2017 California school test scores: Why are they flatlining?

Sharon Noguchi::

Breaking with its steadily upward trend, California’s annual test scores have stagnated, with fewer than half of students proficient in math and English, and a wide ethnic achievement gap persisting.

State scores released Wednesday show just 49 percent of students proficient in English and 37 percent proficient in math. The numbers are half a percentage-point different from 2016 — down in English and up in math. Tests were administered last spring to students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade.

The state’s education leaders played down officials’ attitude.

Drastic reforms for better teacher pensions could help Louisiana schools financially

Chad Aldeman:

Louisiana has been pouring money into its schools over the last ten years at twice the rate of inflation, but that money isn’t reaching teachers or students.

There are two basic trends that explain this riddle. One, large increases in spending on noninstructional “support services” accounts for about half of the difference. And two, Louisiana has doubled the amount of money it is paying toward employee benefits. As a state, Louisiana’s schools and districts are now spending more than $3,000 per student on employee benefits.

Much of this is driven by huge increases in the cost of paying down unfunded liabilities in the state’s teacher pension system. Today, Louisiana has one of the most expensive teacher pension system in the country — and also one of the least generous.

To make up for a shortfall of almost $12 billion, Louisiana school districts are now forced to pay more than 30 percent of each teacher’s salary toward the state pension fund. The vast majority of that contribution goes to pay down debts, not for actual benefits for teachers. For at least the last 25 years, Louisiana has never paid its pension bills in full, causing the debt to grow and grow.

Did Facebook Play Favorites with Obama?

Tech President:

The fact that Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is working on the Obama campaign might have something to do with it. In writing up platform’s launch, Chris Wilson of USNews.com talked to Hughes last week and wrote that “the Illinois senator had a major advantage on this front in the form of staffer Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook who still serves as a consultant for the site.” And Amy Schatz, in her recent profile of Hughes for the Wall Street Journal, listed the Obama Facebook application as an example of the work Hughes and other Obama staffers are doing.

The Obama campaign demurs when asked about when Facebook gave it access to their API. “We are fortunate to have Chris and the incredible skill set he brings to the campaign on our team,” it said in a statement. “The Obama campaign produced the tools ourselves, followed the guidelines set out by Facebook and look forward to welcoming more friends to our network.”

Although Facebook has supported profiles for most of the candidates, apparently it intends to step much more directly into the political arena. According to a email memo sent out to the campaigns after Platform was launched, it is encouraging all campaigns to develop applications for Platform, and is currently building “US Politics” and “Canadian Politics” applications that will house all politicians’ profiles that will enable users to get updates from the candidates and allow them to advertise a candidate on their profile (Newsvine just launched it’s own application on Platform that can do just that). It will be adding more political features throughout the summer.


Matt Dougherty:

A Houston civil rights attorney says he is suing the Cy-Fair school district on behalf of his client who claims she was kicked out of school for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

India Landry, a Windfern High School senior, says she was in the principal’s office on Monday when the pledge came over the intercom. She says the principal told her to stand, but she refused.

“And then the pledge came on, and they both stood, and then I didn’t,” Landry said. “[The principal] asked me to, and I said I wouldn’t. And then she said ‘Well, you’re kicked out of here.’”

The end of free college in England: implications for quality, enrollments and equity

Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton and Gillian Wyness

Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university quality, enrolments, and equity. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head, rising enrolments, and a narrowing of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. In contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system keeps university free at the point of entry, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. We conclude that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.

A Liberal Decalogue: Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments of Critical Thinking and Democratic Decency

Maria Popova:

British philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of the most intellectually diverse and influential thinkers in modern history, his philosophy of religion in particular having shaped the work of such modern atheism champions as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. From the third volume of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1944-1969 comes this remarkable micro-manifesto, entitled A Liberal Decalogue (public library) — a vision for responsibilities of a teacher, in which Russell touches on a number of recurring themes from pickings past — the purpose of education, the value of uncertainty, the importance of critical thinking, the gift of intelligent criticism, and more.

It originally appeared in the December 16, 1951, issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”

A Comparison of Four Algorithms Textbooks

The Poetry Of Computer Science

At some point, you can’t get any further with linked lists, selection sort, and voodoo Big O, and you have to go get a real algorithms textbook and learn all that horrible math, at least a little. But which book? There are tons of them.

I haven’t read every algorithms book out there, but I have read four of them. Maybe my experience with these four can help guide your decision. The four books are Algorithms, by Dasgupta, Papadimitriou, and Vazirani (hereafter called Dasgupta); Introduction to Algorithms, by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein (hereafter called CLRS); The Algorithm Design Manual, by Steve Skiena (hereafter called Skiena); and The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3. I’ll do a five-point comparison, going over the prose style, code use, mathematical heaviness, breadth and depth of topics, and position on the continuum between theoretical and practical of each book.

There’s one thing you should know before I start: Skiena and Dasgupta are both available for free online, while Knuth and CLRS aren’t (well, they probably are, but not legally). So that might make your decision for you.

Teen with Down syndrome crowned Homecoming Queen by Coronado students

Bill Knight:

And, on Friday night, escorted by her proud father Mario Gardea, Gonzalez was presented at halftime of the Coronado-Pebble Hills football game in the traditional ceremonies.
“I am still so excited,” Gonzalez said Saturday. “Yes, I was very nervous when they were announcing the court Friday afternoon. And then I was just so happy; so happy.”
Samantha Gonzalez was born with Down syndrome but she has never let it stop her in her joyous journey through this life. She is who she is.

A hollowed-out labormarket is partly to blame …


A fundamental refashioning of the labor market has been underway for two decades. Jobs that require middle-range skills have been declining, while those involving skills at both the lower and higher end of the spectrum have been growing. This effectively suppresses wages for many: People in lower-paid, lower-skill jobs — retail workers, janitors and home health aides — have little bargaining power to demand higher wages. Middle-skilled workers — including clerks, call center operators and factory workers — are being replaced by computers, robots and lesser-paid hands in low-wage countries. Higher-skilled workers are capturing an outsized share of pay.

Football’s decline has some high schools disbanding teams

Ben Nuckols:

On a cool and rainy afternoon during the first week of classes at Centennial High School in this well-to-do Baltimore suburb, about 50 members of the boys’ cross-country team sauntered across the parking lot for their after-school run.

Meanwhile, about 30 kids in helmets and pads were going through drills on the pristine artificial turf field at the school’s hillside football stadium.

“It used to be the other way around,” said Al Dodds, Centennial’s cross-country coach, who has 64 boys on his team this year. “Now, there’s a small turnout in football and cross-country is huge.”

Across the athletic complex, a practice football field sat empty, even though it was recently mown and painted with yardage lines and hash marks. In years past, the junior-varsity team would have been relegated to that grass field. But on this day they had the stadium to themselves, as they will for every practice this fall. Centennial isn’t fielding a varsity football team because not enough kids signed up to play.

When Data is Dangerous

Bob Hoffman:

It has become an article of faith in the marketing business that the future of marketing is about data.
  “Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change,” says The Economist.
 Scientific American says, “The digital revolution is in full swing…in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind…”
 The primacy of data in marketing has been beaten into us for the past 10 years. In fact, it has become such a platitude that we no longer even stop to think about what it means.
 Data sounds very scientific, impersonal and hygienic. But it is not.
 When marketers talk about data what they usually mean is personal private information about us that is collected, traded, sold and exploited without our knowledge or consent.
 To marketers, data is not all numbers and algorithms. It is your sexual preferences, your religious beliefs or lack thereof, your banking details, your medical and psychological diagnoses, your work history and political preferences. It is thousands of facts about you that you never suspected anyone knew or collected.
 It has the potential to be used in a myriad of dangerous ways by any incompetent, irresponsible organization that has the wherewithal to collect it or buy it.

Racial identity policies are ruining Edina’s fabled schools

Katherine Kersten:

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article appears in the fall issue of ‘Thinking Minnesota,’ a publication of the Center of the American Experiment.

For years, the Edina Public Schools (EPS) have been one of the brightest stars in the firmament of Minnesota public education. Parents who moved to the affluent Twin Cities suburb gladly paid a hefty premium for a house, because it meant their kids could attend the district’s top-notch schools.

But today, test scores are sinking in Edina’s fabled schools. One in five Edina High School students can’t read at grade level and one in three can’t do grade-level math. These test results dropped EHS’s ranking among Minnesota high schools from 5th to 29th in reading proficiency, and from 10th to 40th in math proficiency between 2014 and 2017. Across the district, about 30 percent of kids are not “on track for success” in reading, and the same is true for math.

A number of factors may be at work here. Clearly, however, there’s been a profound shift in district leaders’ educational philosophy. In place of academic excellence for all, the district’s primary mission is now to ensure that students think correctly on social and political issues — most importantly, on race and “white privilege.”

District leaders enshrined this new mission in EPS’s “All for All” strategic plan, adopted in 2013. The plan mandates that, going forward, the EPS must view “all teaching and learning experiences” through the “lens of racial equity.”

A Stanford researcher’s 15-minute study hack lifts B+ students into the As

Jenny Anderson:

Policy makers, tech executives, teachers, and parents are forever trying to find new ways to improve kids’ performance at school. Schools design and redesign curricula, teachers embrace and reject new learning technologies, and parents plot ways to get their kids to study more.

One novel solution researchers find helps kids to perform better is to get them to think about how they think—metacognition—and have them strategize how they study.

If this sounds easy, it is not. “All too often, students just jump mindlessly into studying before they have even strategized what to use, without understanding why they are using each resource, and without planning out how they would use the resource to learn effectively,” says Patricia Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford with a PhD. “I find this very unfortunate because it undermines their own potential to learn well and perform well.”

Tokens of Ruined Method

Joseph North:

A student of literature in the university today can be forgiven a certain bafflement about what constitutes the function of the discipline. What, exactly, is literary studies? Is it a kind of history, a branch of philosophy, the study of rhetoric? Is it about becoming a better reader, in an ethical or technical sense? It’s not about learning how to write; that’s what MFA programs are for. One might turn to histories of the discipline in an effort to clear things up — but here, too, the same confusions apply. The history of methods of scholarship and criticism is its own subfield, and one can find convincing arguments to suit most any purpose.

In practice, what one believes literary studies is, or should be, often depends on where one went to university. Certain figures loom larger in the imagination of one institution than another. The history of literary studies at Columbia must include Lionel Trilling and Edward Said; at Yale, the genealogy needs to account for a transition from William Wimsatt to Harold Bloom and Paul de Man. The fact that almost no one currently teaching at Yale wants to claim these ancestral figures as influential is itself part of the story. Influence is cunning and seldom direct. But even a perfect genealogy would not imply that the methods and traditions these figures espoused were handed down in an unbroken line. It turns out that no one has really measured how accurately or effectively any understanding of how to read literature propagates throughout a culture. The Modern Language Association does not own a patent or have a monopoly on reading practices. Mutations happen often. And there remains the uncomfortable fact that most people’s deepest reading habits are developed in a secondary education system, not the university.

The enigmatic complexity of number theory [on hold]

Math Overflow:

One of the most salient aspects of the discipline of number theory is that from a very small number of definitions, entities and axioms one is led to an extraordinary wealth and diversity of theorems, relations and problems–some of which can be easily stated yet are so complex that they take centuries of concerted efforts by the best mathematicians to find a proof (Fermat’s Last Theorem, …), or have resisted such efforts (Goldbach’s Conjecture, distribution of primes, …), or lead to mathematical entities of astounding complexity, or required extraordinary collective effort, or have been characterized by Paul Erdös as “Mathematics is not ready for such problems” (Collatz Conjecture).

Football’s decline has some high schools disbanding teams

Ben Nichols:

On a cool and rainy afternoon during the first week of classes at Centennial High School in this well-to-do Baltimore suburb, about 50 members of the boys’ cross-country team sauntered across the parking lot for their after-school run.

Meanwhile, about 30 kids in helmets and pads were going through drills on the pristine artificial turf field at the school’s hillside football stadium.

“It used to be the other way around,” said Al Dodds, Centennial’s cross-country coach, who has 64 boys on his team this year. “Now, there’s a small turnout in football and cross-country is huge.”

Across the athletic complex, a practice football field sat empty, even though it was recently mown and painted with yardage lines and hash marks. In years past, the junior-varsity team would have been relegated to that grass field. But on this day they had the stadium to themselves, as they will for every practice this fall. Centennial isn’t fielding a varsity football team because not enough kids signed up to play.

How American schools fail kids with dyslexia

Emily Hanford:

Dayne Guest graduated from high school in 2016. He had been working construction but quit, knowing that wasn’t what he wanted do with his life. Today Guest’s options are limited because he struggles to read. When he opens a book, he sees “just a whole bunch of words, a whole bunch of letters lined up.”

His mom, Pam Guest, knew something wasn’t right when Dayne was in kindergarten. “In the mornings when students came into the classroom, they would write that they’d brought their lunch or that they were going to purchase lunch in the cafeteria,” she said. “And Dayne always walked right past that board and sat down.”

Teachers said Dayne would catch up, but by the end of first grade, he still wasn’t reading.

Pam thought her son might have dyslexia. But the teachers said no. It went on like this for years: Pam suspecting Dayne was dyslexic, the schools saying no, and Pam believing them because they were the education experts.

TCR Academy: July15–July 27, 2018—Boston, Massachusetts

Will Fitzhugh, via a kind email

Over the past four years, The Concord Review Summer Programs have provided academic expository writing instruction in preparing serious academic History research papers of their own for 79 secondary students, from China, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, and from nine American states.

Some History teachers completed their college degrees and teacher preparation without ever having written a serious History research paper of their own. For others it has been a while since they did some historical research. One reason not many History term papers are assigned in American high schools is that many teachers either do not have the experience or the confidence to provide students with the preparation in nonfiction reading and academic expository writing they need to write such papers.

The TCR Academy Pilot will ask twelve secondary teachers of History to test a model for having teachers work on serious (e.g. 6,000-word) History research papers over a two-week program. There will be an assignment before the program and the participants may work to finish their paper after the program.

We are in the process of seeking a grant to cover the $5,000 stipend for each participant. If the grant is not provided, we will rely on the Professional Development funds available for programs like this.

Just as teachers who go on Outward Bound courses, and then on their return urge students and colleagues to go on one, it is our hope that teachers coming from a serious effort in the TCR Academy on a History research paper of their own will be more likely to ask their students to work on one when they return to their classroom.

Those interested should contact Will Fitzhugh, Founder and Editor, The Concord Review, at fitzhugh@tcr.org

Commentary on Taxpayer Spending Priorities

Chris Rickert::

It seemed appropriate to look at the Madison School District first, given that on Tuesday, two Madison School Board members, Anna Moffit and Nicki Vander Meulen, took to Facebook in support of Johnson’s Fitchburg grievance.

Invoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s observation that “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people,” Vander Meulen declared: “I’m done being silent.”

“I do not believe that this budget reflects the values and priorities for the community of Fitchburg and hope that it will be changed to make sure that the children come first, not last,” Moffit said. Although she told me she “would support Fitchburg establishing a consistent process for funding and evaluating non-profit partnerships.” That’s a good idea but one Johnson rejected last year.

It’s ironic to see two people who sit on the board of a school district that has consistently failed to close the minority achievement gap — and who seem in no hurry to implement any major changes that might — lecturing anyone to spend more money on services for minority youth.

It also didn’t take me more than a few minutes to find expenditures in the district’s preliminary 2017-18 operating budget that seem far less important than feeding and supervising kids at a neighborhood center located just on Fitchburg’s side of its border with Madison — which is what the Boys & Girls Club had been using the $50,000 in noncompetitive Fitchburg grant money to pay for.

For one, the district’s $390 million budget sets aside about $764,000 for employee travel, a 10 percent increase from last year.

There’s also $120,000 in one-time funds budgeted this year for upgrades to the human resources outer office at the Doyle Administration Building. Other spending from the same account includes projects that are arguably much more kid-focused — $100,000 for “all-gender restroom and locker room needs,” for example.

We have long spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

Eight percent of MMSD fifth through 12th graders ‘at risk’ of not graduating high school

Amber Walker

Eighty-eight percent of MMSD fifth through 12th graders who are at-risk of not graduating are low-income students. The district report did not specify if the data includes students who have already withdrawn from school.

Before the At-Risk plan was developed, the district would only send a letter home to guardians. Caroline Racine Gilles, the director of multi-tiered systems of supports at MMSD, said the new approach allows schools to collaborate with students and families to develop a path forward.

Now, MMSD is taking a “proactive approach” using data and other early warning systems to identify students before they qualify as at-risk, Racine Gilles said.

“No one likes to get a bad news letter,” she said. “We want to make that personalized contact and really use it as an opportunity to build relationships with our families. We want to partner with them to understand what the barriers are to learning and ensure that we build support to address those barriers.”

Racine Gilles said that each plan will be tailored to the students’ individual needs and parents will receive a copy of the plan and dates to follow-up. Options range from tutoring and mentoring to alternative programs and extended graduation timelines.

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – NOT!.

We have long spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

Take Back the Ivory Tower Democracy depends on having a public capable of thinking

Alice Dreger:

efore we reach the point where we all have to check with our Diversity and Inclusion officers to find out which thoughts we are allowed to think, before we must clear with the guards of university-branding everything we want to say, before every type of scholarship that cannot obtain external funding is abandoned, before tenure is completely replaced with tenuousness, and before the icecaps melt away into the sea, let’s see if we can come to some agreement about taking back the Ivory Tower.

Before I describe the sorry state “we” are in and call “us” to arms, I should disclose that I currently live outside the Ivory Tower. This situation is due primarily to an instance of fellatio to be described later. (Eyes up here.) Without a university affiliation affixed to my name, you may think of me as an outsider who has no right to weigh in on all this. But, given my experiences as a scholar who has been subject to disinvitation attempts by the left, purchasing attempts by the right, and outright censorship by my dean, I think I do. Besides, being an academic is largely a state of mind. Which is kind of the point of this essay. And also something that will be confirmed by thousands of adjuncts who can’t make rent.

How Illinois bureaucracy robbed parents of a chance to save their children from a deadly disease

Patricia Callahan:

Nine months pregnant, Natasha Spencer watched anxiously from her eighth-floor window as the abandoned cars and buses piled up on South Shore Drive.

One of the worst blizzards in Chicago history gripped the city in the winter of 2011, and Spencer was past her due date. Her obstetrician had offered to induce labor before the storm hit, but Spencer declined. As she watched the snowdrifts devour the vehicles on the road below, Spencer wondered if she should have listened.

Spencer was nearing 40, so she was keenly aware that her pregnancy was high-risk by medical standards. Throughout her pregnancy, she hadn’t been able to shake a foreboding that was so intense and so out of character she didn’t even tell her husband about it.

Endless Math controversy

Math overflow:

In principle, a mathematical paper should be complete and correct. New statements should be supported by appropriate proofs. But this is only theory. Because we often cannot enter into the smallest details, we “prove” wrong statements here and then. I plead guilty, having published myself one or two false (fortunately minor) papers.

So far, this is not harmful. The research community is able to point out incorrect statements, at least among those which have some importance in the development of mathematics. In time, the errors are fixed; this is the role of monographs to present a universally accepted state of the art of a topic.

Teens ‘rebelling against social media’, say headteachers

Emma Thelwell

Almost two-thirds of schoolchildren would not mind if social media had never been invented, research suggests.

A survey of almost 5,000 students, mainly aged between 14 and 16, found a growing backlash against social media – with even more pupils (71%) admitting to taking digital detoxes to escape it.
Benenden, an independent girls boarding school in Kent, told BBC News that its pupils set up a three-day “phone-fast”.
Some girls found fears of being offline were replaced by feelings of relief.
Sixth former Isobel Webster, 17, said: “There’s a feeling that you have to go on Instagram, or whatever [site], to see what everyone’s doing – sometimes everyone’s talking about something and you feel like you have to look at it too”.

Save for Retirement Before You Even Think About the Kids’ College Fund

Meghan McArdle:

Every year, investment firm T. Rowe Price does an annual survey called “Parents, Kids and Money.” This year, the report offered some disturbing news: Parents of all boys were more likely to be saving for college than parents of all girls. This kind of antediluvian attitude is alarming in this day and age, and Forbes properly highlighted it. But buried in that survey I found other alarming factoids: More families have college savings than retirement savings, and over two-thirds of families said they prioritized saving for college over retirement.

If this describes you, it’s time to rethink your priorities. Saving for retirement is a necessity. Saving for college is something optional that you do after you make sure you’ll have food and shelter in your old age.

It seems obligatory to mention that I do not have children. Some readers who do have children will tell me that I just don’t understand, as parents do, that their kids come first — that having brought this life into the world, they are responsible for giving it the best possible start. (Or at least a start commensurate with those of your peers’ children. Keeping up with the Joneses is expensive.)

Why Is the Portland School District Suing an Education Reporter?

Emily Richmond:

Beth Slovic, a longtime education journalist in Portland, Oregon, was making dinner for her family when she noticed a bearded guy on a bicycle pulling up outside her house.

Slovic thought maybe one of her neighbors had ordered takeout. Instead, the man, a process server, came to her front door: Portland Public Schools was suing to block her public-information request for employee records.

The reporter, whose work has been published by Willamette Week, Portland Monthly magazine, and The New York Times, among others, wasn’t surprised to be served in April. The school district had said it would go to court to block Slovic from getting the records, which she first requested in November 2016.

But the moment had an element of unexpected humor for Slovic. In a prior dispute with the district, Portland schools officials refused to release an unredacted version of a contract the reporter had requested because it contained someone’s home address, according to Slovic.

“They said, ‘Beth may go knock on this person’s door,’ like that was the scariest thing in the world,” Slovic told me. “They characterized this act as incredibly threatening and invasive – which it’s not. And then, ‘Knock-knock, here comes the process server.’”

As surprising as these circumstances might sound, suing journalists and their news outlets is an increasingly popular tactic among public institutions, including school districts and universities, as they push back against requests to release documents that are typically considered open to scrutiny. (For more on this, take a look at a new investigation by The 74, focused on New York City, the nation’s largest school district.)

Government at all levels — from local to federal — has become more resistant in recent years to sharing information, said Mark Horvit, a journalism professor at the University of Missouri and a past director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

Public agencies are exploiting the fact that many newsrooms have fewer resources these days to engage in prolonged legal battles, Horvit said. That means media organizations are less likely to sue when their records requests are denied, Horvit said.

Student loan Borrowers, especially those who attend less selective institutions or who drop out, increasingly struggle to pay back loans.

Andrew Kreighbaum:

The report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, released today, examines patterns of student loan repayment for two separate groups of borrowers — those who started college in the 1995-96 academic year and those who started eight years later, in 2003-04. Twelve years after beginning their postsecondary educations, the second group had paid off a smaller proportion of their student loans and had defaulted at a higher rate on at least one loan.

In addition to the rising price of college, multiple factors may have contributed to changing profile of student loan repayment. Students who entered college in 2003 would have graduated or left college around the time the U.S. entered the Great Recession. Changes in federal policy also have made options like income-driven repayment more popular. And experts say the composition of student loan borrowers has changed, too, as enrollment at community colleges and for-profit institutions spiked in the recession’s wake.

US Intelligence Unit Accused Of Illegally Spying On Americans’ Financial Records

Jason Leopold & Jessica Garrison:

The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies, according to government sources.

Over the past year, at least a dozen employees in another branch of the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have warned officials and Congress that US citizens’ and residents’ banking and financial data has been illegally searched and stored. And the breach, some sources said, extended to other intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, whose officers used the Treasury’s intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens’ financial records. The NSA did not respond to requests for comment.

In response to questions from BuzzFeed News, the Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General said it has launched a review of the issue. Rich Delmar, a lawyer in that office, offered no further comment.

A Treasury Department spokesperson said the department’s various branches “operate in a manner consistent with applicable legal authorities.”

Governance Diversity: Proposal requires University of Wisconsin schools to seek non-academic applicants for chancellor jobs

Todd Richmond:

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents adopted sweeping changes Thursday that clear the way for non-academics to lead the state’s colleges.

Under the plan, campuses can’t block people who lack terminal degrees and tenure from serving as System president, chancellors or vice chancellors. The System must look to recruit applicants from the private sector as well.

System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said every campus has required chancellor and vice chancellor applicants to hold a terminal degree or tenure either through policy or practice. The state budget Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed last month prohibits the Regents from adopting such policies; Thursday’s changes bring the System into compliance with those budget provisions.

Increased competition can lead to improved traditional public schools in Minnesota

Star Tribune:

Alternatives to traditional public schools — namely open enrollment and charter programs — have taken hold in Minnesota in a big way. They’re so popular that nearly 1 in 6 of the state’s 850,000-plus school-age children opt out of their neighborhood schools.

According to a recent Star Tribune series and data analysis called “Students in Flight,” 132,000 Minnesota kids left their home school or district last year to attend either a charter or a different school program. The exodus occurred, for the most part, because parents and students were not getting what they wanted from their attendance-area public schools, and charters and open enrollment gave them the opportunity to go elsewhere.

Those choices also create challenges for the schools and districts left behind.

State education funding follows individual students, so there are financial winners and losers. Districts such as St. Paul and Minneapolis that have lost thousands of kids to charters, for example, are both dealing with multimillion-dollar deficits, in part due to declining enrollment. As the Star Tribune analysis shows, open enrollment and charters have proved especially popular with students of color. While white students represent 60 percent of all students who use open enrollment, a higher share of nonwhite students make the choice to leave.

Locally, Madison continues its none diverse K-12 world.

We have long spent far more than most government funded school districts (now nearly $20,000 per student), yet we’ve long tolerated disastrous reading results. Yet, Madison’s non diverse governance model continues unabated, aborting the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and more recently a quasi Montessori charter proposal.

Civics: Proposed law would keep public from viewing most police body camera footage

Scott Bauer

Police from across Wisconsin supported a bill Thursday that would set state policy for when body camera video can be made public and would allow for much of the footage to be withheld.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, said at an Assembly committee hearing that the goal was to protect the privacy of people captured on police body camera footage and to set statewide guidelines for law enforcement agencies.

But advocates for open records argued that the measure went too far and would make it difficult, if not impossible, for footage that’s in the public interest to be released. The bill would not require police departments to use body cameras

Civics:GOP bill would force police to share student records

Todd Richmond:

Police would have to notify school administrators whenever they arrest a student for a violent crime and teachers could end their contracts without penalty if students attack them under a Republican bill that would relax juvenile criminal record confidentiality.

The bill would also allow teachers to remove a student from a classroom for two days.

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, a former teacher, hasn’t formally introduced the bill yet, saying he’s still revising it.

Related: Madison area Police Calls, 1996-2006

Antonin Scalia’s Less Well-Known Legacy: His Speeches

Nina Totenberg:

In a sunny den in McLean, Va., Maureen and Christopher Scalia sit side-by-side on a comfy couch. He co-edited Scalia Speaks, an anthology of his father’s speeches on a variety of subjects, and he ranks eighth in birth order out of the nine Scalia children. She is the mother of those nine children, and the widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — a conservative icon, bon vivant, music lover and witty observer of law and life.

Christopher explains that he put together the collection to give non-lawyers, as well as lawyers, a fuller picture of his father and his many interests.

Bosom buddies, but sometime foes

The book’s foreword is written by Scalia’s close friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with whom he disagreed — often vehemently. As Ginsburg observes, her friendship with Scalia was “sometimes regarded as puzzling.” The two opened up about being an “odd couple” during an interview I conducted at George Washington University in 2015.

As that appearance illustrated, Justice Scalia was a very theatrical presence, and, in most of the speeches in the book, those who knew him will quite literally hear his voice in their heads.

Here’s how many students were sanctioned for breaking Evergreen’s conduct code last spring, summer

Lisa Pemberton:

About 80 students were sanctioned for breaking the student conduct code at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, where race-related protests broke out on campus during the spring, college officials say.

About 120 incident reports involving 180 students were filed during spring and summer quarters, college spokeswoman Sandra Kaiser told The Olympian.

“Of those 180 students, approximately 80 were found responsible for their actions,” she said. “They received sanctions ranging from formal warnings, community service and probation, to suspension.”

The students were adjudicated using the student conduct code, she said. Kaiser said the cases weren’t solely related to protests, and would not specify how many student protesters received sanctions.

Facebook, Amazon, and Google are reviving the ill-fated “company towns” of the Gilded Age

Julianne Tveten

Still, Pullman’s fiasco didn’t discourage other magnates. In 1900, chocolatier Milton Hershey began construction on a factory complex near a collection of dairy farms in rural Pennsylvania, where he declared there’d be “no poverty, no nuisances, no evil”—a Delphic precursor to Google’s now infamous and defunct slogan, “Don’t be evil.” To attract workers, Hershey reclaimed many of Pullman’s gilded comforts: indoor plumbing, pristine lawns, central heating, garbage pickup, and eventually, the theaters and sports venues any company town worth its salt would host.

What was designed as a wholesome advertisement for the company quickly morphed into a miserly surveillance state. Hershey, who served as the town’s mayor, constable, and fire chief, patrolled neighborhoods to survey the maintenance of houses and hired private detectives to monitor employees’ after-hours alcohol consumption. While the town managed to stage a sort of idyllic capitalist performance for onlookers, by the 1930s its employees resented their binding environs and the Depression-era layoffs they endured from a company earning ten times its annual payroll in after-tax profits. A crippled attempt to unionize with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) bred a 1937 sit-down strike; days later, farmers and company cheerleaders armed with rocks and pitchforks bloodied and ejected the dissidents, destabilizing for good another corporate-civic lark. Hershey’s vast estate, however, remains unscathed to this day.

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?

Heather Butler:

We all probably know someone who is intelligent, but does surprisingly stupid things. My family delights in pointing out times when I (a professor) make really dumb mistakes. What does it mean to be smart or intelligent? Our everyday use of the term is meant to describe someone who is knowledgeable and makes wise decisions, but this definition is at odds with how intelligence is traditionally measured. The most widely known measure of intelligence is the intelligence quotient, more commonly known as the IQ test, which includes visuospatial puzzles, math problems, pattern recognition, vocabulary questions, and visual searches.

The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. Grossman and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

Mr. Wilson’s second act: Virtuoso’s progression from SF Opera to middle-school classroom

Jill Tucker:

Now, he’s Mr. Wilson the music teacher. Instead of playing Puccini’s “La Bohème” at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, the 58-year-old maestro is working up to 14 hours a day coaxing “Jingle Bells” out of beginners and pouring much of his life savings into bringing music back to a school where 95 percent of students live in poverty. If he can take kids who can’t play a note and teach them a song, Wilson believes, they will not just feel successful, but see new possibilities everywhere in their lives.

It is his fourth year of teaching at DeJean, of testing that belief. And, though he doesn’t know it yet, it also will be his last.

So he stands on the platform, this unconventional man with disheveled hair and bloodshot eyes, a black apron on his waist to hold pens, bathroom passes and good-behavior raffle tickets, and waits for his students to quiet down. Only when the chatter finally abates by an almost imperceptible decibel does he begin to count: One and two and three and …

The students play. The notes aren’t perfect. A trumpet is flat, and a trombone is off by an octave. But the song is unmistakable: The itsy bitsy spider is climbing up the water spout.

When the music stops. Wilson jumps off the stage, then leaps again, spinning in a circle, his glasses bouncing. His five band classes, mostly students who picked up an instrument for the first time five weeks earlier, have played a song together.

How should a Dean who understands academic freedom respond to public controversy about faculty writing?

Brian Leiter:

So we know from the unhappy example of Dean Ferruolo throwing a faculty member under the bus what not to do: you don’t publish a statement on the homepage of the school singling out a faculty member’s work, declare that not only do you, as Dean, disagree with it, but suggest that these are pariah views in “our law school community”, and imply that the offending views may implicate “racial discrimination” and persecution of the “vulnerable” and “marginalized.” Making an obligatory reference to academic freedom in passing does not undo the damage that this decanal misconduct causes.

The job of administrators is not to share their opinions about the views of members of the faculty, but to administer a university environment in which faculty and students may express points of view that do not otherwise violate anti-discrimination, sexual harassment or other laws. (The silly op-ed did not violate any applicable law obviously). So one obvious, and preferable, option would have been for the Dean to make no public statement at all. He could have met with concerned student groups, and educated them about academic freedom and reaffirmed institutional policies about equal opportunity. If a Dean makes any public statement in the context of such a controversy, it should not include any comment on a faculty member’s views; it would suffice, for example, to simply reaffirm the institution’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students and the like.

The Kalven Report got it exactly right fifty years ago, and all administrators ought to read and think about it. The university sponsors critics, it is not itself a critic or advocate (except for that narrow range of issues central to the university’s function). A Dean, or other university administrator, forfeits his academic freedom upon becoming Dean–in part, because Deaning is not a scholarly enterprise but an administrative one, and academic freedom exists only to protect the scholarly pursuit of truth. As an administrator, the Dean’s job is to protect academic freedom and protect an environment in which faculty and students can express their views in the appropriate fora, such as the classroom, scholarship, and sometimes in the public sphere. In order to preserve a community of open and vigorous debate, the Dean must not lend his authority to one side or the other. That there is an uproar about a faculty member’s scholarship or op-ed does not mean the Dean must speak out, except perhaps to educate people about what a university is and what academic freedom is and why it matters.

Advice to the Arnold Foundation

Jay Greene:

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is impressive for its intellectual honesty and curiosity. They have an education reform strategy with which I have some important differences, but they are nevertheless interested in hearing criticism of their approach, so they invited me to present my critique to their board. Below is the essence of what I prepared for that meeting. I don’t expect that this will cause them to alter course, nor should it. It’s their money and they should do whatever they think best. But the amazing thing about the Arnolds and the head of their education effort, Neerav Kingsland, is that they are at least open to the possibility of being wrong and want to hear criticism in case they would like to reconsider any aspects of their strategy.

The heart of the Arnold reform strategy is Portfolio Management, which is a term with which they are not enamored, but is essentially a rapid expansion of choices across different sectors with a centralized and muscular system for engaging in quality control. The Portfolio Manager would govern schools of all types in a location — traditional, charter, and perhaps private — and select which schools should be allowed to operate, which should be closed, and police certain aspects of their operations, including admissions, transportation, and perhaps special education, discipline, and other issues. I’m a fan of the rapid expansion of choices, but I believe that the centralized and muscular quality control system produces significant educational and political damage. I am not suggesting that the Arnold Foundation (or the charter movement in general ) abandon all quality control efforts, but I think quality is best promoted by relying heavily on parent judgement and otherwise relying on a decentralized system of authorizers with the most contextual information to make decisions about opening and closing schools if parents seem to have difficulty assessing quality on their own. The problem with Portfolio Management is the centralized and overly-active nature of a single quality-control entity. Here is my case in 7 points:

20 suggestions NEISD actually received to rename Robert E. Lee High School

Kelsey Bradshaw and and Nick Canedo:

If certain San Antonians had their way, Robert E. Lee High School would be renamed “booty,” Gregg Popovich High School, or Schooly McSchoolFace.

Outlandish, simple and inappropriate ideas and a number of San Antonio’s heroes were submitted to North East Independent School District, after the board voted to remove Confederate general Robert E. Lee from the high school’s title in August.

Proposed names had to be “wholesome and stand the test of time,” and be an idea rather than a person to be considered by the North East Independent School District Board, they said. Of the 2,443 submissions the board received, 542 met the criteria for consideration.

DNA in the dock: how flawed techniques send innocent people to prison

Nicola Davis:

For David Butler, it began with a knock on the door early one November morning, seven years ago. When he opened it, officers from the Merseyside police were standing on his doorstep. The retired taxi driver was being arrested for murder.

The police said they had evidence connecting Butler to the death of Anne Marie Foy, a 46-year-old sex worker who had been battered and strangled in Liverpool in 2005.

Butler’s DNA, it turned out, had been logged into the UK national database after a 1998 investigation into a break-in at the home he shared with his mother. A partial match had been made to DNA found on Foy’s fingernail clippings and cardigan buttons. This, combined with CCTV evidence of a distinctive taxi seen near the scene, led the prosecutor to tell the jury in Butler’s trial that the DNA information “provides compelling evidence that the defendant was in contact with Anne Marie Foy at the time immediately before she died”.

The case seemed conclusive. Yet Butler was adamant: he had not met Foy.

“You do see an assumption being made that a DNA profile is evidence of contact – case closed – whereas it is actually a lot more complicated than that,” says Ruth Morgan, the director of the Centre for the Forensic Sciences at University College London. “We are only beginning to realise quite how complex it is.”

Professors behaving badly

Neil Gross:

In August, Michael Isaacson, an adjunct instructor of economics at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, wrote on Twitter, “Some of y’all might think it sucks being an anti-fascist teaching at John Jay College but I think it’s a privilege to teach future dead cops.” Though he later said he was not wishing for his students’ deaths, but merely predicting some would die, his post was roundly condemned. He received death threats and was suspended from his job, ostensibly in the interest of campus safety.

There have been similar cases in recent weeks. A sociologist holding a temporary position at the University of Tampa was fired after tweeting that Hurricane Harvey was karmic payback for Republican-voting Texans. Officials at California State University, Fresno, dismissed a history lecturer for tweeting that “Trump must hang.” And an adjunct instructor in gender studies — who had already been fired from Rutgers — lost his fall employment offer from Montclair State University after the revelation that he’d tweeted about his wish to see President Trump shot.

“while Google faces the problem of the web itself degrading, which makes search less useful”

John Gapper:

The first question concerns barriers to entry. Small publishers, lacking the marketing and data analytics resources of bigger ones, have been at a disadvantage in building paid businesses. That is one reason why so many have instead stuck with ad-funded news.
 If Google or others provide technology and data analysis fairly cheaply, they will level the playing field. It will become easier for an array of niche publishers to find their markets amid the clutter. So far, there have been few subscription entrants similar to The Information, a technology news publisher founded by a former Wall Street Journal reporter. This may change.

The College Try Liz Waite and Kersheral Jessup couldn’t afford a higher education, let alone rent. But they worked and scrounged and slept on couches to put themselves through school. Will their degrees be worth it?

Ashley Powers:

“Hey,” the text began. It was from the friend she’d been crashing with for the past few nights.

“Would you move back into your godmoms until you find another place?”

She sighed. It was just before 8 a.m. one Thursday this spring, and Liz Waite had a million other things she’d rather stress about than where she was going to sleep.

Liz was 24 and halfway through her first semester at California State University, Long Beach. She was a theater major (with a theater major’s predilection for randomly breaking into song), and that day she was juggling, among other things, a midterm on the play structure of Aristotle and a meeting at the affordable-housing advocacy group where she was an intern. She eventually replied to the text, her tone stiff: “My friend is picking me and my stuff up Saturday.”

Liz dashed across four lanes of traffic on Long Beach Boulevard, a glittering cloth headband matting her damp blond hair. Her face was mostly scrubbed of makeup, save for a slash of blue eyeliner, and she wore a thin green-and-pink dress, an off-the-shoulder sweater, and two small pins: One pictured John Coltrane; the other said FOOD NOT BOMBS. She carried a big reddish purse that a co-worker at the affordable-housing group swore someone had abandoned. Liz suspected the co-worker bought it for her but was too kind to say so.

All her life, Liz had been told by her teachers that college was a passport to prosperity. With a bachelor’s degree, you’re more likely to climb the income ladder, less likely to tumble back down, and better able to withstand a recession. So Liz had spent the past six years slogging through community college but still fell short of a degree. Like many students, she took classes she didn’t need, partly due to poor advising and partly because she was feeling her way toward a major. She’d also had problems with her financial aid, and she probably needed two and a half more years at Cal State to get her bachelor’s, which would mean she’d be in college close to nine years total.

Four days a week, Liz spent a half-hour on the city bus rumbling to campus. She was a shaken Coke can, ready to explode. She was broke, estranged from her parents, and lacked a reliable place to sleep. These days, she usually curled up on her godmom’s couch, cats Miles and Baby Girl purring nearby, sunrise peeking through a curtain that gave the entire room a greenish tint. But the situation was untenable: Liz’s godmom was 60, and she lived in a seniors-only apartment building. They worried that if other residents noticed Liz was crashing there, her godmom would lose her housing.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “I’m going to work until I die,” says one 74-year-old in a generation finding it too costly to retire.

Mary Jordan & Kevin Sullivan:

Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass.

“I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.

Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip — a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.

People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.

While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Welcoming Schools partnership expanded (Madison)

Pamela Cotant:

In addition to signs about the Welcoming Schools efforts at Lowell, some books including “The Great Big Book of Families” and “Jacob’s New Dress” were set out on a table at the picnic. Mindy Trudell, social worker at Lowell and a Welcoming Schools facilitator, also offered rainbow-colored sprinkles to those getting a dish of ice cream at a station next to the Welcoming Schools display.

Sunny McDaniel, who was attending the picnic with her husband, Sam, and their first-grade daughter, Lulu, appreciated the Welcoming Schools display — although she would have liked even more literature examples.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

Compassion, Empathy, Flapdoodle

Seamus O’Mahony:

Phrenology was the bizarre belief that one could determine personality and intellectual ability by examination of the contours of the skull. The idea had a remarkable hold on the public imagination in the nineteenth century, but eventually died out, mainly because it had no plausible biological basis and because it was used to give a bogus scientific credibility to racism. The contemporary equivalent of phrenology is functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). “Functional” MRI differs from standard MRI scanning by mapping the differential rate of oxygen consumption in different parts of the brain: this is thought to measure metabolic, and hence, neuronal activity. Functional MRI scans display impressive colour changes which reflect these differences in oxygen consumption. If an area of the brain “lights up” during a specific activity, it is assumed that this activity “takes place” in that location. Academic psychologists, who had hitherto been low in the pecking order of neuroscience, thought fMRI might give them scientific credibility, and even recognition by the general public.

The sociologist Scott Vrecko listed fMRI-based neurobiological accounts of altruism, borderline personality disorder, criminal behaviour, decision-making, fear, gut feelings, hope, impulsivity, judgement, love, motivation, neuroticism, problem gambling, racial bias, suicide, trust, violence, wisdom and zeal. “Neurobollocks”− as this new phrenology came to be labelled by its detractors − has infiltrated economics, criminology, theology, literary criticism, education, sociology and politics: the American writer Matthew Crawford described fMRI as “a fast-acting solvent of the critical faculties”. Many cautious, reticent neuroscientists, however, are painfully aware of its limitations. The neuroscientist David Poeppel observed that “we still don’t understand how the brain recognizes something as basic as a straight line”.

Wisconsin Manufacturers Offering High School Apprenticeship Programs


According to a story posted on BizTimes.com, GPS Education Partners has partnered with local manufacturers to provide high school juniors and seniors with work-based education programs, in which students take courses on-site at the businesses, called “education centers,” and apply those lessons on the manufacturing floor. The non-profit is based in Brookfield, Wis., and launched in 2000.

The organization has grown from just 5 students at Waukesha, Wis.-based Generac Power Systems Inc. in its initial year to now having served 500 students, in partnership with 100 businesses.

Now, as worker shortages persist and a growing number of schools look to bolster their career and technical education offerings, GPS is expanding its reach with a new service model.

The organization is beginning to provide consulting services to schools as they launch their own apprenticeship education programs — a hybrid of the traditional GPS education center model.

Facebook Blocks Chinese Billionaire Who Tells Tales of Corruption

Alexandra Stevenson:

A Chinese billionaire living in virtual exile in New York, Guo Wengui has riled China’s leaders with his sometimes outlandish tales of deep corruption among family members of top Communist Party officials.

On Saturday, his tales proved too much for one of his favorite platforms for broadcasting those accusations: Facebook.

The social media network said it had blocked a profile under Mr. Guo’s name and taken down another page associated with him. Facebook said the content on both pages had included someone else’s personal identifiable information, which violates its terms of service.

Facebook investigated the accounts after receiving a complaint, according to a spokeswoman.

“We want people to feel free to share and connect on Facebook, as well as to feel safe, so we don’t allow people to publish the personal information of others without their consent,” the spokeswoman, Charlene Chian, said. She declined to say who had complained.

Mr. Guo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The profile under Mr. Guo’s name was not verified.

The move comes at a sensitive time for both the Chinese government and Facebook.

Some Notes on the Finances of Top Chinese Universities

Alex Usher:

The first is that top Chinese universities are really quite wealthy, and comparable in financial muscle to some top US institutions. The largest institution, Tsinghua University, had annual expenditures of RMB 13.7 billion in 2016, which translates to about US$3.57B at purchasing power parity, making it larger in raw terms than both MIT ($3.34 billion in 2014) and Yale ($3.36 billion). The next largest institution, Peking University, had 2016 expenditures of roughly $2.45 billion, which puts it roughly in the same category as CalTech and Washington University in St. Louis. Zhejiang University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the two next biggest, have expenditures of $2.3 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively. Fudan, in fifth place, has expenditures equal to US$1.5 billion, which is roughly equivalent to Princeton.

“We know best” at Harvard and K-12 Governance diversity

Robby Soave:

Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Harvard University’s Institute of Politics to discuss her school choice agenda. Students in the audience interrupted her several times; some even held up a sign accusing her of being a “white supremacist.”

The irony, of course, is twofold. One, the subject of DeVos’s Harvard address—school choice—is a policy that offers low-income students of color a respite from the hopelessness of the failing traditional public school systems in many cities. Two, DeVos’s recent major policy accomplishment was rescinding the Obama administration’s infamous Title IX “dear colleague” letter, a move that will restore a modicum of fairness to campus sexual harassment trials—trials that disproportionately disadvantage male students of color.

This makes DeVos a “white supremacist”? Please.

Regardless of what liberal activist groups like the NAACP think of them, school choice reforms have a proven track record of providing opportunities for poor and minority children that are often—not always, mind you, but often—better than the alternative. Charter schools are despised by the left because they threaten one of the Democratic Party’s most influential bases of power: teachers unions.

Stop Expecting Facebook and Google to Curb Misinformation — It’s Great for Business

Sam Biddle:

We’ve arrived at the sad, dumb point in history at which the only thing less surprising than acts of mass violence are the ways in which our planet’s mega information distributors muck everything up with ensuing frauds, hoaxes, and confusion. The problem is thoroughly identified: Facebook, Google, and, to a lesser extent, Twitter have the quality control of a yard sale and the scale of a 100,000 Walmarts. But despite all our railing and shaming, these companies have a major disincentive to reform: money.
 In the wake of yet another American massacre, this time in Las Vegas, media scrutiny is aimed once more at Facebook, Google, and Twitter, for the same old reasons. The sites, time after time, and this time once more, served up algorithmic links to websites peddling deliberate lies and bottom-feeder misinformation. These companies provided an untold mass of online users with falsehoods posing as news resources, as is completely normal now and only noteworthy because it was pegged to a heinous national tragedy. The discussion will now swing from “This is bad” to “What can be done?”, and we can expect all the typically empty pro forma reassurance from Silicon Valley public relations offices. Don’t expect much more.

UW regents may require expelling students who disrupt ‘freedom of expression’

Mark Sommerhauser:

The UW Board of Regents, mirroring what Republican state lawmakers describe as a push to safeguard free speech on college campuses, is poised to vote on whether students should be expelled if they repeatedly disrupt “the expressive rights of others.”

The proposal is part of a resolution the board will consider at its Friday meeting at UW-Stout in Menomonie, according to the agenda.

It would add to the state’s administrative code a proposal that Republican state Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum wants to write into state law. Kremer’s bill passed the state Assembly in June but has not yet come to a Senate vote.

The resolution calls for University of Wisconsin System institutions to suspend students who twice disrupt free expression. If students are found to have done so three times, they would be expelled.

The resolution also says “it is not the proper role of UW System institutions to take any action as an institution to require students or staff to express a particular view on a public policy issue.”

The policy reaffirms the System’s commitment to free speech but states students and other members of the “university community” may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to “express views they reject or even loathe.”

The First Amendment.

Shorewood Hills Elementary School receives National Blue Ribbon school award

Amber Walker:

Shorewood Hills Principal Anu Ebbe said a commitment to high expectations in the classroom and relationship building with students contribute to the school’s academic outcomes.

“When we look at our school-wide data around reading and mathematics we’ve shown consistent growth every year for every category of student. We have closed the gap for our English language learners and our African-American students in reading and math,” Ebbe said. “We are constantly looking at our data and saying ‘What is the next level of professional development and learning that needs to happen so we can ensure all our kids are growing?’ The staff is incredibly open to taking risks and trying new things. It is an amazing place.”

Ebbe said students, staff and families watched United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ announcement, delivered via YouTube, at the school on Thursday.

Ebbe said the Shorewood community tries to create a school culture that acknowledges and respects students for who they are and takes pride in its diverse student body.

Truth? It’s not just about the facts

Julian Baggini:

From time to time, not very often, it looks as though the world has given philosophy a job to do. Now is such a moment. At last, a big abstract noun – truth – is at the heart of a cultural crisis and philosophers can be called in to sort it out.

Send them back. Philosophers’ problems with truth are not the same as the world’s. The post-truth debate cannot be readily fixed by a better theory. Most of the time, people are clear enough what makes something true. To use Alfred Tarski’s famous example from the 1930s, “Snow is white” is true if and only if snow is white. If that sounds obvious, that’s the point. A statement is true if and only if it corresponds to a state of affairs or event that obtains in the world.

Declining birth rate in Wisconsin, U.S. could be good or bad

David Wahlberg:

The state had 66,496 births last year, a rate of 61.3 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 44, according to the state Department of Health Services. That’s down from 72,757 births and a rate of 64.5 in 2007.

Nationally, the rate dipped to 62.0 last year, a record low, with 3.9 million births.

There were 4.1 million fewer babies born from 2008 to 2016 than expected based on previous birth rates, according to Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.

At an average of 1.85 births per woman, Wisconsin and the United States are below the “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman, the level at which a generation can replace itself, Egan-Robertson said.

That could cause problems in the workforce and the economy in future years, along with challenges to programs such as Social Security, he said. However, immigration offsets slow native population growth in the U.S. more than in places like Japan and parts of Europe, so the concerns aren’t as great here.

Essayism review: Its own kind of self-made masterpiece

John Banville:

For those of us elders who went to school under the old dispensation, nothing was more surely calculated to make us detest the essay form than that stout textbook of English prose forced on us as part of the general memory test that in those days passed for education.

The piece from that ponderous compendium everyone remembers is Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation upon Roast Pig – children are always interested in food – but how many years had to pass before it dawned on us that the likes of William Hazlitt and Robert Louis Stevenson were surpassingly fine writers?

For Dillon, essays and essayists achieve ‘a combination of exactitude and evasion that seems to me to define what writing ought to be’

Stevenson and Hazlitt were masters of the essay form, but it is a question, of course, as to whether the essay is a form at all. Brian Dillon, in this wonderful, subtle and deceptively fragmentary little book, quotes Michael Hamburger from the dissident side: the essay “has no form: it is a game that creates its own rules”. Dillon himself is more affirmative, though ambiguously so; for him, essays and essayists achieve “a combination of exactitude and evasion that seems to me to define what writing ought to be”.

Sarabeth Berman reviews Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu

Sarabeth Berman:

The village had such a large, congested school because, in surrounding villages, the schools had been closed. For two decades, the number of children in the countryside had been dropping because of the one-child policy and urban migration, so the government had shuttered empty schools and created overstuffed campuses like the one at Shao Jie. Kids travelled a long way, and lived at home only on the weekends.

Throughout China, the scene on a Friday afternoon is much the same: country roads are speckled with small children walking home, usually met by aunts or grandparents since their parents have left the countryside in search of work. For most of the children in the courtyard that evening, Shao Jie would be the only school they had ever attended and would ever know. Some doubtless succumbed to financial pressures and went to work before ninth grade. Those who remained face another obstacle: the zhongkao, a high-stakes test that determines if you are part of the lucky group that continues on to what the U.S. would call high school (the Chinese word for it translates as “upper-middle school”). Growing up in rural China, a child has just a 5% chance of going to college.

There is, of course, another side of China’s education system. The most celebrated, privileged and cutting-edge schools are in Beijing, Shanghai and other booming coastal cities. A few months after my visit to Shao Jie, Shanghai schools stunned the world in 2010 when they topped the charts on a global exam known as PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment. PISA rankings compare the performance of 15-year-olds in 65 countries in math, reading and science. In the United States, the news of Shanghai’s success was reported with a tone of anxiety – the sense that a rising generation of Chinese youth would be better equipped than their American counterparts to navigate the shoals of the global economy. In a speech about education, President Obama called the rising performance of students in other countries “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” To Americans, Shanghai suddenly sounded forbiddingly impressive: every news story seemed accompanied by a photo of diligent students, seated in neat rows, wearing crisp uniforms. Occasionally, when I returned to the US, and told people that I worked on improving education in China, they asked why I was helping America’s rival “beat us.”

Locally, Madison has Long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

football-brain-october-2009.jpg News & Culture Bennet Omalu, Concussions, and the NFL: How One Doctor Changed Football Forever

Jean Marié Laskas:

On a foggy, steel gray Saturday in September 2002, Bennet Omalu arrived at the Allegheny County coroner’s office and got his assignment for the day: Perform an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster, a professional football player. Omalu did not, unlike most 34-year-old men living in a place like Pittsburgh, have an appreciation for American football. He was born in the jungles of Biafra during a Nigerian air raid, and certain aspects of American life puzzled him. From what he could tell, football was rather a pointless game, a lot of big fat guys bashing into each other. In fact, had he not been watching the news that morning, he may not have suspected anything unusual at all about the body on the slab.

The coverage that week had been bracing and disturbing and exciting. Dead at 50. Mike Webster! Nine-time Pro Bowler. Hall of Famer. “Iron Mike,” legendary Steelers center for fifteen seasons. His life after football had been mysterious and tragic, and on the news they were going on and on about it. What had happened to him? How does a guy go from four Super Bowl rings to…pissing in his own oven and squirting Super Glue on his rotting teeth? Mike Webster bought himself a Taser gun, used that on himself to treat his back pain, would zap himself into unconsciousness just to get some sleep. Mike Webster lost all his money, or maybe gave it away. He forgot. A lot of lawsuits. Mike Webster forgot how to eat, too. Soon Mike Webster was homeless, living in a truck, one of its windows replaced with a garbage bag and tape.

Campus due process

College Fix

In contrast to two thirds of Senate Democrats, who denounced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos* for rescinding previous Title IX guidance that gave short shrift to due process, two thirds of Democratic voters believe students accused of “crimes” should receive “the same civil liberties protections” in campus proceedings as they do in courts.

The YouGov survey commissioned by the Bucknell University Institute for Public Policy was conducted in mid-summer, before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos* announced three weeks ago the guidance would be rescinded and released interim guidance last week.

Too many students lack basic skills on state test; but at least one school offers hope

Alan Borsuk:

Where I really worry is the remaining portion of kids, those whose scores are described as “below basic.” In the language of the state Department of Public Instruction, that means a student “demonstrates minimal understanding of and ability to apply the knowledge and skills for their grade level that are associated with college content-readiness.” In other words, they’re really not good at these things and, frankly, probably have futures to match.

Depending on how you slice the data, the “below basic” kids come to 20% to 40% of students statewide. That’s a lot of kids.

The even bigger problem is that they are far disproportionately found in schools serving low-income students and minority students. There are, for example, several dozen schools of all kinds in Milwaukee where the “proficient” and “advanced” totals are in single digits, year after year, and where the “below basic” totals are over 60% or worse.

A couple of examples: At Auer Avenue school in the Milwaukee Public Schools system, 82.5% of students were below basic in reading and 85.3% in math. The combined proficient and advanced figure was 1.4% for each subject. A private school example: The totals for Hickman Academy, on Milwaukee’s north side, were 85% below basic in both reading and math. No students were proficient in math, and 2% were so in reading.

Bitcoin is fiat money, too What Charles Kindleberger has to say about cryptocurrencies

The Economist:

FINANCIERS with PhDs like to remind each other to “read your Kindleberger”. The rare academic who could speak fluently to bureaucrats and normal people, Charles Kindleberger designed the Marshall Plan and wrote vast economic histories worthy of Tolstoy. “Read your Kindleberger” is just a coded way of saying “don’t forget this has all happened before”. So to anyone invested in, mining or building applications for distributed ledger money such as bitcoin or ethereum: read your Kindleberger.
 Start with A Financial History of Western Europe, in which Kindleberger documents how many times merchants in different centuries figured out clever ways of doing the exact same thing. They made transactions easier, and in the process created new deposits and bills that increased the supply of money. In most cases, the Bürgermeister or the king left these innovations in place, but decided to control the supply of money and credit themselves. It is good for the king to be in charge of his own creditors. But also, it has always been tempting for private finance to create too much money. There is no evidence that money born on a distributed ledger will be clean of this sin.


K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin’s per person State taxes were $4,661, below the US average of $4,875 in 2014


Wisconsin is now 22nd highest in the country when measuring taxes against income. Because high-tax states such as New York can skew the national average upward, it’s possible for a state to fall below the national average in taxes but still rank higher than 25th.

State and local taxes in 2014 added up to $4,661 per person in Wisconsin, $214 below the national average of $4,875. On this per-capita measure, Wisconsin ranks 20th in the country, according to Jon Peacock, the research director of Kids Forward, which advocates for needy children and families.

Peacock noted that the state’s falling tax ranking hasn’t kept Wisconsin from lagging in job creation compared to other states in recent years.

“In light of the new tax ranking, I hope legislators will be less obsessed with additional tax cuts will focus instead on making the investments in education, health care and infrastructure that are critical for our state’s future economic prosperity,” Peacock said.

There’s no sign that conservative lawmakers like Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) are going to drop talk of tax cuts, however. In a statement, Stroebel said he still wanted to lower taxes on businesses and flatten the state income taxes to have the rich and the poor pay taxes at more similar rates.

Locally, the K-12 spending and tax burden continue to grow, significantly.

Is democracy really the problem?

Jan-Werner Müller:

One might think that the obvious answer to voter ignorance is education, and the answer to the more specific quandary of voter unreasonableness is perhaps some sort of civic reeducation. But the political philosopher Jason Brennan is having none of this argument. In his book Against Democracy, Brennan points to evidence that the generally rising education levels in the United States have not made citizens more knowledgeable about politics. Like many social scientists, he thinks there’s a simple explanation for why Americans remain so clueless: Ignorance is a rational choice. Since one’s individual vote has an infinitesimally small chance of actually deciding the outcome of an election, it simply isn’t worth the time and effort to bone up on policy basics—or even read the Constitution. As Brennan argues in another of his writings on the subject, democracy’s “essential flaw” is that it spreads power out widely, thereby removing any incentive for individual voters to use their own, more diffuse power wisely.

Of course, some voters seem happy to participate in the process nevertheless; they still display a passionate interest in political, and even constitutional, matters. But most of them, according to Brennan, treat politics like a spectator sport or, even worse, a brutal contact sport. The completely ignorant are what he calls “hobbits”; by contrast, those who root for one team and hate the other are “hooligans.” For hooligans, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing: They understand enough to be deeply convinced that their team is on the side of the angels and that the other side are devils (witness how 40 percent of Trump supporters in Florida thought that Hillary Clinton had literally emerged from hell). But they are incapable of rationally weighing policy options or even comprehending their own basic interests. For the hooligans, it’s all about identity.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending nearly $20,000 per student.

Keepers of the Secrets: “I was told that the most interesting man in the world works in the archives division of the New York Public Library”

James Somers:

I was told that the most interesting man in the world works in the archives division of the New York Public Library, and so I went there, one morning this summer, to meet him. My guide, who said it took her a year to learn how to get around the Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street, led us to an elevator off Astor Hall, up past the McGraw Rotunda, through a little door at the back of the Rose Main Reading Room. Our destination was Room 328.

A sign above the door called it the “Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts.” Inside, there were a handful of quiet researchers stooped at large wooden desks, and in the corner, presiding over a cart of acid-free Hollinger document boxes, was the archivist Thomas Lannon.

Lannon is younger than you’d expect, just thirty-nine years old. Clean shaven, with slacks, well-kept shoes, and a blue knit tie over a light button-down shirt, he looks less like an assistant director for manuscripts/the acting Charles J. Liebman curator of manuscripts than a high-level congressional aide. He talks with a kind of earnest intensity, and fast, with constant revisions, so that he sounds almost like a scientist who can’t quite put his discovery into words.

Having grown up in Exeter, New Hampshire, Lannon had always wanted to get to New York, the fount of his heroes (Sonic Youth, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg). But he makes a point of the undistinguished academic career that led him to the library a decade ago. He went to Bard (“a middling to decent liberal arts school”), where he first met his now-wife, also an archivist, in an early Greek philosophy class. Later, he studied library and information science at Pratt, before getting a master’s in liberal studies at The Graduate Center at CUNY.

Before he started pulling out boxes, I was asked to trade my pen for a pencil, for fear that I might get ink on the ledger from the late 1700s that came out of the first one. Lannon held it with bare hands (because gloves, I learned later, would dull his sense of how fragile a page is). The ledger belonged to Samuel Bayard, a wealthy New York landowner whose ancestors had married into the Stuyvesants, and whose estate, when he died, may have fueled the feud between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. It seemed full of accounting minutiae, Lannon said, but if you knew what you were looking for it told a story.

That was the way it was with archives. He flipped to page 19, which assessed the value of a plot of land that Bayard owned, a so-called “negro burial ground.” “Everyone talks about how in archives you find things,” Lannon said. “But this shows the moment when something disappeared.” This entry, he explained, was the last surviving reference to the burial ground, which was on land at New York City’s 1750s border near Duane and Reade streets. Shut down in the 1790s, the burial ground disappeared from popular memory, remaining known to history only through documents like this.

Lannon had a story like this for every box he showed me. In one, among administrative debris, there was an investigation by the New York Academy of Medicine into marijuana, signed in ink by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. It was the first American study to declare that the drug wasn’t addictive or dangerous. In another, there were records from the sign-making company that built what it called “spectaculars” around the city, like a Camel Cigarettes billboard in Times Square that actually blew smoke, and the New Year’s Eve ball.

In still another box, a diary from the 1840s of a sixteen-year-old girl. The July 7 entry tells of encountering Mr. Levi, a Jewish man, on her walk around the neighborhood. “This is an account of the peopling of New York, where you have a well-to-do daughter going for a walk, exploring the city, meeting someone from another background, and sort of marveling over the way they live,” Lannon said. “Mr. Levi who lived in that house wrote no books, left no records, we have no idea who he is except here he is in this diary.”

The New York Public Library’s Schwarzman building is most famous for the ornate and cavernous Rose Reading Room, now reopened after two years of restoration. The stacks under the library can hold 4 million books (the actual number in storage is lower, though no one is quite sure), which are delivered to the reading room by 950 feet of miniature rail running at 75 feet per minute.

But the real gem of the library, in Lannon’s view, is the stuff that you can find only in boxes like the ones now strewn across the table. “You can get a book anywhere,” he said. “An archive exists in one location.” The room we’re standing in is the only place that you can read, say, the week’s worth of journal entries in which New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal contemplates publishing the Pentagon Papers. It’s the only place where you can read the collected papers of Robert Moses, or a letter T.S. Eliot wrote about Ulysses to James Joyce’s Paris publisher, Sylvia Beach.

Concussions linked to academic struggles in UW-Madison students

David Wahlberg:

UW-Madison students with concussions reported 14 percent greater academic side effects than those with other kinds of injuries, a study found.

Campus researchers are now surveying Madison-area high school athletes in the weeks after they get concussions to more closely assess the educational toll.

“This is a very important time of their life, where they’re growing independent, making career decisions and planning a future,” said Traci Snedden, a UW-Madison assistant professor of nursing leading the research. “If their academic experience is affected because of their cognitive deficits, there potentially could be long-term ramifications.”

Aging Population And IQ

Sally Adee:

We’re getting stupider – and our ageing population may be to blame. Since around 1975, average IQ scores seem to have been falling. Some have attributed this to the evolutionary effect of smarter women tending to have fewer children. But new evidence suggests population-wide intelligence could in fact be sinking because people now live longer, and certain types of intelligence falter with advanced age.

For about a century, average IQ scores in wealthy nations rose in a steady and predictable way – by about three points a decade. This is thought to be thanks to improvements in social conditions like public health, nutrition and education. Since this trend – called the Flynn effect – was first noticed in the 1940s, it has been seen in many countries, from the Netherlands to Japan.

But by 2004, researchers had begun to notice what appears to be a reversal in this trend, with average IQ scores going into decline. “The drop is around 7 to 10 IQ points per century,” says Michael Woodley of the Free University of Brussels in Belgium.

Doctor, doctor … we’re suffering a glut of PhDs who can’t find academic jobs

Jonathan Wolff:

If you are taking a PhD, especially in the sciences, look away now. It may be stale news but I’ve just seen a graph from a 2010 Royal Society report suggesting that of every 200 people completing a PhD, only seven will get a permanent academic post. Only one will become a professor.

These figures may look too bad to be true, but who are we to question the Royal Society’s grasp of statistics? What, then, should we make of the calculation that so few people gaining PhDs in the sciences go on to academic careers?

Perhaps it is good news. Many will applaud the fact that there appears to be so much demand in this country for scientific researchers in the private, charity and government sectors.

The arts and humanities and the social sciences may be another matter. Other figures suggest that academic job prospects are a little better in these areas. Even so, the number of academic jobs each year in every subject is far fewer than the number of jobseekers.

Commercial Surveillance State

Matthew Crain and Anthony Nadler:

Once momentum and capital accrued, it became increasingly difficult to alter course. Historians of technology call this “path dependence,” and it highlights that the evolution of technology is always about more than technology per se. With an accommodating policy framework, surveillance was cemented as the net’s primary business model. A supporting infrastructure advanced rapidly. When Google and Facebook went on to build advertising empires in the intervening years, they relied on more than just moxie and heaps of venture capital. They also banked on the political premise that data collection would be pervasive by default, that they would be free to build the tools of mass surveillance and targeted persuasion without being held to public account. While privacy dust-ups have been perennial, a digital marketing lobby has ballooned to mitigate threats. Google is now among the nation’s biggest lobbyists and Facebook is on track to join the ranks.
 The internet’s apparent tendency to promote winner-take-all markets, combined with neoliberalism’s high tolerance for market concentration, has enabled Facebook and Google to achieve extraordinary control over the digital marketing sector. These two behemoths, increasingly recognized as an online advertising duopoly, are among the world’s leading purveyors of marketing surveillance and key platforms for political persuasion. At Facebook in particular, this incredible bottlenecking of surveillance capacity has drawn a surge of criticism regarding the company’s role in enabling political manipulation and what, if any, civic responsibilities are borne by private enterprise of such magnitude.

The REAL gender gap: Men lag in humanities, languages, graduate fields of study

Dave Huber:

For all the yammering we hear and see often in the news about “underrepresentation” of women in the areas of math and science, it seems if we’re really concerned about “getting the numbers right” we should try to get more men involved in realms such as education and health sciences.

After all, according to stats by the Council of Graduate Schools, women outnumber men in seven of eleven doctoral and master’s degree fields, as well as in total graduate school enrollment.

Men lead only in the areas of business, engineering, math/computer science, and physical/earth sciences.

Colleges Move to Close Gender Gap in Science

Melissa Korn:

Women make up more than half of students on U.S. college campuses, but receive only about two of every 10 degrees in high-paying and in-demand fields such as computer science and engineering, according to federal data.

Administrators say there is no easy fix to the mismatch, which could be key in maintaining the nation’s long-term economic strength. But recent efforts to recruit women to the hard sciences and more technical fields,…

The decline of Turkish schools

The Economist:

DAYS before the start of the new school year, Merve, an eighth-grade science teacher, is flipping through the pages of her old biology textbook. A picture of a giraffe appears, alongside a few lines about Charles Darwin. Teaching evolution in a predominantly Muslim country where six out of ten people refer to themselves as creationists, according to a 2010 study, has never been easy. As of today it is no longer possible. A new curriculum has scrapped all references to Darwin and evolution. Such subjects, the head of Turkey’s board of education said earlier this summer, were “beyond the comprehension” of young students. Merve says her hands are now tied. “There’s no way we can talk about evolution.”

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has made clear on more than one occasion that he would like to bring up a “pious generation” of young Turks. He has made plenty of headway. The education ministry, says Feray Aytekin Aydogan, the head of a leftist teachers’ union, is working more closely than ever with Islamic NGOs and with the directorate of religious affairs. Attendance at so-called imam hatip schools, used to train Muslim preachers, has shot up from about 60,000 in 2002 to over 1.1m, or about a tenth of all public-school students. The government recently reduced the minimum population requirement for areas where such schools are allowed to open from 50,000 to 5,000. An earlier reform lowered the age at which children can enter them from 14 to ten.

Study: Genetics explain most cases of autism

Randy Dotinga::

Heredity contributes to about 83 percent of the risk of autism in children with the disorder, a new study suggests.

The estimate, from a re-analysis of a previous study, adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate over how much autism is inherited from parents. Essentially, the findings suggest that rare genetic traits combine in parents and explain about eight in 10 cases of the neurodevelopmental disorder in children.

Teacher Hold ’Em in Nevada, as Fractious Union and Its Largest Local Trade Lawsuits

Mike Antonucci:

he Clark County Education Association, representing 10,000 teachers who work for the Las Vegas schools, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against its parent affiliate, the Nevada State Education Association, alleging a breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.
Soon after, NSEA and the National Education Association filed a countersuit also charging of breach of contract, as well as unjust enrichment and fraud.
The dueling lawsuits are just the latest in a long series of conflicts between NSEA and its locals, particularly Clark County, whose membership comprises almost half of NSEA’s total. I questioned the outlook for the Nevada union’s survival last March, and now a crisis appears imminent.
The Clark County lawsuit details the timeline of its deteriorating relationship with NSEA and lays out what the local union wants.

Timeline: The marches that made history


DEC. 9, 1965
Gov. Warren Knowles signs an open housing law that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing. The law, a watered-down version of a measure proposed by Rep. Lloyd Barbee and other lawmakers, exempts owner-occupied properties with four or fewer units – leaving out the overwhelming majority of the housing stock in Milwaukee’s central city.

Hiding in Plain Sight? The “Right to Be Forgotten” and Search Engines in the Context of International Data Protection Frameworks

Krzysztof Kornel Garstka and David Erdos:

In the wake of the Google Spain (2014) and debate on the “right to be forgotten”, now included in the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it has become widely recognised that data protection law within the EU/EEA grants individuals a qualified right to have personal data relating to them deindexed from search engines. At the same time, however, this outcome has at times been conceptualised as a uniquely EU/EEA phenomena, perhaps even resulting from one idiosyncratic CJEU judgment. This paper questions such a conceptualisation. Through an analysis of five major extra-EU/EEA international data protection instruments, it argues that most of these could on a reasonable interpretation be read as supporting a Google Spain-like result. Further, and in light of the serious threats faced by individuals as a result of the public processing of data relating to them, it argues that the time is ripe for a broader process of international discussion and consensus-building on the “right to be forgotten”. Such an exercise should not be limited to generalised search engines (which undoubtedly raise some uniquely challenging interpretative conundrums within data protection), but should also encompass other actors including social networking sites, video-sharing platforms and rating websites.

Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Mandatory Fees to Unions

Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a case that could deal a crushing blow to organized labor.

It was one of 11 cases the justices added to the court’s docket from the roughly 2,000 petitions seeking review that had piled up during the court’s summer break.

In the labor case, the court will consider whether public-sector unions may require workers who are not members to help pay for collective bargaining. If the court’s answer is no, unions would probably lose a substantial source of revenue.

The question was before the justices last year in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and they seemed poised to rule against the unions when the case was argued in January 2016. But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia the next month resulted in a 4-to-4 deadlock.

Social media terms ‘jargon-busted’ for teens: “found that most children do not understand the agreements they sign when they create social media accounts”

Alli Shultes::

A set of jargon-busting guides that teach children about their rights on social media sites has been published.
 Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and YouTube had “not done enough” to clarify their policies.
 She simplified the websites’ terms and conditions with privacy law firm Schillings.
 But Instagram said the simplified version of its terms contained “a number of inaccuracies”.
 The slimmed-down guides are a response to the Commissioner’s Growing Up Digital report, which found that most children do not understand the agreements they sign when they create social media accounts.
 All the sites require children to be over 13 to create an account.

Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data says

Heather Long & Tracy Jan:

Nearly all American families saw substantial gains in wealth from 2013 to 2016, according to new data released Wednesday from the Federal Reserve, a sign the recovery is picking up.

African-Americans and Hispanic families and people without college degrees had the fastest rise in wealth, a sign that the economic gains are finally spreading to all Americans. Economists say it’s an encouraging sign that the economic gains are finally spreading to all Americans. It’s a marked shift from the period between 2010 and 2013, when wealth feel for all racial and ethnic groups except whites.

“We’re glad the recovery is spreading to a lot of households,” Fed economists said Wednesday. The Fed does its Survey of Consumer Finances every three years, surveying over 6,200 households about their pay, debt, home ownership, stock holdings and other financial assets. It’s considered one of the deepest dives into the total net worth of American families.

Madison has long spent more than most on it’s government/taxpayer funded K-12 schools.

Why Do Some Americans Speak So Confidently When They Have No Clue What They’re Talking About?

Bruce Levine:

The Harvard Business School information session on how to be a good class participant instructs, “Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55 percent, say it as if you believe it 100 percent,” Susan Cain reported in her bestselling book Quiet. At HBS, Cain noticed, “If a student talks often and forcefully, then he’s a player; if he doesn’t, he’s on the margins.”

Cain observed that the men at HBS “look like people who expect to be in charge…. I have the feeling that if you asked one of them for driving directions, he’d greet you with a can-do smile and throw himself into the task of helping you to your destination — whether or not he knew the way.”

Exceptionally Preserved Ancient Ships Discovered in the Black Sea

Jason Daily:

After three field seasons, the Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project is drawing to a close, but the things the team has discovered on the sea floor will keep researchers busy for a generation. Over the course of the expedition, researchers found 60 incredibly well-preserved ships from the medieval, Roman, Byzantine and ancient Greek eras, which are rewriting what historians know about ancient trade and shipbuilding reports Damien Sharkov at Newsweek.

The project, begun in 2015, wasn’t originally about finding ancient ships. According to a press release, the team set out to use remote operated vehicles laser scanners to map the floor of the Black Sea off Bulgaria to learn more about the changing environment of the region and fluctuations in sea level since the last glacier cycle. But they couldn’t help but locate ships too. Last year, they found 44 ancient vessels during their survey representing 2,500 years of history. “The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys,” Jon Adams, principle investigator and director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology, said at the time.

Public school districts are so ‘democratic’ and accountable that they sue parents for asking too many questions

Citizen Stewart:

Kim Sordyl is a school district’s worst nightmare. A mother of two public school students, a fierce activist, and a former litigator with sharp investigative skills, Sordyl has become a one-woman-wrecking-crew cutting through attempts to hide critical information from the public.

Say her name in Portland and any employee of the Portland Public Schools should know who she is. Her relentless social media campaigns targeted at the PPS have successfully revealed borderline corruption, problems with district staff, eyebrow-raising business deals, and unexplained financial waste.

10 Types of Study Bias

Patrick Kiger::

A patient fills in a questionnaire and sleep diary before undergoing a polysomnography at a sleep center in Switzerland. What are some biasess scientists need to be aware of when conducting studies? AMELIE-BENOIST /BSIP/Getty Images

Arrhythmia, an irregular rhythm of the heart, is common during and soon after a heart attack and can lead to early death. That’s why when anti-arrhythmia drugs became available in the early 1980s, they seemed like a major life-saving breakthrough [source: Freedman].

The problem, though, was that although small-scale trials showed that the drugs stopped arrhythmia, the drugs didn’t actually save lives. Instead, as larger-scale studies showed, patients who received such treatments were one-third less likely to survive. Researchers had focused on stopping arrhythmia as a measure of effectiveness rather than on the problem that they were trying to solve, which was preventing deaths [sources: Freedman, Hampton].

Privacy implications of email tracking

Steven Englehardt, Jeffrey Han and Arvind Narayanan:

We show that the simple act of viewing emails contains privacy pitfalls for the unwary. We assembled a corpus of commercial mailing-list emails, and find a network of hundreds of third parties that track email recipients via methods such as embedded pixels. About 30% of emails leak the recipient’s email address to one or more of these third parties when they are viewed. In the majority of cases, these leaks are intentional on the part of email senders, and further leaks occur if the recipi- ent clicks links in emails. Mail servers and clients may employ a variety of defenses, but we analyze 16 servers and clients and find that they are far from comprehen- sive. We propose, prototype, and evaluate a new defense, namely stripping tracking tags from emails based on en- hanced versions of existing web tracking protection lists.

Linking the Wisconsin Forward Assessments to NWEA MAP Growth Tests*

NWEA.org (PDF):

The results in Table 5 demonstrate that MAP reading scores can consistently classify students’ proficiency (Level 3 or higher) status on Forward ELA test 81-83% of the time and MAP math scores can consistently classify students on Forward math test 86-88% of the time. Those numbers are high suggesting that both MAP reading and math tests are great predictors of students’ proficiency status on the Forward tests.”

Much more, here on the 2017 “Wisconsin Forward Assessments“.

Commentary on academic outcomes and nondiverse K-12 governance

Catherine McKiernan:

But changing that system, DeVos insisted, should be up to states and not the federal government and that Washington needs to “get out of the way.”

“States are different, families are dynamic and children are unique,” the U.S. education secretary added. “Each should be free to pursue different avenues that lead each child to his or (her) fullest future.”

DeVos spoke as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance conference on “The Future of School Choice: Helping Students Succeed.”

Commentary on College Tuition Price Theory

Frank WU:

At last, as evidenced by more colleges and universities performing a tuition reset, higher education leaders are awakening to the threat of tuition discounting. The increasing rates by which many institutions have had to cut what they wish to charge students should be cause for public concern. On more than one campus, the overall discount rate has surpassed 50 percent on a sharp trajectory, compared to levels less than half that in recent memory.

The situation is alarming for two independent reasons. First, colleges and universities, even those proclaiming a commitment to diversity, are leaving behind disadvantaged students for their own rise in rankings. Second, they are imperiling their continued existence by reducing revenues to sums below sustainability. Even administrators and board members who are indifferent to accessibility should care about bankruptcy. Tuition discounting is like other bets against the future — heavily against the odds.

Tuition discounting has been around for some time. But it is being used for very different purposes than previously. Tuition discounting is the practice, on a significant scale, of advertising a list price for enrollment and offering deals that reduce that amount for select students. It is akin to other forms of differential pricing and dynamic pricing, responsive to supply and demand in the marketplace.

Related: Financial aid leveraging.

The Mathematics of 2048: Counting States with Combinatorics


In my last 2048 post, I found that it takes at least 938.8 moves on average to win a game of 2048. The main simplification that enabled that calculation was to ignore the structure of the board — essentially to throw the tiles into a bag instead of placing them on a board. With the ‘bag’ simplification, we were able to model the game as a Markov chain with only 3486 distinct states.

In this post, we’ll make a first cut at counting the number of states without the bag simplification. That is, in this post a state captures the complete configuration of the board by specifying which tile, if any, is in each of the board’s cells. We would therefore expect there to be a lot more states of this kind, now that the positions of the tiles (and cells without tiles) are included, and we will see that this is indeed the case.

To do so, we will use some (simple) techniques from enumerative combinatorics to exclude some states that we can write down but which can’t actually occur in the game, such as the one above. The results will also apply to 2048-like games played on different boards (not just 4×4) and up to different tiles (not just the 2048 tile). We’ll see that such games on smaller boards and/or to smaller tiles have far fewer states than the full 4×4 game to 2048, and that the techniques used here are relatively much more effective at reducing the estimated number of states when the board size is small. As a bonus, we’ll also see that the 4×4 board is the smallest square board on which it is possible to reach the 2048 tile.

The (research quality) code behind this article is open source, in case you would like to see the implementation or code for the plots.

I asked Tinder for my data. It sent me 800 pages of my deepest, darkest secrets

Judith Duportail

The dating app has 800 pages of information on me, and probably on you too if you are also one of its 50 million users. In March I asked Tinder to grant me access to my personal data. Every European citizen is allowed to do so under EU data protection law, yet very few actually do, according to Tinder.

With the help of privacy activist Paul-Olivier Dehaye from personaldata.io and human rights lawyer Ravi Naik, I emailed Tinder requesting my personal data and got back way more than I bargained for.

Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook “likes”, my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened … the list goes on.

More Americans Are Falling Behind on Student Loans, and Nobody Quite Knows Why

Shahid Nasiripour:

More student debtors are falling behind on their federal student loans, after three years of declines in late payments—and with no clear explanation, experts aren’t sure whether to take it as a sign of distress or a temporary blip.

The share of Americans at least 31 days late on loans from the U.S. Department of Education ticked up to 18.8 percent as of June 30, up from 18.6 percent the same time last year, new federal data show 1 . About 3.3 million Americans have gone more than a month without making a required payment on their Education Department loans—up about 320,000 borrowers. 2

The rise interrupts a period of 12 straight quarters of declines in delinquency rates, according to numbers dating to 2013, and comes despite the fact that the U.S. economy has improved, which normally would mean richer borrowers better able to afford their bills.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Lee Ann Stephens:

Three truths I wish I’d known as a first-year teacher.

I walked into my first official day in the classroom as an idealistic twenty something with some innate skills, a boatload of ambition, and a newly minted teaching degree from a program that did its best to school me on theory and practice. But what I couldn’t have known, and what my teacher training program didn’t completely prepare me for, was how much I’d have to learn on the job. When it came time for me to turn the teaching theories I’d learned into real, boots on the ground results, I was in for a schooling of a new kind. I call those early months in the classroom my “Fumbling Through” era.

Now nearly three decades later, my rookie learning curve is ancient history. I’ve taught a wide range of subject areas from first grade to high school, and I help other classroom teachers address the racial disparities in education in my current job as a racial equity coach. But even today, I still think about those first days of my career and can’t help but wonder: Can we do better to set new teachers up for success? What skills would have been good to have in my teaching toolbox as I was getting my sea legs?

So many new words it’s not even funny: an OED update


The September 2017 quarterly update of the Oxford English Dictionary includes more than 1,000 new headwords, senses, and subentries. The full list of new entries can be found here.

Not all words that are new to the dictionary are new in the sense of being recent additions to the English language itself. Many additions are ancient and obsolete, but they contribute to the OED’s mission of recording the millennium-long history of English. One evocative obsolete word in the new update is the verb afound meaning ‘to become numb or stiff with cold’, an Anglo-Norman loanword used by Chaucer. Another is through-smite (‘to pierce or run through, as with a spear or other pointed weapon’), which was used by John Gower and William Caxton, among others. By the 19th century, through-smite was only in self-consciously poetic or archaic use, and by the early 20th century it had fallen out of use altogether.

Emails Show How An Ivy League Prof Tried To Do Damage Control For His Bogus Food Science

Stephanie Lee:

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, a $22 million federally funded program that pushes healthy-eating strategies in almost 30,000 schools, is partly based on studies that contained flawed — or even missing — data.

The main scientist behind the work, Cornell University professor Brian Wansink, has made headlines for his research into the psychology of eating. His experiments have found, for example, that women who put cereal on their kitchen counters weigh more than those who don’t, and that people will pour more wine if they’re holding the glass than if it’s sitting on a table. Over the past two decades he’s written two popular books and more than 100 research papers, and enjoyed widespread media coverage (including on BuzzFeed).

Yet over the past year, Wansink and his “Food and Brand Lab” have come under fire from scientists and statisticians who’ve spotted all sorts of red flags — including data inconsistencies, mathematical impossibilities, errors, duplications, exaggerations, eyebrow-raising interpretations, and instances of self-plagiarism — in 50 of his studies.

Education Isn’t the Key to a Good Income

Rachel Cohen:

One of the most commonly taught stories American schoolchildren learn is that of Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger’s 19th-century tale of a poor, ambitious teenaged boy in New York City who works hard and eventually secures himself a respectable, middle-class life. This “rags to riches” tale embodies one of America’s most sacred narratives: that no matter who you are, what your parents do, or where you grow up, with enough education and hard work, you too can rise the economic ladder.

A body of research has since emerged to challenge this national story, casting the United States not as a meritocracy but as a country where castes are reinforced by factors like the race of one’s childhood neighbors and how unequally income is distributed throughout society. One such study was published in 2014, by a team of economists led by Stanford’s Raj Chetty. After analyzing federal income tax records for millions of Americans, and studying, for the first time, the direct relationship between a child’s earnings and that of their parents, they determined that the chances of a child growing up at the bottom of the national income distribution to ever one day reach the top actually varies greatly by geography. For example, they found that a poor child raised in San Jose, or Salt Lake City, has a much greater chance of reaching the top than a poor child raised in Baltimore, or Charlotte. They couldn’t say exactly why, but they concluded that five correlated factors—segregation, family structure, income inequality, local school quality, and social capital—were likely to make a difference. Their conclusion: America is land of opportunity for some. For others, much less so.

The price of incivility

Christine Porath and Christine Pearson :

We studied this phenomenon with the USC marketing professors Debbie MacInnis and Valerie Folkes. In one experiment, half the participants witnessed a supposed bank representative publicly reprimanding another for incorrectly presenting credit card information. Only 20% of those who’d seen the encounter said that they would use the bank’s services in the future, compared with 80% of those who hadn’t. And nearly two-thirds of those who’d seen the exchange said that they would feel anxious dealing with any employee of the bank.
 What’s more, when we tested various scenarios, we found that it didn’t matter whether the targeted employee was incompetent, whether the reprimand had been delivered behind closed doors (but overheard), or whether the employee had done something questionable or illegal, such as park in a handicapped spot. Regardless of the circumstances, people don’t like to see others treated badly.

Survey: Just A Quarter Of Americans Can Name All 3 Branches Of Government

Daniel Steingold:

A sizable portion of the American public seems to show little interest in the fabric of the country’s government and history, a new survey finds.

Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) surveyed over 1,000 American adults, finding a shocking lack of knowledge as it pertains to U.S. politics among the general populace.
United States Constitution
In a new survey of American adults, just a quarter were able to name all three branches of the federal government, while 37% couldn’t name a single right protected by First Amendment.

Fifty-three percent of respondents believed the falsehood that illegal immigrants aren’t granted any constitutional rights, while 37 percent couldn’t even name a single right endowed by the First Amendment.

Thankfully, 48 percent of those surveyed were able to identify freedom of speech as being a right enshrined by the First Amendment, although far fewer could identify other rights accorded.

These include freedom of religion (15 percent), freedom of the press (14 percent), right of peaceful assembly (10 percent), and right to petition the government (three percent).

“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release. “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”

Superintendent Chris Cerf on returning Newark Public Schools to local control

Elena Knopp, via a kind reader:

For the last 22 years, Newark’s Board of Education has served in an advisory capacity, with it’s power to make decisions severely diminished by a state-appointed superintendent.

But earlier this month, the state’s Board of Education voted unanimously to hand back control to Newark’s elected Board of Education, a decision that has served to usher in a new era of pride, determination and autonomy.

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Newark Public Schools will now work in close partnership with the state, with a full transition plan expected within the next few months.

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf — likely the last state-appointed superintendent of Newark — took the helm of the district in 2015 after what many call a disastrous run with former school superintendent Cami Anderson, an appointee of Governor Chris Christie who ultimately resigned eight months before her contract expired.

Appointed in 2011, Anderson alienated many parents with the implementation of universal enrollment reorganization plan One Newark, which resulted in school closings, mass firings and months of contentious public board meetings.

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