr. Opio.
The Humble School, which serves needy children in a part of Africa ravaged by poverty and HIV, is on the front lines of an effort to reinvent developing world literacy programs with technology. The premise is that the new economics of digital publishing might make more and better books available in classrooms like Mr. Opio’s.

What’s Next for Online Education?

Sebastian Thrun:

Yet there is one project he’s happy to talk about. Frustrated that his (and fellow Googler Peter Norvig’s) Stanford artificial intelligence class only reached 200 students, they put up a website offering an online version. They got few takers. Then he mentioned the online course at a conference with 80 attendees and 80 people signed up. On a Friday, he sent an offer to the mailing list of a top AI association. On Saturday morning he had 3,000 sign-ups–by Monday morning, 14,000.
In the midst of this, there was a slight hitch, Mr. Thrun says. “I had forgotten to tell Stanford about it. There was my authority problem. Stanford said ‘If you give the same exams and the same certificate of completion [as Stanford does], then you are really messing with what certificates really are. People are going to go out with the certificates and ask for admission [at the university] and how do we even know who they really are?’ And I said: I. Don’t. Care.”
In the end, there were 160,000 people signed up, from every country in the world, he says, except North Korea. Rather than tape boring lectures, the professors asked students to solve problems and then the next course video would discuss solutions. Mr. Thrun broke the rules again. Twenty-three thousand people finished the course. Of his 200 Stanford students, 30 attended lectures and the other 170 took it online. The top 410 performers on exams were online students. The first Stanford student was No. 411.
Mr. Thrun’s cost was basically $1 per student per class. That’s on the order of 1,000 times less per pupil than for a K-12 or a college education–way more than the rule of thumb in Silicon Valley that you need a 10 times cost advantage to drive change.
So Mr. Thrun set up a company, Udacity, that joins many other companies attacking the problem of how to deliver the optimal online education. “What I see is democratizing education will change everything,” he says. “I have an unbelievable passion about this. We will reach students that have never been reached. I can give my love of learning to other people. I’ve stumbled into the most amazing Wonderland. I’ve taken the red pill and seen how deep Wonderland is.”

Statement Regarding the Florida School Boards Association’s (FSBA) Anti-High-Stakes-Testing Resolution

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard:

Public pronouncements by any governing institution remain one of the best ways to measure its tenacity of purpose. Embodied inside the words adults choose to convey an important message are their hopes and fears about the future. That is particularly true when schoolchildren are the topic of conversation.
Yesterday’s vote by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) in favor of an anti-high-stakes-testing resolution is a perfect example of adults expressing concern about the future. Unfortunately, the resolution is short on providing hope to schoolchildren who are Florida’s future. Similar to the national resolution that calls into question the need for educational assessments, the FSBA’s resolution claims the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is too expensive, narrows the curriculum and is a detriment to student success. Let us separate rhetoric from reality.

Sharing the knowledge burden

The Economist:

ALBERT EINSTEIN was a singular genius. The Albert Einstein model of discovery, however–the solitary mind producing remarkable insight–was not particularly unusual for his time. For much of the period from the beginning of the industrial revolution, scientific and technical advances–including the occasional stroke of brilliance–were within the reach of the diligent amateur and the garage tinkerer. That is no longer the case. As the stock of human knowledge increases, the time needed to move oneself to the knowledge frontier grows. In a 2009 paper, Benjamin Jones noted:

Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech

Jeffrey Young:

Easy A’s may be even easier to score these days, with the growing popularity of online courses. Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect.
Take Bob Smith, a student at a public university in the United States. This past semester, he spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. He never read the online materials for the course and never cracked open a textbook. He learned almost nothing. He got an A.
His secret was to cheat, and he’s proud of the method he came up with–though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn’t want to get caught. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test.

9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Silenced By Politicians

Marilyn McKenna:

For the past two months, one of my favorite reads has been Never Seconds, a blog started by 9-year-old Martha Payne of western Scotland to document the unappealing, non-nutritious lunches she was being served in her public primary school. Payne, whose mother is a doctor and father has a small farming property, started blogging in early May and went viral in days. She had a million viewers within a few weeks and 2 million this morning; was written up in Time, theTelegraph, the Daily Mail, and a number of food blogs; and got support from TV cheflebrity Jamie Oliver, whose series “Jamie’s School Dinners” kicked off school-food reform in England.
Well, goodbye to all that.

Investors Go to School on Charters

Mike Cherney:

Charter schools, publicly financed alternatives to traditional public schools, are drawing more than just increasing numbers of students: Bond investors also are signing up.
As charter schools have grown, their bond sales–which usually go toward financing construction of new facilities–have gotten bigger as well, a sign of rising interest from investors. And while the relatively high yields are burdening the schools with higher borrowing costs, they are proving particularly enticing to market participants at a time of near-zero interest rates.
Bond offerings of $30 million or more accounted for nearly 12% of all charter-school bond sales last year, compared to 5% in 2007, according to Wendy Berry, a former analyst at Moody’s Investors Service and a charter-school finance consultant for the Local Initiatives Support Corp., a community development organization. About 10% of the new deals this year have crossed that threshold.

Humanities have a place, even at Caltech

Larry Gordon:

When Christina Kondos receives her bachelor’s degree at Caltech’s commencement Friday, she will represent a tiny and little-known minority at the prestigious science and engineering campus in Pasadena.
Kondos is the only one in her graduating class of 247 to have majored in humanities or social sciences — economics and history in her case — without double-majoring in science, math or engineering.
Since 2008, only a dozen Caltech students have done the same, and they received bachelor of science degrees because Caltech doesn’t offer a bachelor of arts, campus officials said.
Science, of course, rules at Caltech, but it doesn’t eliminate the likes of James Joyce or Immanuel Kant.

Universities Feel the Heat Amid Cuts

Jack Nicas & Cameron McWhirter:

A panel of business and academic leaders warned funding cuts to higher education are hurting the global competitiveness of U.S. research universities, the latest sign of financial strain that is intensifying battles over school leadership and has led to several high-profile departures of university presidents.
U.S. research universities “are in grave danger of not only losing their place of global leadership but of serious erosion in quality,” the committee of 22 academic, business and nonprofit leaders warned in a 250-page report issued Thursday. The report, commissioned by Congress, called for a combined effort among the schools, governments and corporations to reverse the decline.
Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and retired economics professor at Ohio University, reviewed parts of the report Thursday and was skeptical. He said he has found no correlation between extensive university research and a nation’s economic prosperity. The Center for College Affordability is a research group that focuses on free-market solutions for rising college costs.

Board of Education tables reassignment of 38 percent of Lloyd Rd. School staff

Nicole Antonucci:

A standing-room-only crowd of teachers filled the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District Board of Education meeting room Monday night to protest staffing reassignments throughout the district. Proposed staffing changes, which involve approximately 38 percent of the faculty, or 19 teachers, at Lloyd Road Elementary School in Aberdeen, were tabled after approximately 100 teachers raised concerns during the board’s June 11 workshop meeting at Cambridge Park Elementary School.
An additional 12 teachers are being reassigned to other schools. “My transfer along with the other involuntary transfers are not only ethically egregious but, most importantly, detrimental to our students,” Barbara Danback, a school counselor at the grades 4-5 school, said.
Teachers lined up to take turns at the podium to tell the board the transfers are involuntary and to ask the board to reconsider such a large move.
“My colleagues and I believe that the transfers being recommended are not educationally sound,” Wendy Winchel, a fifthgrade teacher at Lloyd Road, said.

Pennsylvania & School Vouchers

David Feith:

The recent Wisconsin recall election showed that even voters in blue states are willing to reward leaders who take on entrenched government unions. Have Pennsylvania Republicans missed the memo?
The question is raised by Pennsylvania’s continued failure to enact school vouchers, even as Harrisburg has been run for two years by Republicans who campaigned on school choice. Gov. Tom Corbett has talked the talk, calling education “the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” blasting a system in which “some students are consigned to failure because of their ZIP codes,” and identifying vouchers as his top educational priority. But with legislators’ summer break approaching on June 30 (and elections dominating the calendar after that), vouchers are already off the table. Apparently the fury of teachers unions would be too much for the Keystone State to bear.
Last October, Pennsylvania’s Senate passed a bipartisan voucher bill to throw an immediate lifeline to low-income students in the worst 5% of schools, with roughly 550,000 low-income kids becoming eligible within three years. Eight months later, Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai–both Republicans who claim to support choice–haven’t brought the bill up for a vote in the House.

Parents protest surge in standardized testing

Stephanie Simon:

A backlash against high-stakes standardized testing is sweeping through U.S. school districts as parents, teachers, and administrators protest that the exams are unfair, unreliable and unnecessarily punitive – and even some longtime advocates of testing call for changes.
The objections come even as federal and state authorities pour hundreds of millions of dollars into developing new tests, including some for children as young as 5.
In a growing number of states, scores on standardized tests weigh heavily in determining whether an 8-year-old advances to the next grade with her classmates; whether a teen can get his high school diploma; which teachers keep their jobs; how much those teachers are paid; and even which public schools are shut down or turned over to private management.

Student Loans and Double Standards

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama likes to say that everyone in America should “play by the same rules.” Okay, so then why does the Administration’s new student-loan rule apply to for-profit colleges, but not nonprofits?
The regulations that go into effect in July cut off federal student aid to career and technical colleges whose former students don’t meet the Education Department’s definition of “gainful employment.” Education programs would be cut off from the government trough if their former students don’t meet one of three thresholds for three out of four years: They must have at least a 35% loan repayment rate, 30% debt-to-discretionary-income ratio, or 12% debt-to-annual earnings ratio.
The stated purpose of the regulations is to protect taxpayers. Fine. If the feds are going to subsidize higher education, it makes sense to attach strings to the taxpayer purse. If only the White House had been as scrupulous when it doled out billions to its for-profit friends in the green lobby. But then shouldn’t the White House apply the same medicine to all colleges?

The College Graduate as Collateral

Luigi Zingales:

ACADEMIC economists like to make fun of businesspeople: they want competition when they enter a new market but are quick to lobby for subsidies and barriers to competitors once they get in. Yet scholars like me are no better. We work in the least competitive and most subsidized industry of all: higher education.
We criticize predatory loans by mortgage brokers, when student loans can be just as abusive. To avoid the next credit bubble and debt crisis, we need to eliminate government subsidies and link tuition financing to the incomes of college graduates.

A Point of View: Embarrassing parents and the teenage truth

Adam Gopnik:

Recently in America, nothing has been argued about more, or more vociferously, than child-rearing methods. As though such a thing existed. One might as well talk about wolf-watching methods. They do it to you, you don’t do it to them.
You may have heard, for instance, of the self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom” – that Asian mother who boasted of pushing her kids brutally through school and towards success – though surely the memoir of the Tiger Cub will be the one to read.

Kauffman School: a year of theory put to practice

Joe Robertson:

When the school year started, 103 children were enrolled in the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s attempt to run its own charter school — an endeavor being watched nationally as the well-known research foundation becomes the practitioner.
More than nine months later, as the inaugural class’s fifth-grade year finally ends this week, 91 are still on board.
Between the longer year and the longer days, they’ve spent 35 percent more time in school than students on a regular school calendar.They’ve endured daily double doses of math and reading and extra tutoring.
In return, Principal Hannah Lofthus said, the students on average have gained 2.4 grade levels in math, 2.1 grade levels in reading and 2.3 grade levels in science.

The Silencing of Maya


Eleven weeks ago I wrote about a lawsuit that posed a threat to my daughter’s voice. Maya, who is four years old and unable to speak, uses an app called Speak for Yourself (SfY) to communicate, and the creators of SfY were being sued for patent infringement by Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems (SCS), two much larger companies that make designated communication devices (not iPad apps). You can read the original post here, and see the numerous news articles that were spurred by this case here. Maya was poised to become a very real, very human, and very adorable casualty of patent law.
After that blog post, two big things happened. First, I learned a tiny bit about patent law, most notably that while in the worst case scenario (for us, a verdict again Speak for Yourself) the judge could shut down the app, it was also quite possible that PRC/SCS would only be awarded monetary damages. I was able to relax a little and lose some of the terror that SfY (which Maya was already relying on) would be suddenly yanked away or disappear. The second, and far more exciting development, is that Maya’s progress in using the app to communicate has been staggering. In my original post I imagined a future in which I could hear Maya “speak” in phrases and share her thoughts . . . now, only weeks later, we are living that future. She politely makes requests, tapping out “I want cookie please.” She makes jokes, like looking out the window at the bright sunshine and tapping “today rain” and laughing (what can I say, 4 year olds don’t tell the best jokes). And two days ago she looked at my husband as he walked by and tapped “Daddy, I love you.”

Critics decry latest shrinkage of L.A. Unified’s school year

Howard Blume:

A tentative agreement to shorten the school year for Los Angeles students — for the fourth consecutive year — is almost certain to weaken academic gains, and was driven, critics said, by expediency more than the best interests of students.
The deal reached last week between L.A. Unified and its teachers union calls for canceling up to five instructional days from the 2012-13 school year. It also could reduce teacher pay by the equivalent of 10 days overall, about a 5% salary cut. This would bring to 18 the number of school days cut over four years.
All sides agree that the pact is bad for students but some insist it was unavoidable. The district had come under increasing pressure to avoid eliminating adult education and elementary arts programs and sharply increasing class sizes, among other things. The union wanted to spare more than 4,000 teachers and others from layoffs, although it still stands to lose more than 1,300 members.

Related: What more time can (and can’t) do for school turnarounds, by Elena Silva.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better than You Normally Do

Colin Nissan:

Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.
Procrastination is an alluring siren taunting you to Google the country where Balki from Perfect Strangers was from, and to arrange sticky notes on your dog in the shape of hilarious dog shorts. A wicked temptress beckoning you to watch your children, and take showers. Well, it’s time to look procrastination in the eye and tell that seafaring wench, “Sorry not today, today I write.”

NEA Admits, “Things Will Never Go Back to the Way They Were.”

Mike Antonucci:

The National Education Association took a body blow when it failed to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but even before the results were known, the union’s national leadership recognized that the serious troubles it faced extended far beyond a single state.
As reported here two weeks ago, NEA plans a reorganization to concentrate its efforts on stemming the loss of revenue and membership and establishing a better public image. Whether it will succeed is open to debate, but judging by the budget numbers presented to the union’s representative bodies, NEA’s lofty position as the most powerful political force in education is in serious doubt.
The union’s reorganization is being introduced to NEA activists this way:

Biosensors to monitor students’ attentiveness

Stephanie Simon:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $4 billion into efforts to transform public education in the U.S., is pushing to develop an “engagement pedometer.” Biometric devices wrapped around the wrists of students would identify which classroom moments excite and interest them — and which fall flat.
The foundation has given $1.4 million in grants to several university researchers to begin testing the devices in middle-school classrooms this fall.
The biometric bracelets, produced by a Massachusetts startup company, Affectiva Inc, send a small current across the skin and then measure subtle changes in electrical charges as the sympathetic nervous system responds to stimuli. The wireless devices have been used in pilot tests to gauge consumers’ emotional response to advertising.

‘You’re not special’ graduation speech sparks buzz

Pueng Vongs, via a kind reader’s email:

Social media was buzzing about a Boston-area high school teacher’s blunt commencement speech that told students they “are not special.”
Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough Jr. told graduates “You are not special. You are not exceptional,” quoting empirical evidence:
“Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians … 37,000 class presidents … 92,000 harmonizing altos … 340,000 swaggering jocks … 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs,” he said in the speech published in the Boston Herald.
He added: “Even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.”

Anger, frustration envelop Philadelphia schools

CBS News:

The school system’s chief recovery officer was trying to explain how broke the district is, but no one could hear him.
“Save our schools! Save our schools!”
More than 200 protesters had packed the Philadelphia school board meeting and were drowning out the official presentation; they also waved signs expressing “No confidence” in next year’s austere budget. It was the second major demonstration at district headquarters in just over a week.
The City of Brotherly Love is boiling over with frustration. It’s not just the $700 million in education cuts this past year. It’s not just a loss of state aid, which led to a massive rally and 14 arrests. And it’s not just the plan to close 40 of Philadelphia’s 249 schools within a year.
“For 10 years we’ve lived with promises that privatization and choice options would be the magic bullet to a lot of the problems,” said parent Helen Gym. “What we found is chasing after these silver bullets has really drained schools of resources and starved them to the point of dysfunction.”

Wisconsin’s New Dual (high school/College) Enrollment Program

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

If Wisconsin wants an educated workforce that can compete in a global economy, it has to stop thinking in terms of education pieces: K-12, colleges and universities, technical schools. It has to start thinking in terms of one system that students can navigate with ease to get the education they want and need, both in basic knowledge and upgrades when they want them; a system aimed at best serving their needs, offering them enrichment and skills.
An important step in that direction was taken Tuesday with the signing of a dual enrollment agreement by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension Chancellor Ray Cross at UW-Marathon County in Wausau. The agreement allows high school students – mostly juniors or seniors – to earn credit that can be transferred easily to state four-year universities or two-year colleges after graduation, along with many private colleges.
Evers said in an interview Tuesday that the initiative “creates some synergy between systems that have not been directly connected in the past,” according to an article by Journal Sentinel reporters Erin Richards and Karen Herzog. “Even though we’re all differently governed, we need to make our systems look more like one instead of two or three or four.”
This helps students in several ways, including reducing the cost of a college degree. That’s more important than ever in light of the increasing cost of a college education. Just last week, UW officials announced a 5.5% hike in tuition.

The devil is in the details, as always.
Much more on credit for non-Madison School District courses, here.
Wisconsin DPI:

UW Colleges and DPI announce expanded dual enrollment program
Program will allow students to take UW Colleges courses at their high schools
High school students in Wisconsin will be able to earn college credits while still in high school under a new dual enrollment program announced by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the University of Wisconsin Colleges.
Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction, and Ray Cross, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension, signed an agreement and announced the new statewide model for dually enrolling high school students in high school and UW Colleges courses. They spoke at a June 12 ceremony at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County, one of the UW Colleges campuses in Wausau. UW Colleges is the UW System’s network of 13 freshman – sophomore campuses and UW Colleges Online.
Evers and Cross said the new partnership would allow students across Wisconsin to access UW Colleges courses in their high schools via classroom teachers and online. The new dual enrollment program would accelerate students’ ability to earn UW credits, reduce the cost of obtaining a college degree, and increase the readiness of high school graduates for either college or the workplace. The program should be in place no later than the 2013-14 school year.
“We’re trying to better serve high school students by bringing our University of Wisconsin courses right into their high schools in a cost-effective way,” said Cross. “We’re committed to making these UW credits as affordable as possible for high school students, their families, and the school districts.”
“More students need the opportunity to take advanced courses and earn high school and college credit simultaneously,” Evers said. “This statewide dual enrollment agreement is a great way for students to get an introduction to college coursework and earn credits before even enrolling in a school of higher education. This will increase the number of students who graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”
Additional information is contained in the complete news release. A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is available online.

School leavers’ skills cause of concern

Chris Cook:

One-third of businesses are dissatisfied with school leavers’ literacy and numeracy skills, according to a new survey – a problem the government will try to address this week with a draft primary school curriculum that will specify words and grammar that children must learn at each age.
The survey of 542 companies, undertaken by the CBI employers’ group and Pearson UK, the British education arm of the company which owns the Financial Times, suggested that there had been little improvement in basic skills over the past decade, when a similar question received similar answers.
A further proposal for reforming the primary curriculum, also under consultation, would make foreign languages mandatory from the age of seven. In 2010, the coalition government had dropped the previous administration’s plans to make them compulsory.

The inside skinny on cheating at the AF Academy that they’d rather not discuss

David Mullin:

Air Force Academy officials recently stated that the honor system works because, they said, 78 cadets were caught cheating on a Math 142 (integral calculus) exam.
The Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, and the Vice Dean, Col. Richard Fullerton, have gone on record stating that fragmentary evidence of declining honor cases in recent years is evidence that the honor system is working. So if the number of cadets caught in honor violations is up, the system is working. And if known honor violations are down, the system is working. It’s no wonder that the Center for Character Development and Leadership, the Air Force Academy unit responsible for running the honor system, has been consistently uninterested in using the best available data sets in assessing the effectiveness of the honor system.

The Kids Have Chores. Why Am I So Tired?

Demetria Gallegos:

I fired my children. It was a cold Saturday in December, when I told them they no longer had jobs and should leave the house. I didn’t care where they went, as long as they got out of my hair for three hours so I could do their chores without bitterness.
Our detailed checklist-based system, with jobs paying from 50 cents to $3, was a failure. Every weekend I’d nag my four girls–ages 10 to 15–for a day or so to start. The girls would bicker throughout, as one tried to sweep before another had gotten around to dealing with rugs. Every time I’d turn around, another girl would have wandered off before finishing, distracted by a book or the iPad. Then they’d fail inspection.

Student Cluster Challenge

International Supercomputing Conference:

ISC’12 will feature a new activity this year in collaboration with the HPC Advisory Council – the HPCAC-ISC Student Cluster Competition. The HPC Advisory Council is the main organizer for the competition; please visit their website for detailed information (
The competition consists of five teams of university students from around the world that will compete to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of state-of-the-art high-performance cluster hardware and software. The teams will be competing in real-time and will build a small cluster of their own to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications. The students will have a unique opportunity to learn, experience and demonstrate how high-performance computing influences our world, including day-to-day learning.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Federal Deficit & Debt

CNBC, via Barry Ritholtz:

For all of the hemming and hawing about spending cuts in Washington, the Congressional Budget Office’s latest long-term budget forecast reflects two painful facts for Washington: How large the nation’s problems remain, and how the GOP’s 2010 surge into Washington has had only a limited impact in changing America’s fiscal trajectory. The annual report, released on Tuesday by Capitol Hill’s nonpartisan budget umpires, argues that if Congress’s current policies continue – meaning that the Bush tax cuts are renewed at year’s end and Medicare providers don’t face drastic reductions in payments, among other issues – federal debt held by the public will reach 93 percent of gross-domestic product (GDP) by the year 2022. That’s down about seven percentage points from CBO’s 2011 forecast, which saw the nation’s debt as a share of GDP rising to 100 percent by 2021. That’s thanks in large part to the Budget Control Act of last summer – also known as the debt-ceiling deal – where Congress achieved more than $2 trillion in savings over the next decade through a combination of spending cuts and discretionary spending caps.

Related: How Safe are US Treasuries?

Hugh Bailey: Public schools are worth the price

Hugh Bailey:

Since the state (CT) passed education reform a few weeks ago, we should be looking forward to the prospect of more help for struggling schools. Instead, we’re probably looking forward to more teachers losing their jobs.
Because school reform, at its base, is not about education. It’s about money.
In some cases, that means cashing in. You’d have to be blind to think there aren’t people looking to get in on the giant pile of public education money in this country. That means testing companies, privatizers and more. But that’s only a part of the story.

Religious education increasingly ‘marginalised’ in schools

Graeme Paton:

Growing numbers of teenagers are being forced to drop GCSEs in religious studies because of the introduction of new-style league tables that prioritise other disciplines, it was claimed.
In some schools, pupils are no longer allowed to take RE at all in the last two years of secondary education.
It is also feared that an expansion of independent academies – state schools run free of local authority control – is leading to rising numbers of schools dropping locally-agreed syllabuses in the subject.
The comments by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales were made despite claims of strong backing for the subject.
A survey of 1,800 adults – published by the council tpday – shows that more than half of people back compulsory lessons in RE up to the age of 16. Only a third said it should not be mandatory, it was revealed.

The Demographics of Milwaukee’s Independent Charter School Sector

Mike Ford:

Last November I wrote about the different types of charter schools operating in Wisconsin. My hope was to list in one place a simple description of a reform model that people often find confusing.
Today I am going to dig a little deeper into the demographic profile of Milwaukee’s independent charter school sector. In 2011-2012 18 independent charter schools operated in Milwaukee. Seven were authorized by the City of Milwaukee, and 11 were authorized by UWM.

Sun Prairie Graduation 2012 – Still Exceeding Statistical Probability


It was nice. It felt…comfortable. But of course that maybe because things went as expected and as they usually do: a phenomenal percentage of honors and high honors graduates.
Sure, there floated the occasional beach ball until confiscated by the aisle monitors. There were several bold souls that “shook their stuff” on the stage before accepting their diploma case. But could anyone help but notice the inverted triangle of high honor grads?
Last year 1 in 4 students graduated with high honors. This second verse very nearly mirrored the first. By our unofficial tally, 109 students graduated with “high honors” (cumulative GPA greater than 3.50, or between a B+ and an A-). We don’t have a final tally on the number of graduated, but with we use 440, the number of 12 graders in SPHS, the percentage is 24.9%. If we total all 12th graders (including PPA and virtual schoolers, the number of kids is just under 500 and 109 represents about 22%).

Weaker WEAC meets new reality

Wisconsin State Journal:

The conversation covered much ground, but mostly we talked about WEAC’s new reality, and the daunting task facing a union that just lost a huge political battle in a decisive way.
Some highlights:

  • Did WEAC make a mistake in endorsing Kathleen Falk so early in the process? “She was a strong and viable candidate,” Bell said. “And we needed to make sure there was another voice in the arena.”
  • What does the future hold for WEAC? “Every election has lessons,” she said. “Scott Walker is going to be in office for at least two more years, and we have to figure out how we can work with that.”
  • Can WEAC sustain its membership in a post-Act 10 world? Burkhalter said membership was about 90,000 before Walker’s strict limits on collective bargaining for most public workers kicked in. Once all the current teacher union contracts expire and individual teachers are free to choose whether to pay dues or not, WEAC hopes to retain 60,000 to 70,000 of that base, he said.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators. Much more on WEAC.

The Rise of the AP

Sarah Fudin, via a kind email:

As the 2012 school year begins to wind down, many students across the country are diligently preparing for Advanced Placement exams in 34 different subject areas. AP courses are designed to help high school students acquire the skills and study habits essential for success in college. With test dates running from May 7 through May 25, AP students are poised to hit the ground running when beginning their post-secondary careers, should they earn a score high enough to gain them college credit.
In keeping with the testing season, we are very excited to launch an infographic that highlights the progress made within AP curricula over the past decade. Our graphic, “The Rise of the AP,” shares information and statistics from the College Board’s 8th Annual “AP Report to the Nation.”

As Student Debt Grows, Possible Link Seen Between Federal Aid and Rising Tuition

Josh Mitchell:

Rising student debt levels and fresh academic research have brought greater scrutiny to the question of whether the federal government’s expanding student-aid programs are driving up college tuition.
Studies of the relationship between increasing aid and climbing prices at nonprofit four-year colleges found mixed results, ranging from no link to a strong causal connection. But fresh academic research supports the idea that student aid in the form of grants leads to higher prices at for-profit schools, a small segment of postsecondary education.
The new study found that tuition at for-profit schools where students receive federal aid was 75% higher than at comparable for-profit schools whose students don’t receive any aid. Aid-eligible institutions need to be accredited by the Education Department, licensed by the state and meet other standards such as a maximum rate of default by students on federal loans.

Not looking for the union label

Esther Cepeda:

As observers outside Wisconsin attempt to divine what the failed attempt to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker means for November’s presidential election, let us instead focus on what the so-called union-buster’s triumph says about Big Labor.
My favorite comment on the matter came via Twitter: “Please explain: why so many people I know who are in unions (trades or schoolteachers) so excited for Walker’s win?”
Let me take a crack at that one: Because not every tradesman or teacher wants to be forced into joining a union. And they certainly don’t want to pay hefty union fees that go toward supporting political agendas that have nothing to do with, say, educating children.

Want to Help Students Prepare for College? Have Them Play More Games

Megan Garber:

Gamification, depending on what’s being gamified, can either be elegantly fitting or weirdly redundant. Gamified social networking? Generally fantastic. Gamified shopping experiences? Generally not so much. One space that’s obviously ripe for a little game-changing, though, is education. Kids like games; games can help kids; and BOOM! Win.
In February, the education services company Pearson introduced Alleyoop, a personalized digital-tutoring service that tries to gamify the classroom — and to do it, specifically, outside of the classroom. Think Zynga, but smart. (And also: Zynga, but trying to make you smart.) The platform focuses on middle- and, in particular, high-school curricula, and emphasizes the immediate feedback aspects of the gamification model. Instead of a once-a-semester report card, featuring the blunt assessment metrics of letter grades, students get real-time feedback on the details of their performance — from real-time tutors who are not their teachers. The system is personalized, iterative, and adaptive, so a student having trouble with, say, trigonometry can delve into trigonometry at his or her own pace, learning from mistakes and gaining immediate rewards from successes.

Children go back to basics in maths

Graeme Paton:

Children will be introduced to times tables, mental arithmetic and fractions in the first two years of school as part of a back-to-basics overhaul of the National Curriculum.
Ministers will this week announce key tasks pupils are expected to master at each age under wide-ranging plans to counter more than a decade of dumbing down in schools.
A draft mathematics curriculum suggests that five and six year-olds will be expected to count up to 100, recognise basic fractions and memorise the results of simple sums by the end of the first year of compulsory education.
In the second year, they will be required to know the two, five and 10 times tables, add and subtract two-digit numbers in their head and begin to use graphs.

Dismissive Reviews: Academe’s Memory Hole

Richard Phelps, via a kind email:

“In scholarly terms, a review of the literature or literature review is a summation of the previous research that has been done on a particular topic. With a dismissive literature review, a researcher assures the public that no one has yet studied a topic or that very little has been done on it. A firstness claim is a particular type of dismissive review in which a researcher insists that he is the first to study a topic. Of course, firstness claims and dismissive reviews can be accurate–for example, with genuinely new scientific discoveries or technical inventions. But that does not explain their prevalence in nonscientific, nontechnical fields, such as education, economics, and public policy, nor does it explain their sheer abundance across all fields.
“See for yourself. Access a database that allows searching by phrases (e.g., Google, Yahoo Search, Bing) and try some of these: “this is the first study,” “no previous studies,” “paucity of research,” “there have been no studies,” “few studies,” “little research,” or their variations. When I first tried this, I expected hundreds of hits; I got hundreds of thousands.”

He’s Uneducated: Rethinking Our Models of Learning

Laurissa Wolfram:

The more I thought about the comic, though, the more I realized we can actually read it two different ways:
The interviewee is trying desperately to use the appropriate (yet empty) buzzwords that give him the credibility he needs. But to the Boss, it’s being translated into a completely different message: I’m a high school drop-out who failed three times at starting my own business. I’m not competent enough to make it through the formal education process, so I just try patch together the skills I need here and there. Instead of going to school, I went online and signed up for a few free courses, and printed off the completion certificates myself.

Test scores not enough to measure success at Wings

Alan Borsuk:

The 10-year flight of Wings Academy will end Tuesday. The closing of the small school on the south side where the vast majority of students qualify for special education leaves me thinking that nationwide we haven’t worked hard enough on figuring out what to aim for with special ed kids and how to figure out if we’re achieving it.
To what degree should we set the same goals for at least a large portion of special ed kids as for other kids, largely measured by test scores? Is success on less measurable fronts – personal development and preparation for adulthood – good enough? Better? Settling for too little?
Wings was an independent charter school, authorized to operate by the Milwaukee School Board. It had the atmosphere of a friendly, energetic, but, as one staff member put it, squirrelly family. Its program included phonics-oriented reading instruction, individualized and project-based work in many classes, tae kwon as its physical education focus, and a lot of relationship building among staff, students and families.
Test scores at Wings were, as Nicola Ciurro, co-founder and head of the school, put it, terrible. “We always knew that,” she said. Among 10th-graders in last fall’s testing, 34% were proficient in reading, 6% in math.
About 80% of the 150 students, who ranged from first- to 12th-graders, had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, dyslexia or other special circumstances. Many of the other 20% were “gray area” kids when it came to special needs, Ciurro said.

Charter Advocates Face Gap in Mayor Race

Lisa Fleisher:

For more than a decade, New York’s charter-school advocates and other supporters of education reform have had a powerful ally in Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But that is likely to change after next year. None of the presumed mayoral candidates fully support Mr. Bloomberg’s policies, which have been at the forefront of a national movement to promote school competition, accommodate charter schools and use test scores to judge schools and teachers.

Teachers showcase new ways of teaching math, literacy

The Lane Report:

Teachers from across Kentucky showed how their new approaches to teaching math and literacy skills are paying off for students, both in greater interest in learning and achievement results.
An audience of about 200 from Kentucky and other states learned from the teachers’ experiences. The new strategies are backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and have been guided in Kentucky by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the state Department of Education, which is now leading expansion of the program. The new approach to math puts students in the center of problem solving that taps students’ thinking skills; the new language arts assignments require deeper thinking and stronger writing in English, science and social studies classes.
The approaches highlighted at the June 4 showcase here are now being used in 17 school districts across the state, up from nine districts last year. Nationally, the project is expanding to new states, with educators from Colorado, Louisiana and Florida in the audience here to learn about what Kentucky teachers are doing.
“This is the second year we’ve heard that all teachers in the state need to be able to do this type of work,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee. “I know I want my grandkids to have the chance to be part of classrooms where teachers do this.”

Beware subprime college education bubble

George Will:

Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money. A recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Student Debt Rises by 8% as College Tuitions Climb.”
Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that as many people — perhaps more — have student loan debts as have college degrees.
Have you seen those T-shirts that proclaim “College: The Best Seven Years of My Life”? Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.
In 2010, The New York Times reported on Cortney Munna, then 26, a New York University graduate with almost $100,000 in debt. If her repayments were not then being deferred because she was enrolled in night school, she would have been paying $700 monthly from her $2,300 monthly after-tax income as a photographer’s assistant.

On Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad & the Birmingham (MI) Job

Observer & Eccentric:

If you judge the process by the questions, it would appear Dr. Daniel Nerad has the edge in being offered the job as the next superintendent for Birmingham Schools.
Nerad is the Madison School District superintendent in Wisconsin and one of two finalists for the Birmingham job. The other person is Robert Shaner, executive director of instruction and technology at the Warren Consolidated district.
Nerad has been superintendent for Madison Schools since 2008. Before that, he spent seven years as the superintendent for the Green Bay Area Public Schools. Shaner has less than a year of administrative experience.

Madison School Board Members 2012-2013 “Budget Amendments”

It is interesting to compare and contrast Board member amendments to the Administration’s proposed 2012-2013 Madison School District budget. The 2011-2012 budget spent $369,394,753 for 24,861 students or $14,858.40 each.
Mary Burke: Require Accountability for All Achievement Gap Programs.
Maya Cole offers 11 amendments, the first seeks to address the District’s literacy problems. Cole’s amendment 6 questions the Administration’s use of WPS health care savings (“general fund”).
James Howard seeks a student data analysis assistant and the implementation of a parent university.
Ed Hughes offers 3 amendments, the first seeks to moderate proposed administrative staffing growth, the 2nd requests $3,000,000 in additional maintenance spending (500K less than the Administrative proposal) and a change (reduction) in the use of the District’s reserves (or “fund equity“). Mr. Hughes’ amendments would result in a 5.7% property tax increase. Related: controversy and a possible audit over past maintenance spending.
Beth Moss requests additional middle school media library staffing and increased funding for the middle school Avid program. Much more on the AVID program, here.
Marj Passman requests the introduction of a credit recovery program at East High School (the other high schools evidently have in-house programs) and the creation of a “Department of African American achievement”.
Arlene Silveira requests $75K for the Superintendent Search and a possible interim candidate, a dropout recovery program, a Toki Middle School “Expeditionary Learning Program” and the creation of an implementation plan for all achievement gap programs. Notes and links on Toki middle school and the “Expeditionary Learning Program“.
Somewhat related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”
I continue to wonder if all schools are held to the same academic and financial standards expressed during the debate and rejection of the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Basic Skills Versus Conceptual Understanding: A Bogus Dichotomy in Mathematics Education

H. Wu:

EDUCATION SEEMS to be plagued by false dichotomies. Until recently, when research and common sense gained the upper hand, the debate over how to teach beginning reading was character- ized by many as “phonics vs. meaning.” It turns out that, rather than a dichotomy, there is an inseparable connection between decoding–what one might call the skills part of reading–and comprehension. Fluent decoding, which for most children is best ensured by the direct and systematic teaching of phonics and lots of practice reading, is an indispensable condition of comprehension.
“Facts vs. higher order thinking” is another example of a false choice that we often encounter these days, as if thinking of any sort–high or low–could exist out- side of content knowledge. In mathematics education, this debate takes the form of “basic skills or concep- tual understanding.” This bogus dichotomy would seem to arise from a common misconception of math- ematics held by a segment of the public and the educa- tion community: that the demand for precision and fluency in the execution of basic skills in school math- ematics runs counter to the acquisition of conceptual understanding. The truth is that in mathematics, skills and understanding are completely intertwined. In most cases, the precision and fluency in the execution of the skills are the requisite vehicles to convey the conceptual understanding. There is not “conceptual understanding” and “problem-solving skill” on the one hand and “basic skills” on the other. Nor can one ac-quire the former without the latter.
It has been said that had Einstein been born at the time of the Stone Age, his genius might have enabled him to invent basic arithmetic but probably not much else. However, because he was born at the end of the 19th century–with all the techniques of advanced physics at his disposal–he created the theory of rela- tivity. And so it is with mathematics. Conceptual ad- vances are invariably built on the bedrock of tech- nique. Without the quadratic formula, for example, the theoretical development of polynomial equations and hence of algebra as a whole would have been very dif- ferent. The ability to sum a geometric series, some- thing routinely taught in Algebra II, is ultimately re- sponsible for the theory of power series, which lurks inside every calculator. And so on.

Viewpoints: Open enrollment unlocks path to choice Share

Gloria Romero and Larry Sand:

Getting any school choice legislation passed in California is a daunting task. The Legislature, in thrall to the teachers unions, is unwilling to disrupt the moribund status quo, which has led to disastrous consequences for public education. But the Open Enrollment Act has jumped through various legal and political challenges and miraculously survived, though efforts are under way to have it weakened.
Included in California’s 2010 sweeping reform package, the Open Enrollment Act has received far less attention than its sister statute, the “parent trigger” law. But while the parent trigger provision requires the signatures of 50 percent of parents at a school designated as chronically underperforming by the California Department of Education, the open enrollment provision requires only one. It is efficient, simple and unencumbered by the political obstacles that have undermined parent empowerment under the parent trigger law – one parent can rise to the challenge and demand change.

The Power of Open Education Data

Todd Park and Jim Shelton:

That’s why we are excited about the Education Data Initiative, an Administration-wide effort to “liberate” government data and voluntarily-contributed non-government data as fuel to spur entrepreneurship, create value, and create jobs while improving educational outcomes for students. The Education Data Initiative is part of a recently announced series of Open Data Initiatives in energy, health care, public safety, and education to spark new private-sector consumer-facing and business-oriented tools, products, and services – such as mobile apps and websites- all while rigorously protecting personal, proprietary, and national security information.
Led by the U.S. Department of Education, in close partnership with the White House and other agencies, the Education Data Initiative seeks to (1) work with data owners inside and outside of government to make education-related data available, machine-readable, and accessible, while ensuring personal privacy is protected, and (2) collaborate with private-sector entrepreneurs and innovators to ensure they are aware of these existing and newly available digital assets and encourage them to include these data as inputs into their new products, services, and features that can improve student success.
For example, existing Federal databases of higher education information available on (e.g., institutional prices, graduation rates, loan default rates, etc.) can fuel new or improved online services that help students and their families make informed choices about which college to attend, based on indicators of affordability and quality. Similarly, making individual federal financial aid application and award data securely available to applicants and borrowers in machine-readable form promises to help customize and personalize college-choice tools and services.

NJ’s Dueling Tenure Reform Proposals

Laura Waters:

As June wanes, the pressure on NJ legislators to pass some sort of tenure reform increases. How long have they been working on this? Years. But, as NJ Spotlight reports today, dueling bills threaten to forestall progress.

The first bill, thoroughly vetted by, well, just about everybody, is Senator Teresa Ruiz’s TEACHNJ bill (S 1455), would make teacher tenure conditional on classroom effectiveness and (depending on the version) end LIFO, or last in, first out when making lay-off decisions. It would also tie teacher evaluations to student outcomes and give principals more responsibility and authority.

(New Jersey School Boards Association supports the Ruiz bill. NJEA doesn’t.)

The second bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, isn’t even out there in final form (or any form for that matter), but it represents the greatest challenge to the possibility of tenure reform in NJ.

Math Challenged: Illinois Teacher Pension Fund Just 45% funded

Andrew Thomason:

In fact, if the adopted rate of return figure is less than 7.75 percent, the unfunded liability would continue to grow yearly, said Hans Zigmund, associate director at the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
TRS has an unfunded liability of $44 billion, or 55 percent unfunded, meaning it only has enough assets on hand to cover 45 percent of the cost of current and future pensions.
A recommendation for a change to the expected rate of return for TRS investments, which happens every five years, could come as early as its June 21-22 board meeting.
State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, D-Evanston, said the rate of return could be lowered because of pressure from the bond-rating agencies, which determine a state’s credit worthiness.
“The rating agencies like Moody’s and their counterparts have been more insistent in recent years that the return on investments be re-calibrated to be more accurate,” Schoenberg said. “This is not only happening in Illinois, but across the nation as well.”

Vouchers Breathe New Life Into Shrinking Catholic Schools

Stephanie Banchero & Jennifer Levitz:

It had been years since Principal Kathleen Lowry pulled extra desks from the dusty attic of St. Stanislaus, the only Catholic school left in this port city. But after Indiana began offering parents vouchers in the spring of 2011 to pay for private tuition, she had to bring down 30 spare desks and hire three teachers’ aides.
Thanks to vouchers, St. Stanislaus, which was $140,000 in debt to the Catholic Diocese of Gary at the end of 2010, picked up 72 new students, boosting enrollment by 38%.
“God has been good to us,” says Ms. Lowry. “Growth is a good problem to have.”
For the first time in decades, Catholic education is showing signs of life. Driven by expanding voucher programs, outreach to Hispanic Catholics and donations by business leaders, Catholic schools in several major cities are swinging back from

Forget B-School, D-School Is Hot

Melissa Korn & Rachel Emma Silverman:

Stanford University’s–the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design–has gained recognition in recent years for introducing the trendy, but murky, problem-solving concept known as “design thinking” to executives, educators, scientists, doctors and lawyers. Now other schools are coming up with their own programs.
Students at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design — the — have their photos posted on the walls of a main meeting space.
Design thinking uses close, almost anthropological observation of people to gain insight into problems that may not be articulated yet. For example, researchers may study the habits of shoppers waiting to pay for groceries in order to create a more efficient checkout system that maximizes last-minute purchases while keeping customers moving quickly.
Traditionally, companies have relied on focus groups to get feedback on products that were already in development. With design thinking, potential solutions–products, processes or services–are modeled, often using simple materials like markers and pipe-cleaners, then tested and quickly adjusted based on user feedback.

WEAC has no regrets about failed Walker recall

Meg Jones:

Since the collective bargaining measure was enacted last year, WEAC’s membership has dropped from around 90,000 to 70,000, but the remaining membership became energized by the recall. Union leaders are hopeful that passion will continue as the union rallies around issues such as public school funding. The union is working on membership drives this summer.
“I think we will be smaller but stronger,” Bell said.
Burkhalter estimated 25% to 30% of WEAC members voted for Walker in 2010 while on Tuesday about 5% voted for the governor.
“He really united our membership,” said Burkhalter.
Bell said Walker prevailed in the recall partly because many voters don’t like recall elections and some believed recalls should only be used in cases of malfeasance. She admitted public employees were easy targets for the governor and Republican lawmakers because of generous pensions and benefits, which Bell noted were mostly a result of former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s qualified economic offer law that gave better benefits in return for salary concessions to public school employees several years ago.

Related: WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators.

What’s Wrong with Multi-Culturalism, Part 1

Kenan Malik:

I gave the Milton K Wong lecture in Vancouver on Sunday. I very much enjoyed the event- it was a stunning venue, a superb audience and a good discussion of the issues. My thanks to the Laurier Institution, University of British Columbia and CBC for inviting me. Entitled ‘What is Wrong with Multiculturalism? A European Perpective’, the lecture pulled together many of the themes about immigration, identity, diversity and multiculturalism of which I have been talking and writing recently. It was a long talk, so I am splitting the transcript into two. Here is the first part; I will publish the second part later this week. It will be broadcast in full on 22 June on the CBC’s Ideas strand.
It is somewhat alarming to be asked to present the European perspective on multiculturalism. There is no such beast. Especially when compared to the Canadian discussion, opinion in Europe is highly polarised. And mine certainly is not the European perspective. My view is that both multiculturalists and their critics are wrong. And only by understanding why both sides are wrong will we be able to work our way through the mire in which we find ourselves.
Thirty years ago multiculturalism was widely seen as the answer to many of Europe’s social problems. Today it is seen, by growing numbers of people, not as the solution to, but as the cause of, Europe’s myriad social ills. That perception has been fuel for the success of far-right parties and populist politicians across Europe from Geert Wilders in Holland to Marine Le Pen in France, from the True Finns to the UK Independence Party. It even provided fuel for the obscene, homicidal rampage last year of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo and Utøya, which in his eyes were the first shots in a war defending Europe against multiculturalism. The reasons for this transformation in the perception of multiculturalism are complex, and at the heart of what I want to talk about. But before we can discuss what the problem is with multiculturalism, we first have unpack what we mean by multiculturalism.