Category Archives: Uncategorized

Little Rock leaders fear schools are about to re-segregate

Associated Press:

When the Arkansas Board of Education took over the district, it dismissed the local school board and put the district superintendent under state control. The state’s board last week approved a “framework” for the district’s future if it doesn’t meet the requirements to leave state control. Under the plan, schools that are rated at least “D″ by the state would remain under the control of the board. Schools rated “F″ would be placed under “different leadership” in partnership with the district, though it’s unclear what that means. The plan also says another category of schools that are being reconfigured “may” be run by the local board.

All but one of the eight currently F-rated schools in the district are located south of Interstate 630, which is historically viewed as the dividing line between Little Rock’s predominantly white and predominantly black neighborhoods. The latest grades for the schools come out next month.

“If you do this, you’re helping to perpetuate a divide that was put there deliberately,” Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott, referring to the interstate, told the board last week. “If you do this, you will be furthering that effort to keep us divided deliberately.”

Proponents say the plan gives parents and community leaders the local control they’ve been seeking but offers the schools the state support they need to address academic problems.

“If the state ignored the academic performance measures and returned all schools without sufficient support, then we would surely have dedicated civil rights lawyers that would immediately be filing a lawsuit saying we’re not meeting our obligations,” said Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who dismissed the notion that the plan amounts to re-segregation.

“That is wrong, it is not based in fact and it is really trying to resurrect old history that has no application to today,” Hutchinson said.

The testing system and accountability measures for schools have changed since the 2015 takeover. Education officials say that although the district hasn’t made the academic gains it hoped to make, it has improved in some areas, such as its facilities and finances.

“There were a lot more problems in Little Rock than just the way the academics was showing up when we intervened and we discovered all those after the fact,” Board Chairwoman Diane Zook said.

Related: ”The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East , especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Online courses vs. colleges for software engineering

Raahul:

Proud dropouts sometimes swear by online courses, because the project-based learning that they provide is hands-on, and also representative of the how the real world is going to be. On the other hand, proud academics sometimes like to brag about equations and theorems that are really not relevant, but still sound academically enlightening.

I’ve done numerous Udacity nanodegrees and paid Coursera courses. I’m also currently pursuing my masters online from Georgia Tech in computer science (it’s OMSCS program). I’m going to make a contrast between the two approaches, highlighting their merits and demerits.

In Cambodia’s prisons, pregnant women and young children are inmates

Didem Tali:

A railway line separates the slum from a high-security gated complex. The pair often crossed the tracks to scavenge among the refuse of their wealthy neighbours. So when a woman who had arrived in the slum several months earlier, and who always seemed to be a little bit better off than everyone else, showed up with a proposal, a desperate Sophea was willing to listen.

“The woman said she came together with a few others and did pickpocketing in markets,” Sophea says, looking down at the concrete floor of her house while nursing her youngest child. “I joined her to steal people’s wallets, but soon the police caught us and I was in jail, charged with petty theft.”

senator asks colleges to explain why they ‘kowtow’ to easily offended students

Chuck Grassley:

Universities have long been centers of political correctness. But campus administrations increasingly seem to be indulging students who, when faced with uncomfortable ideas, complain of feeling “harmed” or “unsafe.” This is reaching its breaking point and making it hard for professors to teach.

As part of my oversight work in the Senate, I’m seeking answers from some of the nation’s top universities about incidents that have taken place on their campuses. These incidents give me concern about the state of academic freedom:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Japan’s pension problems are a harbinger of challenges elsewhere

The Economist:

LAST MONTH Japan’s Financial Services Agency, the financial-industry regulator, lobbed a grenade into a fractious debate on how to support the world’s oldest population in retirement. The typical elderly couple, it warned, will need to top up their public pensions by a whopping ¥20m ($185,000). This gloomy forecast should have come as no surprise. The system was built on the expectation that people would live until their 70s or 80s. But more than half of Japanese babies today can expect to live to over 100. A quarter of all 60-year-olds will still be alive in 35 years, estimates the government.

All 20- to 59-year-olds in work must pay a flat premium of ¥16,410 into the national pension fund every month. Those who do so for 40 years get a full pension, currently ¥780,100 a year. Corporate and government workers also make payments into supplementary schemes. But the system is imbalanced, with shrinking numbers paying in and growing numbers drawing out. Japan already has more than 35m people aged over 65—28% of the population. The share is projected to reach a third by 2050.

Civics: New federal rules limit police searches of family tree DNA databases

Jocelyn Kaiser:

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released new rules yesterday governing when police can use genetic genealogy to track down suspects in serious crimes—the first-ever policy covering how these databases, popular among amateur genealogists, should be used in law enforcement attempts to balance public safety and privacy concerns.

The value of these websites for law enforcement was highlighted last year when Joseph DeAngelo was charged with a series of rapes and murders that had occurred decades earlier. Investigators tracked down the suspect, dubbed the Golden State Killer, by uploading a DNA profile from a crime scene to a public ancestry website, identifying distant relatives, then using traditional genealogy and other information to narrow their search. The approach has led to arrests in at least 60 cold cases around the country.

But these searches also raise privacy concerns. Relatives of those in the database can fall under suspicion even if they have never uploaded their own DNA. (One study found that 60% of white Americans can now be tracked down using such searches.) And even those who have shared their DNA may not have given informed consent to allow their data to be used for law enforcement searches.

Does meritocracy stall social mobility, entrench an undeserving elite, and undermine trust in higher education?

Joan Wong:

That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our supposedly meritocratic system is nothing but a long con,” declares Alanna Schubach, a college-admissions coach, in Jacobin. “Merit itself has become a counterfeit virtue, a false idol,” argues Daniel Markovits, a professor of law at Yale University, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap (Penguin Press). “And meritocracy — formerly benevolent and just — has become what it was invented to combat. A mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations.”

An attack on meritocracy is invariably an attack on higher education, where meritocrats get sorted and credentialed. So the turn against meritocracy prompts big questions. Has meritocracy in fact failed? Is it time for universities to rethink the definition of merit, and, more broadly, higher education’s role in American life? Are meritocracy’s critics too sweeping in their indictment? Is it still — flaws and all — the fairest way to organize society? If we do away with it, what comes next?

We put these questions to 10 scholars and administrators from across the academy. Here are their responses.

Schools are spending billions on digital tools. Students have little to show for it.

Bloomberg:

Yet there’s little evidence that this technology improves student performance — and excessive use may even have negative effects. A 2015 study of 38 countries found that those that made large investments in educational technology showed “no appreciable improvements in student achievement” on international assessments of math, science and reading.

In the U.S., fourth graders who reported using digital devices in most or all of their classes did worse on reading tests than students who used them in less than half their classes. Similarly, eighth-grade students who used a computer every day for math scored four points lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress than those who did so only once or twice a year. To the extent technology plays a productive role, research shows it’s far more helpful for students in high school and beyond than for grade-schoolers. But even for older students, the mere presence of devices in the classroom can divide their attention and worsen their long-term performance.

As is true in every aspect of schooling, teacher engagement is critical to realizing ed-tech’s potential. But in the U.S., only 40% of K-12 teachers say that they’ve received effective training on how to use such tools. More than one-third say that they never use the digital products or devices their school districts give them; an additional 30% say they’re unaware if they even have such technology at their disposal. That disconnect is costly: One analysis found that as much as 67% of software licenses purchased by schools go unused, which amounts to $5.6 billion in annual waste.

Related:

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Why are Madison’s Students Struggling to Read?

The Race Theory That Keeps Imperiled Black Kids Right Where They Are

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Five-year-old old Brandajah Smith grabbed the loaded .38-caliber revolver after her mother left her alone in their New Orleans apartment. It’s still not clear why she pulled the trigger, whether it was an accident or related to the suicidal thoughts the child had expressed. But when her mother returned from the store, Brandajah was dead from a single gunshot to the head.

Brandajah’s death in 2013 was shocking, but few people who knew her were surprised.

For almost a year, her teachers had repeatedly reported suspicions that she was being sexually abused. They also told authorities that she talked about her own death, what it would be like in heaven and about the gun in her home.

Following Brandajah’s death, officials from Louisiana’s Department of Children & Family Services told the Times Picayune newspaper that the agency “thoroughly investigated each of the complaints received.” But they also said that Brandajah’s mother, Laderika Smith, was not complying with the “safety plan” that the agency had set up. In November 2012 – after months of leaving the child in a home with her mother and the mother’s boyfriend, who owned the gun (both are felons) – DCFS asked the local court to either order compliance or give the agency the authority to take the child away. By the time of the kindergartner’s death, the court had done neither.

Child welfare case files are not public, so it is not clear why the court did not act in Brandajah’s case. But that inaction came amid a growing push by liberal advocacy groups, child welfare agencies, and some judges to leave children in troubled homes instead of placing them in foster care.

No one argues that foster care cannot be improved. But this movement, which boasts strong financial and political support, is drawing attention for two reasons. First are concerns that it puts children at risk. The second is that it is based on racial ideology that ignores the evidence about child maltreatment.

QUALITY CHOICES Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement

David Griffith:

Plenty of studies have compared the progress of students in charter schools versus traditional public schools. And more than a dozen have examined the “competitive effects” of charters on neighboring district schools. Yet, to our knowledge, no prior study has directly addressed the trillion-dollar question—that is, whether overall achievement increases as the “market share” of charter schools grows.

Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement, authored by Fordham’s David Griffith, is a first-of-its-kind study that looks at the relationship between “charter market share” and the academic achievement of all students in a given community, including those in traditional public schools. To accomplish this, the report uses data from a new source, which allows researchers to compare English language arts and math scores from thousands of school districts and dozens of different tests.

Incarceration of Christians and Han Chinese in Xinjiang shows broad reach of forced indoctrination campaign

Nathan Vanderklippe:

Chinese authorities are sending Christian Uyghurs and even members of the Han Chinese majority to internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, an indication that the regime’s indoctrination strategy is broader than previously understood.

Most of the hundreds of thousands of people – perhaps more than a million – sent to a sprawling network of centres for political indoctrination and vocational training are Muslims, members of minority groups such as Uyghurs and Kazakhs, according to former detainees and instructors. Beijing has said the centres are being used to stamp out extremism.

But six accounts from people who have recently lived in the region or have family there – three Christian Westerners, a lawyer, a Chinese petitioner and a Uyghur family living in France – reveal that others are also being incarcerated.

Why can’t we agree on what’s true any more?

William Davies:

e live in a time of political fury and hardening cultural divides. But if there is one thing on which virtually everyone is agreed, it is that the news and information we receive is biased. Every second of every day, someone is complaining about bias, in everything from the latest movie reviews to sports commentary to the BBC’s coverage of Brexit. These complaints and controversies take up a growing share of public discussion.

Much of the outrage that floods social media, occasionally leaking into opinion columns and broadcast interviews, is not simply a reaction to events themselves, but to the way in which they are reported and framed. The “mainstream media” is the principal focal point for this anger. Journalists and broadcasters who purport to be neutral are a constant object of scrutiny and derision, whenever they appear to let their personal views slip. The work of journalists involves an increasing amount of unscripted, real-time discussion, which provides an occasionally troubling window into their thinking.

But this is not simply an anti-journalist sentiment. A similar fury can just as easily descend on a civil servant or independent expert whenever their veneer of neutrality seems to crack, apparently revealing prejudices underneath. Sometimes a report or claim is dismissed as biased or inaccurate for the simple reason that it is unwelcome: to a Brexiter, every bad economic forecast is just another case of the so-called project fear. A sense that the game is rigged now fuels public debate.

This mentality now spans the entire political spectrum and pervades societies around the world. A recent survey found that the majority of people globally believe their society is broken and their economy is rigged. Both the left and the right feel misrepresented and misunderstood by political institutions and the media, but the anger is shared by many in the liberal centre, who believe that populists have gamed the system to harvest more attention than they deserve. Outrage with “mainstream” institutions has become a mass sentiment.

The implausibility of intelligence explosion

Francois Chollet:

In 1965, I. J. Good described for the first time the notion of “intelligence explosion”, as it relates to artificial intelligence (AI):

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.

Decades later, the concept of an “intelligence explosion” — leading to the sudden rise of “superintelligence” and the accidental end of the human race — has taken hold in the AI community. Famous business leaders are casting it as a major risk, greater than nuclear war or climate change. Average graduate students in machine learning are endorsing it. In a 2015 email survey targeting AI researchers, 29% of respondents answered that intelligence explosion was “likely” or “highly likely”. A further 21% considered it a serious possibility.
The basic premise is that, in the near future, a first “seed AI” will be created, with general problem-solving abilities slightly surpassing that of humans. This seed AI would start designing better AIs, initiating a recursive self-improvement loop that would immediately leave human intelligence in the dust, overtaking it by orders of magnitude in a short time. Proponents of this theory also regard intelligence as a kind of superpower, conferring its holders with almost supernatural capabilities to shape their environment — as seen in the science-fiction movie Transcendence (2014), for instance. Superintelligence would thus imply near-omnipotence, and would pose an existential threat to humanity.

Alexandra Elbakyan is plundering the academic publishing establishment

Ian Graber-Stiehl:

In cramped quarters at Russia’s Higher School of Economics, shared by four students and a cat, sat a server with 13 hard drives. The server hosted Sci-Hub, a website with over 64 million academic papers available for free to anybody in the world. It was the reason that, one day in June 2015, Alexandra Elbakyan, the student and programmer with a futurist streak and a love for neuroscience blogs, opened her email to a message from the world’s largest publisher: “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED.”

I dropped out of MIT and started a new college in San Francisco. AMA!

r/IAmA:

In 2011 I was a college sophomore at MIT frustrated with the state of higher education. The tech industry was rapidly evolving and yet college curriculum was frozen in time. My high school CS teacher had been more innovative in offering a project-based education than my MIT professors were. Something felt broken.

I dropped out of MIT, teamed up with a friend from high school, and started teaching computer science the way we wished it had been taught to us. Our first program was literally run out of the living room of a house in Palo Alto, CA.

By 2014 we grew into a full-fledged alternative to college in San Francisco. There were dorms, faculty, clubs, but no degree. We pioneered a new financial model – don’t pay any tuition unless you get a job. Facebook/Google/Apple and co hired our students. The model worked and the media called it the anti college.
The thing is.. thriving without a college degree is much easier if you come from a privileged background. We came to realize a lot of the dropout-worship in the Silicon Valley was blind to the fact that forgoing a college degree was a lot more costly if you were low-income or a student of color. To really disrupt higher education and serve students who were being left behind by the current system, we had to find a way to offer degrees.

In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor

James Flynn:

I was notified of Emerald’s decision not to proceed by Tony Roche, Emerald’s publishing director, in an email on 10th June:

I am contacting you in regard to your manuscript In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor. Emerald believes that its publication, in particular in the United Kingdom, would raise serious concerns. By the nature of its subject matter, the work addresses sensitive topics of race, religion, and gender. The challenging manner in which you handle these topics as author, particularly at the beginning of the work, whilst no doubt editorially powerful, increase the sensitivity and the risk of reaction and legal challenge. As a result, we have taken external legal advice on the contents of the manuscript and summarize our concerns below.

There are two main causes of concern for Emerald. Firstly, the work could be seen to incite racial hatred and stir up religious hatred under United Kingdom law. Clearly you have no intention of promoting racism but intent can be irrelevant. For example, one test is merely whether it is “likely” that racial hatred could be stirred up as a result of the work. This is a particular difficulty given modern means of digital media expression. The potential for circulation of the more controversial passages of the manuscript online, without the wider intellectual context of the work as a whole and to a very broad audience—in a manner beyond our control—represents a material legal risk for Emerald.

Secondly, there are many instances in the manuscript where the actions, conversations and behavior of identifiable individuals at specific named colleges are discussed in detail and at length in relation to controversial events. Given the sensitivity of the issues involved, there is both the potential for serious harm to Emerald’s reputation and the significant possibility of legal action. Substantial changes to the content and nature of the manuscript would need to be made, or Emerald would need to accept a high level of risk both reputational and legal. The practical costs and difficulty of managing any reputational or legal problems that did arise are of further concern to Emerald.

SAT Scores Fall as More Students Take the Test

Tawnell Hobbs:

Average scores dropped on the SAT this past test-taking cycle, with a greater percentage of high-school students not ready for college-level work, according to results released on Tuesday by the College Board.

A record 2.2 million 2019 graduates took the college entrance exam, up from 2018’s record of 2.1 million. The increase is partly attributed to more districts offering students the option to take the test during the school day, often at no cost.

I would never send my kids to school

Piotr Wozniak:

Scrapping the school system
I have spent over two decades in the school system, three decades working in the field of memory and learning, and my whole life learning on my own. The contrast between schools and self-directed learning is so stark that I wake up daily in disbelief about the survival of the old Prussian factory school model. The main thesis of this article is that schooling is the thing of the past. The future will be based on free learning. Before humanity is taken over by artificial intelligence, there is still a lot of room for progress. The human brain has an amazing potential. These days, most of that potential is wasted at school. There is no denying that schools have changed the world for the better. The same can be said about the combustion engine. However, these are the days for scrapping the old technologies and the old systems. It is time for a change.

So You Want to Be a Writer?

Phil Christma:

That I would eventually teach college writing was a conclusion foregone, I suppose, as soon as I decided that I was “going to be a writer.” (Not “I was going to write” – that commitment to the process of actual making comes later.) This is true in the obvious sense that our culture doesn’t offer many careers that leave a (lucky; healthy; non-primary caregiver) person the time or energy to write three or four hours a day. But it’s true also in the far deeper sense that, once I had committed to Being A Writer, I immediately encountered a huge body of contradictory lore, and the ongoing mental exertion of harmonizing all that lore – how-to books; new-age inner-creative-child books; classic works on aesthetics and poetics; exhortatory books like John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist and life-coaching books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; what writers said in interviews; what my teachers told me; what I absorbed from pop culture; last and least of all, my fanny-pack’s worth of firsthand experience – ensured that I would need to do something with all of it.

I am not sure why I settled on the idea. I had not read, at fifteen or sixteen, all that much serious literature – really just The Catcher in the Rye, a book I was too stupid to realize was indicting me by evoking the kind of identifying, idolizing love from me that it did. Most of what I read as a kid was fundamentalist propaganda; or comics; or Nancy Drew novels (I wanted to be her boyfriend); or, if I felt ambitious, sci-fi. In adolescence I added to these books about running and music magazines. I read slowly and badly, with a puny attention span and a kind of neurotic repetition-compulsion – over and over, in middle school, the same June 1989 issue of Batman; over and over, in high school, the same November 1995 Spin profile of Tori Amos. (I also wanted to be her boyfriend, after she had re-accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.) Most of the time, in high school, I did not read at all. I listened to music, and was depressed.

Civics: What did the Snowden leaks tell us about modern surveillance capabilities? And what did we learn about our ability to defend against them?

Matthew Green:

“Collect it all”

Prior to Snowden, even surveillance-skeptics would probably concede that, yes, the NSA collects data on specific targets. But even the most paranoid observers were shocked by the sheer scale of what the NSA was actually doing out there.

The Snowden revelations detailed several programs that were so astonishing in the breadth and scale of the data being collected, the only real limits on them were caused by technical limitations in the NSA’s hardware. Most of us are familiar with the famous examples, like nationwide phone metadata collection. But it’s the bizarre, obscure leaks that really drive this home. For example:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: How Dollar General Took Over Rural America

Chris McGreal:

When Dollar General came to Haven, Kansas, it arrived making demands. The fastest-growing retailer in America wanted the taxpayers of the small, struggling Kansas town to pick up part of the tab for building one of its squat, barebones stores that more often resemble a warehouse than a neighbourhood shop.

Dollar General thought Haven’s council should give the company a $72,000 break on its utility bills, equivalent to the cost of running the town’s library and swimming pool for a year, on the promise of jobs and tax revenues. The council blanched but ended up offering half of that amount to bring the low-price outlet to a town that already had a grocery store.

“Dollar General are a force. It’s hard to stop a train,” said Mike Alfers, Haven’s then mayor who backed the move. “Obviously there’s been collateral damage. We didn’t expect it. I’m torn but, net-net, I still think it was a good move to bring them in.”

The Dollar General opened in Haven at the end of February 2015. Three years later, the company applied to build a similar store in the neighbouring town of Buhler, a 20-minute drive along a ramrod straight road north through sprawling Kansas farmland.

Buhler’s mayor, Daniel Friesen, watched events unfold in Haven and came to see Dollar General not so much as an opportunity as a diagnosis.

Commentary on School Choice and Achievement

Will Flanders:

In the never-ending debate on test scores in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, old is new again. Alan Borsuk, in his most recent column discussing the topic, brings up the possibility that higher scores in choice schools might be the result of better parents and students taking advantage of the program, leaving the worse students behind for MPS to deal with. This is notion of “creaming” is pervasive among opponents of school choice. But the evidence does not support it.

First, by all of the measures that are able to be observed, it is worth noting that students in the MPCP and MPS are very similar. Demographic data for choice students was not included in the DPI release for this year, but the 2017-18 numbers reveal 77.5% of students in the MPCP come from low-income backgrounds compared to 84.8% in MPS. 87.3% of MPCP students come from minority backgrounds, as do 89.3% of students in MPS. There are no significant differences along these dimensions. When WILL conducts it’s annual Apples to Apples report that accounts for demographic factors like these, choice schools still rise to the top.

But what Borsuk is probably really focused on are more intangible differences between the students. If a parent takes the time to seek out an alternative educational option, it may indicate some additional level of caring about a child’s education than a parent who leaves their child in an assigned school, whatever its quality. Fortunately, there are a number of studies that are also able to account for this possibility thanks to lotteries that were held to determine admissions to the school. Such research takes advantage of random assignment to receiving school choice, usually due to limitations in the number of vouchers that are available. This means that the students who lose the lottery come from the same sort of family environments as those that win the lottery, allowing for a true effect of educational choice to be observed experimentally. Of 18 studies that have used these methods, 14 have found positive effects on student achievement, 2 have found no effects, and 2–both in Louisiana–have found negative effects. This includes 2 studies in Milwaukee conducted before caps were lifted on the program. In other words, the vast majority of studies that directly address Borsuk’s worry have found no evidence of the problem.

Perhaps the reason for this is that it isn’t just the “cream of the crop” that make the decision to send their students to an alternative school. Indeed, a case can be made that if a student is doing very well in their current public school, why would a change be needed? Of 10 studies that have examined this very question, eight find either evidence in the opposite direction or ambiguous results, and only two find choice students are more advantaged.

Related: ”The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic” .

Great New Essay Tells the Truth About Teacher Pay. Unfortunately, in Ed World, the Truth Is Just Another Story

Mike Antonucci:

Biggs and Richwine are especially effective in dissecting the annual reports on the “teacher pay gap” published by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute. They demonstrate that when EPI’s methodology is applied to other professions, it shows “pay gaps” for about 40 percent of all occupations. EPI’s methods suggest telemarketers are woefully underpaid.

Biggs and Richwine don’t stop there. It’s amazing what an examination of the data tells us:

Teachers leaving the profession in droves? Nope.

Former teachers earning more when they switch to new professions? Nope.

Widespread teacher shortages? Nope.

Teachers work more hours than private-sector professionals? Nope.

Teaching is more stressful than most other occupations? Nope.

An emphasis on Adult Employment .

Wisconsin students make up smallest share of UW-Madison freshman class in at least 25 years

Kelly Meyerhofer:

Wisconsin residents make up a bare majority of freshmen at UW-Madison this year, the smallest percentage of in-state students the university has enrolled in at least 25 years.

The incoming class includes a record-breaking 7,550 students, 50.3% of whom are from Wisconsin.

That’s a 3.1-percentage-point drop from last year’s incoming class and an even steeper decline since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when two out of every three freshmen were Wisconsin residents, according to a Wisconsin State Journal analysis of enrollment reports.

Madison cartoonist Lynda Barry wins MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ award

Jim Higgins:

Graphic novelist, cartoonist and creativity educator Lynda Barry of Madison is one of this year’s winners of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, commonly known as a “genius” grant.

In naming her one of its 2019 fellows, the MacArthur Foundation praised Barry for “inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works and a teaching practice centered on the role of image making in communication.”

Barry, 63, is known for her graphic novels, including “One! Hundred! Demons!” (2002), a contemporary riff on a 16th-century Zen painting, and “The Good Times Are Killing Me” (1988), and for her long-running “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” a weekly comic strip that appeared in alternative publications.

She is also an associate professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the art department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “In her ‘Writing the Unthinkable’ workshops, she leads students through exercises that emphasize the physical process of writing and drawing, often under time pressure, to stimulate creative thinking,” the MacArthur Foundation noted.

Elections and Taxpayer Supported K-12 Achievement and Choice

Chris Stewart:

When you emerged as a young, talented, highly educated leader years ago public schools in this country were miseducating black children en masse.

Today, as you run for president that problem continues.

But something changed between the you back then and the you today: your relationship with truth.

In a time when too many families are redlined into carefully gerrymandered education deserts, those hope-killing places where middle-class “workers” drive in each day to collect paychecks from school systems only to leave miseducated, marginalized kids in their rear view mirrors as they leave at 4 pm, you choose to step away from school choice and reform.

To bad old Cory is gone because that guy was a master of positive triangulation capable of forging bipartisan local and national relationships to raise money and interests in closing bad schools, opening good ones, fixing teacher contracts, and working on behalf of parents so desperate they were routinely lying about their addresses to gain admission to suburban schools.

20 years ago when your entered politics only 1% of Newark’s students were in charter schools. Today the percentage of students in charters has risen to 30%. Graduation rates rose from 59% to 74% between 2010 and 2015. Poorly performing staff were replaced with high-quality educators.

You did that with the help of dedicated friends (the ones you now betray).

Four school resource officers will remain in Madison high schools through 2020

Scott Girard:

There will be a police officer in each of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s four comprehensive public high schools until at least January 2021.

The first deadline for the school district to notify the Madison Police Department that it wanted to remove one of the school resource officers, which could have been effective June 15, 2020, passed Sept. 15 with no notification. That deadline, along with one next year, was set in the contract approved on a 4-3 vote in June to cover the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

A statement from School Board president Gloria Reyes provided to the Cap Times in an email from district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson stated the district needed “more time to discuss that option, and will return to that discussion at the next deadline set forth in the contract.”

David Blaska:

If you haven’t noticed, September 15 has come and gone while the Madison school board sat on its hands. With this bunch, doing nothing is the right thing. September 15 was the deadline to evict a school resource (police) officer from one of the four main high schools for next school year (2020-21). The school board didn’t do so despite all the storm und drang from Muldrow and Mirilli so the high schools will be safer places for another full school year. Background here.

As the late Sam Cooke sang, “Ain’t that good news!”

Southern Wisconsin is enjoying its finest weather all year: cool clear and crisp days, low humidity, high skies and temps topping out in the low 70s F. The field corn is starting to turn; tassels are already cherokee red. Matched with yellowing soybeans on hillsides stippled with green alfalfa. The blush in the woodlots beginning to glow. Butterflies and hummingbirds are loading up on nectar at Blaska Experimental Work Farm (and Penal Colony).

Logan Wroge:

If the School Board wants to pilot a high school without an officer, it will need to act by the second deadline in the contract, June 10, which would remove an officer after the fall semester of the 2020-21 school year.

The contract runs through the 2021-22 school year.

Reyes said if the option is exercised, it will need to be done in “the most thoughtful and comprehensive way possible” and require careful planning on what an alternate model to having an SRO would look like at a high school without the officer.

For more than two years, opponents of SROs urged the board to end the program outright, arguing students of color are disproportionately cited and arrested by the officers. After months of closed-session discussions among School Board members, the board ultimately approved the contract in June.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Will America’s massive debt really doom us?

Ken Fisher:

For debt to become a problem, Uncle Sam must spend like a drunken sailor for decades (which he may). Or interest rates must skyrocket and stay there, with the country’s interest payments ballooning and investors demanding more return for more risk. Do you see any signs of that now? Maybe someday. But not any time soon.

Pockets of debt trouble do exist around the world. To see them, look to markets. Compare low-default-risk Treasury rates to similar-maturity rates from other issuers — it’s called a credit spread. For example, South Africa and Turkey are both suffering significant debt pressure. How do you know? America can borrow for 10 years at 1.62%. Investors demand 8.82% to lend to South Africa. Turkish rates are 15.18%.

He said the district was failing black students by allowing mostly-black classrooms to be disrupted, and by not holding misbehaving black students accountable for their actions.

Willis Krumholz:

A Minnesota teacher received a $525,000 settlement, after suing the St. Paul School District for retaliating against him after he criticized its use of racial quotas in school discipline.

Aaron Benner, a black man, filed the suit in 2017. He said the St. Paul School District forced him to quit after investigating him four times in the 2014-15 school year. Those investigations were a first for Benner, who had nothing else on his disciplinary record, and was by all accounts an outstanding teacher.

If fact, you might be a bad teacher in the St. Paul School District and be safely employed for life. Benner, however, did something worse than be a bad teacher—he stood against the leftwing system.

Benner first spoke out, through the proper channels, in the 2011-12 school year. That fell on deaf ears.

At the time, the district was led by Valeria Silva, a leftwing activist who was pushing to “reduce racial disparities in student discipline.” Silva’s way of doing this was to simply not discipline black students who had repeat misbehavior problems.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “Encountering the Provincials”

Rachel Lu:

It’s an interesting conundrum. It seems obvious that many of these regions need help. Even our most desperate and impoverished citizens, though, seem to prefer the dignity of a free exchange to the discomfort of being patronized by people with an agenda. Who is able and willing to provide the goods they want at a price they can afford? It’s McDonalds, a company so “global” that its presence (or absence) in a given place is sometimes used as a quick gauge of a country’s success in entering global markets. Even in our least-thriving regions, the invisible hand is still feeding people more successfully than its public-spirited competitors. Shouldn’t this give our nationalists pause, as they contemplate far more aggressive efforts to engineer a top-down revitalization of small-town American life?

Arnade’s chapter on racism is interesting and impressively nuanced. Naturally, he discusses the impact of anti-black prejudice, which drew American blacks to manufacturing towns in the mid-20th century. (Northerners were prejudiced too, but they needed capable workers.) But we also hear about more-recent African immigrants (especially Somalis), some of whom say that they find white communities more welcoming to them than longer-established black communities. He talks to Mexican Americans in Lexington, Nebraska, who came to the Cornhusker State to take the meatpacking jobs that white Americans didn’t want. Today, they are in turn suspicious of the Somalis, who are immigrating to the region to take the jobs that they no longer want.

Arnade doesn’t argue that rural America is rife with bigotry. He introduces us to a number of people who are not bigots, and also makes clear that prejudice can take more and less virulent forms. Not everyone who responds to Donald Trump’s racially-inflected rhetoric is seething with racial hatred.

At the same time, it does seem plausibly true that provincial people (given their strong attachment to community and clan) have a stronger tendency to attach real significance to race and ethnicity, as one criterion that distinguishes “my people” from “not my people”. What should we make of this? Is it a damning indictment of rural America, or just another form of in- and out-grouping, of a sort that all people exercise in some way or another? The political right needs to address these questions if they hope to generate a platform with broad-spectrum appeal.

For the progressive left, Dignity poses a different kind of challenge. To leftist eyes, it seems that provincial people are suffering from a closed-minded refusal to adapt to contemporary circumstances. Better job prospects are indeed part of the answer, but these need to be reached through better education, more comprehensive social programs, and a relinquishment of racist and xenophobic prejudices that have no place in our shrinking world.

There’s a problem, though. As Arnade’s narrative makes clear, most residents of back-row America have very little interest in joining the cosmopolitan party, or of being told how to live. They aren’t dreaming of relocating to Manhattan apartments, where they can win a place in our hyper-woke “creative class”. Instead, they want secure jobs, supportive families, and Jesus. This last is especially uncomfortable for progressives, so it’s nice that Arnade devotes a full chapter to it.

I once asked a Madison taxpayer supported K-12 Superintendent if they visited other, more rural districts to learn, for example Janesville? “I would never do that”.

Former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes commented on College Station, TX vs. Madison.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Wiseye @ 24 September WisPolitics Lunch:

Jim Zellmer:

Thank you for your service Governor Evers.

Under your leadership, the Wisconsin d.p.i. granted Mulligan’s to thousands of elementary teachers who couldn’t pass a reading exam (that’s the “Foundations of Reading” elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam), yet our students lag Alabama, a state that spends less and has fewer teachers per students.

What message are we sending to parents, citizens, taxpayers and those students (who lack proficiency).

Governor Evers: I’m not sure how many mulligans we issued but they are all mulligans that the local school districts are asking for because there are people that generally speaking were people that worked in those schools while they are trying to pass that test they are very close to getting there hitting the mark there.

So I believe that the mulligans that we did issue were were the right thing to do.

The other thing that concerned me and I supported putting that piece in place around passing that test and I still do but the data that concerned me was that the test may have been biased and that it was probably.

34:09

Yes disproportionate number of people of color were not passing that test and this I know the state of Massachusetts had that problem and the state of Wisconsin had that problem. so given that there were we were and I can honestly say I don’t know what came out of the study but we are working with Massachusetts to take a look at that issue and see how how we can correct it.

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement)

“the majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

More on our long term, disastrous reading results, here.

Interestingly, a number of local and state media folks attended this event, but I’ve seen no coverage of this vital question.

“an emphasis on adult employment”.

Student fiGhts and disastrous Reading Results at Madison East High School

David Blaska:

Second brawl involving a taser in five school days

A parent informs the Policy Werkes: “Awesome. My kid has been at East for two weeks & this is the second such incident. The first was not reported [to parents]. Good thing we’ve got cops.”

Dear East Families,

I am writing you to let you know about a fight involving East students that began off-campus over the lunch hour today [09-24-19]. Unfortunately, this is not the first fight involving our students that has taken place near campus during lunch in the last two weeks. The physical altercation involved several students, and many other students were outside for the lunch hour to witness the conflict, so I want to communicate openly with you about what occurred while respecting the privacy of the students involved.

Today’s incident began near 4th Street and Mifflin. Our staff responded and police were present to assist in de-escalating the situation. It has been reported to us that in a secondary conflict, across the street from school near 4th Street and Johnson, a responding Community Officer discharged their taser. Near the end of the lunch hour, we briefly closed school doors to ensure building safety before admitting students who were not involved to attend class.

Related: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments

Stephen Kinzer:

In 1954, a prison doctor in Kentucky isolated seven black inmates and fed them “double, triple and quadruple” doses of LSD for 77 days straight. No one knows what became of the victims. They may have died without knowing they were part of the CIA’s highly secretive program to develop ways to control minds—a program based out of a little-known Army base with a dark past, Fort Detrick.

Suburban sprawl has engulfed Fort Detrick, an Army base 50 miles from Washington in the Maryland town of Frederick. Seventy-six years ago, however, when the Army selected Detrick as the place to develop its super-secret plans to wage germ warfare, the area around the base looked much different. In fact, it was chosen for its isolation. That’s because Detrick, still thriving today as the Army’s principal base for biological research and now encompassing nearly 600 buildings on 13,000 acres, was for years the nerve center of the CIA’s hidden chemical and mind control empire.

FEATUREDSOCIETYAre Chinese And Western Perspectives Incompatible In Our Post-Truth Times?

Noah Lachs:

Thousands of international students flock to China every year. A lucky and talented few belong to ultra-competitive, fully-funded degree programs. Leading the pack among these are the Yenching Academy at Peking University and the newer, shinier Schwarzman Scholarship Program at Tsinghua University — the alma mater of President Xi Jinping and his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Where Yenching hopes to “build bridges,” Schwarzman aims to “deepen understanding,” both “between China and the rest of the world.” This talk of transnational amity is compelling. However, in a world of tariffs, Uyghur concentration camps, racialized theories of conflict emanating from the U.S. State Department, alleged profiling of Chinese students at U.S. schools, Huawei bans and arrests, detained foreign nationals in China, and protests in Hong Kong, it is worth asking: How much “deepening” and “bridge-building” is possible, particularly between Western and Chinese students?

Having spent a year in one of these programs, I have my own sense of the critical limitations.

Before suggesting where deepening stops and bridge ropes fray, it must be noted that many students complete study programs in China enamored with the country. Many graduate with enduring friendship groups comprising Western and Chinese peers. Many are confident that their programs fulfill their missions. Students in the fold can attest to this. But speaking for myself, and for some others, I can say this: I left China more disillusioned than enamored. I did not make as many Chinese friends as I would have liked — very possibly at my own fault. And I believe there is some distance to go before any international study program in China can profess to have comprehensively deepened mutual understanding and built bridges, much as they are committed to this objective.

Harvard’s Legacies Are Nothing to Be Proud Of

Tyler Cowen:

America has long fancied itself a meritocracy, and American universities have a reputation as the world’s best. Both of these premises are now under serious doubt.

A recent study of Harvard’s admissions practices leaves me with the queasy feeling that America’s top schools are bastions of self-replicating privilege, far worse than what most people think. The study draws upon the data generated by the lawsuit against Harvard alleging that it discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

After years of debate, top Mass. lawmakers unveil school funding plan

James Vaznis and Matt Stout:

House and Senate leaders Thursday unveiled long-awaited legislation to overhaul the state’s antiquated school-funding formula that they say would pump an additional $1.4 billion in local aid to schools over the next seven years.

The proposal — jointly announced by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Karen E. Spilka, and other legislative leaders — aims to bridge the divide in educational opportunities between poor and affluent systems by directing more money to districts that serve greater concentrations of students living in poverty or those with language barriers.

“While we are all proud that Massachusetts is top-rated nationally in education, we want to extend that success to all students,” said DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat.

A Final Nail in the Coffin for Turnitin?

John Warner:

Three years ago I mused that I could make far more money writing essays for contract cheating paper mills than teaching writing.

According to reporting from the Chronicle of Higher Education at the time, I could earn $1800 per week writing “reference” materials for paper mills, in contrast to the $2850 per semester-long course adjunct wage I was receiving from College of Charleston.

I thought we had reached peak absurdity, but thanks to being alerted by Ben Williamson on Twitter, I now see things can get stranger.

Parental rights and the Taxpayer Supported Madison School District

Logan Wroge:

Last school year, the district began using a 35-page guidance document on student gender identity, which is based on federal and state laws and School Board policies regarding anti-bullying and non-discrimination, Hohs said.

While the document was not voted on by the Madison School Board, members received updates on it when it was in development, she said.

The document covers topics like when a student’s name can be changed in the district’s student information system, the policy for restroom and changing area use, and how to communicate with the family of transgender and non-binary students about their identity.

The document states: “School staff shall not disclose any information that may reveal a student’s gender identity to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

David Blaska:

The things Madison public schools won’t tell you.

They’re teaching your children that they may not be boy or girl. Five and six years old. Gender confusion, et cetera. But don’t tell mom or dad. Because the policy enacted one year ago was secret. Until now.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty uncovered this policy, never before revealed to Madison voters or parents:

Related: The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, between $18k and 20k per student, depending on the district documents reviewed.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Australian universities are accused of trading free speech for cash

The Wconomist:

Seek “harmony but not sameness”, advised the Chinese philosopher Confucius 2,500 years ago. Neither quality was on display when Chinese nationalists violently disrupted a rally at the University of Queensland in July in support of anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong. Since then Drew Pavlou, one of the organisers of the sympathy rally, says he has received a litany of threats from Chinese patriots. The passport details of another participant in the rally, who is from the Chinese mainland, have been disseminated on social media. A third says authorities in China visited his family there, to warn them of the consequences of dissent.

“ driven to leave the Democratic Party by the state of Hartford Public Schools, which lag far behind the state but also trail Connecticut’s other urban districts in terms of quality“

Rebecca Lurye:

Democrats, in leadership in Hartford since 1971, are responsible for the city’s educational failures, Lewis said.
“[The party] doesn’t serve black people, it doesn’t serve middle-class or poor white people, it doesn’t serve Hispanics,” Lewis said. “It serves people at the top tier of the party.

“No matter how many times people from the party have said education is better than ever, the research doesn’t lie. It’s very clear, especially in the city of Hartford, the system is not doing well.”

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, between $18k and 20k per student, depending on the district documents reviewed.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Years ago, a senior Madison teacher mentioned to me that the local union leadership traded benefit growth for reduced salary increases, which affected younger teachers.

The Madison school district has benefited greatly from a growing property tax base – supported by a massive federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy (nearly $40B since 2011!). Will that continue? What happens if things change?


David McWilliams:

Mr Bernanke’s unorthodox “cash for trash” scheme, otherwise known as quantitative easing, drove up asset prices and bailed out baby boomers at the profound political cost of pricing out millennials from that most divisive of asset markets, property. This has left the former comfortable, but the latter with a fragile stake in the society they are supposed to build.

As we look towards the 2020 US presidential election, could Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s leftwing politics become the anthem of choice for America’s millennials?

But before we look forward, it is worth going back a bit. The 2008 crash itself didn’t destroy wealth, but rather revealed how much wealth had already been destroyed by poor decisions taken in the boom. This underscored the truism that the worst of investments are often taken in the best of times.

Mr Bernanke, a keen student of the 1930s, understood that a “balance sheet recession” must be combated by reflating assets. By exchanging old bad loans on the banks’ balance sheets with good new money, underpinned by negative interest rates, the Fed drove asset prices skywards. Higher valuations fixed balance sheets and ultimately coaxed more spending and investment. However, such “hyper-trickle-down” economics also meant that wealth inequality was not the unintended consequence, but the objective, of policy.

Learning Japanese

Japanese Complete:

Japanese is a beautiful language entwined ceaselessly with a proud, powerful, and organized culture that teeters between brilliance, freshness, isolation, despair, and true gratitude. Much like the human condition, the Japanese language has many facets and many expressions simply cannot easily be translated into other languages like English without some interpretive acrobatics by the translator. Lexical Gaps exist in many languages, but this Untranslatability is not because our human experiences are somehow fundamentally different, it is because the rich media and culture surrounding and associating with our languages are quite distinct. Language itself is permeated with an unending wave, an ebb and flow, of culture and counter-culture. To be exposed to the various media of Japanese culture: books, movies, poems, paintings, elaborate gardens, temple campuses, hotsprings, thematic festivals, hole-in-the-wall restaurants — is to be exposed to a celebration of history and cultivation of elegance. Learning Japanese is not difficult because it is untranslatable, learning Japanese is notorious because one drop of Japanese has a whole ocean of culture.

Legacy and athletic preferences at Harvard

Peter Arcidiacono,
Josh Kinsler and Tyler Ransom
:

The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an un- precedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, lega- cies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non-ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.

Civics: An Inside Look at All the Data CBP Collects About Everyone Crossing U.S. Borders

Aaron Boyd:

Customs and Border Protection collects a wealth of information through the technologies deployed at the ports of entry, all of which is stored in a master crossing record the agency keeps on every individual who enters the country.

That record contains information gathered at every crossing: the time, date and port of the crossing, the information taken from their travel documents, photos and data collected on their belongings and vehicles, and determinations made by customs officers throughout the process. For non-U.S. citizens, this also means biometric data, such as photos and fingerprints.

That record also includes data culled from a variety of federal databases and sources. But CBP doesn’t automatically share its records with other parts of the government—even other Homeland Security components. However, there are procedures and agreements in place that enable some information sharing, spreading the data beyond just CBP’s control.

Over the last few months, Nextgov has been reporting on where and how CBP collects information on people crossing the border, where and how that data is stored and shared, and the agency’s plans to collect and further integrate more data in the near future.

All the lonely people … are men: a fifth have no friends

Greg Hurst:

No man is an island entire of itself, as John Donne observed. Men are, however, much more likely than women to lead solitary lives without people they consider to be friends.

Almost one in five men admits to having no close friends, a survey has found, prompting charities to urge men to make more time for hobbies and socialising.

A poll by YouGov found that 18 per cent of men did not have a close friend and 32 per cent had no one they counted as a best friend.

Comment on K-12 Books

Rod Dreher:

Those poor children of Washington Township schools. The teachers responsible for their education are throwing old books into Dumpsters, and filling their minds with histories of privilege, oppression, and power. It’s all from Paul Gorski and his “Equity Literacy” idea, which is the Marxisization of teaching high school literature. Look at the Principles Of Equity Literacy:

An important aspect of equity literacy is its insistence on maximizing the integrity of transformative equity practice. That means not being lulled by popular diversity approaches and frameworks that pose no threat to inequity. The principles of equity literacy help us to ensure we keep a commitment to equity at the center of our work and conversation. Download and share these principles here

Direct Confrontation Principle: There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity.

“Poverty of Culture” Principle: Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems, not primarily cultural problems, so equity requires power and privilege solutions, not just cultural solutions.

English Is Not Normal

John McWhorter:

English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

Why Is the FBI Investigating Americans Who Study in China?

Rosie Levine, Johanna M. Costigan, Kyle Hutzler, Dan Keane, Rebecca Arcesati :

From my seat at the Yenching Academy Opening Ceremony in September 2016, I remember looking around the auditorium at my peers who came from over 40 countries. United by an interest in China, we knew that our time in Beijing would help our future careers. Our time on the ground would set us apart.

A few years later, my peers have been set apart—not for their achievements, but for FBI scrutiny. The past few years have seen a dramatic change in the U.S.-China relationship, yet, as tensions between our nations rise, it is more essential than ever that young Americans understand China—its language, people, and culture. Instilling fear among the next generation of China scholars undermines this aim.

At Yenching, my peers and I learned as much outside the classroom as we did on campus. Our carefully orchestrated visits to corporate offices featured flashy slideshows that praised China’s advances in cashless payments and fin-tech. But these experiences conflicted with the antiquated fapiao reimbursement system used on campus, which necessitated hard-copy receipts printed on vintage contraptions. Visits to the school’s financial office revealed the extent to which the ever-changing anti-corruption laws govern campus operations—first dictating no alcohol could be purchased with Peking University funds, then no coffee, and then even no tea. But with each new decree, if you asked politely for an exception, the rules might give way.

Increased scrutiny of Yenching Academy students fits into a broader pattern of FBI suspicion of educational exchange with China, visible in aggressive FBI briefings for U.S. academic administrators, a growing distrust of ethnic Chinese researchers, and recent visa restrictions for Chinese academics. While instances of espionage should certainly not go unpunished, a small minority of cases seem to have had an outsized influence on prevailing attitudes within the U.S. government.

Libraries and Archivists Are Scanning and Uploading Books That Are Secretly in the Public Domain

Karl Bode:

A coalition of archivists, activists, and libraries are working overtime to make it easier to identify the many books that are secretly in the public domain, digitize them, and make them freely available online to everyone. The people behind the effort are now hoping to upload these books to the Internet Archive, one of the largest digital archives on the internet.

As it currently stands, all books published in the U.S. before 1924 are in the public domain, meaning they’re publicly owned and can be freely used and copied. Books published in 1964 and after are still in copyright, and by law will be for 95 years from their publication date.

But a copyright loophole means that up to 75 percent of books published between 1923 to 1964 are secretly in the public domain, meaning they are free to read and copy. The problem is determining which books these are, due to archaic copyright registration systems and convoluted and shifting copyright law.

The Rise of Peer Review: Melinda Baldwin on the History of Refereeing at Scientific Journals and Funding Bodies

Robert Harington:

What led to your writing this article about the history of peer review?

I think my peer review project started when I discovered something really unexpected about Nature: that it hadn’t employed systematic external refereeing until 1973! When I first learned that, I assumed Nature was unusual, but as it turned out, a lot of commercial journals did not consult referees about every paper they published until well into the 1970s and even the 1980s. That seemed especially true outside the US. I didn’t have the space to explore that issue fully in my book on Nature, but as I wrapped up that project I knew I wanted to write more about the history of peer review.

What are the key highlights of your study that you would like readers of The Scholarly Kitchen to carry with them? Are there any stories you would particularly like to highlight?

One major takeaway point that I think might surprise Scholarly Kitchen readers is that peer review is much, much younger than we usually assume. There’s this story about Henry Oldenburg, the first editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, that claims he was the first person to consult external referees. Which would suggest that peer review has been part of scientific publishing ever since the first scientific journal.

But it turns out that’s not really true. The referee system as we know it today first started to take shape in the nineteenth century, and it developed very slowly and haphazardly from there. Refereeing was most common in Anglophone countries and among journals that were affiliated with learned societies like the Royal Society of London. Well into the twentieth century, commercial journals and journals outside the English-speaking world tended to rely on editorial judgment instead of referee opinions.

At Boston Public Schools, even the city’s most politically connected can get the runaround

James Vaznis:

A preschool seat in the Boston Public Schools often seems harder to come by than a winning Megabucks ticket, even for some of the city’s most politically connected residents.

City Councilor Michelle Wu struck out getting a seat for her 4-year-old son, Blaise, who was waitlisted earlier this year at the Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale. That is until this Monday, when she finally received a phone call from the school system that many families in her situation wait months for: A seat had opened up at the Sumner.

Shocked about her good fortune two weeks into the new school year, Wu yanked her son out of Sacred Heart School, scrambled to buy him new school uniforms, and brought him to the Sumner on Wednesday.

Civics: “China’s goal is to influence Western discourses about Chinese events.”

Echo Huang:

Since the 2016 US presidential election, social media users have grown used to hearing of inauthentic accounts—which are most often attributed to Russia. When Twitter last month said it was suspending more than 900 accounts linked to China, it marked the first time the platform had publicly identified and removed a Chinese disinformation campaign. Facebook took similar action against a handful of pages the same day. The accounts and tweets made public by Twitter offer researchers a chance to study China’s tactics.

After an estimated 2 million people marched in Hong Kong to protest against the now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland, a Twitter account with a red Chinese flag as its profile picture tweeted in Chinese that protesters dressed in black and linked to foreign agents had attacked police headquarters, “instigating others to march and protest as a means to disrupt Hong Kong.” In other instances, if users scrolled down, they would have seen that two of the accounts with the most retweets in recent days about Hong Kong topics were earlier tweeting links offering nude photos. Others were previously tweeting in Portuguese or Indonesian.

We Need to Save Ignorance From AI

Christina Leuker & Wouter Van Den Bos:

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East German citizens were offered the chance to read the files kept on them by the Stasi, the much-feared Communist-era secret police service. To date, it is estimated that only 10 percent have taken the opportunity.

In 2007, James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, asked that he not be given any information about his APOE gene, one allele of which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Most people tell pollsters that, given the choice, they would prefer not to know the date of their own death—or even the future dates of happy events.

Each of these is an example of willful ignorance. Socrates may have made the case that the unexamined life is not worth living, and Hobbes may have argued that curiosity is mankind’s primary passion, but many of our oldest stories actually describe the dangers of knowing too much. From Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge to Prometheus stealing the secret of fire, they teach us that real-life decisions need to strike a delicate balance between choosing to know, and choosing not to.

Woke History Is Making Big Inroads in America’s High Schools

John Murawski:

The ethnic studies movement has been underway for years and is now poised to enter the mainstream, raising tough questions for educators and policymakers about how to present such material to teenagers. Teachers around the country are already offering ethnic studies classes, units or lessons on their own initiative, citing a growing urgency to confront racism, sexism, homophobia and other entrenched social inequalities.

Two years ago, the Indiana legislature mandated that high schools offer an ethnic studies elective. As approved by the state’s education department, the class teaches about the contributions of ethnic and racial groups, various cultural practices, as well as such concepts as privilege, systematic oppression and implicit bias. And now three states – California, Oregon and Vermont – are trying to create authoritative statewide templates that, advocates hope, will make it easier for schools to adopt ethnic studies.

Advocates believe they are within striking distance of making ethnic studies a graduation requirement in high schools across the country, making it a prerequisite for preparing students to navigate the world, much as learning about the Western tradition had once been. They say the shift to ethnic studies appears inevitable because of the nation’s changing demographics, the growing awareness of white supremacy and other forms of systemic discrimination, and a newfound political clout for the ethnic studies movement.

“We don’t want students to have the option not to take ethnic studies,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, and a board member of the national Association for Ethnic Studies. “It is as important as taking a lab science.”

How the Internet Archive is waging war on misinformation

Camilla Hodgson:

On a foggy September lunchtime in San Francisco, a group of researchers and data scientists sat around foldable plastic tables in what was once a Christian Science church, evangelising about open-source information and the democratisation of knowledge.

The 50-strong party, which had been assembled for a weekly progress discussion, dined downstairs in a pillared building that now houses the Internet Archive, a digital library dedicated to providing “universal access to all knowledge”. As computers hummed on cluttered workstations all around, the employees and a handful of invited guests greeted each update with optimistic applause.

The Internet Archive, founded in 1996, is a non-profit that collects and digitises information, from films to books. It is best known for the Wayback Machine, a free repository of web pages that allows users to see what a particular URL looked like when it was archived, regardless of whether it has since been changed or taken down.

American kids with money and privilege are more likely to binge drink

Christina Capatides:

And while the problem is widespread, certain American kids are more likely than others to participate. In particular, experts say economic privilege is a factor.

“There are some studies that show that a lot of kids who grow up in affluent suburban communities grow up in communities where the adults around them drink a lot. And they’re going to model that behavior,” explains Dr. Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University. “They also may have access to alcohol from the alcohol that their parents have purchased and have at home. So, you know, we often think that money and privilege is a protective condition. But I think in this case, it may be associated with actually more dangerous behavior.”

“They have access to money,” concurs Julie Fenn, a clinical social worker in the Massachusetts public school system. “In households where two parents have college degrees or secondary degrees beyond that, there’s a higher rate of alcohol use among kids. … Parents who are highly educated will think their kids will never do it. Or they’re at work or traveling and kids are left alone more, or aren’t supervised as closely. Then you do see higher rates of alcohol abuse. You can see that nationally in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System — communities that are of higher socioeconomic status are at the higher end of that.”

Teaching the Contradictions of Stone Mountain

Peter Dye:

Before taking a group of international college students on a field trip to a place like Stone Mountain Park, it’s important to give them the proper context. As a teacher of English as a second language, a good bit of that context involves linking language to history and culture, and this week’s vocabulary lesson included some doozies. Confederacy, Klansmen, mini-golf, and laser show aren’t words you’d typically find in any ESL textbook. I wasn’t even sure if I should be teaching some of these words to my students, much less how they would react to them.

For those unfamiliar, Stone Mountain — a stone monadnock that rises 825 feet above the ground east of Atlanta — today is essentially a theme park known for hiking trails, yearly festivals, adventure courses, and perhaps most famously, the 90-foot tall Confederate monument carved prominently into the mountain’s side. As children scurry around the ropes course and families hike upward to see the beautiful views of the Atlanta skyline, the chiseled profiles of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis stare off into the distance, with their hats held closely to their hearts as they sit atop majestic horses.

Experts, UW vice chancellor release external review on UW fraternity, sorority life

Nuha Dolby:

The external review conducted on University of Wisconsin fraternity and sorority life was released recently, after being submitted mid-May.

The review, according to the Fraternity and Sorority Life website, was conducted with a goal for “students to be healthy and safe and for fraternities and sororities to contribute positively to the campus community through their shared values of scholarship, leadership, service and sisterhood/brotherhood.”

The review was conducted by five professionals from other universities, each holding membership in an organization that is part of the four governing Greek councils (Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council, National Panhellenic Council and Panhellenic Association).

The report discussed accountability and relationships with UW.

The report stated that concerns about behaviors and how to manage accountability for them varied by Council. While accountability was not brought up as a critical issue during conversations with members of the NPHC and MGC, that did not hold true for all councils.

IFC and Panhellenic council members, according to the report, didn’t address using their own judicial or standards boards to resolve infractions committed by their members.

While IFC has a Judicial Board, the report stated that “its function was unclear.” A Panhellenic Council Judicial Board was brought up, but the report stated that no conversation was directed in verifying whether this was an operational or effective tool or deterrent.

The Committee on Student Organizations, according to the report, brought on almost universal negative connotations. Chapter members, student officers and alumnus advisers complained that CSO had a lack of transparency, a process that appeared to apply differently to Greek life organizations versus other student organizations, sanctions that were not deemed fitting to the violation and confusion over what role different staff members played in the process.

Let Children Get Bored Again

Pamela Paul:

“I’m bored.” It’s a puny little phrase, yet it has the power to fill parents with a cascade of dread, annoyance and guilt. If someone around here is bored, someone else must have failed to enlighten or enrich or divert. And how can anyone — child or adult — claim boredom when there’s so much that can and should be done? Immediately.

But boredom is something to experience rather than hastily swipe away. And not as some kind of cruel Victorian conditioning, recommended because it’s awful and toughens you up. Despite the lesson most adults learned growing up — boredom is for boring people — boredom is useful. It’s good for you.

If kids don’t figure this out early on, they’re in for a nasty surprise. School, let’s face it, can be dull, and it isn’t actually the teacher’s job to entertain as well as educate. Life isn’t meant to be an endless parade of amusements. “That’s right,” a mother says to her daughter in Maria Semple’s 2012 novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” “You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

“End legacy Admissions”

New York Times:

For nearly a century, many American college and university admissions officers have given preferential treatment to the children of alumni.

The policies originated in the 1920s, coinciding with an influx of Jewish and Catholic applicants to the country’s top schools. They continue today, placing a thumb on the scale in favor of students who already enjoy the benefits of being raised by families with elite educations. Of the country’s top 100 schools (as determined by the editors at U.S. News & World Report), roughly three-quarters have legacy preferences in admissions. These anachronistic policies have been called “affirmative action for the rich” and “affirmative action for whites.”

Preferential treatment for legacy admissions is anti-meritocratic, inhibits social mobility and helps perpetuate a de facto class system. In short, it is an engine of inequity. Little wonder that it is unpopular with most Americans, yet supported by the affluent who both oversee the college admissions process and are its primary beneficiaries.

Legacy admissions are no ordinary leg up. In 2011, a Harvard researcher who studied 30 of the nation’s most selective schools found that all legacy applicants had a 23 percent higher probability of admission, while “primary legacy” students (those with a parent who attended the school as an undergraduate, rather than, say, a grandparent or aunt) had a 45 percent higher probability compared with their peers, all other things being equal. …

Related: Open The Books:

1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year.

Waitlisted students offer to pay classmates to drop courses

Marlena Tavernier-Fine:

Multiple students on campus have offered to pay their classmates to drop out of classes they are waitlisted for, raising concerns about over-enrollment and advising.

Campus sophomore David Wang reposted a screenshot on the Overheard at UC Berkeley Facebook page showing a post by a Haas senior in their final semester before going abroad offering to pay $100 to the first five students to drop UGBA 102B, “Introduction to Managerial Accounting.” The student in question needed the class to graduate, and claimed that the “advising office was no help, so I’m taking matters into my own hands.”

Wang said in an email that in this student’s situation it would have made sense for advisers to make an exception for the senior since their graduation status was in jeopardy.

“I do not blame the students for paying his/her classmate to get in the class — I would do the same in that situation,” Wang said in an email.

New jersey Teachers Union and Dark Money

Sunlight policy center:

So we can now confirm what many of us already assumed: NDNJ would not exist if not for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). With almost 70 percent of the $6.5 million raised coming from New Jersey’s most powerful special interest, and with Governor Murphy appearing in NDNJ’s TV ads, it sure looks like the NJEA is pulling the strings of the Murphy administration. For all intents and purposes, NDNJ appears to be a NJEA Super PAC with our governor serving as its spokesperson.

Here are five other things we learned:

1. NDNJ’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. NDNJ’s spokesperson, Phil Swibinski, decries potential attacks on NDNJ from “entrenched Trenton special interests.” This is laughable coming from NDNJ, which got $4.5 million from the most powerful entrenched special interest of them all, the NJEA. SPCNJ estimates, from 1999 to 2017, the NJEA spent over $880 million on politics, most of it disguised and unreported. No other political force in the state comes close. A look at NJEA’s multi-million-dollar headquarters in Trenton, a short walk across the street from the Statehouse, tells you all you need to know. Moreover, the list of NDNJ donors is nothing but a list of special interests. Finally, after its months of delay, it takes some real chutzpah for NDNJ to call on other organizations to reveal their donors and promise to hold them “accountable” if they don’t.

Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know

CATO:

An Introduction to Constitutional Law will teach you the narrative of constitutional law as it has developed over the past two centuries. All readers — even those unfamiliar with American history — will learn the essential background for grasping how this body of law has come to be what it is today. The accompanying online video library brings to life the Supreme Court’s 100 most important decisions; the videos are enriched by photographs, maps, and even audio from Supreme Court arguments. More importantly, this multimedia work is accessible to all: students in law school, college, high school, and homeschool, as well as lifelong learners pursuing independent study. Law students can read and watch these materials to prepare for class or use the platform after class to fill in any gaps in their notes. Come exam time, students can binge-watch the entire canon of constitutional law in about 12 hours. Please join us to learn about this innovative project, with comment by a prominent federal judge and a leading Supreme Court reporter.

When the University of Chicago Dropped Football

Timothy Taylor:

There was a time when football was king at the University of Chicago. Their famous coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg, ran the program from 1892 to 1932. His teams were (unofficial, but widely recognized) national champions in 1905 and 1913. His teams won 314 games, which means that even after all these years he ranks 10th for most wins among college football coaches. Stagg is credited with fundamental innovations to the way we think about football: the “tackling dummy, the huddle, the reverse and man in motion plays, the lateral pass, uniform numbers.”

But in 1939, in a step that seems to me almost inconceivable for any current university with a big-time football program, the President of the University of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins, shut down the University of Chicago football team.

Language Both Enraptures and Deceives Us

Kevin Berger:

he purpose of language is to reveal the contents of our minds, says Julie Sedivy. It’s a simple and profound insight. We are social animals and language is what springs us from our isolated selves and connects us with others.

Sedivy has taught linguistics and psychology at Brown University and the University of Calgary. She specializes in psycholinguistics, the psychology of language, notably the psychological pressures that give birth to language and comprehension.

More recently Sedivy has been writing about language in her own life. She was born in Czechoslovakia, spent time as a kid in Austria and Italy, and came of age in Canada. She speaks Czech, French, and English, and gets by in Spanish, Italian, and German.

GWU aims to get smaller and better. Will that mean cuts to faculty and financial aid?

Nick Anderson:

By many measures, George Washington University looks healthy. The largest school in the nation’s capital boasts growing enrollment, solid finances, expanding research prowess and robust demand for programs such as politics and international affairs.

Yet GWU is taking a surprising and radical step that has prompted deep faculty anxiety: It is choosing to shrink — a lot.

Over the next five years, the private university just west of the White House aims to slash the undergraduate population of its D.C. campuses 20 percent. That would mean 2,100 fewer students, less tuition revenue and tough choices on whether to reduce faculty and financial aid or find other ways to balance the budget.

Many colleges have scrambled in recent times to cope with falling enrollment amiddemographic upheaval. GWU provides the rare case of a school announcing in advance, as a public strategy, that it wants to get smaller.

Lifelong learning and Tax Base Growth: Colorado Town Offers 1 Gbps For $60 After Years Of Battling Comcast; Wisconsin blinked

Karl Bode:

A new community broadband network went live in Fort Collins, Colorado recently offering locals there gigabit fiber speeds for $60 a month with no caps, restrictions, or hidden fees. The network launch comes years after telecom giants like Comcast worked tirelessly to crush the effort. Voters approved the effort as part of a November 2017 ballot initiative, despite the telecom industry spending nearly $1 million on misleading ads to try and derail the effort. A study (pdf) by the Institute for Local Reliance estimated that actual competition in the town was likely to cost Comcast between $5.4 million and $22.8 million each year.

Unlike private operations, the Fort Collins Connexion network pledges to adhere to net neutrality. The folks behind the network told Ars Technica the goal is to offer faster broadband to the lion’s share of the city within the next few years:

Then Governor Jim Doyle had an opportunity to address the telecommunications oligopoly, but did nothing in 2007.

Edgewood would need city permission to make field changes under Plan Commission recommendation

Abigail Becker:

Currently, schools without a campus master plan located within the Campus Institutional zoning district do not need approval from the city to create uses that occur outside of an enclosed building. These types of uses include outdoor sports and recreational facilities.

The main change within the zoning text amendment is that all entities in the Campus Institutional zoning district without master plans would need conditional use approval for any outdoor uses and site changes.

Opponents to the change argued the zoning change is unclear and takes away any permitted uses on campuses. Nathan Wautier, an attorney representing Edgewood, suggested the change is “selectively regulating” Edgewood.

Matt Lee, another attorney representing Edgewood, was more blunt.

“This ordinance is blatantly, nakedly designed and written to prevent Edgewood from, once its master plan goes away, being able to play games on its field, put lights on its field, put up modest additional seating around its field for spectators just like Memorial has, just like La Follette has, just like every other high school in the city has the right to do,” Lee said.

COMMENTARY on Madison k-12 teacher compensatioN: 2 + 2.44 + benefits

Logan Wroge:

In addition to a higher base wage, the district has said that, on the average, employees will receive another 2% salary increase this year based on a salary schedule that awards experience and education.

But MTI has said about 1,000 employees, including some of the lowest paid, won’t receive more money through the salary schedule, arguing a full base-wage bump is necessary to keep up with the cost of living.

The agreement won’t take effect until approved by both the union members and the School Board, according to the Facebook post.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, between $18k and 20k per student, depending on the district documents reviewed.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Years ago, a senior Madison teacher mentioned to me that the local union leadership traded benefit growth for reduced salary increases, which affected younger teachers.

The Madison school district has benefited greatly from a growing property tax base – supported by a massive federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy (nearly $40B since 2011!). Will that continue? What happens if things change?


David McWilliams:

Mr Bernanke’s unorthodox “cash for trash” scheme, otherwise known as quantitative easing, drove up asset prices and bailed out baby boomers at the profound political cost of pricing out millennials from that most divisive of asset markets, property. This has left the former comfortable, but the latter with a fragile stake in the society they are supposed to build.

As we look towards the 2020 US presidential election, could Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s leftwing politics become the anthem of choice for America’s millennials?

But before we look forward, it is worth going back a bit. The 2008 crash itself didn’t destroy wealth, but rather revealed how much wealth had already been destroyed by poor decisions taken in the boom. This underscored the truism that the worst of investments are often taken in the best of times.

Mr Bernanke, a keen student of the 1930s, understood that a “balance sheet recession” must be combated by reflating assets. By exchanging old bad loans on the banks’ balance sheets with good new money, underpinned by negative interest rates, the Fed drove asset prices skywards. Higher valuations fixed balance sheets and ultimately coaxed more spending and investment. However, such “hyper-trickle-down” economics also meant that wealth inequality was not the unintended consequence, but the objective, of policy.

The results of money printing can be seen in Venezuela.

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books

Heather Schwedel:

If I wanted to borrow A Better Man by Louise Penny—the country’s current No. 1 fiction bestseller—from my local library in my preferred format, e-book, I’d be looking at about a 10-week waitlist. And soon, if the book’s publisher, a division of Macmillan, has its way, that already-lengthy wait time could get significantly longer.

In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.

Ministry asks ideology, politics professors to focus more on teaching

Xinhua:

China’s Ministry of Education has asked ideology and politics professors in universities to attach more importance to teaching in their work.Ideology and politics professors in higher learning institutions should increase the proportion of teaching in their work and focus on teaching in their scientific research, according to a work plan drawn up by the ministry to make reforms in ideology and politics courses.

Commentary on Teacher Compensation and Rhetoric

Bruce Baker:

That is, teachers and their unions are the primary drag on overall quality and a primary cause of inequality of educational opportunity. These two assertions form the basis of a recent spate of lawsuits which claim that teacher seniority protections and tenure laws – not funding levels or disparities or any other factor for that matter – are the primary cause of inequitable and inadequate schools for low income and minority children, in violation of education articles of state constitutions (in California, New Jersey and New York).[ii] And these claims are built on the assertion that competitive wages and equitable wages across schools and districts have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the teacher workforce or the distribution of quality teachers.

Again, it may seem that I’m exaggerating claims of teacher and union responsibility. But extreme examples are not difficult to find in relatively mainstream sources (like Newsweek). An article in the Economist proclaimed in October of 2012:

New Parent Charged in College-Admissions Cheating Case

Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz :

U.S. prosecutors charged an additional mother in the college-admissions cheating case, alleging she paid $400,000 to get her son into UCLA and marking the 52nd person to face criminal prosecution in the sprawling scheme.

The woman, a Chinese national named Xiaoning Sui, was arrested Monday night in Spain and is being held there as U.S. authorities seek her extradition to Boston.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday in Boston federal court, also introduces another individual allegedly involved in the scheme: a tennis recruiter who connected high-school players to college coaches and, according to prosecutors, worked with college counselor William “Rick” Singer to help bribe a University of California, Los Angeles soccer coach to secure admission for Ms. Sui’s son as a fake soccer player.

Women make up 54% of new students entering Iranian universities

Mehr News:

Hossein Tavakoli, an official at Iran’s National Education Assessment Organization (NEAO) said that out of 191,215 students accepted in this year’s university entrance exam, 104,123 or 54% are women.

Saying that men only make up 45.55% of the new college students this year, Tavakoli added that out of the total 191, 215 new entrants, 59,000 are accepted in Mathematics and Physics majors (21,757 female, 37,860 male), 64,870 are accepted in empirical sciences majors (38,644 female; 26,226 male), and 57,697 major in humanities (37,389 female; 20,308 male).

Furthermore, 4,477 new students have been accepted in art fields of studies (3,444 female; 1,003 male) while 4,554 students are accepted in foreign languages majors (2,859 female; 1,659 male.)

Hollywood’s Great Leap Backward on Free Expression

Martha Bayles:

Today these bookstores are gone, along with nearly all of Hong Kong’s independent publishers. The courageous men and women who struggled to keep them alive have been effectively silenced. This crackdown, along with the many other issues that have brought 2 million protesters into the streets of Hong Kong, reflect the Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive efforts to bring the former British colony into line with President Xi Jinping’s 2017 decree that all forms of media would be consolidated and placed under the direct control of the Central Propaganda Department.

The fate of the Hong Kong booksellers has caused an outcry around the world, with independent news outlets and free-speech advocates warning of a return to totalitarianism. “It’s an attack on the publishing industry from all aspects,” declared Yaqiu Wang of Human Rights Watch in a recent New York Times article.

‘American Factory’ Boss Argues Case Against Labor Unions

Tang Fanxi:

Chinese billionaire Cao Dewang, a key character in the Netflix documentary “American Factory,” has lashed out at labor unions, saying such groups only disrupt production.

“As long as there are unions in America, factories (there) will not improve their efficiency,” Cao said Monday in an interview with The Beijing News, weeks after the documentary’s release. “If a factory can do without a union, it’s better not to have one.”

Cao’s comments shed light on an important labor issue that became a source of tension between employees and managers at the Chinese company he owns when it expanded into the American Midwest. In 2014, Cao’s Fuyao Group repurposed the former site of a General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio, transforming it into a glassmaking factory.

The documentary tells the story of a Chinese company injecting money into a flagging local economy by creating over 2,000 jobs. Through a human-centric lens, it examines the different work cultures to which local and Chinese staff are accustomed. When some of the American workers move to unionize, Fuyao mobilizes to crush the initiative.

Cao told The Beijing News that productivity directly correlates with employee welfare and claimed that Fuyao’s welfare scheme had led to “stability” within the company, as well as “loyalty” and a “good mental state” among staff, without elaborating on the nature of the welfare scheme.

“Once a factory has a union, it will have to invest time and legal resources in it,” Cao said. “There’s not one thing we can decide — everything has to go through the union.”

Describing labor unions as the biggest cultural difference Chinese businesses face when they expand into Europe or North America, Cao said he would rather incur losses than be “messed around” by unions. “Mental distress is worse than financial loss,” he said.

The 73-year-old billionaire also complained that some of the scenes in the documentary “vilified” his company. Addressing backlash over the depiction of some of his American employees working extended hours at the Ohio factory, Cao said such work schedules were common in Chin

These Are the Best Books for Learning Modern Statistics—and They’re All Free

Dan Kopf:

The books are based on the concept of “statistical learning,” a mashup of stats and machine learning. The field of machine learning is all about feeding huge amounts of data into algorithms to make accurate predictions. Statistics is concerned with predictions as well, says Tibshirani, but also with determining how confident we can be about the importance of certain inputs.

This is important in areas like medicine, where a researcher doesn’t just want to know whether a medicine worked, but also why it worked. Statistical learning is meant to take the best ideas from machine learning and computer science, and explain how they can be used and interpreted through a statistician’s lens.

The beauty of these books is that they make seemingly impenetrable concepts—”cross-validation,” “logistical regression,” “support vector machines”—easily understandable. This is because the authors focus on intuition rather than mathematics. Unlike many statisticians, Tibshirani and his coauthors don’t come from a math background. He believes this helps them think conceptually. “We try to explain [concepts] intuitively by explaining the underlying idea first,” he says. “Then we give examples of a situation you would expect it work. And also, a situation where it might not work. I think people really appreciate that.” I certainly did.

Flagship Universities Fail on Financial Equity

Madeline St. Amour:

Only the relatively wealthiest students can afford to attend most public flagship institutions, according to a new report released last week by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.
The report found that only six of 50 state flagships meet an affordability benchmark for low-income students (see graphic, below).

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Mamie Voight, vice president of policy research at IHEP and a co-author of the report, said public institutions funded by taxpayers should better serve low-income students, a demographic that’s growing in overall college enrollments. Flagship universities often have high graduation rates and good post-college outcomes for students, Voight said, making them a good vehicle for social mobility.

But flagships “are not following through on that promise,” she said, because they aren’t providing affordable, accessible education for low- and middle-income students. This results in some students taking out large loans, working long hours while attending school and facing difficulty covering basic needs such as food, all of which can lead to poorer outcomes for the students. Other students may opt for a less expensive college with fewer supports, or forgo college altogether.

Being ‘Indistractable’ Will Be the Skill of the Future

Nir Eyal:

If distraction becomes a habit, we may be unable to sustain the focus required for creativity in our professional and personal lives. Worse, if we’re constantly pulled away from friends and family by distractions, we miss out on cultivating the relationships we need for our psychological well-being.
Digital distraction might manifest in looking at notifications that pop up on your phone — even during conversations with family, friends, or colleagues, interrupting focused work to check email — chatting with coworkers who pop by your desk when you intended to do focused work, or scrolling through your social media feeds when you planned to read a book.
The opposite of “distraction” is “traction.” Traction is any action that moves us towards what we really want. Tractions are actions, done with intent. Any action, such as working on a big project, getting enough sleep or physical exercise, eating healthy food, taking time to meditate or pray, or spending time with loved ones, are all forms of traction if they are done intentionally. Traction is doing what you say you will do.

Alaska’s universal basic income problem

Robyn Sundlee:

What if we just give people money?

This is the question propelling several new books and that’s been taken up by more than one presidential candidate — foremost Andrew Yang, who has made universal basic income (UBI) the centerpiece of his campaign. An automated future looms on the horizon, and tech magnates and policy wonks are turning to UBI as a neat solution to the messy problem of technology-induced unemployment.

Yet when one considers the political ramifications of the largest and longest-running UBI experiment in America — Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) — giving out cash appears to create unforeseen problems, and advocates for basic income would do well to incorporate Alaska’s latest experience into their conceptions of the policy.

Since 1982, Alaska has been giving every woman, man, and child an annual chunk of its nest egg: the $66.3 billion Permanent Fund. Alaska deposits at least 25 percent of mineral royalties — revenue the state generates from its mines, oil, and gas reserves — into the fund annually. The money is in turn invested by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation in domestic and global stock, bonds, private equity, and more, and interest earnings are then distributed to Alaska residents every September.

Former Gov. Jay Hammond, the mastermind behind the fund, created the dividend system as a way to ensure Alaska’s nonrenewable resources could provide an everlasting return to the state. In his words, he “wanted to transform oil wells pumping oil for a finite period into money wells pumping money for infinity.” Paying out $1,000 to $2,000 per person per year — every Alaskan gets the same amount — was Hammond’s plan to protect the fund. If every Alaskan were a stakeholder in the Permanent Fund’s future, surely no politician could dismantle it without paying an electoral price.

The 64 Floor

Laura Waters:

For those of you following along, while both principal at Carteret High School and as superintendent of Asbury Park Public Schools, Lamont Repollet instituted a practice called “The 64 Floor.” As I explain here (and Repollet confirmed before legislators here), when high school teachers enter grades into the database at Asbury Park, an A+ is a 97, an A is a 94, and so on. Now here is where it gets interesting. A D is a 65. But an F is recorded as a 64. No one can get less than a 64. That’s why it’s called “The 64 Floor.”

What’s the result? No one can fail a class. Read the link for a full explanation.

Now that we’re, um, tinkering with PARCC, Repollet appeared before the State Board of Education to discuss “cut scores,” or what grade a student would need to pass each standardized end-of-year assessment. NJ 101.5 reports the following conversation between Board members and Repollet on cut scores for the science assessment:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Unions Aiming to Repeal California’s Property Tax Caps

Steven Greenhut:

For a sense of the endless political resources that California’s left-leaning groups have at their ready, consider this recent turn of events. After having spent $3.45 million last year to qualify a tax-hike measure on the 2020 general-election ballot, activists have decided to start from scratch on a “new and improved” version. Given the higher vote totals that they now need, they’ll have to spend at least $5 million on the new signature drive.

This would be chump change for labor groups such as the California Teachers’ Association and the Service Employees International Union—and other prominent backersof an initiative that will obliterate Proposition 13’s tax protections on commercial property owners and small businesses. Consider $5 million a small investment given the likely payout if voters are foolish enough to embrace this record-setting property tax boost.

According to the filing at the California Secretary of State’s office, the currently qualified “split rolls” initiative will result in a “Net increase in annual property tax revenues of $6.5 billion to $10.5 billion in most years, depending on the strength of the real estate markets.” The bulk of the money “would be allocated to schools (40 percent) and other local governments (60 percent).” There are no revisions that can alter the fundamental nature of this stinker.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “The middle class everywhere in the world, notes a recent OECD report, is under assault, and shrinking in most places while prospects for upward mobility for the working class also declines.”

Joel Kotkin:

Today’s neo-feudalism recalls the social order that existed before the democratic revolutions of the 17th and 18th Century, with our two ascendant estates filling the roles of the former dominant classes. The First Estate, once the province of the Catholic Church, has morphed into what Samuel Coleridge in the 1830s called “the Clerisy,” a group that extends beyond organized religion to the universities, media, cultural tastemakers and upper echelons of the bureaucracy. The role of the Second Estate is now being played by a rising Oligarchy, notably in tech but also Wall Street, that is consolidating control of most of the economy.

Together these two classes have waxed while the Third Estate has declined. This essentially reversed the enormous gains made by the middle and even the working class over the past 50 years. The top 1% in America captured just 4.9 percent of total U.S. income growth in 1945-1973, but since then the country’s richest classes has gobbled up an astonishing 58.7% of all new wealth in the U.S., and 41.8 percent of total income growth during 2009-2015 alone.

In this period, the Oligarchy has benefited from the financialization of the economy and the refusal of the political class in both parties to maintain competitive markets. As a result, American industry has become increasingly concentrated. For example, the five largest banks now account for close to 50 percent of all banking assets, up from barely 30 percent just 20 years ago.

VPR deletes, responds to op-ed questioning Chinese international students in America

Sam Zoerb & Rachel Friedman:

Vanderbilt Political Review (VPR) removed an op-ed from their website that was titled “What Do We Gain from Allowing Chinese Espionage” Sept. 10. The editorial decision to remove the piece followed what they called “strong responses” from the Vanderbilt community, particularly from international students.

The op-ed, written by two VPR contributors and published on April 8, took the position that the United States must stop allowing “the wholesale import” of Chinese nationals into American educational institutions purportedly because students are a known form of Chinese espionage. The piece did not make reference to Vanderbilt, but rather called for increased visa screening particularly for students interested in research or STEM fields.

What teachers think about race and school discipline

Nat Malkus and Hannah Warren:

School discipline has long been at or near the top of the list of public concerns about education. Indeed, polls show that student discipline was the public’s top concern 50 years ago, in 1969, and for 15 of the next 16 years. More recently, education reformers’ concerns have focused more on how students are disciplined than how disciplined they are. Arguments that suspensions are unproductive, harmful to recipients, and unfairly administered by race led the Obama administration to tackle the issue through 2014 federal guidance encouraging leaders to seek alternatives to exclusionary discipline and reduce racial disparities in suspensions. This was criticized as a top-down overreach, and subsequently scrapped by the Trump administration without any further substantive action. Despite the federal walk-back, pressure for centralized solutions remains, as evidenced by the pending California legislation that would ban all suspensions for disruptive behavior.

That noted, polls also reveal a great deal of support for alternatives to suspension. Fordham finds that 81% of teachers view restorative justice practices as somewhat effective alternatives, and PDK finds that two-thirds of all adults see mediation as more effective than detention or suspension. One of the drivers of this appeal for alternatives is pronounced distrust of disciplinary practices. PDK finds that only 59% of all parents trust their child’s school to administer discipline fairly—a number that falls to a mere 40% among black parents. This racial disparity is understandable given that 15% of black parents report having a child suspended or expelled from schools, double the percentage of white parents. These views are aligned with the pressure in education reform circles to move away from suspension and reflect some sympathy for the Obama and California regulatory moves.

How to Major in Unicorn Many of the freshmen now arriving in Palo Alto came to raise capital and drop out. A cynic’s guide to killing it at Stanford.

Max Read:

Google was founded by two Stanford graduate students, Instagram by two Stanford alumni, Snapchat by a Stanford dropout. WhatsApp, Netflix, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard were all founded by onetime Stanford students; the earliest investors in Facebook and Amazon were Stanford graduates. Even Elizabeth Holmes, symbol of Silicon Valley self-delusion and fraud, was a student at Stanford when she dropped out to found Theranos. About the only two famous tech founders with no immediately apparent Stanford connection are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — though is it a coincidence that each had a daughter attend the school?

Stanford, nestled south of Facebook and west of Google, is more than a kind of finishing school to the burgeoning independent commonwealth of tech. It’s already to the 21st century what Harvard, or maybe the University of Chicago, was to the 20th: the institution that grooms an elite class for power and imbues it with the reigning ideology. And for the students destined to rule over megaplatforms and other digital fiefdoms, Stanford can be less a college than a kind of incubator or accelerator — a four-year networking opportunity for the next Systrom, Spiegel, or Thiel, as everyone who goes there knows. “I don’t remember there being that much emphasis on serving others or what is the broad philosophical points of a Stanford education,” a political-science major from the class of 2017 told us. “It really always felt like it’s that gold mine, like you’re just there to find that random idea and hop on that train and have $100 million by the time you’re 30.”

Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

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

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.”

An interview with St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson.

Taxpayer supported K-12 school districts substantially outspend voucher schools. Madison’s $18-20K per student is more than double typical voucher school taxpayer support.

‘Sign In With Apple’ Is Way Better Than Passwords—If You Can Find It

Joanna Stern:

What are the downsides of Apple’s option?

In cases like Tinder’s, the anonymity benefit to one user can be a problem for other users. “Verifying a user’s identity using their login credentials helps us prevent those who have been removed for their conduct from accessing our service,” a Tinder spokesman said, adding that the company looks forward to hearing more from Apple on this.

There’s also the fact that the iPhone isn’t immune to security vulnerabilities. Plus, who could forget the iCloud celebrity hacks of 2014? Apple does require two-factor for Sign in with Apple.

And finally, even when your favorite app does adopt it, you might have to create a new account to use it.

So what should I do?

I wish more app makers would run—not walk—to implement Apple’s option as an alternative to Facebook and Google. For now, just be on the lookout for it. If you don’t see it, I recommend Google as the quickest, safest alternative. Just do yourself a favor, and choose your doors wisely.

Providence teachers push back against harsh report on schools

Madeleine List:

Providence teachers describe a climate of negativity, an air of uncertainty and a culture of blame hovering over their district since the release of a report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy this summer on the state of the schools.

But for them, the anxiety caused by the scathing report, the impending state takeover and what they see as a barrage of criticism aimed at them in the media, fades away when they greet their students.

“The moment we step on the front step of that school, that’s it, you leave it there,” said Cynthia Robles, a special education collaborative teacher at Roger Williams Middle School. “You have to leave that negativity at the door, because the kids are depending on you.”

Six educators from around the district shared this week what it’s like to be a teacher in the thick of a national controversy over their schools.

“It doesn’t affect me one bit, one bit,” said Allison Campbell, a kindergarten dual-language English teacher at Carl G. Lauro Elementary School, who said she always gets swept up in her students and the pace of the school day.

But about 100 teachers have resigned this year, some because they were recruited by other districts and others because of the mounting pressure on Providence teachers in the wake of the report, said Ed German, dean of students at Hope High School.

“People don’t want to be associated with education in Providence,” he said. “We’ve lost good administrators. We’ve lost good teachers

Richard Zimman (2009 – then Ripon, WI Superintendent):

Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.”

Civics: The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism

Andrew Sullivan:

“Our democracy’s ideals were false when they were written.”

I’ve been struggling with that sentence — the opening statement of the introductory essay to the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project on the legacy of slavery in America — for a few weeks now.

It’s a very strange formulation. How can an enduring “ideal” — like, say, freedom or equality — be “false” at one point in history and true in another? You could of course say that the ideals of universal equality and individual liberty in the Declaration of Independence were belied and contradicted in 1776 by the unconscionable fact of widespread slavery, but that’s very different than saying that the ideals themselves were false. (They were, in fact, the most revolutionary leap forward for human freedom in history.) You could say the ideals, though admirable and true, were not realized fully in fact at the time, and that it took centuries and an insanely bloody civil war to bring about their fruition. But that would be conventional wisdom — or simply the central theme of President Barack Obama’s vision of the arc of justice in the unfolding of the United States.

9/11 Is History Now. Here’s How American Kids Are Learning About It in Class

Olivia Waxman:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lauren Hetrick was a 16-year-old sophomore at Hershey High School in Hershey, Pa. Her French class was just about to start when a strange announcement came over the P.A. system: “Attention, teachers: The computer tech is in the building.”

The teacher, hearing those words, logged onto her computer. Then she started to cry. She turned on the TV, and there was the North Tower at the World Trade Center, in flames. The class watched as a second plane hit the South Tower. Then the students watched the collapse of the tallest buildings in New York City.

Nearly two decades later, Hetrick has cause to see her teacher’s behavior that morning through a slightly different lens: She became a high school teacher herself, so helping students understand the events of 9/11 is part of her job too. This generation of students were almost all born after that defining 21st century moment, so while the attack may seem like yesterday to those old enough to remember it, to Hetrick’s students, it’s history.

“Freedom of Religion” commentary

Logan Wroge:

The three lunches — Mondays at Memorial, Tuesdays at Middleton and Wednesdays at Verona — will run for the first eight weeks of the fall semester and last eight weeks of the spring semester, she said.

Anyone is welcome to attend a Jesus Lunch, regardless of their religion, Helbach said.

She expects about $40,000 in fundraising will be necessary to run the lunches this school year.

Lunches for Middleton students, which included sub sandwiches this week, will continue to be prepared by organizers, she said. Students at Memorial and Verona will be served food from nearby restaurants. This week was pizza from Costco.

Much more on freedom of religion.

For Online Courses, Questions Over How Success is Measured

Reeve Hamilton:

The results of the University of Texas at Austin’s first full-semester foray into massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are in. But advocates for the classes, which are free or close to it, and open to anyone with an internet connection, recommend looking beyond the fall completion rates — ranging between 1 percent and 13 percent — to measure success.

In October 2012, the University of Texas System partnered with edX, a Massachusetts-based startup, to develop MOOCs, which were being widely touted as a disruptive force in higher education delivery.

The UT System invested $5 million in edX and committed to spending another $5 million on course development. It was in good company; Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had each ponied up $30 million to launch the service. Rice University, Texas’ elite private institution, also partnered with edX.

But the model has faced criticism for chronically low completion rates. And in those terms, UT-Austin’s early results, despite some courses being on the high end nationally, probably don’t look particularly impressive to most.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

We Think We Know How to Teach Reading, But We Don’t. What Else Don’t We Know, and What Does This Mean for Teacher Training?

Chad Aldeman:

But in this country, there are at least a few thousand preparation programs attempting to teach future teachers to teach reading. And yet, we have no evidence that any of those programs produce reading instructors who are better (or worse) than any others.

This is a scary realization, but it has implications for how much stock we should put in teacher preparation reform. When researchers Paul von Hippel and Laura Bellows went looking for meaningful differences in teacher preparation programs across six states, they found essentially none. The graph below shows what they found for large teacher preparation programs (TPPs) in Texas. Even looking at just the biggest programs with the largest sample sizes, they found that no program produced teachers who were statistically better or worse at teaching reading than any others.

the majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate.

The Wisconsin Department of Public instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge requirements (Foundations of Reading, based on Massachusetts’ best in the States MTEL requirement)

K-12 Tax& Spending Climate: City of Madison Tax Base & Municipal Debt CommentarY

Abigail Becker:

However, the negative outlook stems from three conditions that could move the rating down in the future. These include increases in debt levels, weakening of the city’s tax base and material declines in operating reserves and liquidity, including the financial conditions of the Madison Water Utility.

“General operations of the city remain exposed to its water enterprise,” the report from Moody’s said.

Last April, an audit revealed the Water Utility faced a $6 million deficit. The Public Service Commission granted the utility a 30.6% rate increase in November 2018 while reprimanding its fiscal practices.

The rate increase was meant to let the utility borrow for 2018 to cover capital expenses for 2017, 2018 and 2019 and repay the city a $6 million loan.

According to the report, the rate increase should strengthen water operations but “any challenges to water operations requiring general fund support could potentially place downward pressure on the city’s credit profile.”

Related: Madison’s property tax base growth and nearly $40B (!) federal taxpayer electronic medical record backdoor subsidy.

Moody’s downgraded the taxpayer supported Madison School’s debt in 2016. Debt ratings are a factor in borrowing costs.

Madison taxpayers have long spent more than most K-12 school districts.

“The majority of ALL 11th-grade students in Madison read and write below basic proficiency. Translated: they are functionally illiterate”

David Blaska:

ACT 2019 Madison v stateIn Madison public schools, 39.7% of all 11th graders scored proficient or better the ACT english/language arts. That’s down from 45.8% three years ago (2015-16 school year). (Note: the stats just cited differ from the WI State Journal’s in today’s editions. They used grades 3-8 and 11. Blaska Policy Werkes is isolating on grade 11, when students are about to graduate [maybe] into the economy.)

Statewide, the WI State Journal reports, white students in fifth grade dropped 4.6 percentage points in reading and writing compared to a 1.6 drop among African-American students. That’s how the statewide racial gap is closing, at least in that statistic. Good news for those obsessed by race, one supposes.

⇒Madison’s racial achievement gap continues to yawn wide after six years of Jennifer Cheatham’s magical thinking. Only 9% of Madison’s African-American high school students tested proficient in English language arts (aka: reading and writing) in the just-completed school year, compared to almost two-thirds of white kids. The flip side is two-thirds of black kids are functionally illiterate (what the educrats like to call “below basic proficiency). And what’s up with better than one in five AA kids not taking the test at all?

Much more on our long term, disastrous reading results, here.

The Progressive Dystopia Of NEw York City Schools

Rod Dreher:

You have to read this long Atlantic piece by George Packer, in which he describes the disillusioning of him and his wife — good urban liberals — by the militant wokeness that overtook the New York City public schools that their children attended (and that their son still attends). The piece begins with Packer recounting the insane competition among the rich and connected to get their kids into private schools. The Packers ultimately opted out of that, and searched for a good progressive public school for their son (and later, their daughter).

They found an ethnically diverse one that satisfied them, though it was not without its challenges. All seemed relatively well. Until five years ago:

Around 2014, a new mood germinated in America—at first in a few places, among limited numbers of people, but growing with amazing rapidity and force, as new things tend to do today. It rose up toward the end of the Obama years, in part out of disillusionment with the early promise of his presidency—out of expectations raised and frustrated, especially among people under 30, which is how most revolutionary surges begin. This new mood was progressive but not hopeful. A few short years after the teachers at the private preschool had crafted Obama pendants with their 4-year-olds, hope was gone.

At the heart of the new progressivism was indignation, sometimes rage, about ongoing injustice against groups of Americans who had always been relegated to the outskirts of power and dignity. An incident—a police shooting of an unarmed black man; news reports of predatory sexual behavior by a Hollywood mogul; a pro quarterback who took to kneeling during the national anthem—would light a fire that would spread overnight and keep on burning because it was fed by anger at injustices deeper and older than the inflaming incident. Over time the new mood took on the substance and hard edges of a radically egalitarian ideology.

College, Calculus, and the Problem With the SAT

Vera Tutunik:

Depending on the circumstances they were born into, students might see these tasks as steps toward claiming a birthright or as giant obstacles that stand between them and a future of economic security. The former are helped along by tutors, consultants, and nagging parents; the latter scrape up money for test-taking fees and get what help they can from overworked school counselors. In his new book, The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, Paul Tough explores this divide, and interrogates whether going to college has become a privilege of wealth and whether it can still lift people out of economic insecurity.

Over six years, Tough visited big universities and small liberal arts colleges and community colleges, speaking with more than a hundred students. He writes movingly about students who are trying to navigate the confounding, expensive, and intimidating process of getting into and staying in college. Tough has written several books about education. This new book has some pretty depressing moments—especially about the current state of standardized testing. But he also finds plenty to be hopeful about.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos questions how K-12 funding was spent given test score decline

Molly Beck:

Less than half of Wisconsin students again this year are considered to be proficient in reading and math — a trend Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday called “disturbing.”

The percentage of students in public and private voucher schools scoring well in reading and math on state tests dropped slightly during the 2018-19 school year, from 41% in both areas to 40% in math and 39% in reading.

“These test scores are a cause for concern for parents, educators and taxpayers,” Vos said, in a statement on the annual release of state test scores by the state Department of Public Instruction. “While standardized tests don’t reflect everything that’s happening in the classroom, these scores reveal a disturbing decline.”

Vos also questioned how recent increases in K-12 funding have been spent given students’ scores on state tests, which were crafted by an agency run by Gov. Tony Evers until January when he left his position as state superintendent.

“Wisconsin students deserve an excellent education no matter where they attend school,” he said. “With the repeated increases in funding for K-12 education, taxpayers deserve to know why we’re not seeing better results.”

Vos rejected a state budget proposal this year from Evers that included $1.4 billion in new funding for public and private voucher schools and changed the state funding formula to provide more money to schools with students who live in poverty — a characteristic of students who generally score poorly on state tests.

The Republican-backed budget ultimately included an increase in funding — $500 million in additional funds for schools. Evers then used his broad veto authority to add about $65 million more for schools.

Related: 2011: A Capitol Conversation on Wisconsin’s Reading Challenges.

2012: Wisconsin Act 166.

2015: Foundations of Reading Teacher Exam Results 2017 update.

2019: Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers.

2019: A bill is circulating in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would permanently exempt special education teachers from having to pass the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT).