Category Archives: Uncategorized

Students Complain about New Dress Code at Stuyvesant


The dress code is meant to protect students and to preserve the academic atmosphere of Stuyvesant- or so it seems. Ever since the beginning of the school year, countless students, both male and female, have clashed with the administration regarding these requirements. The conflicts have not been a result of a conscious student rebellion against the code. Rather they were an expected outcome of the administration’s faulty, subjective enforcement of the policy. Here are the experiences of a few students:

Number of the Week: Student Loan Bubble

Phil Izzo:

368%: The jump since 2007 in the measure of consumer credit held by the government comprised primarily of student loans.
If a student loan bubble were to pop, the government, not private banks, would be the one standing around with gum in its hair.
Issuance of student loans has soared in recent years, hitting $867 billion at the end of 2011, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than credit cards or auto loans. The jump has led some to classify the student-lending market as a bubble, comparing it with the housing mess that nearly brought down the banking system in 2008.
But there are some big differences between student loans and housing. For starters, mortgage credit absolutely dwarfs lending for higher education — by nearly a 10-to-1 ratio. Troubles in an $8 trillion market pose a much higher systemic risk.

Does Tom Barrett Still Support a Milwaukee Public Schools Governance Change?

Mike Ford:

Barrett first floated the idea of a mayoral-appointed MPS school board in 2003, and actually took a serious crack at making it happen in 2009 and 2010. That effort, which was well chronicled by Alan Borsuk, could politely be described as a political train-wreck. Despite the support of Barrett, Governor Doyle, the two most powerful Democrats in the Milwaukee legislative delegation, and the editorial page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the proposal never made it to the floor of the legislature.
At the time I failed to see much point in a governance change. Predictors of the success of such reforms, such as unity of purpose among relevant actors, were absent in Milwaukee. More troubling to me was the failure of anyone to articulate what a mayoral-appointed board could do differently than an elected one. No matter how board members came to serve, they were severely constricted by state and federal mandates as well a union contracts.

Intel Science Fair winner detects pancreatic cancer early, cheaply


Kai Ryssdal: Ahhh, the high school science fair. For most of us, it was no more than your baking soda volcano.
But for the big one — the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair — the competition is fierce. And the prizes are big: $75,000 in scholarship money to the winner and about $12,000 in cash.
The grand prize this year went to Jack Andraka, high school freshman from Crownsville, Md. It’s only a little bit of a stretch to say he’s trying to cure cancer by finding it early.
Hey Jack, how are you?
Jack Andraka: Great, how about you?

Field Guide to Connecticut Education – 2012


66% of students attending Connecticut State Universities and 73% of students attending community colleges require remedial math and/or English.
Dropouts of the Connecticut high school class of 2011 will lose more than $1.4 BILLION in lifetime earnings because they lack a high school diploma.
Related: Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.”

How did this parent end up in jail?

Julianne Hing:

Kelley Williams-Bolar is giving a speech in the dark. The Ohio mom is rattling off the standard remarks she’s delivered in public appearances since being catapulted onto the national stage last year. It’s an unseasonably warm day and the lights in the room are off, her face lit only by the glow of the computer screen in her father’s home. The address on the door outside is the one she used on her now-famous falsified documents–the ones that landed her in jail for nine days for illegally enrolling her daughters in a neighboring public school district.
“First, I talk about how I received my indictments, and then I give the laundry list of stipulations for my probation,” says Williams-Bolar, who is halfway through her two-year sentence. The 42-year-old single mother, with an otherwise spotless criminal record, is not allowed to drink, must submit to drug tests and reports monthly to a probation officer. She had to perform 80 hours of community service and pay $800 in restitution, as well as the cost of Summit County’s prosecution against her.

Appreciating the value of differentiated instruction

Stephanie Kindistin:

As teachers of the 21st century, we are all familiar with the buzzword “differentiation,” but is it just “buzz” ? I regularly hear teachers ponder the effectiveness of differentiated instruction. They raise questions such as, “Are we setting them up for success in the real world?” and “Is it worth the extra time spent to create the differentiated lesson?” These are both valid questions that could open up a lengthy debate in any crowd of teachers. My answer to both of these questions is YES!
Preparing students for success in college and the real world is a consistent focus in our field. When we think about other accomplishments in our lives that we prepared for, there was always a learning curve or ramp-up, if you will. For example, when we learned to ride a bicycle, we started with a tricycle, then went to a bike with training wheels, then a bike with an adult holding the back steady … then, voila, we were riding a bicycle.
A similar learning path should be considered when acquiring knowledge in the classroom. We all need “training wheels” to some degree when learning a new skill or idea. These training wheels can translate in the classroom to something that makes the information more accessible to us. This can be through entry points, modified tasks, mini-lessons or scaffolding.

Democrat party is deeply divided on the question of how best to improve schools.

Jim Newton:

Gloria Romero is a Democrat. She was elected to the California Assembly as a Democrat and later to the state Senate. She served as Democratic leader of the Senate, the first woman to do so. Ben Austin is a Democrat too. He worked in the White House under President Clinton and was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Both Austin and Romero support reform of the nation’s education system, and when Romero helped found an organization to push that effort, she and her co-founders (fellow Democrats) called it Democrats for Education Reform.
Eric Bauman chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he takes offense at that name. It creates confusion, he says, especially when the group supports a candidate. Specifically, he cites the group’s endorsement of Brian Johnson, who is running as a Democrat (though not the only Democrat) in the June primary for the Assembly in the 46th District. Bauman says the endorsement by a group with the word “Democrats” in its name suggests that the party itself is behind Johnson, whereas it hasn’t endorsed any candidate.

The Answer to High Student Debt: Quality is the Next Great Frontier

Bill Henderson:

My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from “how much does higher education cost?” to “how much is higher education worth?” And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an “Apollo Project” approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the “how high” and “how fast” possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.

Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

TJ Mertz

As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education:, Supt. Dan Nerad: I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.

Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.

On Charter, Virtual & Traditional School Governance: Identical or ?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I know how the issue would appear to me if I were on the McFarland school board and I were considering whether to revoke the school’s charter or decline to renew it on the basis of the school’s abysmal graduation rates.
On the one hand, continuation of the arrangement and hence of the income stream from K12 would mean that the district could spend at least $150 more per student on the education of the kids who actually live in McFarland, which is a not insignificant sum. On the other hand, revocation of the charter would mean that K12 would shop around for some other relatively small school district in the state that would be willing to host the virtual school, cash K12’s checks and provide even less oversight. K12 wouldn’t miss a beat and nothing would be accomplished. On top of this, as the McFarland superintendent pointed out, no one’s complaining. I suspect that I wouldn’t be leading the charge to revoke the charter and kiss away that very handy K12 money.

Are traditional public schools, budgets and staff held to the same standards?
Much more the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

School Goes International With Boarding

Sophia Hollander:

A relative newcomer on New York City’s private-school scene will open the city’s first international high-school boarding program as it looks to boost enrollment and its reputation among elite competitors.
About 40 students from at least three continents will enroll in Léman Manhattan Preparatory School this autumn, officials said. They will share studio apartments at 37 Wall Street, a luxury building several blocks from the high school building.
“Certainly, the time has come–probably it’s past due,” said Drew Alexander, the head of school at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School. “New York City is such a tremendous destination, has such an international flavor and is such a highly sought-after location.”

Nimble Minds

Nancy Connor:

The mantra of “graduating our students ready for college and the workplace” is so ubiquitous these days that people have begun to forget the underlying question: What do we really want our students to know and be able to do when they graduate from high school? We hear a lot of talk about a 21st century education. What does that mean? How is a 21st century education related to our college preparation? What sort of workforce do they need to be ready for?
I went to a presentation by the chief economist of a major bank last week. It was interesting to hear him talk about understanding changes in sectors such as manufacturing when making investment decisions. He talked about more and more manufacturing in the U.S., but with robots, not people. And the fact that many companies currently making big profits have a large global presence or put a sexy spin on ordinary items. Housing was mentioned, as well as the emerging trend for young families to move back to the city for shorter commutes and smaller lawns. He called it the “new realities,” a seismic shift in priorities.

Fixing the War College System

Gary Schaub Jr.:

What sort of senior military officers are the U.S. military creating with its system of professional military education (PME)?
If one were to examine the curricula of the war colleges, one would likely discover three types of military professionals that they are attempting to develop: service professionals, joint professionals, and national security professionals. Unfortunately, the difference between these three types of professionals is vast and expecting an officer to master all three in 10 months is a tall order. The faculties and services ought to recognize this and use it as an opportunity to revamp the war college system, re-instituting the differentiated missions that Admirals Leahy and King and Generals Marshall and Arnold envisioned in the aftermath of the Second World War.
A military professional is an officer who is an expert in the management of violence. This is not the same as being an expert in the application of violence. Although many war college students have been “operators” and “trigger-pullers” for substantial portions of their careers, and have achieved their current rank by demonstrating their mastery of tactical engagement and command of those immediately engaged in tactical applications of force, this is not what their service expects of them once they reach the rank of lieutenant colonel or colonel.

The Decline and Fall (in the U.S.) of the Public Intellectual

John MacArthur:

Last week I spoke at my alma mater’s Class Day ceremony, which at Columbia College serves as the central event for seniors, even though Columbia University, of which it’s a part, conducts the formal commencement and awarding of degrees on the next day. I won’t reprise my speech since I’m reluctant to promote a contribution to a genre of public speaking that many people equate with sedatives. (It is available on As my fellow Columbia graduate Tom Vinciguerra wrote in Newsday, “The days of memorable, even historic, end-of-academic-year speeches are long gone,” replaced mainly by “throwaway sentiments equally trite and hortatory–e.g., ‘seize the day,’ ‘don’t forget to give back,’ ‘dare to be different.’ “

Oakland’s black male students: school-by-school data

Katy Murphy:

This morning, Urban Strategies Council released a series of reports about the experience of black boys in the Oakland school district: one on out-of-school suspensions, one on chronic absenteeism, and lastly, an analysis of numerous factors to estimate how many children are on track to graduate high school — beginning in elementary.
There is so much data here that the short story in today’s Tribune (which is long by today’s standards) and blog post can’t do it justice. Each school will receive a data profile to further the district’s African American Male Achievement initiative. These reports were produced in partnership with OUSD as part of the initiative.

Mitt Romney Wades Into The Education Debate – There Is A Political Logic To His Proposals, But A Net Win For President Obama

Andrew Rotherham:

The long rumored Mitt Romney education doomsday weapon was revealed today. And it’s basically President George W. Bush’s education policy – but without the accountability.
Let’s take the major parts quickly. The emphasis on school choice is politically smart but unlikely to have a big impact given how much it is fundamentally a state by state issue. Mostly, this will help Romney draw contrasts with the President, which will help at the margins with independents and certainly help with his base. In the early 1980s when Nation At Risk was being published someone told President Reagan that the report would outrage the teachers union and other vested interests. Another presidential aide apparently responded something to the effect of ‘that’s fine, the Democrats can have them, we’ll take the parents.’ This is an extension of the logic of those politics, leave Democrats with the stakeholder adults, take everyone else.

Behind the Rhetoric: Wisconsin School budgets in the years ahead

Dave Umhoefer:

Districts already have some picture of what will happen in terms of cuts and layoffs. When we did an in-depth look at 17 Milwaukee-area districts about the impact of the budget and its many changes, we also asked about how they are situated for the future.
It is one of many issues that are at the center of the debate between Walker and his June 5, 2012, recall opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett.
A PolitiFact Wisconsin survey of 17 school districts found some officials have deep concerns about how state funding cuts past and future will affect education long-term.
But officials don’t see fiscal calamity in their 2012-’13 budgets and say the freedom provided by Walker’s union limits will provide new or continued chances to trim back employee costs from school ledgers.
Those controversial changes were a result of Walker and Republican legislators curtailing collective bargaining for most public employees in the budget, allowing districts to force employees to pay more for pensions and health care. The limits will extend to additional districts in 2012-’13, as more labor contracts expire.
But some aren’t eager to push for deeper compensation cuts after many got significant budget relief already.

In Rhode Island, an Unusual Marriage of Engineering and Languages Lures Students

Karin Fisher:

The University of Rhode Island colleagues each had a problem.
Hermann Viets, then dean of engineering, felt strongly that his students needed international experience to be competitive in a globalizing job market–and, like many engineering majors, they weren’t getting it. His fellow administrator and next-door neighbor, John M. Grandin, associate dean of arts and sciences at the time, saw the writing on the wall with declining numbers in his German language and literature

Teaching kids real math with computers

TED Talks:

From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity’s most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach — calculation by hand — isn’t just tedious, it’s mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.

School about-turn angers parents

Bangkok Post:

Parents are furious after a Bangkok high school at the centre of bribery claims overturned its earlier agreement to accept all the 57 students it had previously rejected.
Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat said Bodindecha (Sing Singhaseni) School has admission regulations and education management standards to uphold and cannot accept as many students as it had agreed.
The move reversed an agreement between Pornpichit Sukannan, an adviser to Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech, and parents on Monday that the school would enrol all 57.
Obec’s decision follows a meeting yesterday between parents, Obec representatives and the education minister.
The decision sparked uproar from parents. One left a note in the meeting room accusing the Education Ministry of leaving the children scarred.
“Obec has more than 2,000 schools under its supervision.

Vote for education board members who will put kids ahead of ideology

Jack Christie & Jim Nelson:

Contests for the presidential and U.S. Senate nominations are at the top of primary ballots, but it’s important that voters pay attention to races down the ballot this year especially those for the State Board of Education.
Because of redistricting last year, all 15 seats on the board are now up for grabs in the May 29 Republican and Democratic primaries and the November general election.
That means voters this year have a unique opportunity to shape public education policy in Texas for a generation.
By approving curriculum standards and textbooks, the board determines what millions of students learn in Texas public schools.
In fact, candidates elected to the state board this year will decide in 2013 and 2014 which science, social studies and math textbooks will be used in most public schools for perhaps the next decade. Additionally, recent changes in law have given districts much more control over the instructional materials, both hardbound and technology-based, than before.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Email More Sharing ServicesShare | Share on facebook Share on twitter Print Text Size Lon Morris College President resigns


As you know, the College has experienced significant financial and liquidity difficulties and has missed its last 3 payrolls. The Board and a special Restructuring Committee of the Board has retained Bridgepoint Consulting as a restructuring advisor and appointed Dawn Ragan as Chief Restructuring Officer (“CRO”). The CRO is responsible for the day to day operation of the college and for making decisions relative to continued operations and exploring various potential restructuring alternatives. Given insufficient cash flow, the college cannot continue to employ personnel and further cannot allow employees to continue to work even on a “volunteer” or unpaid basis. Your loyalty to the College, and especially to the Mission, is very much appreciated, but unfortunately due to the current circumstances all employment by the College is hereby terminated on the earlier to occur of either immediately as of 5.22.12 or the last day worked prior to 5.22.12, subject to confirmation where appropriate, excluding a minimal core group. Vacation accruals, pursuant to company policy, are extinguished upon termination of employment.
In any case where an employee or other representative may have been extended campus housing or other room/board type benefits, those benefits are also hereby terminated, and the employee/tenant will be provided 10 (ten) days to vacate.

Flyer targets Janesville teachers


School officials are outraged by a flyer that’s calling some of its teachers “radical” and suggesting they’re bringing their politics into the classroom.
“I was flabbergasted. I was outraged that they would have that flyer. I was really surprised,” said Dr. Karen Schulte, the Janesville School District superintendent.
About 2,500 copies of the flyer went out to people in Janesville over the weekend.
It asks how much WEAC teachers make in the Janesville School District, then lists the names of more than 300 teachers and their salaries, ranging from $59,000 to $75,000.
“It does affect teachers’ morale. I think it affects all of our morale when educators are being vilified in this manner,” Dr. Schulte said.

Matthew DeFour:

Janesville teachers and their supporters expressed outrage this week after an anonymous group distributed fliers listing their salaries and urging parents to request their child be assigned to a “non-radical teacher” next year.
The fliers, which included the names, titles and salaries of the 321 highest-paid Janesville teachers, also urged readers to go to to determine if the teachers signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
Orville Seymer, an open records specialist with the conservative Milwaukee-based activist organization Citizens for Responsible Government, said the group responsible for the flier has asked to remain anonymous “for obvious reasons.”
On behalf of the anonymous group, Citizens for Responsible Government filed an open records request with the Janesville School District seeking teacher names, salaries and titles. Seymer provided the information to the anonymous group, but was not involved in drafting or distributing the fliers, he said. No other requests of a similar nature have been filed with other districts, Seymer added.

Madison West High activists form Students for Wisconsin political action committee to take on Walker; Paul Vallas Visit

Dean Robbins

We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).

Matthew DeFour:

United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.

Translation is an art beset with linguistic pitfalls

Sam Taylor:

When I first moved to France 11 years ago, intending to make my career as a novelist, I spoke barely a word of French. And, though my wife was French, I never made any particular effort to remedy that. Apart from attending one five-week intensive course, understanding and fluency came to me through a process of osmosis: family mealtimes or post-football conversations as important as reading Proust and Camus. So it was not until I discovered, as many authors had before me, that novels alone are rarely a sufficient source of income, that I began to consider translation as an option.
There is no set way to become a literary translator. I was lucky: I contacted my publishers Faber to say I would be interested in providing readers’ reports on French novels, and was given a “rush job” to do – Laurent Binet’s HHhH had won a Prix Goncourt and my editor needed a report within 48 hours because various publishers were about to bid for it. I read the book in a frenzy and loved it – more than I had loved any novel for years. I wrote an ecstatic report and, though the rights were bought not by Faber but by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US and by Harvill Secker in the UK, I emailed those editors to say I was interested in translating the book. I was told that more than a dozen translators had said the same thing, and was asked to send in a sample translation of about 30 pages. I did so, and was thrilled to be given the job. My trans­lation, the result of six months’ labour, was published last week.

Where the school choice movement should go from here

Matthew Ladner:

My friends Howard Fuller and Andrew Coulson started a needed discussion regarding the direction of the parental choice movement. Dr. Fuller has been quite outspoken in his opposition to universal choice programs in recent years, and Coulson raised a number of interesting and valid points in his redefinED piece. The parental choice movement has suffered from a nagging need to address third-party payer issues squarely. It’s a discussion that we should no longer put off. The example of American colleges and universities continues to scream a warning into our deaf ear regarding the danger of run-away cost inflation associated with education and third-party payers.
Howard Fuller and Andrew Coulson also indirectly raise a more fundamental question: where are we ultimately going with this whole private school choice movement? Dr. Fuller supports private choice for the poor and opposes it for others. He has concerns that the interests of the poor will be lost in a universal system. I’m sympathetic to Howard’s point of view. I view the public school system as profoundly tilted towards the interests of the wealthy and extraordinarily indifferent to those of the poor. We should have no desire to recreate such inequities in a choice system.

How to Reconcile Education Reform and the Democratic Party Base?

Laura Waters:

Patrick McQuinn of Drew University has an important article in EducationNext that asks, “are advocacy organizations” – like Democrats for Education Reform, 50Can, Students First, Foundation for Excellence in Education – “changing the politics of education?” The short answer, is “yes,” in spite of historical and overwhelming opposition from teacher unions and other organizations committed to maintaining the education establishment.
McQuinn notes that the ERAO’s (education reform advocacy organizations) tend to be bipartisan, but integration with the Democratic Party is particularly complicated.

Another Race to the top Begins

Amy Scott @Marketplace:

Kai Ryssdal: The Obama administration’s signature education program Race to the Top added another leg today. The Education Department actually calls it the third heat of the competition for federal school funding. The first two were for the states; this one will let individual school districts compete for a share of $400 million in grants.
From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.
Amy Scott: The latest contest will reward districts that move away from teaching everybody the same thing at the same time, so students can learn in their own way at their own pace. Here’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan at an event announcing the details today.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad says that the District may apply for these funds.

Institute sensible grading guideposts for FCAT

The Miami Herald:

On Monday, just days after the FCAT writing fiasco that forced state education officials to grade the test on a curve so that almost three-fourths of students who took the exam wouldn’t flunk it, Tallahassee launched a public relations extravaganza.
The Florida Department of Education rolled out the FCAT 2.0 Call Center for parents to call with questions. (The toll-free line is 866-507-1109). It also created an email address for parents to contact state education officials, along with a “Path to Success” website.
“The purpose of this effort is to help parents understand Florida’s assessment and accountability system, increased standards, and how these changes will help prepare our K-12 students for college, career and life,” the DOE said.
About time.

Education in America Serves No Purpose Today

William E. White:

Americans have forgotten the reason why we educate children in America. As a result our children, schools, communities, and the nation are suffering.
It’s the season of commencement speeches and interviews with beaming young graduates. High schools will graduate 2.7 million students this year, and colleges and universities will confer 3.4 million degrees. We are inundated with messages declaring that the purpose of education is to get a great job, make lots of money, and become personally independent. “Fulfill your dreams,” is the oft-echoed refrain. Why aren’t we exhorting graduates to be responsible citizens?
We have forgotten that there is only one purpose for an education system in a republic: to educate citizens. Anything that distracts us from that singular objective is destructive to our children and the nation. What passes for civic education (if our children actually get any civic education — many don’t) is an overview of process. Textbooks describe federalism and the differences between local, state, and national governments. Students read chapters about the checks and balances of the separate branches of government. “Process” is not responsible citizenship, nor is it exciting teaching.

Why School Integration Is So Hard

Laura McKenna

Kirp calls for a return to integration. “If we’re serious about improving educational opportunities, we need to revisit the abandoned policy of school integration.”
I haven’t seen those studies. I would like to see how they controlled for certain factors. Was there something different about the parents of African-American children who got their kids into those integrated schools? Did white students maintain their education advantage, because their parents put them in private schools or relocated to another town? Still, I’m pretty sure that their findings are accurate. Many other studies have shown the importance of peer group influences and the impact of wealth of a community on education outcomes.
Kirp is right in some ways. Creating larger, more diverse schools would definitely improve outcomes of more children. However, he has little sympathy or understanding for the forces that stymie the efforts of reformers.

Carol Bartz urges UW-Madison grads to take the long view

Samara Kalk Derby:

The former chief executive of Yahoo, a UW-Madison alum, advised new graduates Sunday to look past the headlines that warn about the lackluster economy and the bleak jobs picture.
“Don’t believe that the events of today are the only ones that are going to shape your future,” Carol Bartz, 63, said in one of the university’s four graduation ceremonies at the Kohl Center.
“Your work life is very long. In fact, you are the first generation that’s preparing for a 50-year career,” she said to nervous laughter from graduates and their family members.
“That sounds like an eternity, but you have to work for 50 years, because everybody else in the audience needs Social Security,” Bartz said to loud applause.

Watch Bartz’s address via this video.

Score One for the Robo-Tutors

Steve Kolowich:

Without diminishing learning outcomes, automated teaching software can reduce the amount of time professors spend with students and could substantially reduce the cost of instruction, according to new research.
In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software — with reduced face time with instructors — did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.
The study comes at a time when “smart” teaching software is being increasingly included in conversations about redrawing the economics of higher education. Recent investments by high-profile universities in “massively open online courses,” or MOOCs, has elevated the notion that technology has reached a tipping point: with the right design, an online education platform, under the direction of a single professor, might be capable of delivering meaningful education to hundreds of thousands of students at once.

Is College’s Stone Age About to End?

Mark Taylor:

Excessive specialization has created a culture of expertise that has distorted higher education and had a negative impact on faculty members, students and the broader society.
While global transportation, communications and information technologies have created interconnection, academic disciplines and fields have, paradoxically, become more fragmented and isolated. Universities boast of their global expansion and vision, but they are mostly siloed institutions ill-adapted to a networked world.
While academic specialization has long been decried and ridiculed, insufficient attention has been paid to the influence that narrowly defined research has had on undergraduate teaching and the structure of colleges and universities. With online education taking off at traditional institutions, the hope is that learning breaks out of these cocoons. But as we have already discovered in the political arena, increased connectivity can create new divisions that deepen social discord. The rise of online learning may create more rifts in fields and curricula, or it may reorganize higher education for the better.

On How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, by Stanley Fish.

Joseph Epstein:

After thirty years of teaching a university course in something called advanced prose style, my accumulated wisdom on the subject, inspissated into a single thought, is that writing cannot be taught, though it can be learned–and that, friends, is the sound of one hand clapping. A. J. Liebling offers a complementary view, more concise and stripped of paradox, which runs: “The only way to write is well, and how you do it is your own damn business.”
Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one’s own writing. The first step is to become a slow reader. No good writer is a fast reader, at least not of work with the standing of literature. Writers perforce read differently from everyone else. Most people ask three questions of what they read: (1) What is being said? (2) Does it interest me? (3) Is it well constructed? Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them: (4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And (5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing? This can slow things down a good bit.

Gates Puts the Focus on Teaching

Joe Nocera:

A few months ago, Bill Gates wrote an Op-Ed article in this newspaper objecting to New York City’s plan to make public the performance rankings of its teachers. His central point was that this kind of public shaming was hardly going to bring about better teaching.
In the course of the article, Gates mentioned that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which spends around $450 million a year on education programs, had begun working with school districts to help design evaluation systems that would, in his words, “improve the overall quality of teaching.”
That caught my attention. Wanting to learn more, I went to Seattle two weeks ago to talk to Bill Gates about evaluating teachers.
Although the Gates Foundation is perhaps best-known for its health initiatives in Africa, it has long played an important role in the educational reform movement here at home. It was an early, enthusiastic backer of charter schools. Around the year 2000, it also became enamored with the idea that students would do better in smaller schools than bigger ones.

Student Loan Bubble Putting Hundreds of Colleges at Risk

Business Insider:

The size, scope, and impact of this problem is an enormous anchor weighing down our next generation and our nation’s economy.
Make no mistake, this anchor is not only impacting thousands of students and families but is also having an equally burdensome impact on colleges and universities nationwide.
Embedded within a very recently released Bloomberg commentary is a study by Richard Kneedler, President Emeritus of Franklin & Marshall College. In light of the economic crisis that hit our shores and continues to envelop our nation, in early 2009 Kneedler released a very granular review of the economic condition of close to 700 private colleges and universities. For anybody with even a passing interest in this issue, Kneedler’s work, is a MUST read. What do we learn?

Thoreau students develop appreciation for cameras

Pamela Cotant:

A photography darkroom with trays of chemicals is a strange concept to most youth today who are familiar with digital photos.
So fifth-grader Wilson Kilmer was excited to get the chance to see photos, captured with pinhole cameras, developed in a makeshift darkroom at Thoreau Elementary School.
“We had not used any electricity and nothing mechanical,” said Wilson, 11. “It’s by far the coolest thing we’ve done in school.”
Fifth-grader Sam Schumann, 11, also liked seeing the film develop.
“It was just really neat seeing it going from really fade to really good detail,” he said.

A split among Democrats

Jim Newton:

Gloria Romero is a Democrat. She was elected to the California Assembly as a Democrat and later to the state Senate. She served as Democratic leader of the Senate, the first woman to do so. Ben Austin is a Democrat too. He worked in the White House under President Clinton and was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama. Both Austin and Romero support reform of the nation’s education system, and when Romero helped found an organization to push that effort, she and her co-founders (fellow Democrats) called it Democrats for Education Reform.
Eric Bauman chairs the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, and he takes offense at that name. It creates confusion, he says, especially when the group supports a candidate. Specifically, he cites the group’s endorsement of Brian Johnson, who is running as a Democrat (though not the only Democrat) in the June primary for the Assembly in the 46th District. Bauman says the endorsement by a group with the word “Democrats” in its name suggests that the party itself is behind Johnson, whereas it hasn’t endorsed any candidate.

Behind the rhetoric: How Walker’s union limits affected school budgets

Dave Umhoefer:

Gov. Scott Walker and his recall critics may as well be on different planets when it comes to describing how local schools fared under his budget.
Walker tells audiences that most schools got far more savings from his controversial collective bargaining limits — money-saving “tools” in Walker’s phrasing — than they suffered in cuts from his budget.
Democratic Party officials and their allies say schools all over the state suffered “devastating” aid cuts, and Walker recall opponent Tom Barrett says education was “gutted.”
After examining the issue and doing extensive interviews with 17 Milwaukee-area school districts, it’s clear both sides are exaggerating.
But answering the bottom line question of whether the “tools” outweighed the cuts is elusive

Why We Need Tenure Reform

Laura Waters:

New Jersey Administrative Law Judge Jeff Masin has ruled that even though a special education teacher mocked one of his students, called him a “‘tard,” and told him that he will “kick your ass from here to kingdom come,” that’s not enough to revoke tenure. According to the Star-Ledger, the Bankbridge Regional Board of Ed “voted to certify tenure charges against [Steven] Roth in December, and in March he appeared before Masin. The charges included unbecoming conduct, neglect of duty and verbal abuse in violation of the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Policy of the board.” Judge Masin ruled that Roth is “not a person who cannot be expected to provide special education students with much important instruction and guidance in the future while learning from his mistakes and avoiding such improper conduct.”The Board released the following statement:

Number of the Week: Student Loan Bubble

Phil Izzo:

368%: The jump since 2007 in the measure of consumer credit held by the government comprised primarily of student loans.
If a student loan bubble were to pop, the government, not private banks, would be the one standing around with gum in its hair.
Issuance of student loans has soared in recent years, hitting $867 billion at the end of 2011, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than credit cards or auto loans. The jump has led some to classify the student-lending market as a bubble, comparing it with the housing mess that nearly brought down the banking system in 2008.

Jamie Oliver urges MPs to end academy junk food exemption

Toby Helm and Denis Campbell:

An exasperated Jamie Oliver has written to every MP demanding a U-turn over nutrition rules in schools after education secretary Michael Gove refused to act on a report that found nine out of 10 academies were selling junk food.
Announcing the move on his website, the TV chef, whose campaign for better food in state schools has lifted standards for millions of pupils, told voters that if their MPs did not act “you can safely assume that they don’t care about the wellbeing of our children and the future of our country”.
Oliver’s move came as public health officials and doctors joined a growing number of education and food organisations in criticising the education secretary. In a move that astonished experts, Gove insisted that he would not apply the nutrition standards that cover all other state schools to academies and free schools – even after a report by the School Food Trust charity found last week that many were selling sub-standard products.

Brit Lit Map

Frank Jacobs:

Maps usually display only one layer of information. In most cases, they’re limited to the topography, place names and traffic infrastructure of a certain region. True, this is very useful, and in all fairness quite often it’s all we ask for. But to reduce cartography to a schematic of accessibility is to exclude the poetry of place.
Or in this case, the poetry and prose of place. This literary map of Britain is composed of the names of 181 British writers, each positioned in parts of the country with which they are associated.

Dropping out: Is college worth the cost?

Morley Safer:

One of the wealthiest, best-educated American entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel, isn’t convinced college is worth the cost. With only half of recent U.S. college graduates in full-time jobs, and student loans now at $1 trillion, Thiel has come up with his own small-scale solution: pay a couple dozen of the nation’s most promising students $100,000 to walk away from college and pursue their passions. Morley Safer takes a look at Thiel’s critique of college.
The following script is from “Dropping Out” which originally aired on May 20, 2012. Morley Safer is the correspondent. Katy Textor, producer.
These are the days in May, when young men and women are capped and gowned — their hands clutching diplomas, their ears tuned to some wise person telling them, “You are the future.” For many, deep in debt with few prospects, that future looks pretty bleak.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: One man stands between California and a bleak future

Christopher Caldwell:

When somebody asked California’s governor Jerry Brown at a conference in Silicon Valley a couple of weeks ago what he would do to promote innovation, Mr Brown reminded his questioner that “innovation” in government is seldom prized. “Government is a collection of catchphrases, banalities and conventional wisdom,” Mr Brown said, “and, to the extent you depart from that, you are stigmatised and reviled.” Mr Brown should know. He has been innovating fast and he has been reviled. He may nonetheless be the only politician with the forthrightness to stand between California and a Greek-style debt spiral.
In the four months between January and last week, the state’s budget deficit rose dramatically – from $9.2bn to $15.7bn, on a $91bn budget that must be balanced by law. These things happen in California. The political system has been ingeniously rigged. It is easy for citizens to vote themselves vast benefits by referendum but nearly impossible for the legislature to pass the taxes to pay for them. Until recently it required a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. Last year, when Mr Brown reached the end of his ability to compromise, he did what California governors often do: he made an overly rosy estimate of how much the state would get in tax revenues.

Italian university switches to English for success

Stephen Jewkes:

– Italians do it better. At least that’s what the T-shirts say. The problem is in what language?
Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading universities, thinks it should be English.
The 149-year-old university, located in Italy’s business capital Milan, is set to become the first Italian place of higher learning to teach all its graduate courses in English when it kicks off its academic year in 2014.
The aim is to kit out its students with the right stuff to gain access to the global jobs market. It’s also meant to attract top-class international students at a time when competition among universities worldwide is hotting up.

The Unsustainable Higher Education Bubble; It’s Showing Signs Of Stress, Has The Deflation Started?

Mark Perry:

It’s been widely reported now that the U.S. has a serious and unsustainable “higher education bubble,” not unlike the unsustainable housing bubble in the U.S. that eventually crashed and resulted in a housing meltdown, mortgage tsunami, a wave of foreclosures, and a global financial crisis. The chart above illustrates that the ever-inflating higher education bubble with ever-increasing costs for college tuition and education supplies is starting to make the housing bubble look almost inconsequential by comparison.
The CPI for college tuition has increased almost 12 times since 1978, compared to the 3.5 time increase in overall consumer prices, and the 4.4 time increase in home prices at their “bubble peak.” What the two bubbles have in common is that they have both been fueled by political obsessions: one with homeownership and another with college education. And with those political obsessions comes the government-sponsored coerced taxpayer funded assistance that creates the “politically-motivated air” to inflate the bubbles to unsustainable levels: government taxpayer- subsidized or government taxpayer-provided credit at below market rates to borrowers who wouldn’t qualify for credit from private borrowers.

McFarland-based online charter school growing fast

Matthew DeFour:

Business is booming at Wisconsin Virtual Academy after two of the state’s biggest virtual schools split from the country’s largest online K-12 education service provider.
The online charter school based in the McFarland School District, which next year will be the only virtual school in Wisconsin run by Virginia-based K12 Inc., saw a 50 percent increase in open enrollment applications this year, up from 2,402 to 3,586.
The increase comes as McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown prepares to report to his school board next month about whether WIVA is meeting performance benchmarks in the five-year charter contract that runs through mid-2014.
In an interview last week, Brown said WIVA’s state test scores are not meeting the contractual benchmarks, though he said the report isn’t finalized. He added the district may need more time to track how students improve over multiple years.

Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012


Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:

Bill Cosby to USF grads: Make no excuses, have no fear

Nanette Asimov:

Those forced to graduate from college and enter the cold and competitive Real World could do worse than have comedian Bill Cosby nudge them from their ivy-covered nest.
“You have this education. There are parents waiting for you to move out. They’ve been waiting for this day, and they don’t want you to back out,” Cosby told a church-full of graduating students and their families on Friday at the University of San Francisco’s commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Laughter and applause pulsed through the Jesuit university’s grand St. Ignatius Church on Fulton Street, its stained-glass saints no doubt accustomed to more contemplative conventions.
Cosby’s larger message to graduates did not carry the controversial punch of his now famous speech in 2004, when he told the NAACP that “we cannot blame the white people anymore” for the troubles of the black community.

Hispanic, STEM charters approved Montessori proposal denied by Delaware Board of Education

James Fisher:

The state board of education voted Thursday to approve charter schools in Wilmington and Dover, but a proposal to start a new Montessori school under the charter system failed to gain approval.
The board unanimously approved charters for:

  • Academia Antonia Alonso, for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in Wilmington. The school would focus on Hispanic English-language learners. The founding board is a partnership between Innovative Schools, a Wilmington nonprofit that aids districts and charter schools, and the Latin American Community Center, a nonprofit in Wilmington.
  • Early College High School at Delaware State University, a high school embedded in the DSU campus in Dover. The curriculum would focus on science, technology, engineering and math, and is based on an early-college high school model to serve first-generation college students. State Board President Teri Quinn Gray calling the charter proposal “one of the strongest I’ve seen in awhile.”

The First State Montessori Academy needed four votes for approval, but it received favorable votes from only three of the five board members present. Under the proposal, the school would have served kindergarten through sixth grade based on the Montessori education model. The school’s planners don’t yet have a location secured for the school, and they have said it may share a campus with a private Montessori school.

Related: Madison recently rejected a proposed IB Charter school. Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

High school rankings do have meaning

Peter Blewett:  

Which Wisconsin high school is best: Rufus King, Brookfield Central or Whitefish Bay? It depends on who you ask. According to U.S. News & World Report, King is the best; Newsweek recently ranked Brookfield Central at the top of its list, and Milwaukee Magazine has listed Whitefish Bay High School as its top choice.
The latest poll, published by U.S. News, has driven Alan J. Borsuk, a fellow in public policy at Marquette University and who writes an education column published in the Journal Sentinel, to question for the first time the validity of these polls.
Why? Because the U.S. News poll has the audacity to rank three MPS high schools – King, Ronald Reagan and Milwaukee School of Languages – among the state’s top 10 high schools while omitting Whitefish Bay and other suburban schools “known for high success and high average college entrance scores.”
What’s a parent to do? Depending on the ranking they read, parents might well choose one school over another or decide to opt out of public schools altogether. If the variation in rankings weren’t enough to confuse the issue, some in the media are here to tell us that the variation signifies the worthlessness of the rankings. As Borsuk writes, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one (poll) that convinced me that it really pinned things down.”

Foiled Again: An Inside Look At Joel Klein’s War Against Public Schools And Teacher Unions

Leo Casey:

Over a year ago, the UFT submitted a Freedom of Information request for emails between Joel Klein and other top DoE brass, on the one hand, and the leaders of the New York City Charter School Center, the New York Charter School Association, Democrats for Education Reform and other leading supporters of corporate education reform. As it does with FOIL requests that do not suit their purposes, the DoE stonewalled the request. (Take note of the contrast with the DoE’s eagerness to release the Teacher Data Reports.) Last month, the UFT went to court, arguing that the DoE’s continual delays amounted to constructive denial of the FOIL law. Facing the inevitable, last Friday the DoE began to release the emails, sending several hundred to the UFT and the news media. Another 15,000 emails are still to come, so keep your eyes peeled on this one.
Here are some of the highlights of the emails just released.


Michael Johnson, via a kind email:

Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is collaborating to host a town hall meeting with one of the most respected urban school superintendents in the nation at Lafollette High School on May 26th at 1pm. Paul Vallas has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support academic achievement, he has raised test scores in urban communities, built hundreds of schools while maintaining great working relationships with community leaders, teachers and unions. His efforts has been featured in Education Week, New York Times and hundreds of other articles profiling his work in urban school districts.
Arne Duncan the current US Secretary of Education served as his Deputy Chief of Staff and the current Superintendent of Schools in Milwaukee was his former Chief Academic Officer. During Vallas time in other cities he has led the effort to build over 175 new school buildings and renovated more than 1,000 existing buildings. According to several news outlets Paul Vallas managed consecutive years of improved reading and math scores in every school district he led. During his time in Chicago he organized the largest after school and summer programs in the nation. His education reforms produced double digit increases in test scores which was some of the highest in the nation among the 50th largest school districts in the United States. His leadership efforts was cited in two presidential state of the union addresses and CBS News highlighted that he is one of the most sought out school superintendents in the country. Recently he was invited by the Government of Chile to assume responsibility of turning around and improving test scores in 1,100 of Chile’s lowest performing schools. He was invited by the Government of Haiti to advise their Prime Minister and education team. He also served as an education adviser to London- Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Paul Vallas will share best practices, talk about school reform and take questions on how we can improve academic achievement for our kids. I hope you can join us on Saturday, May 26th at 1pm for this important discussion at LaFollette High School, 702 Pflaum Rd. Madison in the auditorium. To confirm your attendance please email Sigal Lazimy at Thanks in advance and we look forward to seeing you! Below is a documentary of his work in New Orleans.


Ingredients for successful schools

Alan Borsuk:  

Relationships. That’s the starting point in Kristi Cole’s answer. Healthy, helpful, warm, caring relationships, but ultimately ones aimed at quality, high standards and progress.
My question was: What have you learned about what works when it comes to educating kids?
I don’t know of anyone else who has seen the local education scene in the past couple decades from as many vantage points as Cole. Her father taught in Milwaukee Public Schools for 38 years. He retired in 1991, the year Cole started as a teacher. She has been a school librarian, assistant principal and principal. She held major positions in the MPS central office, overseeing programs dealing with student safety and health as well as charter and alternative schools connected to MPS.
A year ago, she took a job that splits her time, three days a week as an administrator for the high-quality Milwaukee College Prep charter schools and two days a week as a coach for leaders of other schools as part of a nonprofit organization, Schools That Can Milwaukee. At 45, Cole is also working on her PhD in education.
Since her time as principal of Humboldt Park School almost a decade ago, I’ve looked to Cole as an example of how to do urban education well. I thought I’d learn some things myself if I asked her what she had learned. Beyond the emphasis on relationships, here are some ingredients she suggested for a high performing school:

The affluence of a community and the level of arts education in N.J. schools

Laura Waters:

Last week the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project issued its “NJ Arts Education Census,” a report and database that measures the level of access to and participation in art and music programming offered to N.J. public school students in each of our 591 districts.
Most educators – in N.J. and elsewhere — agree that the study of art and music is a boon to children’s intellectual and creative development. However, in the last few years school boards and administrators hear not the melodious tones of Mozart but the siren song of testing and accountability. There are, after all, no current accountability measures in place for a student’s mastery of art history, no statewide assessments of music appreciation.
Districts are further distracted from well-rounded programming by relentless fiscal and political pressure to decrease costs, not add courses. And if you do add a course, it’s more likely to be another section of algebra rather than a survey of Abstract Expressionism.

Forget Accountability, Pursue Success in Education

Mike Ford:

There are several words and phrases that confuse the debate on education reform: Apples-to-apples, finding what works, bringing to scale, and the worst of them all, accountability. The concepts described by these words and phrases are all premised on the idea that there is a single model of delivering quality education to all students.
No such model exists.
It follows that no matter how hard we try, we will not find what works; efforts to bring specific reforms to scale will ultimately fail, and it will always be a struggle to compare the performance of different types of schools. And when it comes to holding schools accountable, who decides for what and to whom?
Presumably in Wisconsin the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is in charge of holding schools accountable. However, the granting of the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver request is reportedly at risk because of vagueness in DPI’s proposed accountability framework. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that a federal review found “Wisconsin’s proposal for holding schools accountable is short on details and lacks ambitious goals to improve student achievement.”

Seattle’s Lafayette Story

Melissa Westbrook:

Update: the district is saying that the HR investigation of the “Lafayette issues” will be completed early next week. That’s pretty fast considering how long this has dragged out. I’m hoping the district has really done a complete investigation along with an explanation of how it got to this point. I also hope that Dr. Enfield will be making some kind of statement of assurance to parents about principals and their understanding of how to handle these kinds of issues.
This is a serious subject with serious allegations. That there appears to be many witnesses and e-mail evidence to nearly everything said and done is clear.
I lay this out as clearly as I know it from extensive input I have received. I have a statement (at the end of this thread) from the district that I believe would cover any statement from either the principal, Jo Lute-Ervin or Aurora Lora, Executive Director for that region.
I have known Lafayette to be a popular and high-performing school. It is one of the many over-enrolled schools in West Seattle.
But as I have told others, this issue is much bigger than just Lafayette.
Once again, if staff had followed protocol, this issue could have been quietly resolved in a fair and satisfactory manner. If the district staff had followed protocol, it could have been resolved without any outside notice. However, it appears that did not happen either at the school or district level.

Public school choice alone isn’t enough

Ron Matus:

Over at the Gradebook (the Tampa Bay Times education blog) this morning, another example of why public school choice alone isn’t enough:
Forty-two percent of the 2,200 parents in the Pasco County School District who applied to switch schools this fall were denied, the Gradebook reports, often because there wasn’t enough room. (Florida’s voter-approved class-size restrictions contributed to the complications.) The blog post notes the appeals process is ongoing so “a few more families might win their preferred school seats.”
That still leaves a whole bunch frustrated – and unnecessarily so.

Governance: The Acquisition of Knowledge

Rory Stewart:

Today, instead of deferring to long practical experience, and deep knowledge of a particular place, managers prefer to implement ‘best practice’ from somewhere else; they impose theoretical models with less and less understanding of what does not work on the ground; and they justify decisions with abstract metrics, and obscure concepts. And as more and more positions are filled with people with this mentality, there are fewer people, with the confidence, or seniority, to expose the shallowness of this approach. Our culture is beginning to forget what deep knowledge and contact with the ground looked like, or why it mattered.

The solution must be to give power back to people with deep knowledge. But it won’t happen through running training courses. You need to force institutions to change their promotion criteria, and put those with knowledge, judgement and experience back at the very top. Some of them might not be ideal managers: they might be less popular with staff, unappealing to stake-holders, more difficult to work with. But they can offer things we have forgotten how to measure: not just long experience, but rigour, a sense of vocation, and unexpected frames of reference. They might have prevented some of our recent mistakes. They could certainly bring more flexible and inventive ways of engaging with the world. And we cannot afford to continue to ignore them.

Something to consider in light of Oconomowoc’s planned changes.

Sometimes thinking is a bad idea. Ian Leslie draws on Dylan, Djokovic and academic research to put the case for unthinking…

More Intelligent Life:

Professor Claude Steele, of Stanford, studies the effects of performance anxiety on academic tests. He set a group of students consisting of African-Americans and Caucasians a test, telling them it would measure intellectual ability. The African-Americans performed worse than the Caucasians. Steele then gave a separate group the same test, telling them it was just a preparatory drill. The gulf narrowed sharply. The “achievement gap” in us education has complex causes, but one may be that bright African-American students are more likely to feel they are representing their ethnic group, which leads them to overthink.
How do you learn to unthink? Dylan believes the creative impulse needs protecting from self-analysis: “As you get older, you get smarter, and that can hinder you…You’ve got to programme your brain not to think too much.” Flann O’Brien said we should be “calculatedly stupid” in order to write. The only reliable cure for overthinking seems to be enjoyment, something that both success and analysis can dull. Experienced athletes and artists often complain that they have lost touch with what made them love what they do in the first place. Thinking about it is a poor substitute.

Oconomowoc worth watching

Wisconsin State Journal:

Oconomowoc’s plans for next school year are undeniably bold:

  • Reduce the number of teachers but pay the many who stay a lot more money for teaching an extra period.
  • Use technology — including students’ own hand-held devices — to encourage and personalize learning.
  • Save more than $500,000 to help balance the district’s budget without reducing class sizes or cutting programs for students.

Wisconsin will be watching closely for results.

Wisconsin, Milwaukee & Madison High School Graduation Rates

The DPI released graduation rates last year using both the new and old calculation method for the state and individual school districts, and did the same again this year.
An example of the difference between the two calculations: The legacy rate for the most recent data shows Wisconsin’s students had a 90.5% graduation rate for 2011, instead of the 87% rate for that class under the new method the federal government considers more accurate.
Using the new, stricter method, the data shows Milwaukee Public Schools’ graduation rate increased for 2011 to 62.8%., up from 61.1% in 2010.
“We have much more work to do, but these numbers – along with ACT score growth and growth in 10th grade state test scores – show that we continue to move in the right direction,” MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said in a statement Thursday.
MPS officials on Thursday pointed out that the 1.7 percentage-point increase between the two years for the district was greater than the state four-year graduation rate increase in that time. The state’s four-year rate increased 1.3 percentage points, from 85.7% in 2009-’10.

Matthew DeFour:

The annual report from the Department of Public Instruction released Thursday also showed Madison’s four-year graduation rate dipped slightly last year to 73.7 percent.
According to the data, 50.1 percent of Madison’s black students graduated in four years, up from 48.3 percent in 2010. The white student graduation rate declined about 3.1 percentage points, to 84.1 percent.
District officials and education experts said it was unclear what accounted for the changes, and it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about Madison’s achievement gap from one or two years of data.
“You need to be looking over a period of several years that what you’re looking at is real change rather than a little blip from one to the other,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
The graduation rates of black and white students in Madison have been a major topic of discussion in the city over the past year.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

Standing Firm on Grad Rates
by Chuck Edwards:

Even as the Obama administration is busy dismantling much of NCLB through waivers, it is standing firm on some Bush-era decisions.
One of them is to consider high school graduation to be exactly that — graduating with a regular diploma, even if it takes five or six years for kids with special barriers. For accountability decisions affecting high schools, the Bush administration would not allow states to give schools “graduation” credit for students who obtain a GED or certificate of completion — only a regular diploma would do.
In response to the Obama administration’s new “ESEA Flexibility” initiative, states have taken another run at that decision, which was enshrined in last-gasp Bush regulations issued in October 2008.

Selling Lesson Plans Online

Zoe Fox:

Teaching isn’t known to be a lucrative profession, but online marketplace Teachers Pay Teachers is changing that for some educators.
Deanna Jump, a kindergarten teacher from Georgia, has made $700,000 selling her lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, an ecommerce startup where teachers offer their lesson plans to fellow educators.
Paul Edelman, the founder of Teachers Pay Teachers, created the platform following a four-year stint as a New York City public school teacher.
“I had an insight that the materials teachers created night after night had monetary value, so I set out to create a marketplace called Teachers Pay Teachers,” Edelman told Mashable. “Teachers are now making a pretty significant supplemental income and creating higher quality materials.”

This time, Florida education reformers hand ammo to critics

Ron Matus:

The last thing you want to give people waging a scorched-earth campaign against you is a gas can and a match.
Though well intended, the hard-charging Florida Board of Education moved too far, too fast last year when it raised the bar on academic standards. The short-term result for the state’s standardized writing test isn’t pretty. According to scores released this week, the percentage of passing fourth graders alone dropped from 81 to 27.
In an emergency session, the board tried to mitigate. It revised the passing scores downward so the percent passing will be roughly the same this year as it was last year. Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson also admitted the state should have better communicated the new scoring criteria to teachers.

College rankings: Which countries have the best education systems?

Christian Science Monitor:

A new higher education ranking focuses on evaluating quality by countries as a whole, as opposed to specific academic institutions. Universitas 21, an organization of 23 research universities across 15 countries, published its first ranking of countries “which are ‘best’ at providing higher education.” Universitas 21’s report, published by the University of Melbourne in Australia, ranked 48 countries in all. Here are some of their findings:

Florida, not kids, flunked FCAT testing

Fred Grimm:

Proficiency under pressure — that’s what we test for. Right? That’s what public education is all about in the new Florida. Standardized tests decide whether students graduate, how much teachers earn, what performance grades schools get, how much bonus money to give to schools that excel.
So much rides on test outcomes that classroom curriculums have been narrowed to a kind of perpetual test preparation. And test taking. The Fort Myers News-Press, looking at the state’s mandatory testing regime, counted 27 standardized tests that eighth-grade students were required to jam into this school year. Students, teachers, principals, administrators, superintendents, even school board members, all know they’re judged by the outcomes of tests.
Yet the state superintendent, the state board of education and NCS Pearson, the giant testing corporation with a four-year, $254 million contract to administer the state’s standardized test regime, seem to suffer no such accountability. Their competence, their proficiency under pressure has been tested this school year. They flunked and flunked spectacularly.

Statement from Commissioner Robinson on FCAT Writing

Yesterday’s vote by the State Board of Education to recalibrate the school grading scale of the FCAT Writing test was done in response to a tougher grading system that appropriately expects our students to understand proper punctuation, spelling and grammar. The Board acted after it became clear that students were posting significantly lower scores under newer, tougher writing standards.
We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have. I believe it is appropriate to expect that our students know how to spell and how to properly punctuate a sentence. Before this year, those basics were not given enough attention, nor did we give enough attention to communicating these basic expectations to our teachers. I support the Board’s decision to recalibrate the school grading scale while keeping the writing standards high.

Good idea: Proposal would get arts back into Milwaukee schools

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Amid a crushing budget bind, Milwaukee Public Schools has had to cut dozens of specialized teachers from its classrooms in recent years – teachers who bring arts, music and physical education to Milwaukee’s kids. That’s why we like a new idea proposed by Superintendent Gregory Thornton.
Thornton is proposing the creation of a $13.4 million fund in the district’s budget to ensure that schools have at least one arts, music or physical education instructor. The money would be allocated to all MPS schools based on size. At minimum, schools would receive enough money to pay for one of the three programs for students at least one day a week.
Studies confirm the value of such education for kids, but, unfortunately, low-income students in urban schools often get shortchanged. Thornton says that’s not fair.

IBM Marks 15 Years Since Deep Blue Defeated Garry Kasparov


May 11, 2012 marks the 15-year anniversary since IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer Deep Blue defeated the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov. In the video below IBM Research scientist Dr. Murray Campbell, one of the original developers, talks about the challenges and breakthroughs of building Deep Blue.
Designed as a “brute force” high-power parallel processing super-computer, Deep Blue could analyze 200 million chess positions per second. It defeated Kasparov 3.5-2.5 after losing 4-2 the previous year. After the game Deep Blue was used to develop drug treatments, analyze risk and conduct data mining. It also paved the way for the next generation of its replacements – Blue Gene and Watson.

Grad School: Higher Degrees of Debt

Annamarie Andriotis:

Graduate school, a path to higher learning and potentially higher income, increasingly lands students in higher debt brackets.
But while Congress searches for ways to alleviate the loan burden for undergrads, experts say little attention is being paid to master’s students. In fact, lost in the debate over the nation’s student loan debt topping the $1 trillion mark is that graduate students account for a third of that sum — and that their indebtedness is likely about to grow much worse.
Beginning in July, subsidized Stafford loans will no longer be available to graduate students, a shift that experts say will force student borrowers into more expensive loans to cover tuition. These loans are the most popular type for graduate school, with more than one-third of all students signing up for them annually, because the government covers the interest payments during the years of enrollment. In contrast, other loans require students to pay the full cost.

Time for a Medicaid-Education Grand Swap

Lamar Alexander:

Staring down steep tuition hikes, students at the University of California have taken to carrying picket signs. As far as I can tell, though, none has demanded that President Barack Obama accept a Grand Swap that could protect their education while saving them money. Allow me to explain.
When I was governor of Tennessee in the early 1980s, I traveled to meet with President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office and offer that Grand Swap: Medicaid for K-12 education. The federal government would take over 100% of Medicaid, the federal health-care program mainly for low-income Americans, and states would assume all responsibility for the nation’s 100,000 public schools. Reagan liked the idea, but it went nowhere.
If we had made that swap in 1981, states would have come out ahead, keeping $13.2 billion in Medicaid spending and giving $8.7 billion in education spending back to Washington. Today, states would have about $92 billion a year in extra funds, as they’d keep the $149 billion they’re now spending on Medicaid and give back to Washington the $57 billion that the federal government spends per year on schools.

Eliminating the Central School District Office: Philadelphia

Kristen A. Graham:

Knudsen, in a news conference, avoided references to the “Philadelphia School District.”
“We are now looking at a much broader definition of education in the city that includes not only district schools but other schools as well,” he said.
Mayor Nutter hailed the plan, which he said would push control over education down to the school level.
“If we don’t take significant action, the system will collapse,” the mayor said at a separate news conference. “If you care about kids and if you care about education, if you care about the future of this city, that’s what we need to all grow up and deal with.”
Teachers union president Jerry Jordan decried the radical restructuring as the SRC divesting itself of many of the core responsibilities of public education. He called it a “cynical, right-wing, market-driven” blueprint.
“This is totally dismantling the system,” Jordan said. “It’s a business plan crafted to privatize the services within the School District.”

Decentralization is inevitable, regardless of idealogy. We’re no longer sending most kids to work the fields and cattle before/after school or in the summer.

Mix of fates for Catholic schools: Some thrive while others struggle

Doug Erickson, via a kind reader’s email:

At St. Ambrose Academy in Madison, neither the curriculum nor the faith is watered down.
Freshmen at the Catholic high school read Homer’s “The Odyssey” and discuss it using the Socratic method. Students attend Mass three times weekly, and religion infuses most classes.
It’s an approach that has found great favor among a slice of the Catholic populace. Enrollment is projected to balloon from 68 this school year to 210 in five years.
The growth starkly contrasts the fate of St. Mary’s Catholic School in Platteville, also in the Madison Catholic Diocese. The 84-student school is scheduled to close June 1.
Diocesan officials and others say St. Mary’s is an atypical case not reflective of the health of the other 45 Catholic schools in the diocese. St. Mary’s parishioners became divided over the arrival two years ago of conservative priests. School enrollment and donations dropped.
“Platteville was very unique,” said Matthew Kussow, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious & Independent Schools. “They had a specific situation that was a change from the past, and when that happens, issues can come up.”

Teen assaulted by group of girls near Madison East High School, via a kind reader:

A teenager said she was attacked and beaten by three classmates near East High School.
Two 16-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl were arrested last week in connection with the assault.
The victim, Alana Krupp, 15, said she knows the girls involved but maintains she wasn’t talking trash about them.
The incident happened last Wednesday at the intersection of Fourth Street and Winnebago Street a block south of East High School.
Krupp arrived at the bus stop like any other day, but in a few seconds an otherwise OK freshman year at East High School was turned upside down when she was confronted by the girls.
“She said, ‘I wanted to fight you.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to fight you, because there’s no point in it. I never did anything to you,'” Krupp said. “She hit me in the face, and I got pulled down to the ground by my hair.”

Related: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006.

Why Can’t We Talk About Differentiating Teacher Salaries?

New Jersey Left Behind:

Here’s a striking synchronicity: on May 10th (last Thursday) in a Wall St. Journal  article about the recent release of U.S. students’ “deeply disappointing”; science scores on the NAEP national assessment, NJ Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf is quoted in the context of differentiating salaries for hard-to-fill positions like science and math:

The Obama administration and some state leaders, including the Republican governors of New Jersey and Iowa, in recent years have pushed districts to alter union contracts to allow higher salaries for teachers in sciences and other hard-to-staff subjects. Christopher Cerf, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s education commissioner, said the “market” for science teachers is highly competitive so schools should “use compensation creatively to maximize outcomes for kids.” Teachers have insisted that pay changes be made only as part of broader contract negotiations, giving them more input into the process

On the same day the Journal article ran, NJ Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Albert Coutinho, Dan Benson, and Ralph Caputo issued a press release on the passage of a new bill intended “to address teacher shortages in math and science.”

New online tool tracks Rhode Island school progress

Darren Soens:

The Rhode Island Department of Education launched a new online tool Tuesday that allows families to track the progress and proficiency of their children’s schools.
The program is called the Rhode Island Growth Model Visualization Tool. It is essentially a high-tech report card grading local schools and districts based on results of New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) testing.
“What this tool does, is it takes each school and school district that’s in it and looks at different grade levels and groups,” explained Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. “You can slice and dice [the data] in all kinds of different ways.”

School Test Backlash Grows

Stephanie Banchero:

The increasing role of standardized testing in U.S. classrooms is triggering pockets of rebellion across the country from school officials, teachers and parents who say the system is stifling teaching and learning.
In Texas, some 400 local school boards–more than a third of the state’s total–have adopted a resolution this year asking lawmakers to scale back testing. In Everett, Wash., more than 500 children skipped state exams earlier this month in protest. A national coalition of parents and civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, signed a petition in April asking Congress to reduce federal testing mandates.
In recent weeks, the protest spread to Florida, where two school boards, including Palm Beach, signed on to a petition similar to the one in Texas. A parent in a third, Broward County, on Tuesday formally requested that school officials support the movement.

For a Nation of Whiners, Therapists Try Tough Love

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Sharon Rosenblatt was talking to her therapist fast and furiously about her dating life, when the woman suddenly interrupted her. “Haven’t we heard this before?” the therapist asked.
Was Ms. Rosenblatt offended? Not at all. The 23-year-old, who works in business development for an information technology company, says she specifically sought out a tough-love therapist after graduating from college and moving to Silver Spring, Md., two years ago.
“When there’s unconditional love from my therapist, I’m not inclined to change,” Ms. Rosenblatt says. Previous therapists, she says, would listen passively while she complained unchallenged.

How Dickensian Childhoods Leave Genetic Scars

The Wall Street Journal:

Being maltreated as a child can perhaps affect you for life. It now seems the harm might reach into your very DNA. Two recently published studies found evidence of changes to the genetic material in people with experience of maltreatment. These are the tip of an iceberg of discoveries in the still largely mysterious field of “epigenetic” epidemiology–the alteration of gene expression in ways that affect later health.

Journey for racial justice is not over

Eli Hager:

In our national conversation about race and other forms of inequality, presidential candidates and the media have fostered a consensus that the civil rights movement is finished. The February groundbreaking for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, for example, celebrated the “history” of racial injustice. Republican candidate Mitt Romney noted that month that we shouldn’t be “concerned” about economic injustice — by now, he averred, that problem has been solved. Even Martin Luther King Jr. has been widely reimagined as a genial, nonpartisan man who would be satisfied with the legalistic gains black Americans have achieved yet unconcerned about their substandard socioeconomic status. Civil rights activists who disagree are said to be stuck in the 1960s or harbor, as Romney put it, a “resentment of success.” They are accused of playing the “race card,” engaging in “class warfare” or generally disrespecting the sound-bite-consensus that this country has moved beyond the racial and economic complications of its past.

Rebekka Horlacher “What is Bildung? The Everlasting Attractiveness of a Fuzzy Concept in German Education Theory”

Center for European Studies, via a kind email:

Please join us for a lecture on “What Is Bildung? The Everlasting Attractiveness of a Fuzzy Concept in German Education Theory” Rebekka Horlacher, Senior Scientist, University of Zurich, Switzerland. Sponsored by the Center for European Studies, Center for German and European Studies and Curriculum & Instruction.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
3:00 – 4:00 pm, 220 Teacher Education Bldg., 225 N. Mills St. Madison, WI

Madison Teachers Meetings Scheduled 5/16 and 5/22

60K PDF Newsletter via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

Members of all MTI bargaining units (MTI, EA-MTI, SEE-MTI, SSA-MTI and USO-MTI) are invited to attend an MTI meeting to discuss the impact of Governor Walker’s Act 10 on MTI members, on MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements, on the Union itself, and where we can go from here. A question and answer session will follow. Do you have questions?

  • Wednesday, May 16, 4:30-6:00 p.m., LaFollette High School, Room C-17
  • Tuesday, May 22, 4:30-6:00 p.m., Madison Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park Street

MTI staff and elected leaders are also available to attend meetings at your school or work site. Speak to your MTI Faculty Representative today about scheduling a meeting.

Throwaway People: Will Teens Sent to Die in Prison Get a Second Chance?

Liliana Segura:

The youngest of twelve kids, Trina was known as a slow child. She had a very low IQ and couldn’t read or write. Kids made fun of her for sucking her fingers. Her mother died when Trina was 9, and her father was a violent alcoholic capable of unthinkable cruelty. (Sworn affidavits describe, in addition to horrific abuse against his wife and kids, how he once beat the family dog to death with a hammer as Trina watched, then made his children clean up its remains.) From the time Trina was young, she was mostly cared for by her siblings: among them, Edith (or Edy), the eldest, who took over her mother’s responsibilities, and twin sisters Lynn and Linda, just a year older than Trina. In and out of homelessness, Trina and the twins slept in cars and abandoned buildings, washing their clothes in police stations and foraging for food wherever they could, including from trash cans.
When she was 11, Trina was sent by her grandmother to Allentown State Hospital for mental treatment; she was discharged at 13 against the advice of her doctor and stopped taking her medication.
Following the fire, prison officials requested she be given a psychiatric evaluation, after which she was deemed unfit for trial and hospitalized. A second evaluation yielded a diagnosis of schizophrenia. But a third assessment, just a few weeks later, deemed her competent to stand trial. Her lawyer did not challenge the decision. Nor did he challenge the prosecutor’s successful push to try Trina as an adult. (He would later be jailed and disbarred.) Trina was tried in March 1977. Trial transcripts have been lost, but it’s clear that she took the stand as the sole witness for the defense. Frances Newsome was the key witness for the prosecution, telling the jury Trina had set the fire as revenge on Sylvia Harvey for forbidding her sons to play with her.

California’s toe in the water on school “vouchers”?

Peter Hanley:

Editor’s note: Progress in the parental school choice movement is measured not only by big gains in states like Indiana and Louisiana, but by the flurry of incremental developments in more states every year. Peter Hanley, executive director of the California-based American Center for School Choice, offers a look at encouraging developments in his home state.
California has the nation’s largest charter school program, with 982 charter schools serving 412,000 students. But with nearly a two-thirds Democratic legislature heavily influenced by the California Teachers Association, tax credit scholarships or vouchers have been entirely off the table. In fact, charter schools’ flexibility is under near constant attack. Now, though, two legislators have introduced innovative approaches that address a unique feature in California’s constitution and attempt to bring educational tax credits to the state.

Wisconsin reworking bid to exit federal education mandates

Wisconsin is reworking its application for relief from certain elements of a 10-year-old federal education law, based on feedback received from the U.S. Department of Education last month that outlined where the state’s application was light on details.
A letter from April 17 indicates the state needs a better plan for transitioning to college- and career-ready standards in its schools, and for implementing teacher and principal evaluation and support systems. Wisconsin’s plan also needs ambitious yearly objectives for schools and better criteria for recognizing progress over time in persistently low-performing schools.
State officials on Monday said that the cycle of feedback and revision is normal as states around the country propose new accountability measures for schools that would replace the punitive system under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.
“This is very, very common,” Lynette Russell, assistant state superintendent for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, said in an interview Monday.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, who did not see the letter before the weekend, said it affirmed concerns were raised before the application was submitted that DPI’s proposal for a new accountability system “left not much meat on the bones.”
“Folks thought they would do a cursory, general waiver and get it, and at the end of the day it would be pretty hard to be held accountable for it,” Olsen said. “The (U.S. Education) department is not letting Wisconsin get away with that at all.”
The letter commended Wisconsin for planning for a new common set of standards aligned to college and career readiness, and also for developing a teacher evaluation system based on educator practice and student test scores.
But it criticized the application for not detailing how the state would implement those new systems

State responds to concerns over No Child Left Behind application

1 in 3 autistic young adults lack jobs, education

Associated Press:

One in 3 young adults with autism have no paid job experience, college or technical schooling nearly seven years after high school graduation, a study finds. That’s a poorer showing than those with other disabilities including those who are mentally disabled, the researchers said.
With roughly half a million autistic kids reaching adulthood in the next decade, experts say it’s an issue policymakers urgently need to address.
The study was done well before unemployment peaked from the recession. The situation today is tough even for young adults who don’t have such limitations.

Higher Education & The Data Storm

David Clemens:

Consensus has it that we are living in the Age of Big Data. When our college president was hired, he declared himself “data driven”; during interviews for vice president of academic affairs, all three finalists announced that they, too, were “data driven” (though none could articulate a clear image of what higher education might look like ten years from now). So what does “data driven” mean? Every day, our digital helpmeets dump petabytes of data into our cringing neural pathways. We are besotted with data; we’ve never had so much of the stuff. But to be data driven sounds uncomfortably like Captain Ahab (who was whale driven).
The words “data driven” are gang members; when I hear them, I can be sure the words “outcomes” and “a culture of evidence” are slouching around nearby and will shortly make an appearance. Often, data is announced (as if newly arrived from Mount Sinai) in totals, aggregates, medians, percentages, rates, multipliers–but then the data just piles up in corners and collects under the bed.
Frankly, I don’t have much confidence in data’s probative value. Even though digits and stats supply a comforting sense of measurement, certitude, and solidity, data alone is still the smallest particle of information, no matter how much of it accumulates. Data by itself is inert, like Frankenstein’s monster, patched together and waiting for a lightning bolt. Sometimes it waits a long time. It may seem irrefutable, but until data is analyzed, it just lays there. Remembering Christmas presents from his childhood in Wales, Dylan Thomas recalled receiving “books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”

123 Page Madison School District Achievement Plan Published

The Madison School District 3.5MB PDF, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear Community Members,
The preliminary plan to eliminate achievement gaps provided a framework around which to engage members of the community in a discussion about what we need to do to address the achievement gaps. To gather input, we held community input sessions, met with community organizations, and talked with our staff. Summaries and an analysis of session feedback are listed in the plan and at
That input served as our guide in developing these recommendations. Then, we also considered educational research, the new federal mandates of the Response to Intervention (RtI) program, cost, and logistics, as well as community input. We reviewed what has worked in our school district, in our community, and in other districts across the country.
I believe that if we are going to do better by our children, we must invest. But I also believe we have a responsibility to balance the needs of our community and leverage resources for the greatest impact on student achievement. The final recommended plan is reduced from a financial perspective. This was done to ensure greater sustainability from a fiscal perspective.
The revised plan maintains the six original areas of focus. These six chapters illustrate the landscape of education today – areas that are critical to closing achievement gaps. They also represent areas where leverage exists to eliminate our achievement gaps. Any successful plan to close student achievement gaps must employ a combination of strategies. If there were one simple answer, it would have been employed a long time ago and replicated in districts across the country. Our reality calls for many solutions at many levels of the organization. Our problem is a complex one. Our solutions must be equally complex in their approach.
The good news is that research on what works has been going on for years. Although there is no one right way to teach all students, the research is solid on increasing student performance through an aligned curriculum, effective instruction, frequent monitoring of progress, research-based decision making before a child experiences failure, having interventions in place to help learners, and involving the entire community in support of children.
To address this last point, this plan also asks for a commitment from the community to join MMSD using elements of the Strive Model (Kania, John and Kramer, Mark. (2011). “Collective impact.” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011) to develop a network which links services to schools through a collaborative district approach as well a school-based grass roots “community school model” approach based on each school’s need. This concept is elaborated where appropriate in each chapter and in the conclusion of this document.
The recommendations within this plan focus on academic rigor, expectations, accountability, response to behaviors, professional development, cultural competence,3 parents as partners, hiring for diversity, and establishing a new relationship with our community. It also is a plan that supports the federal mandates of Response to Intervention (RtI), which is the practice of providing high-quality instruction, interventions, and progress monitoring which is matched to student needs to make decisions about changes in instruction, and analyzing student response data decisions through collaboration.
These final recommendations reflect some effective work already under way that needs additional focus in order to meet student needs and RtI requirements, some promising practices, and some new ideas. These recommendations are all based on research and are a call to action to our staff, our families, and our community.
Some recommendations from the preliminary plan have been made more cost effective, and others have been elaborated upon. The following items are either new, have been eliminated, or have been revised to allow further planning during the 2012-13 school year:
New Initiative: Ensure all K-12 Students Demonstrate Proficiency in the Standards for Mathematics Practice
New Initiative: Drop-Out Recovery
New Initiative: Increase Options for Restorative Practices in the MMSD Student Conduct and Discipline Plan
Eliminated: PEOPLE Program for Elementary Students Eliminated: Youth Court Expansion to Middle School
Eliminated: Implement 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the Highest Need Elementary Schools
Eliminated: Professional Development – Technology Coach
Eliminated: Collaborate with the Community to Implement the Parent-Child Home Program
Further Planning: Extend the School Day
This final recommended plan, Building our Future, was developed to eliminate our achievement gaps. As a school district, we know we need to take new action. We also know we must work with you, members of this great community, to better address the needs of our children. We now look forward to discussing this final proposed plan with the Board of Education. Let’s work together to make a difference for our children.
Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent

Pages 117 to 123 describe the baseline metrics.
Matthew DeFour has more.

Why Is Mathalicious Raising Money on Kickstarter?

Audrey Watters:

Mathalicious is currently raising $164,000 to create a series of math videos – 52 in all as the project name suggests. That’s one math video a week, along with a teacher’s guide on how the videos can be incorporated into lessons. The videos will follow the approach of the rest of Mathalicious mission: show students how math helps you understand the world around you. I don’t mean “two trains leave the station” kind of story problems either. I mean problems that are interesting and relevant to students and that teach basic math concepts (Common Core State Standards-aligned) as well as broader problem solving and critical thinking skills. A sample lesson on probability: Does “Bankrupt” come up more often than it should on Wheel of Fortune? Is the show rigged?
$164,000 is sizable goal for a Kickstarter project; the average project seeks under $10,000. But there have been some fairly incredible success stories with Kickstarter as of late. Musician Amanda Palmer raised her goal of $100,000 for her latest record and tour in just 6 hours (she’s now raised over $600,000 with 21 days still to go). 5 projects so far this year have raised over $1 million, and when its campaign ends on May 18, the Pebble E-Paper Watch will have set the new Kickstarter record, with over $10 million raised. The original ask: $100,000.

Devaluing value-added assessments

Jay Matthews:

I don’t spend much time debunking our most powerful educational fad: value-added assessments to rate teachers. My colleague Valerie Strauss eviscerates value-added several times a week on her Answer Sheet blog with the verve of a samurai, so who needs me?
Unfortunately, value-added is still growing in every corner of our nation, including D.C. schools, despite all that torn flesh and missing pieces. It’s like those monsters lumbering through this year’s action films. We’ve got to stop them! Let me fling my small, aged body in their way with the best argument against value-added I have seen in some time.
It comes from education analyst and teacher trainer Grant Wiggins and his “Granted, but . . .” blog. He starts with the reasons many people, including him and me, like the idea of value-added. Why not rate teachers by how much their students improve over time? In theory, this allows us to judge teachers in low- and high-income schools fairly, instead of declaring, as we tend to do, that the teachers in rich neighborhoods are better than those in poor neighborhoods because their students’ test scores are higher.

Much more on “value added assessment“, here.

Obama’s education policies will wreak havoc on CA schools

Richard Rider:

In an op-ed featured in Flashreport, Lance Izumi discussed what will happen to California’s educational system now that it has agreed to replace its own rigorous state student-learning standards with the comparatively less difficult national standards supported by the Obama administration. Will courses and curriculum change? How will testing of students be affected? Will the effort to reform teacher evaluation be derailed? So far, the answers to these questions are not promising.
The Obama administration required states to adopt the national “Common Core” standards as a condition for competing for federal “Race to the Top” grants and for receiving waivers from penalties for failing to comply with the student-achievement requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Carnival of Mathematics 86

Brent Yorgey:

Welcome to the 86th Carnival of Mathematics! is semiprime, nontotient, and noncototient. It is also happy since and . In fact, it is the smallest happy, nontotient semiprime (the only smaller happy nontotient is 68–which is, of course, 86 in reverse–but 68 is not semiprime).
However, the most interesting mathematical fact about 86 (in my opinion) is that it is the largest known integer for which the decimal expansion of contains no zeros! In particular, . Although no one has proved it is the largest such , every up to (which is quite a lot, although still slightly less than the total number of integers) has been checked to contain at least one zero. The probability that any larger power of 2 contains no zeros is vanishingly small, given some reasonable assumptions about the distribution of digits in base-ten expansions of powers of two.

Dysfunction: A Case Study

Charlie Mas:

As we piece together the history of the recent proposal to revise the Transportation Standards, it reveals a story of deception, misinformation, abdication of responsibility, and, more than anything else, hypocrisy.
The Board will vote on Wednesday evening on a revised set of Transportation Standards for 2012-2013. We can’t say what those revised standards will be exactly – they have yet to release the final version. They will undoubtedly vote to approve – they always do. But what will they approve? Even they don’t know. This comes after the Board already adopted transportation standards for the coming school year. How did we get here? It’s an ugly, ugly story.

Teachers as Policymakers?

Scott Joftus:

Should teachers be setting educational policy? Based on the comments to my recent article for Education Next, the answer is a resounding “yes!” My response is a bit more nuanced: It might be worth a try, although scaling any successes would be challenging.
In the article, I acknowledged the tension between my role as education consultant and “policy wonk,” on the one hand, and my role as a father of two girls in (a very good) public elementary school, on the other. For example, as a consultant, I help schools implement positive behavioral interventions and supports for disruptive students, but, as a parent, I find myself wishing disruptive students would simply be removed from my daughters’ classroom. This tension is hardly unique to education: Consider the well-meaning environmentalist who lives in a large home and drives an SUV.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California deficit has soared to $16 billion, Gov. Jerry Brown says


Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Saturday that the state’s deficit has ballooned to $16 billion, a huge increase over his $9.2-billion estimate in January.
The bigger deficit is a significant setback for California, which has struggled to turn the page on a devastating budget crisis. Brown, who announced the deficit on YouTube, is expected to outline his full budget proposal on Monday in Sacramento.
“This means we will have to go much further, and make cuts far greater, than I asked for at the beginning of the year,” Brown said in the video.

From big-city superintendent to supporter of vouchers and charters – Arlene Ackerman, podcastED

Ron Matus:

Last fall, Arlene Ackerman, the former schools superintendent in Philadelphia, made a stunning announcement for someone of her status. In a newspaper op-ed, she forcefully came out in favor of expanded school choice options, including more charter schools and yes, even vouchers. “I’ve come to a sad realization,” she wrote. “Real reform will never come from within the system.”
In this redefinED podcast, Ackerman talks more about her evolution.
For years, she pushed change from the highest perches in K-12 education. Before Philly, she headed the school districts in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. She led the latter when it became a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize, annually awarded to the best urban school district in the country, in 2005. But the kinds of sweeping reform needed to help poor and minority kids, she said, too often met with resistance from unions, politicians, vendors and others who benefited from not budging.