Assessing charter schools’ impact on districts is too important to get wrong

Robin Lake:

Several months ago I critiqued a report by Dr. Gordon Lafer that was published by In the Public Interest (ITPI), a think tank that has long been critical of charter schools and recently helped rally supporters of a five-year moratorium on new charters. Unfortunately, the report continues to inform policy deliberations in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom has tasked a commission to study charter school policy changes.

Lafer’s methodology, which has not been peer-reviewed, measures the budget impact of closing local charter schools on three hypothetical school district budgets. It makes several flawed assumptions that result in unsupported conclusions.

The study assumes that without charter schools, all the charter students within district boundaries would attend that district’s schools. Then it assumes that the district’s new tax revenue connected to those new students would exceed the cost of educating them, resulting in an improved financial picture for the district.

The questionable assumptions don’t end there.

Journalism’s dependence on part-time freelancers has been bad for the industry—not to mention writers like me.

Jacob Silverman:

In 2009, in the paranoid middle days of the recession, I enacted a boomerang-child stereotype: I moved back home into my parents’ basement. Raised in privilege (son of lawyers, private schools, no college debt), I treated the move as a minor humiliation justified by the conditions of the times. Aside from the basement’s tendency to flood during the rare Los Angeles rainstorm, it was a fine setup, a linoleum warren of adolescent artifacts and piles of books that I ordered from eBay when stoned late at night. I worked a handful of freelance gigs—Hebrew school teacher, content farm contributor—applied for jobs, and wrote book reviews, the journalistic entry point for many young writers. On weekends I drank with my better-heeled friends and crashed at their apartments. A brighter era, I assumed, was yet to come.

One morning, I got what seemed to be a job offer from an editor at a literary magazine for which I had been writing. It was, and remains, the only time I’d been offered a full-time job in journalism. The exact contours of the offer were vague, but it involved my spending at least a few months going through the magazine’s archives and writing a kind of institutional history featuring one of the magazine’s early editors, a folklorist and general eccentric. I had graduated from college three years earlier. I had no entrepreneurial ability, an overriding fear that the economy would degrade into a more overt form of barbarism, and a desperate worship of all things intellectual. I emailed back, eagerly accepting the offer.

I spent days and then weeks sweating the editor’s response. A social coward, I debated with my parents the propriety of calling this tiny literary magazine’s office in an effort to reach the editor. It seemed like the most important thing in the world. Later I got over myself, placed the call, and talked to the magazine’s managing editor. He told me that the editor was traveling in southern California, not far from where I lived. I wrote the editor, offered to talk to him, drive to meet him, whatever was needed. I was ready to move across the country for this project. He didn’t respond to my messages.

Now the editor is a celebrated investigative journalist. I still haven’t gotten a job in journalism, and sometimes, I feel like I haven’t left that basement.

Civics: San Francisco Police Raid on Journalist’s Home Has Grave First Amendment Implications

Billy Binion:

When San Francisco police arrived at journalist Bryan Carmody’s apartment last week, they smashed the building’s gate with a sledgehammer, placed him in handcuffs, and raided his home with guns drawn.

They left with his notebooks, computers, phones, and various other electronic devices, as well as a police report on the death of Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender.

“I knew what they wanted,” said Carmody in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “They wanted the name.”

That is, they wanted the name of the person who leaked the police report to Carmody, who then sold it to three local news outlets. His company, North Bay News, tracks stories overnight and sells the resulting footage and information to television stations for their round-the-clock coverage.

Agents had attempted to identify his source several weeks prior; Carmody says he “politely” declined to provide it. The department then sought warrants for the raid, raising serious First Amendment concerns around Carmody’s protections as a journalist.

Harvard’s Disgrace

Mark Pulliam:

Utopian social movements often degenerate into unruly—and sometimes vicious—mobs. During the French Revolution, the slogan “liberty, equality, fraternity” quickly led to the guillotine as the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror. We are witnessing a softer version of this at Harvard, America’s most elite university, where Ronald Sullivan, an African-American law professor, faces professional retribution for the sin of representing a (presumed innocent) client (Harvey Weinstein) accused of sexual assault. Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz denounced the incident as “The new McCarthyism comes to Harvard.”

Capitulating to the noisy complaints of a small number of undergraduates, and a sit-in protest at the dining hall, the Harvard administration recently announced that, effective June 30, Sullivan and his wife, Stephanie Robinson (who likewise teaches at Harvard Law School), would be removed as “faculty deans” at the school’s Winthrop House—a student residence where Sullivan and Robinson also lived. (Sullivan remains as a law professor.) When appointed as residential deans in 2009, Sullivan and Robinson were the first African-Americans to hold that position at Harvard, according to The Harvard Crimson. The decision to remove Sullivan and Robinson was made by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who had reportedly joined the students’ sit-in protest, dubbed “Reclaim Winthrop.”

Students absurdly charged that Sullivan’s representation of a criminal defendant charged with sexual assault—by itself—made them feel upset, and contributed to an unsafe and hostile educational environment. Never mind that procedural due process (including the right of criminal defendants to zealous representation) is a critical tenet of the Anglo-American legal system, and that criminal law professors have long practiced criminal defense on the side, without controversy. Never mind that Sullivan previously represented other high-profile clients without incident, including accused terrorists and former New England Patriots tight-end Aaron Hernandez in his 2017 double murder trial. That was then.

The #MeToo movement sweeps away such precedents as inconvenient impediments to achieving a higher state of virtue, just as the Robespierre-led Committee of Public Safety eliminated many “enemies of the people.” It is tempting to ignore the horrors of the French Revolution, or to dismiss them as an aberration of history, but then—as now—idealistic reformers believed with moral certainty in the righteousness of their cause.

“High school math scores signal success”


“This is the Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin report — it’s the empirical evidence of that,” he added, referencing the college admissions bribery scandal, which has busted the notion that premier universities were admitting all students on the basis of merit alone.

Huffman pleaded guilty this month to fraud conspiracy. Loughlin and her husband pleaded not guilty.

Study followed kindergartners from 1989

The new study is unusual for its breadth and depth. Four researchers at Georgetown combined national data sets to follow the school and career trajectories of a representative sample of students in public and private schools.

They started with a group of kindergartners in the 1989-90 school year and tracked students through high school, college and into the labor market.

The researchers studied students’ test scores, college enrollment and attainment, and the prestige of their occupation, if they secured one.

The findings challenged the notion that America’s K-12 education system is a great equalizer. For example, nearly 40% of low-income kindergartners still had a low socioeconomic status by adulthood.

Researchers also found the achievement gap was already well established in kindergarten. Starting out, 74% of the wealthiest kindergarten students scored in the top half of the scale in math, compared to 23% of the poorest kindergartners.

As the students grew up, both groups — higher income and low income — wobbled academically, but wealthier students were more likely to rebound.

“When the high-scoring poor kids inevitably stumbled, their scores were more likely to decline and then stay low over time,” the study said.

High school math scores signal future success

Carnavale said research has shown that higher-income students have built-in family and economic supports that help them to recover. For example, affluent families spend about five times as much on enrichment activities for their children compared to low-income families.

Some good news: Across all racial and ethnic groups, students from disadvantaged families with top-half math scores in high school were more likely to obtain a good entry-level job as an adult.

Related: 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math.

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

President Trump, Come to Willmar

Tom Friedman, via a kind message:

The teaching challenge is huge — between Guatemalan, Honduran, Karen and Somali refugees, explained Schmitz, there are dozens of students in the high school who have had very little schooling, and none in English. They are known by the acronym Slife, for Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education. And recently many minors have arrived from Central America without parents and are living with relatives or family friends.

To ease their way, Schmitz said, Spanish-speaking and Somali-speaking cultural liaisons work with teachers, students and parents, so families can learn how to advocate for their kids, what the rules are and just how the local culture works. (The Somali liaison is a graduate of the high school.) Some students take seven years to get though grades nine to 12.

And for those who still can’t graduate by age 21, said Schmitz, “we work with them on job placement — what could you do in this community to help you support your family.” Willmar Goodwill Industries created a full-time position that helps find employment for students with disabilities and those aging out of high school without a degree.

Willmar spent $57,572,869 for 4,244 students during the 2018-2019 school year, about $13,562 per student. Madison spends 33% to 50% more, depending on the published numbers one uses….

Commentary on a proposed 2020 Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Increase Referendum

Logan Wroge:

If voters were to approve a $150 million referendum, the owner of a $300,000 house — near the median-value home in the district of $294,833 — could have their property taxes increase by $93 annually, according to district estimates.

A larger referendum of $280 million is estimated to raise property taxes on a $300,000 house by $159 annually.

If a $280 million referendum were approved, the Madison School District’s debt, excluding interest payments, would be $357 million, according to the district.

The district projects its debt as a percentage of the total tax base value under a successful $280 million at 1.3% — estimated to be the third lowest out of 15 Dane County school districts.

Currently, the Madison School District has $77 million in debt, which ranks last out of the 15 districts for debt as a percentage of total tax base value, according to the district.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts.

Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Interestingly, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools, despite space at nearby facilities

2010: Madison School Board member calls for audit of 2005 maintenance referendum spending.

Madison’s property tax base has grown significantly during the past few years, curiously following the unprecedented $40B+ federal taxpayer electronic medical record subsidy….

Civics: Dallas Has Now Lost 82 Cases Against Robert Groden. Someone Call Guinness.

Jim Schutze:

It’s sort of remarkable, is it not, almost as if they have a small research team somewhere in the city attorney’s office. Twice a year someone tells them, “Scour the books for something Groden isn’t doing wrong so we can charge him with it and get ourselves kicked out of court again.”

Kizzia is a major piece of the puzzle here, having stuck by Groden over many years. It was Kizzia’s cross-examination in the federal civil rights case that elicited damning testimony from a Dallas police officer. He confessed that he and his superiors knew Groden had broken no law when they jailed him six years ago.

When the arresting officer reported to his superior that Groden had been forced to go without prescribed medications in jail all night, the superior officer praised him for a job well done.

The battle between Dallas City Hall and Groden probably is not well known within our municipal borders, because the city’s only daily newspaper and other major media here have given it scant attention. But beyond our borders, the story grows. Last year Dutch documentarian Kasper Verkaik debuted his film about Groden and Dallas City Hall, Plaza Man, which has since been well received in international festivals. (Dallas City Hall is not the hero.) And in the online universe, the saga of Groden and Dallas City Hall has become Kennedy assassination equivalent of a Mexican corrido ballad.

Dallas did beat Kizzia in one round. In federal district court here, former federal District Judge Royal Ferguson ruled that Groden could not sue the city because he was unable to identify the top-most city official originally responsible for the campaign of persecution against him. But the appeals court tossed Ferguson’s ruling and sent the case back to Dallas for a fresh trial with the city as a defendant.

Watching Harvard, My Alma Mater, Surrender to the Mob

Kaveh Shahrooz:

On Saturday, Harvard University announced that it would not be permitting law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. to stay on as faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate residence where he has served in that position since 2009 (along with his wife Stephanie R. Robinson, who also teaches at Harvard Law School). When I heard news of this, my mind rushed back to a guided tour I’d once taken of Boston’s Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile path that features numerous historical landmarks, including the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s home and Bunker Hill Monument. At the time, I’d just arrived from Canada as a student at Harvard Law School. And I was eager to bring myself up to speed on America’s revolutionary history.

The most memorable story I heard during that tour was of a young John Adams, a future U.S. president, successfully defending Thomas Preston, a Captain of a redcoat British regiment who’d been accused of ordering the aforementioned massacre after British soldiers were hit with rocks and snowballs. When the administration of Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson put Preston and his men on trial, Adams agreed to serve as defence counsel, despite the fact he’d already staked out a reputation as a leading Patriot. Years later, he would declare that “the part I took in defence of [Captain] Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or witches.”

The story of Adams fighting to ensure that even his enemy’s rights were protected has special resonance for lawyers and law students, because it portrays the noble side of a profession that often is shown in a less than heroic manner. More broadly, the story reflects America’s larger, evolving national project of creating a democratic society in which popular passions would be tempered by the rule of law. Central to that project are due process and the right of all accused persons to zealous legal representation. It is ironic that these foundational principles should be forgotten by a place such as Harvard, from which Adams himself graduated in 1755.

Activists want a San Francisco high school mural removed, saying its impact today should overshadow the artist’s intentions

Amna Khalid:

For nearly a century, a massive mural by painter Victor Arnautoff titled “The Life of Washington” has lined the hallways of San Francisco’s George Washington High School.

It may not be there much longer.

The mural “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy [and] oppression.” So said Washington High School’s Reflection and Action Group, an ad-hoc committee formed late last year and made up of Native Americans from the community, students, school employees, local artists and historians.

It identified two panels as especially offensive. One shows Washington pointing westward next to the body of a dead Native American. The other depicts slaves working in the fields of Mount Vernon.

Because the work “traumatizes students and community members,” the group concluded that “the impact of this mural is greater than its intent ever was.” They are campaigning for its removal.

The idea that impact matters more than intention has informed debates about everything from microaggressions to cultural appropriation.

But when it comes to art, should impact matter more than intention?

The coming war on general-purpose computing

Cory Doctorow:

General-purpose computers are astounding. They’re so astounding that our society still struggles to come to grips with them, what they’re for, how to accommodate them, and how to cope with them. This brings us back to something you might be sick of reading about: copyright.

But bear with me, because this is about something more important. The shape of the copyright wars clues us into an upcoming fight over the destiny of the general-purpose computer itself.

In the beginning, we had packaged software and we had sneakernet. We had floppy disks in ziplock bags, in cardboard boxes, hung on pegs in shops, and sold like candy bars and magazines. They were eminently susceptible to duplication, were duplicated quickly, and widely, and this was to the great chagrin of people who made and sold software.

‘FBI Investigates Controversial Voucher Vote’

Laura Baigert:

However, the NewsChannel 5 story fails to identify any sources upon which it relied to make these bold assertions about a purported FBI investigation into “whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.” The story simply states “NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned,” and “NewsChannel 5 has learned.”

The NewsChannel 5 story implies knowledge that could only come from the FBI itself or from Tennessee lawmakers purportedly “interviewed” by “FBI agents . . . about whether whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.”

But, as is standard process, the FBI has neither confirmed nor denied that any such investigation is under way.

Elizabeth Clement-Webb, Public Affairs Officer at the FBI’s Memphis field office, told The Star that the FBI could not confirm nor deny an investigation, as NewsChannel 5 also reported.

Ms. Clement-Webb also clarified that the FBI cannot even comment as to whether a request for an investigation has been made, who initiated a request or how a request for investigation was made, such as a phone call, email or regular mail.

The NewsChannel 5 story fails to identify by name a single Tennessee lawmaker who confirms he or she has been interviewed by the FBI “about whether any improper incentives were offered to pass Gov. Bill Lee’s school vouchers bill.”

In Florida, vouchers win ground, but courts may have ultimate say

Patrick Jonsson:

Chikara Parks is a registered Democrat and a “huge fan of public schools.” The single mom of four school-aged children is also a fan of vouchers.

Ms. Parks, who is African American, has, with the help of Florida’s tax credit scholarship for families with limited resources, parlayed her children’s struggle in public schools to success at two private schools, Mount Zion Christian Academy and Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg.

The choice and autonomy have been empowering, she says, for her children – and for herself as a single mom. “It’s hard for some people to know their worth and know what they are able to do [for their kids],” she says by phone. “Vouchers help parents to understand that and be more heard, and that is an amazing thing.”

Ms. Parks has become an outspoken advocate for a growing constituency across the U.S. and specifically in Florida, where a constitutional battle over the approach is brewing.

On Thursday Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that expands the state’s use of vouchers, which allow taxpayer dollars to fund tuition at private and religious schools. The legislation creates 18,000 new vouchers with a ceiling of $77,250 of household income per year – firmly middle class in a state with low taxes and a low cost of living.

Madison has largely rejected diverse K-12 governance. This despite spending far more than most while tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

The History and Results of America’s Disastrous Public School System,

Mike Margeson and Justin Spears:

The problem is the monopoly that schooling has gained over education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 97 percent of kids go through traditional schooling (as opposed to homeschooling or unschooling), and just over 90 percent of those attend government schools. That is to say, there is basically one accepted way to educate kids today: school them.

Given the relatively poor performance of American students on international achievement tests, you would think schooling might receive a second look. Quite the opposite, actually. It is instead made mandatory, and taxpayers are forced to subsidize it. This begs the question: Why would the government continue to propagate a system that produces such questionable results? The answer lies in their motives, and their motives are best understood by reviewing a brief history of compulsory schooling.

Roots in Germany

The earliest ancestor to our system of government-mandated schooling comes from 16th-century Germany. Martin Luther was a fierce advocate for state-mandated public schooling, not because he wanted kids to become educated, but because he wanted them to become educated in the ways of Lutheranism. Luther was resourceful and understood the power of the state in his quest to reform Jews, Catholics, and other non-believers. No less significant was fellow reformist John Calvin, who also advocated heavily for forced schooling. Calvin was particularly influential among the later Puritans of New England (Rothbard, 1979).

Considering compulsory schooling has such deep roots in Germany, it should be no surprise that the precursor to our American government school system came directly from the German state of Prussia. In 1807, fresh off a humiliating defeat by the French during the War of the Fourth Coalition, the Germans instituted a series of vast, sweeping societal reforms. Key within this movement was education reform, and one of the most influential educational reformers in Germany at the time was a man named Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Like Luther before him, Fichte saw compulsory schooling as a tool to indoctrinate kids, not educate them. Fichte describes his aim for Germany’s “new education” this way:

US National Teacher Union Reviews State Charter Statutes

National Education Association:

Points were tallied and converted into letter grades using a total of 100 potential points and a traditional A – F scale. Only six state statutes garnered enough points to avoid an “F,” and all of those were “D” grades except for Maryland (“B-“) and Tennessee (“C-“). To better distinguish among the statutes, the large majority of which simply failed to meet NEA’s standards, NEA divided states into sub-groups according to their overall score.2 By referring to these sub-group ratings, it is possible to better distinguish between, for exam- ple, the District of Columbia (“worst” with 20 out of 100 points) and Arkansas (“poor” with 59 out of 100 points), both of which received failing grades. NEA’s comprehensive review of all charter statutes in the country concluded on November 9, 2018. This Report reflects only laws in existence as of that date.

The Price of Teacher Mulligans: “I didn’t stop to ask myself then what would happen to all the kids who’d been left in the basement with the teacher who couldn’t teach” – Michelle Obama.

Commentary on the proposed search for a new Madison School District Superintendent

Logan wroge:

Cheatham said she would prefer to know who will replace her by July 1 so that the person can attend a summer retreat with senior staff members planned for July and be around to prepare in August for the 2019-20 school year.

Cheatham, whose last day will be Aug. 30, has accepted a teaching position with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She became Madison’s superintendent in 2013, leaving an administrative role at the Chicago Public Schools.

Whoever the board selects as the interim leader, board member Cris Carusi said she would prefer the person is not interested in seeking the position on a permanent basis.

Monday’s meeting on hiring an interim superintendent was originally scheduled to be in closed session but was later opened to the public.

A handful of people called on the School Board to conduct a nationwide search for a new superintendent, with one East High School junior asking the board to engage with students on what they would like to see in a new superintendent.

Much more on recent Madison Superintendent searches, here

Woodburn, OR parents sue school district for $1M, allege teacher asked son if he’s transgender

Bonnie Silkman:

Parents in Woodburn said their 8-year-old son was held back from recess multiple times for one-on-one conversations about his gender identity – and they had no idea.

The mother and father in Woodburn are now suing a school district for nearly a million dollars after they say a second-grade teacher singled out their son by asking him if he was transgender. The parents say the teacher had inappropriate conversations with the child at school without their permission.

To protect their son’s privacy, the parents are not sharing their identity.

I Took ‘Adulting Classes’ for Millennials

Andrew Zaleski:

On the eve of my wife’s 30th birthday—a milestone I, too, will soon hit—she posed a troubling question: Are we adults yet?

We certainly feel that way: We hold our own jobs, pay our own rent, cover our own bills, drive our own cars. Our credit is in order. But we don’t yet own a house and have no children—two markers commonly associated with fully-fledged adulthood (and two markers that both our sets of parents had reached well before they turned 30). And there are other gaps in our maturity: I don’t buy napkins or know how to golf; up until last year, I didn’t know how to change the oil in my car’s engine. Thankfully, last year we managed to throw a dinner party, our first, without burning the pork roast.

A vague anxiety over these known-unknowns is something of a generational hallmark. A Monday-morning scroll through the social media feed of the average 20-something might turn up a handful of friends sharing memes of dogs—looking bewildered, exasperated, or both—unironically captioned with something like: “Don’t make me adult today.”

Yes, Millennials have killed yet another thing. In this case, it’s something so fundamental that it may have seemed unkillable, but apparently isn’t: knowing how to be an adult.

Math Teachers Should Be More Like Football Coaches

John Urschel:

Growing up, I thought math class was something to be endured, not enjoyed. I disliked memorizing formulas and taking tests, all for the dull goal of getting a good grade. In elementary school, my mind wandered so much during class that I sometimes didn’t respond when I was called on, and I resisted using the rote techniques we were taught to use to solve problems. One of my teachers told my mother that I was “slow” and should repeat a grade.

But my problem wasn’t with math itself. In fact, I spent countless hours as a child doing logic and math puzzles on my own, and as a teenager, when a topic seemed particularly interesting, I would go to the library and read more about it.

By high school, none of my teachers questioned my mathematical talent, but none of them really encouraged it, either. No one told me that I could become a professional mathematician. And frankly, that was fine with me. I had no desire to spend my life doing exercises out of a textbook, which is what I assumed mathematicians did — if I even thought about what they did.

“Besides, I am far less selfish than others. Look at how I vote (­progressive), what I believe in (equality), and who my colleagues are (people of all races from all ­places).”

Chris Arnade:

In many cases, these neighborhoods have literally been left behind by people like me. I spent most of my life focused on getting ahead by education. I left my rural hometown and got into elite schools, which got me into elite jobs, which got me into an elite neighborhood. I was not unusual. My office, my neighborhood, and most of my adult friends were like me. Almost all of us had used education to get out of a hometown that we saw as oppressive, intolerant, and judgmental.

We were the kids who sat in the front row, eager to learn and make sure the teacher knew we were learning. We were mobile, having moved many times to advance in our careers, and we would move again. Staying put was a form of failure. Our community was global, allowing us to proclaim it to be diverse, despite every resident’s having followed a similar path after high school.

Our isolation from the bulk of the country left us with a narrow view of the world. We valued what we could measure, and that meant material wealth. Things that couldn’t be measured—community, ­dignity, faith, happiness—were largely ignored ­because they were hard to see, especially from so far away.

We had compassion for those who got left behind, but thought that our job was to provide them an opportunity (no matter how small) to get where we were. It didn’t occur to us that what we valued wasn’t what everyone else wanted. They were the people who couldn’t or didn’t want to leave their town or their family to get an education at an elite college, the people who cared more about their faith than about science. If we were the front row, they were the back row.

Had I asked people in my hometown why they were still there, I would have received the answer I heard in neighborhoods from Cairo to Amarillo to rural Ohio. They would have looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Because it is my home.”

U.S. measles outbreak grows with 75 new cases, mostly in New York

Gabriela Borter:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 9.8% increase in measles cases as of May 10, a resurgence that public health officials have attributed to the spread of misinformation about the measles vaccine. Data are updated every Monday.

In New York, 66 cases were reported according to CDC spokesman Jason McDonald, with 41 in New York City and 25 in Rockland County, about 40 miles (64 km) north of New York city.

Health experts say the virus has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents, some in New York ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism. Medical science has debunked those concerns.

While the 2019 outbreak has spread rapidly within New York, the virus has not spread to any additional states since the previous week, when Pennsylvania became the latest state to confirm at least one case.


Isobel Stevenson:

This week’s pick is the EdWeek/PBS NewsHour segment, Parents of Students With Dyslexia Have Transformed Reading Instruction, which tells the story how weak reading results and impatient parents are pushing schools in Arkansas and other states to reconsider how they teach kids to read.

Produced and reported by EdWeek’s Cat McGrath and Lisa Stark, the piece makes explicit the connections between struggling readers, dyslexic and otherwise, slow-moving schools, and frustrated parents.

The segment succeeds because it tells the story from a human, individual perspective, with Arkansas parent advocates playing the underdog role going up against the school system. The policy and ideological issues are kept in the background. The segment is also a breakthrough for a national broadcast story in its reconsideration of phonics and other research-backed reading practices, part of a growing tide this past year.

Civics: Redefining Success in Chicago

Rafael A. Mangual:

To hear Emanuel tell it, Chicago is leading the way on both police reform and crime reduction. But his picture of success uses two questionable benchmarks. He concedes that “Chicago is still a long way from the level of public safety we want for every neighborhood,” but claims that, since 2016, “homicides are down 27 percent and shootings are down 32 percent.” These numbers mean less than he suggests. Emanuel forgot to add that 2016 was the year that shootings in Chicago skyrocketed, and the city racked up a staggering 765 homicides—a more than 50 percent increase from the 478 killed in 2015, which itself represented a 16 percent increase from the 411 killed in 2014. Shootings and homicides may be down over the last few years, but they’re down from a huge spike, and they’re still elevated compared with the pre-spike numbers. The city saw more than 530 homicides in 2018—hardly cause for celebration.

The mayor also makes his case by comparing Chicago’s crime numbers over the last two years with those of . . . Baltimore. Not New York. Not Los Angeles. But Baltimore—one of America’s most dangerous, crime-ridden cities. It’s no accident that Emanuel chose this comparison, instead of putting Chicago up against New York and Los Angeles—the Windy City had more murders than New York and L.A. combined last year, though it is the smallest of the three cities.

Beating out Baltimore in crime reduction is not exactly a coup. And make no mistake: while Chicago benefits from a densely populated North Side with low crime numbers, areas on the city’s South and West Sides don’t look so different from Baltimore when it comes to aggregate population and crime numbers. The neighborhoods in which Chicago’s serious violent crime is concentrated are among the worst in the nation.

The Biggest Education News Story You’ve Never Heard Of

The answer, unfortunately, is all of the above—and more. But perhaps the place to begin is with the last point. The education establishment, including schools of education and textbook publishers, have largely “pooh-poohed” the idea of knowledge, observed panelist Sonja Santelises, chief executive officer of the Baltimore public schools.

“It doesn’t take the place of other things,” she said, “but to say it’s a side dish, to say content doesn’t matter, is professional malpractice.”

In Baltimore and a few other places, leaders like Santelises are trying to turn things around by adopting curricula that build knowledge in history, science, literature, and the arts. That’s the kind of knowledge that can ensure academic success, and children from more educated families generally acquire it outside of school. Children from less educated families—like the majority of those who attend Baltimore’s public schools—often won’t acquire it unless they get it in school. And most don’t.

Santelises, a member of a group of top state and local education officials called Chiefs for Change, began her efforts by evaluating Baltimore’s homegrown literacy curriculum. Using a “Knowledge Map”—a tool developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Education Policy—she discovered gaps in coverage and weaknesses in the approach teachers were supposed to take. Last year the school system adopted a content-focused literacy curriculum called Wit & Wisdom for kindergarten through eighth grade that includes challenging books along with related works of art for students to analyze. Santelises says she worried teachers would say their students couldn’t handle the work. Instead, “teachers are saying their kids are eating up the content” and parents are thrilled to see how much their children are learning, she reported.

Academe’s Extinction Event

Andrew Kay:

All around them, the humanities burned. The number of jobs in English advertised on the annual MLA job list has declined by 55 percent since 2008; adjuncts now account for all but a quarter of college instructors generally. Whole departments are being extirpated by administrators with utilitarian visions; from 2013 to 2016, colleges cut 651 foreign-language programs. Meanwhile the number of English majors at most universities continues to swoon.

None of this shows any sign of relenting. It has, in fact, all the trappings of an extinction event that will alter English — and the rest of the humanities — irrevocably, though no one knows what it will leave in its wake. What’s certain is that the momentum impelling it is far past halting; behind that momentum lies the avarice of universities, but also the determination of politicians and pundits to discredit humanistic thinking, which plainly threatens them. They have brought on a tipping point: The stories they have told about these disciplines — of their pointlessness, of the hollowness of anything lacking entrepreneurial value — have won out over the stories the humanists themselves have told, or not told.

“Have I stayed too late at something that is over and done?” asked Sheila Liming, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota. Owing to enormous state-budget cuts, Liming told me, tenured and tenure-track faculty in her own department have lately been diminished by more than half. She likens herself and her colleagues to guests who have arrived at a party after last call. “That characterizes the morale of the people who come to this conference now. The project of academia might be over.”

What We’ve Built Is a Computational Language (and That’s Very Important!)

Stephen Wolfram:

I’ve sometimes found it a bit of a struggle to explain what the Wolfram Language really is. Yes, it’s a computer language—a programming language. And it does—in a uniquely productive way, I might add—what standard programming languages do. But that’s only a very small part of the story. And what I’ve finally come to realize is that one should actually think of the Wolfram Language as an entirely different—and new—kind of thing: what one can call a computational language.

So what is a computational language? It’s a language for expressing things in a computational way—and for capturing computational ways of thinking about things. It’s not just a language for telling computers what to do. It’s a language that both computers and humans can use to represent computational ways of thinking about things. It’s a language that puts into concrete form a computational view of everything. It’s a language that lets one use the computational paradigm as a framework for formulating and organizing one’s thoughts.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to properly internalize just how broad the implications of having a computational language really are—even though, ironically, I’ve spent much of my life engaged precisely in the consuming task of building the world’s only large-scale computational language.

China is now blocking all language editions of Wikipedia


China recently started blocking all language editions of Wikipedia. Previously, the blocking was limited to the Chinese language edition of Wikipedia (, but has now expanded to include all * language editions.

In this post, we share OONI network measurement data on the blocking of Wikipedia in China. We found that all sub-domains are blocked in China by means of DNS injection and SNI filtering.

The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’

Olga Khazan:

In the early ‘90s, a New Zealand man named Neil Fleming decided to sort through something that had puzzled him during his time monitoring classrooms as a school inspector. In the course of watching 9,000 different classes, he noticed that only some teachers were able to reach each and every one of their students. What were they doing differently?

Fleming zeroed in on how it is that people like to be presented information. For example, when asking for directions, do you prefer to be told where to go or to have a map sketched for you?

Today, 16 questions like this comprise the VARK questionnaire that Fleming developed to determine someone’s “learning style.” VARK, which stands for “Visual, Auditory, Reading, and Kinesthetic,” sorts students into those who learn best visually, through aural or heard information, through reading, or through “kinesthetic” experiences. (“I learned much later that vark is Dutch for “pig,” Fleming wrote later, “and I could not get a website called because a pet shop in Pennsylvania used it for selling aardvarks—earth pigs!”)

He wasn’t the first to suggest that people have different “learning styles”—past theories included the reading-less “VAK” and something involving “convergers” and “assimilators”—but VARK became one of the most prominent models out there.

Civics: CalPERS sued for withholding complete pension data

Robert Fellner:

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is unlawfully withholding information necessary to help safeguard the system from waste, fraud and abuse, a just-filed lawsuit alleges.

The problem of disability fraud has plagued California’s public pension systems for decades, costing taxpayers untold millions.

One of the first documented cases occurred in 1992, when a retired officer drawing a tax-free disability pension was spotted competing in a local rodeo.

As discussed in more detail below, historically lax oversight encouraged such abuses, which continue to this day.

Earlier this year, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported on an allegedly disabled firefighter who had competed in a half-marathon. The Times report ultimately led to an arrest and calls for reform from city councilmembers.

American universities have become whirlpools of downward mobility that target the people and the ideas that they once cherished and protected. It’s time for Jews to stop paying for them.

Liel Leibovitz:

As soon as I woke up that first morning, I took the train to 116th and Broadway, got off, strolled through the gates of Columbia University, and stood there gazing at the bronze Alma Mater sculpture guarding the steps to Low Library. Her face was serene, her lap adorned by a thick book, and her arms open wide, to embrace, or so I imagined, folks like me who were reasonably smart and wildly motivated and ready to work as hard as was needed to make something of themselves. In a year, maybe two, I thought, I’d find my way into the ivied cloister, and when I emerged on the other end I’d no longer be just another impoverished newcomer: A Columbia degree would accredit me, would validate me and suggest to those around me, from members of my family to potential employers, that I was a man in full, worthy of my slice of the American pie.

It wasn’t a story I had made up on my own. It was, in many ways, the foundational story of American Jewish life in the 20th century. Surveying the student body in major American universities between 1911 and 1913, the newly founded intercollegiate Menorah Association discovered 400 Jews at Cornell, 325 at the University of Pennsylvania, and 160 at Harvard; by 1967, The New York Times reported that 40% of the student body in both Penn and Columbia were Jewish, with Yale, Harvard, and Cornell lagging behind with a mere 25%. For a minority that today is still just three or four generations removed from the deprivations of the old continent and that never rose much further above the 2% mark of the population at large, education—especially at renowned universities—was a magical wardrobe that led into a Narnia of possibilities. All you had to do was open the door.

Civics: Audit suggests Google favors a small number of major outlets

Nicholas Diakopoulos:

To audit Top Stories, we scraped Google results for more than 200 queries related to news events in November, 2017. We selected the queries to test by looking at Google Trends every day and manually choosing terms related to hard news events. These included names of people in the news such as “colin kaepernick,” breaking news events such as “earthquake,” and issue-specific queries such as “tax reform” or “healthcare gov.” We set up our scraper to minimize the potential for result personalization (the process by which Google tailors its search results to an account or IP address based on past use), and ran each query once per minute for a full 24 hours.

In total, we collected 6,302 unique links to news articles shown in the Top Stories box. For each of those links we count an article impression each time one of those links appears.

The data shows that just 20 news sources account for more than half of article impressions. The top 20 percent of sources (136 of 678) accounted for 86 percent of article impressions. And the top three accounted for 23 percent: CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. These statistics underscore the degree of concentration of attention to a relatively narrow slice of news sources.

A number of taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

The Global Attention Span Is Getting Shorter

Dalmeet Singh Chawla:

It’s not your imagination: keeping up with the sheer amount of content that’s available today — whether it’s Twitter, the news, or the latest show on Netflix — is getting harder. As a result, the length of time that content remains popular — a rough measurement of the global attention span — is decreasing, according to a recent large-scale analysis published in Nature Communications.

The authors evaluated a total of 43 billion tweets and analyzed the top 50 trending hashtags in the world every hour on the hour, from 2013 to 2016. They then calculated the time the hashtags remained popular and found that in 2013, a hashtag remained in the top 50 list for an average of 17.5 hours, but the figure had dropped to 11.9 hours by 2016.

This attention contraction isn’t just a product of the internet. For instance, the researchers analyzed how long certain words and phrases remained fashionable in 100 years of literature made available by Google Books. They found that catchy terms were used in books for an average of six months in the 19th century, but only stuck around for a month by the 21st century.

Chinese University Staff ‘Must Study’ Marxism, Maoist and Xi Jinping Ideology

Radio Free Asia:

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has launched a new wave of political training for colleges and universities that aims to instill the ideology of President Xi Jinping and late supreme leader Mao Zedong in staff and students alike.

The Ministry of Education released on Monday a five-year training plan for teachers via a series of “political theory” courses in colleges and universities.

According to the ministry, “it is necessary to train dozens of ideological and political scholars with extensive influence … as well as hundreds of leaders in ideological and political education.”

Former Guizhou University professor Yang Shaozheng, who was fired outright after he made comments critical of the Communist Party in an online article, said the plan is essentially part of an attempt to step up the “brainwashing” of Chinese students.

“I think this is problematic,” Yang told RFA. “The students already have the desire for independent thought, and a critical faculty.”

He said the move would result in an education system that wasn’t fit for purpose.

Civics: Commentary on the freedom of religion and speech

Maureen Groppe:

Pence, who has been facing criticisms of his own religious views recently, warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left.

“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”

With his wife, Karen, sitting on stage as he spoke, Pence recounted the “harsh attacks” he said they endured when she returned this year to teaching art at a Christian elementary school where she’d worked when he’d served in Congress. Unlike her previous stint, this time Karen Pence faced scrutiny after news reports pointed out that the school bans gay students and teachers.

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence said. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”

Pence said the graduates will be asked not just to tolerate things that violate their faith, but to endorse them.

Pence didn’t specifically mention this, but he’s been a target on the presidential campaign trail, where Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg has gotten attention for questioning how Pence can square his faith with both his support for Trump and his opposition to gay marriage.

And the commencement address that Pence is scheduled to deliver next week at a Christian school in his home state has divided Taylor University. An online petition started by a Taylor alum complains that the address will make the school “complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”

Much more on the first amendment, here.

Students cleared in college rape say SC school discriminates against men, lawsuit says

Charles Duncan:

Wofford issued a no-contact order for the students, but the men say in the lawsuit the woman harassed them at a fraternity function and later assaulted one of the men at a party. The court filing said the school destroyed video evidence that would have incriminated the woman.

“Instead of opening an investigation, Defendant condoned and hid PG’s misrepresentation about her conduct in relation to the Halloween party assault,” according to the lawsuit. “This destruction marked at least four times that Defendant destroyed evidence favorable to Doe or Roe or detrimental to the Defendant.”

The men also say there is evidence the woman sexually harassed one of them.

The men say the school’s policies for sexual assault violate federal discrimination laws.

“It was the Defendant’s policy to hold the man at fault when two intoxicated persons of the opposite gender engage in sexual relations,” the lawsuit says.

Wofford, the lawsuit states, “was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs’ rights to be free from the improper use of its Title IX policy to charge male students without any cause but fail to investigate complaints against female students.”

How to Teach Your Kid They Don’t Have to Be Perfect at Everything

Michelle Woo:

As children, we are at the mercy of our caregivers. When they are happy, they take better care of us (as a rule) and we feel safer. When they are not happy, we often feel as though there is a rupture in the relationship, either because the parent is more distant and less responsive, or maybe has a lower stress threshold, so things that normally the parent might find funny or endearing, the parent might react angrily to.

This is very scary to children because it is not following the normal patterns. The child experiences the parent’s response—both positive and negative—as a direct response to the child’s behavior. The child is not taking into consideration context or the parent’s mood outside of the relationship. This creates a sense of uncertainty. The child may think, “Last time I threw a pillow we had a pillow fight and Mommy was laughing. This time when I threw the pillow I got spoken to harshly. I wonder what I did wrong when I threw the pillow this time.” So this is laying the foundation for how magical thinking can create perfectionistic tendencies.
Tell me more about “magical thinking.”

Magical thinking is developmentally normal for small children and is at its peak between the ages of 2 to 7. It is the core of superstitions, like believing that you will bring yourself bad luck if you break a mirror.

New Orleans teen gets 115 college acceptance letters

Wilborn P. Nobles III:

When Antoinette Love was born six weeks prematurely to Anthony and Yolanda Love, all her mother wanted was for Love to live. The New Orleans native only weighed 4.4 pounds, but she eventually left the hospital 23 days later.

Years later, Love blew past another milestone: Acceptance into 115 colleges and universities nationwide.

Love, a senior at the International High School of New Orleans, applied to and was unanimously accepted at 115 schools across the country, according to her school. Her efforts also resulted in more than $3.7 million in offered scholarships. Love is determined to become an educator and wants to major in elementary education beginning this fall, her mother said by phone Tuesday (April 23).

Love, who is planning to be on the road the next few weeks visiting several colleges, said she’s excited to see what the schools have to offer. She advises students to seek out as many fee waivers as possible for every college they apply to. Students should only consider paying for applications at the colleges they “really want to” attend, she added.

Love said she’s planning to make her college choice by May 1.

‘Becoming Dr. Seuss’ Reveals Theodor Geisel As A Complicated Icon

Gabino Iglesias:

But he was also a complicated man who saw children’s literature as a step down in a writer’s career and whose work was stained with misogyny and racism, as highlighted in Brian Jay Jones’ Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodore Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination. This and other dichotomies are at the core of Jones’ book: Geisel was loved by millions of children but couldn’t have children of his own; he wanted his work to be published but panicked when he had to talk about it publicly.

Nuanced, profoundly human and painstakingly researched, this 496-page biography is perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time.

Becoming Dr. Seuss is an expansive biography that tracks Geisel’s life and roots from 1904 to 1991. The book is divided in stages and pays equal attention to every step of Geisel’s journey. While it is a standard biography in general terms, Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. This makes Becoming Dr. Seuss a fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel’s books while also showing the author’s more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist.

More than 11,000 children in Milwaukee are not vaccinated, creating risk for measles outbreak

Molly Beck:

More than 11,000 students in Milwaukee Public Schools alone did not receive all required vaccinations this school year including against the highly contagious rash and devastating diseases like polio, diphtheria and hepatitis B, according to state health records.

With nearly 15% of students attending public schools without all necessary vaccinations against such viruses there could be too few vaccinated students within the district’s boundaries to create what’s known as herd immunity, which prevents newborn babies, unvaccinated children or adults in poor health from contracting diseases that could disable or kill them.

“It’s like you have a can of gasoline and you’re just waiting for someone to drop a match,” said James Conway, a doctor who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases and associate director for health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Civics: The New Face of Tyranny

Paul Rahe:

When the First World War ended, there was a brief period when it seemed as if the world really had become safe for democracy—when it seemed as if history had come to an end and liberal democracy had achieved a lasting hegemony. The same thing happened again just over 70 years later when the Berlin Wall came down, Eastern Europe liberated itself, the Soviet Union fell apart, and the Cold War came to an end.

On neither occasion, however, were the heady hopes of the victors borne out. In both cases tyranny gradually re-emerged, and disappointment dogged those who had imagined that the dream articulated by Immanuel Kant in his “Essay on Perpetual Peace” would be fulfilled.

None of this should come as a surprise. Tyranny in one form or another has been the norm throughout human history, and it is not apt to disappear. As Montesquieu observed 270 years ago in his Spirit of the Laws, its avoidance requires artifice. “To form a moderate government,” he tells us, “it is necessary to combine powers, to regulate them, to temper them, to make them act, to give, so to speak, a ballast to one in order to put it in a condition to resist another; this is a masterpiece of legislation, which chance rarely produces & prudence is rarely allowed to produce.” Though it constitutes an assault on human nature, he adds, despotism is, in a sense, natural. It “jumps up, so speak, before our eyes; it is uniform throughout: as the passions alone are necessary for its establishment, the whole world is good enough for that.”

If we are to understand our present predicament, we will have to take into account just how fragile liberal democratic regimes are and the preconditions for their survival. In this regard, as Montesquieu insisted, size matters. As he noticed, the first republics known to man relied on civic virtue; and, to sustain themselves, they had to be small enough for shame to be a formidable force. In antiquity, as he also pointed out, all of the polities situated on an extended territory were despotisms—where fear was brought in as a substitute for shame as a source of political and social discipline.

Madison Superintendent Search Commentary; Groundhog Day, in some ways

Negassi Tesfamichael:

“I think the most important quality we are looking for in an interim superintendent is stability,” School Board member Cris Carusi said. “I don’t think it really matters as much if it’s an internal or external candidate … we’re going to want someone who can provide stability.”

Carusi noted that she hopes the board can engage in an open process when selecting a new superintendent.

“I really hope we have a transparent, public process for choosing a new superintendent where we are able to get input from our staff and our community,” Carusi said. “We absolutely have to do that for our superintendent process and I think on some level for the interim selection process as well.”

Will the interim superintendent eventually be hired as permanent superintendent?

Rainwater was hired as an interim superintendent before the board voted to hire him after conducting its search process. However, whether to have an interim superintendent considered for a long-term post is something the School Board will have to decide as it crafts the characteristics of who it wants to hire as the new district leader.

“When we did our search, we didn’t want the interim to be a person to be considered for the full job,” Howard said. “That’s something the board will have to decide. When we did it six years ago, we determined we didn’t want that person to be in consideration for the job, but that does not have to be the case this time.”

Oh, the places we go: Madison Superintendents (2012):

Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly $15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

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

2005 (!): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before: :

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

Madison School District plays the ‘long game’ in training students to become teachers

Logan Wroge:

Four years into a program designed to diversify the Madison School District’s teaching pool by encouraging students to enter the profession, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sees “the potential for real impact” from the couple dozen participants who have signed up.

The TEEM Scholars program, which stands for Tomorrow’s Educators for Equity in Madison, launched in 2015-16 with the aim to increase teacher diversity in Madison schools. Now, some students who signed on at inception are attending UW-Madison to pursue a career in education.

“I believe that the health of our school district, in some respects, will depend on the extent to which our current students want to become our future teachers,” Cheatham said.

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

Florida governor signs bill for new private school vouchers

Curt Anderson:

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed into law a bill creating a new voucher program for thousands of low- and middle-income students to attend private and religious schools using taxpayer dollars traditionally spent on public schools.

The $130 million Family Empowerment Scholarship program was a top priority for the Republican-led Legislature and DeSantis, who signed it during a ceremony at a religious school in Miami Gardens, a city with a predominantly African American population. Its passage marks one of the largest expansions of private-school voucher programs in the state’s history.

Up to 18,000 students can enroll in the program’s first year from families with annual incomes at 300% of federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that means those making no more than $77,250. The number of students who can participate could rise in future years.

DeSantis and GOP lawmakers say the program gives parents more school choice for their children, especially those in districts where local public schools are failing and those who have special issues that can be better addressed in a different education setting.

The Beauty of Calculus


Steven Strogatz is an applied mathematician who works in the areas of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems, often on topics inspired by the curiosities of everyday life. He loves finding math in places where you’d least expect it—and then using it to illuminate life’s mysteries, big and small. For example: Why is it so hard to fall asleep a few hours before your regular bedtime? When you start chatting with a stranger on a plane, why is it so common to find that you have a mutual acquaintance? What can twisting a rubber band teach us about our DNA? An award-winning researcher, teacher, and communicator, Strogatz enjoys sharing the beauty of math though his books, essays, public lectures, and radio and television appearances.

K-12 Tax& Spending Climate: Recent spending patterns combined with credit-card losses reveal some disturbing trends.

Danielle DiMartino-Booth:

Some of it comes down to the state of U.S. workers’ paychecks. Adjusted for inflation, personal income excluding government transfers peaked in December and has declined at a 3 percent annual rate over the past three months. That helps explain consumption’s punk 0.8 percent contribution to first-quarter GDP, the lowest in a year.

Digging into March’s personal spending data, the headline once again belied strength. On the surface, spending of 0.9 percent was as robust as it gets even after adjusting for inflation, which took it to 0.7 percent. Net out the biggest savings drawdown in six years, however, and you arrive at a decline of 0.2 percent for March.

As for what’s pushing households to tap into their rainy-day funds, Deutsche Bank recently pointed to the 15 percent year-on-year increase in household interest payments. Levels of payments rising at a similar pace preceded the onsets of the last two recessions.

Civics: The world shrugs as China locks up 1 million Muslims

Dave Lawler:

China has detained an estimated 1 million to 2 million Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, and millions more live one step away from detention under the watchful eye of the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: It has been two years since the internment camps first came to light internationally, and a series of reports from Xinjiang have made vivid the scale of the abuses. Yet foreign governments and corporations are content to pretend it isn’t happening.

“If right now, just about any other country in the world was found to be detaining over 1 million Muslims of a certain ethnicity, you can bet we’d be seeing an international outcry,” says Sophie Richardson, china director for Human Rights Watch.

Audit: UW tuition revenue grew $366M over 9 years as nonresident enrollment surged

Todd Richmond:

The University of Wisconsin System’s in-state student enrollment has dropped sharply over the past nine years, reflecting declining regional populations and System efforts to get students to graduation faster, according to a report state auditors released Monday.

The loss of in-state students has been nearly offset by rising nonresident enrollment, helping total tuition revenue grow by $336 million, even as resident tuition has been frozen since 2013, the report said.

UW System President Ray Cross didn’t address the enrollment shift in a letter to auditors responding to the report. He did cite declining enrollment in 2017 to justify his plan to merge the System’s two-year schools with its four-year campuses.

Don’t Let Students Run the University

Tom Nichols:

When did college students get it into their head that they should be running the university? The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

A more noxious version of this trend, however, is now in full swing, with students demanding a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like. This is a dangerous development—a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education.

It is no surprise to find Camille Paglia, a professor at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts who has been outraging people across the social and political spectrum for three decades, embroiled in one of these controversies. Paglia proposed to give a talk titled “Ambiguous Images: Sexual Duality and Sexual Multiplicity in Western Art.” According to a letter released by two student activists, “a gender non-binary creative writing major” had “brought this lecture to the student body’s attention through social media and raised their concerns to Title IX and other University administration about the school giving Camille a platform.” This led to a group of students demanding that Paglia (who self-identifies as transgender) be removed from the faculty “and replaced by a queer person of color.”

Civics: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook

Chris Hughes:

The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

What Superintendents, Cabinets, and School Boards Need to Know About the Literacy Tsunami

Karen Vaites:

Dear Superintendents, Cabinet Members, and School Board Members,

An important national conversation about how we teach reading has been gaining major momentum over the last 6 months, as reading instruction has been in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the EdWeek editorial pages, and I-could-go-on.

Since autumn, I’ve been summarizing this “literacy tsunami” for educators. You’re the executives and executive boards of K–12 education, and I’m pleased to offer up this quick executive summary, with plenty of additional reading.

Program to Relieve Student Debt Proves Unforgiving

Michelle Hackman:

Ms. Svitavsky completed two master’s programs, creative writing and library sciences, which along with her bachelor’s degree left her with more than $97,000 in loans by the time she began her job at the Puyallup Public Library just outside Tacoma, Wash., in 2008. She consolidated those loans, per the program’s requirements, and began following the steps toward debt forgiveness.

Or she thought she had.

“It’s deeply frustrating, because you know you’re done, and you’ve jumped through all these hoops,” Ms. Svitavsky said. “It feels like a broken promise.”

A mix of factors combined to derail the program, including poorly written legislation, neglect by multiple administrations, mismanagement by servicers contracted to carry it out and antipathy from conservatives—particularly in the Trump administration—who would prefer the program had never been created.

Madison School Board must take the lead on school safety

Capital Times Editorial:

Nor did the letter consider the slow public response from Cheatham.

We understand that board members may be disinclined to air personnel matters. But a full and meaningful response to students and staffers must recognize that concerns exist.

It also must acknowledge that East is not an outlier, as recent reports of incidents at La Follette High School make clear.

The message from the educators at East called for mandatory training for security personnel on sexual assault and rape culture. That would be a good first step.

A good second step would be for the board to embrace the wise counsel coming from students such as Memorial High School senior Kari Larson. “Many youth have already endured sexual abuse or rape by the time they are 12. Having the Rape Crisis Center come in during 10th-grade health classes is not enough,” explained Larson. “In addition, these presentations must be improved or extended to not only cover healthy relationships or consent as they do now, but also a detailed plan about how to get help at school if one has been sexually assaulted.”

Taking action, especially action that is informed by the ideas of students and teachers, confirms a commitment on the part of the board to setting standards and demanding accountability.

Classrooms in chaos? Kids running amok? We want you at Harvard!

David Blaska:

Jennifer Cheatham will leave but nothing has changed. Madison elected, if anything, an even racialized school board, a school board content to evict its school resource police officers despite increasing disorder. Helzz bellz, the school board can’t even maintain order at its own meetings.

Related: Superintendent Cheatham’s 2013 Madison Rotary Club speech and, again in 2019.

December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Civics: Google’s Attack on the Claremont Institute Must Not Stand

Stanley Kurtz:

This appalling decision must not stand. Claremont is rightly highlighting the contradiction between the constitutional principle of individual rights and the premises of identity politics. It is this contradiction, not gerrymandering or talking heads on cable television, that lies at the root of America’s growing polarization.

Whether you agree or disagree with the thrust of Claremont’s view, if Google can censor it, then conservatism itself is banned in this country. To prevent conservatives from defending constitutional principles as they understand them is to ban America itself.

Ah, but you say, this is just about an ad, it’s not a total defenestration. Don’t be silly. If the Claremont Institute can be censored, we are rapidly tumbling to the bottom of the slippery slope. Google’s action is intolerable and must be reversed.

The crisis has arrived. It is time for people of good will on all sides of the political spectrum to speak out against this attack on fundamental liberties. I understand that the precise legal status and regulatory situation of companies like Google is a matter of continuing discussion. Regardless of how the details of such policies are resolved, conservatives and everyone else who believes in free speech need to energetically protest Google’s decision.

If we are silent now, conservatism is over in this country.

Civics: Majority say socialism is incompatible with American values

Ed Adamczyk:

Among Americans, 57 percent, call socialism not compatible with American values, with 29 percent saying it is compatible. Fort-two percent of respondents voiced a negative opinion of socialism in general, with only 10 percent offering a positive view. The remaining 45 percent called themselves neutral on the issue.

On the subject of capitalism, 39 percent have a positive opinion of capitalism in general, 17 percent hold a negative view and 40 percent are neutral.

The poll did not offer definitions of socialism or capitalism, terms with often fluid meanings for respondents, and the results offered some contradictory opinion.

The majority agreed that socialism “takes away too many individual rights,” with 35 percent saying it occurs a great deal and 25 percent agreeing somewhat. Thirteen percent say the phrase does not describe socialism much and 20 percent said it does not describe socialism at all.

However, half the respondents said that socialism “is a way to make things fairer for working people,” with 15 percent agreeing a great deal and 35 percent agreeing somewhat.

3 California NAACP chapters break with state and national leaders, calling for charter moratorium to be overturned

Esmeralda Fabián Romero:

NAACP branches in three California cities that have some of the state’s largest populations of black students are calling to end the charter school moratorium adopted by their national board in 2016.

The San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino branches have submitted separate resolutions to NAACP’s state board saying they oppose the moratorium, a move that breaks with the state organization’s education chair, Julian Vasquez Heilig, who was a driving force behind the national board voting in favor of the measure.

In an email obtained by LA School Report, Alice A. Huffman, president of the California Hawaii NAACP, told leaders in the three local branches that the state branch “has already taken a position of opposition and would appreciate it if you all would rescind your positions.”

Huffman could not be reached for comment. The resolutions also come as California lawmakers are considering restricting charter schools in the state, a move that California NAACP supports.

The resolution adopted Wednesday by the San Diego branch’s general membership states that in the top 10 California school districts with the highest enrollment of African-American students — including San Diego, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley Unified in Riverside County — the average achievement gap on state test scores for black students is 14.5 percentage points in English and 15.2 percentage points in math.

Eau Claire school board considers LAND School charter, reorganizes

Samantha West:

The Eau Claire school board on Monday discussed a proposal to open a new charter school for high school students that is focused on project-based learning in the 2021-22 academic year.

The grass-roots nonprofit organization Initiatives for New Directions in Education (INDE) presented its revamped proposal for a school they’re calling LAND, an acronym that stands for the school’s curricular focus of liberal arts, nature and design.

‘Unbridled and Performative Student Activism Is a Disease of Affluence’: Camille Paglia Edition

Nick Gillespie:

Another demand in the petition is that, if she can’t be canned, the university will stop selling Paglia’s books on campus and permanently disallow her from speaking on campus outside of her own classes. Although it’s mostly non-faculty speakers who get deplatformed, Paglia is merely the latest target being attacked by students from her own institution. Students at Sarah Lawrence, for instance, are calling for political scientist Samuel Abrams to be fired for writing an op-ed in The New York Times calling for ideological diversity among administrators.

Paglia’s critics claim that, despite her own alternative sexual identity, she is so hostile and bigoted towards trans people that her mere presence on campus constitutes an insult or threat. There’s no question that she has been dismissive of some claims made by trans people and, even more so, dismissive of students who claim that being subjected to speech with which they disagree is a form of trauma. But Paglia has been teaching at UArts for over 30 years, so what caused this particular outrage? As The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf summarizes:

Polls show that young people embrace socialism—but they also distrust government regulation and admire entrepreneurialis

Edward Glaeser:

For generations, younger Americans found Communists just as scary as Count Dracula, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Darth Vader. Socialism, so strongly associated with Marx and Lenin, never caught on in the United States. To modern millennials, however, fear of socialism seems as ancient as a rotary phone. In March 2019, Axios released results from a Harris poll showing that about half of millennial and Generation Z respondents believed that “our economy should be mostly socialist.” That result is no outlier, but rather a consistent finding over recent years. In 2018, Gallup found that 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Americans view socialism favorably; only 45 percent look at capitalism positively. An August 2018 YouGov poll revealed that only 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had good feelings toward capitalism, while 35 percent regarded socialism positively. Bernie Sanders, an avowed Democratic Socialist, nearly captured the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, thanks in part to youth support. Another Democratic Socialist, newly elected House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, herself a millennial, has achieved overnight celebrity, accumulating more than 3 million Twitter followers while trumpeting a 70 percent marginal tax rate.

Just 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, how can socialism have made such a comeback? The likeliest answer: the Great Recession left millennials looking for alternatives to capitalism, without the Cold War ideological guideposts that positioned older generations. Both the Right and the Left have redefined socialism, moreover, so that many young supporters now think that it just means a cuddlier, more equitable government.

Yet even if socialism has been redefined, its rising approval among the young is still a problem for proponents of economic liberty. For decades, apostles of free markets could condemn bad economic ideas merely by branding them “socialist,” because real-world Marxists did such a good job of showing how much evil could radiate from a state-controlled economy. But those negative examples are mostly vanquished now. The task ahead is to convince today’s young people that society requires liberty as well as compassion. The private ingenuity that generates new products and new jobs needs both incentives and reasonable regulation. If our current politics tell us anything, it is that this case must be made again, with arguments that resonate among Americans who’ve probably never heard of Lavrentiy Beria.

American universities have become whirlpools of downward mobility that target the people and the ideas that they once cherished and protected. It’s time for Jews to stop paying for them.

Liel Leibovitz:

When I immigrated to America, 20 years ago this fall, I had just over $2,000 in my pocket that I’d saved working as a night watchman at a factory back home in Israel. I also had an inflatable mattress on the floor of a friend’s one-bedroom in White Plains, New York, and a promise that I could stay for two weeks, maybe three, until I found a place of my own. But most importantly, I had a story about my future.

As soon as I woke up that first morning, I took the train to 116th and Broadway, got off, strolled through the gates of Columbia University, and stood there gazing at the bronze Alma Mater sculpture guarding the steps to Low Library. Her face was serene, her lap adorned by a thick book, and her arms open wide, to embrace, or so I imagined, folks like me who were reasonably smart and wildly motivated and ready to work as hard as was needed to make something of themselves. In a year, maybe two, I thought, I’d find my way into the ivied cloister, and when I emerged on the other end I’d no longer be just another impoverished newcomer: A Columbia degree would accredit me, would validate me and suggest to those around me, from members of my family to potential employers, that I was a man in full, worthy of my slice of the American pie.

It wasn’t a story I had made up on my own. It was, in many ways, the foundational story of American Jewish life in the 20th century. Surveying the student body in major American universities between 1911 and 1913, the newly founded intercollegiate Menorah Association discovered 400 Jews at Cornell, 325 at the University of Pennsylvania, and 160 at Harvard; by 1967, The New York Times reported that 40% of the student body in both Penn and Columbia were Jewish, with Yale, Harvard, and Cornell lagging behind with a mere 25%. For a minority that today is still just three or four generations removed from the deprivations of the old continent and that never rose much further above the 2% mark of the population at large, education—especially at renowned universities—was a magical wardrobe that led into a Narnia of possibilities. All you had to do was open the door.

Fordham hopes free-speech lawsuit will fade as last plaintiff graduates

Hannah Adely:

The last of four students who sued Fordham University over the denial of a Palestinian rights club will graduate this month, but the court battle is not over.

Sophomore Veer Shetty has asked to join the two-year old lawsuit, and the university is going to court on Wednesday to try to stop him.

“It would be a travesty if we weren’t able to have the club on campus just because all the people suing have graduated,” Shetty said in a recent interview. “I was happy to step in.”

Led by New Jersey plaintiff Ahmad Awad, the students sued in April 2017, arguing that Fordham ignored its guidelines and practiced viewpoint discrimination when it denied them permission to start a Students for Justice in Palestine club. Fordham argued that it doesn’t have to abide by free-speech law as a private university.

The case underscores the difficulties students face when trying to organize around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Palestinian rights movement has grown on campuses across the country but faces intense opposition from pro-Israel groups. Activists have been smeared online as terrorist supporters, received threatening letters and faced pressure to shut down events.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office expanded its definition of anti-Semitism to include certain criticisms of Israel as anti-Jewish speech. Pro-Israel groups say the protections are needed because activists vilify Israel and have created a hostile environment.

Activists, though, say their free speech is being restricted.

Karl Ove Knausgård on Literary Freedom (Ep. 66)

Tyler Cowen:

What is Karl Ove Knausgård’s struggle, exactly? The answer is simple: achieving total freedom in his writing. “It’s a space where I can be free in every sense, where I can say whatever, go wherever I want to. And for me, literature is almost the only place you could think that that is a possibility.”

Knausgård’s literary freedom paves the way for this conversation with Tyler, which starts with a discussion of mimesis and ends with an explanation of why we live in the world of Munch’s The Scream. Along the way there is much more, including what he learned from reading Ingmar Bergman’s workbooks, the worst thing about living in London, how having children increased his productivity, whether he sees himself in a pietistic tradition, thoughts on Bible stories, angels, Knut Hamsun, Elena Ferrante, the best short story (“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”), the best poet (Paul Celan), the best movie (Scenes from a Marriage), and what his punctual arrival says about his attachment to bourgeois values.

New Mexico strips accountability from teacher evaluations; teacher mulligans redux

Albuquerque Journal:

Instead, teachers will be graded with classroom observations worth 50%; planning, preparation and professionalism worth 40%; and family and student surveys worth 10%.

Student improvement on tests had accounted for 35 percent. So this year – and likely every year of this administration, don’t be fooled by the “transition” in the evaluation name – there will be no objective data points, just subjective opinions. That opens the doors to scenarios such as:

In tight with the principal? High score. Make waves and voice concerns about anything? Low score. Implement best practices from another district and rock the boat? Low score. Pass everyone along with inflated grades? High score. Alert parents and students to shortcomings that need to be addressed before advancing a grade level? Low score.

In 2011, before student improvement was part of teacher evals, virtually all teachers were rated as satisfactory while around four out of every 10 students didn’t graduate in four years and around half of the students who did get a diploma needed remediation to be able to do college coursework. After reforms, including evaluations with student improvement data, the graduation rate in 2018 had increased more than 17%, to more than seven out of 10 students, and college remediation rates dropped to 33%.

But rather than continue to deliver accountability for the billions spent annually on K-12 public schools, NMPED has completed its superfecta of abandoning critical longitudinal data that shows students on an upward trajectory.

The price of teacher mulligans.

Amazon fired these 7 pregnant workers. Then came the lawsuits

Alfred Ng and Ben Fox Rubin:

When Beverly Rosales found out she was pregnant in October, one of the first people she knew she had to tell was her manager at Amazon.

Rosales knew she’d have to start taking more restroom breaks, and she was already worried that her bosses at Amazon’s Golden State Fulfillment Center would have an issue. During her 10-hour shift as a tote auditor, she would scan items and fill up a bag, and send them along to the next person.

She claims those fears were justified. She said her bosses hassled her about how much time she was taking to use the bathroom and how her work pace slowed during her pregnancy.

Nearly a week after Amazon’s Cyber Monday rush in November, its biggest shopping day ever, the world’s largest online retailer fired Rosales, ending her two-year tenure at the 950,000-square-foot San Bernardino, California, facility. Less than two months had passed since she told her managers she was pregnant.

“28% of first-year student borrowers don’t even know that they have federal student loans”

Sheila Bair and Preston Cooper:

In a 1955 essay, economist Milton Friedman highlighted a market failure in the finance of higher education: unlike most types of debt, such as mortgages or auto loans, education debt gives the borrower no physical asset to put up as collateral. This lack of security for the lender, combined with wide variation in the fortunes of indi- vidual students, would require usurious interest rates on education loans despite high returns to schooling, he observed, leading to widespread underinvestment in higher education and untapped potential among America’s youth.1
Politicians over the following decades heeded Friedman’s warning and created the federal student loan program, which has existed in one form or another since 1958.2 While the design of the program has evolved, a consis- tent theme has been a large role for the federal government in ensuring the continued provision of low-interest student loans. Today the federal government originates nearly 90% of the $106 billion in student loans disbursed annually.3

But boosters of a federal student loan program to counter this market failure have ignored the second part of Friedman’s analysis—that debt is an inappropriate instrument to finance education, regardless of whether the government or the private market originates the loans. Policymakers should turn instead to the standard instru- ment to finance risky ventures that has long served the interests of investors as well as those in need of financing: equity.

Friedman argued that the education-finance market could benefit from an analogue to equity. He proposed that an investor could “advance [a student] the funds needed to finance his training on condition that he agree to pay the lender a specified fraction of his future earnings.” Rather than fixing payments at a set amount every month, an individual would repay more of his obligation if he were financially successful and less if not, just as shareholders in a corporation receive larger returns when the company does well. Today, we call this concept an “income-share agreement” (ISA).
In recent years, ISAs have gained popularity as a means to finance education. Major universities such as Purdue have created ISA programs for their students, while new educational models, such as short-term coding acade- mies, look to ISAs as a financing tool. The idea has proved popular with students and parents, too: in contrast to a fixed debt obligation, the borrower is guaranteed a flexible, affordable payment. If the borrower’s income drops because of recession or personal circumstance, so does his ISA payment; if the borrower’s income increases, the reverse is true. Lawmakers from both parties have sponsored legislation to speed the introduction of ISAs into the private market, while policy experts have proposed replacing the federal student loan program with a gov- ernment-run ISA.

Emily Hanford and APM Reports won a national education reporting award

Karen Vaites:

“Thank you so much to EWA, congratulations to my fellow finalists, and there’s so much great reporting, education reporting going on right now–I’ve been coming to this conference and I’ve been a part of this community for a long time, and I’m just so grateful to be in the profession that all of you are in and to share this work with all of you.

I would like to dedicate this award to teachers, who really deserve to be taught the science of how kids learn to read, and to children everywhere and especially struggling readers because there are so many of them who deserve to be taught based on the science. I know that we all know there are no silver bullets in education, but I am convinced that this is the closest we’ve got. If we could actually teach virtually all kids to read–because virtually all kids can learn to read words pretty well by the end of 2nd grade, and it’s not happening across the country–but if we could do that we could get so much closer to solving so many of the other problems in education that all of us cover–behavior issues in school, dropping out of high school, not making it to college, not being prepared for college. So much of it goes to the foundational skills that kids are not being taught in K through 2, and for some reason and I’m included in this–I think that largely, not full, not thoroughly, I think we’ve really been missing K through 2 education for a long time, and there’s a, I really encourage other reporters to go out there and look inside the box of what’s happening in our K through 2 classrooms–I think it’s critically important and I can also assure you that it is endlessly fascinating, especially if you dig into the science of how kids learn to read.

So it has been very gratifying to me to see that in the wake of this report many other people have written some really great stories about what’s up with reading education — so keep it up, I encourage you all to do it, and I want to thank my team at APM Reports–my editor Chris Julin, my web editor David Mann, and my longtime editor who always edits me, but didn’t edit this piece, Catherine Winter, who I adore, and they all make my work so much better, so thank you so much.”

Much more on Emily Hanford, here

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

Eight Wisconsin students to compete in national Spelling Bee

Shelly Mesch:

Five more Wisconsin students will be traveling to the Scripps National Spelling Bee to compete along with the three winners from the Badger State Spelling Bee.

Maya Jadhav, a fifth-grader at Fitchburg’s Eagle School, took first place at the Badger State Bee, sponsored by the Wisconsin State Journal, in March. Immanuel Goveas, a sixth-grader at Menomonee Falls North Middle School, placed second, and Aryan Kalluvila, an eighth-grader at Richfield Middle School, came in third, securing their places at the national spelling bee.

Five others earned places in the national competition by qualifying through the Scripps RSVBee program, which is an alternative to placing at the state level. They are: Frankie Bautista, from Edgewood Campus School; Kieran McKinney, who is home-schooled; Spencer Phillips, from Indian Mount Middle School; Julianne Washa, from Highland Community Elementary School; and Aiden Wijeyakulasuriya, from Blessed Sacrament School.

Civics: Poynter Institute’s Retracted List of Fake News Sites Was Written by SPLC Podcast Producer

Robby Soave:

Last week, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a non-profit journalism and research organization, published a list of 500 unreliable new websites. But the list, which included many conservative news and think tank websites, was itself unreliable, and Poynter has since retracted it.

“Soon after we published, we received complaints from those on the list and readers who objected to the inclusion of certain sites, and the exclusion of others,” explained Poynter editor Barbara Allen in a statement. “We began an audit to test the accuracy and veracity of the list, and while we feel that many of the sites did have a track record of publishing unreliable information, our review found weaknesses in the methodology. We detected inconsistencies between the findings of the original databases that were the sources for the list and our own rendering of the final report.”

How exactly the list found its way onto the Poynter website in the first place is a bit of a mystery. Poynter confirmed that its author, Barrett Golding, is a freelancer rather than an employee, but did not answer other questions about the process of greenlighting this project.

Golding’s LinkedIn account lists him as a freelance podcast producer for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC did not respond to my questions about whether other SPLC staff had any influence or involvement over the list. Golding did not immediately respond to my request for comment, either. According to his Twitter feed, he works with the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” project. He was formerly a research fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and a producer for NPR.

But what if ignorance is strategically manufactured? See Madison’s disastrous reading results

Danah Boyd:

What if the tools of knowledge production are perverted to enable ignorance? In 1995, Robert Proctor and Iain Boal coined the term “agnotology” to describe the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance. In an edited volume called Agnotology, Proctor and Londa Schiebinger collect essays detailing how agnotology is achieved. Whether we’re talking about the erasure of history or the undoing of scientific knowledge, agnotology is a tool of oppression by the powerful.

Swirling all around us are conversations about how social media platforms must get better at content management. Last week, Congress held hearings on the dynamics of white supremacy online and the perception that technology companies engage in anti-conservative bias. Many people who are seeped in history and committed to evidence-based decision-making are experiencing a collective sense of being gaslit—the concept that emerges from a film on domestic violence to explain how someone’s sense of reality can be intentionally destabilized by an abuser. How do you process a black conservative commentator testifying before the House that the Southern strategy never happened and that white nationalism is an invention of the Democrats to “scare black people”? Keep in mind that this commentator was intentionally trolled by the terrorist in Christchurch; she responded to this atrocity with tweets containing “LOL” and “HAHA.”

Speaking of Christchurch, let’s talk about Christchurch. We all know the basic narrative. A terrorist espousing white nationalist messages livestreamed himself brutally murdering 50 people worshipping in a New Zealand mosque. The video was framed like a first-person shooter from a video game. Beyond the atrocity itself, what else was happening?

Civics: How Chinese Spies Got the N.S.A.’s Hacking Tools, and Used Them for Attacks

Nicole Perlroth, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane:

Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal.

Based on the timing of the attacks and clues in the computer code, researchers with the firm Symantec believe the Chinese did not steal the code but captured it from an N.S.A. attack on their own computers — like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away.

The Chinese action shows how proliferating cyberconflict is creating a digital wild West with few rules or certainties, and how difficult it is for the United States to keep track of the malware it uses to break into foreign networks and attack adversaries’ infrastructure.

The losses have touched off a debate within the intelligence community over whether the United States should continue to develop some of the world’s most high-tech, stealthy cyberweapons if it is unable to keep them under lock and key.

“A union perspective on Universal Basic Income”

New Economics Foundation and Public Services International:

Whereas universal benefits such as healthcare or unemployment payments are provided to all who need it, UBI is provided to all regardless of need. In- evitably it is not enough to help those in severe need but is a generous gift to the wealthy who don’t need it. It is the expenditure equivalent of a flat tax and as such is regressive. But the consequences are more than a question of principle.
The estimates of funds required to provide a UBI at anything other than token levels are well in excess of the entire welfare budget of most countries. If we were able to build the political movement required to raise the massive extra funds would we chose to return so much of it to the wealthiest, or would it be better spent on targeted measures to reduce inequality and help the neediest?
What’s more such schemes require the total current public welfare budget to be used. Do we really want to stop all existing targeted programs such as public housing, public subsidies to childcare, public transport and public health to redistribute these funds equally to billionaires
And this raises other practical political issues. With a UBI in place many have argued that the states obligations to welfare will have been met. That people would then be free to use the money as they best need – free from govern- ment interference. With such a large increase in public spending required to fund a UBI it would certainly prompt those who prefer market solutions to public provision with powerful arguments to cut what targeted welfare spending might remain.
Arguments put by proponents of UBI to counter these questions usually in- volve targeting of payments, or combination with other needs-based welfare entitlements. However, as this report notes, models of UBI that are universal and sufficient are not affordable, and models that are affordable are not uni- versal. The modifications inevitably required amount to arguments for more investment, and further reform, of the welfare state – valuable contributions to public debate but well short of the claims of UBI.
It is one of the unfortunate mirages of UBI, as clear from the evidence and trials outlined in this report, that UBI can mean all things to all people. But the closer you get to it the more it seems to recede. A further, and significant point for trade unionists, is the assumptions UBI proponents make about technological change and the effect on workers. The argument that tech- nology will inevitably lead to less work, more precarious forms and rising inequality is deeply based on the assumption that technology is not within human control. In fact, technology is owned by people and can be regulated by government if we chose. Work is not disappearing – there are shortages of paid carers and health care workers, amongst others, across the globe. And precarious work can be ended at any time with appropriate laws.

Jennifer Cheatham resigning as Madison school superintendent

Dylan Brogan:

Jennifer Cheatham is expected to resign as superintendent of the Madison school district at a news conference Wednesday. Isthmus confirmed the news with three members of the Madison school board and other sources. It is not known when Cheatham, who has led the district since 2013, will step down.

Rachel Strauch-Nelson, district spokesperson, did not immediately respond to a call and email for comment on Tuesday evening.

During an April 28 interview with Channel 3000’s On The Record, Cheatham said she was “really excited” about working with the new school board, which she described as a “new group of powerful women” who are going to help bring transformative change to the district. This school year, Cheatham implemented an updated strategic framework to guide district policy to help usher in that transformation.

“We have a new set of goals. A new set of core values. And a new refreshed strategy for the future,” said Cheatham. “The framework has a new set of core values that are all about voice, racial equity and social justice. Which is powerful. And we are learning how best to make decisions with those core values in mind.”

Cheatham said she planned on working with the new school board to “refresh the district’s equity tool,” which she added, “is essentially the set of questions we always want to ask ourselves when making decisions together. I think that’s powerful and has real potential for the future.”

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Cheatham’s departure leaves a slew of questions for the Madison School Board that was sworn in last month. With the exception of Burke, the other six board members have a collective five years of experience on the board. Cheatham’s administration introduced a $462.6 million budget proposal, and the board is planning to vote on a preliminary budget in June.

Hanks, MMSD’s elementary schools chief, also came to Madison in 2013 from Chicago Public Schools. She served as principal at Melody Elementary School on Chicago’s west side, near the neighborhood she grew up in. She earned her Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from Harvard. The Root previously recognized her as one of the 100 most influential African-Americans in the country.

Hanks, a black woman, would temporarily lead a school district that is majority-nonwhite if appointed. Cheatham’s “trying year” comment in a speech to the Rotary Club of Madison followed high-profile incidents this past school year, including several instances where MMSD employees used a racial slur in front of students and another involving an altercation between a black girl and a white positive behavior coach at Whitehorse Middle School that did not result in any criminal charges. In a previous interview with the Cap Times, Whitehorse staffer Rob Mueller-Owens described how he felt thrown under the bus by Cheatham following the handling of school-based side of the investigation.

Related: Superintendent Cheatham’s 2013 Madison Rotary Club speech and, again in 2019.

December, 2018: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

Wisconsin Governor Evers’ Backdoor Plan to Stop School Choice

Libby Sobic and Will Flanders:

This change in accreditation also makes it more difficult for existing private schools to join the parental choice program because it is one more regulation that the school must comply with. The plan is even more ridiculous when one considers that Wisconsin’s public schools aren’t required to go through any accreditation process at all.

While some states such as Indiana and Michigan require schools to be accredited, Wisconsin has no such provision in law. If the governor believes that further onerous accreditation requirements are needed on some of Wisconsin’s best performing schools, surely one would expect that he wants the same regulations on the public schools that he oversaw for a decade.

But that is not the case because this is not about school quality. Rather, this is little more than yet another attempt to cut off the pipeline of high performing private voucher schools that provide too much competition to his teachers’ union donors.

Evers knows exactly what he is doing with his accreditation proposal. He is looking to create more red tape for private schools and add to the number of requirements that already make the Wisconsin choice program one of the most regulated in the country. This proposal is well designed attack on the school choice programs and it must not stand.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary teacher reading content knowledge exam requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results.

via a kind Deb Britt email:

Georgetown University’s newest cohort of the Certificate in Education Finance (CEF) starts with a two-day residency at The Joyce Foundation in downtown Chicago on July 16th & 17th.

Taught by Dr. Marguerite Roza and a range of guest speakers, this first-of-its-kind program is an interdisciplinary, interactive, hands-on approach to learning and applying finance strategy, leadership, policy and administration, covering everything from resource allocation and productivity to financial tradeoffs and equity. We’re looking to equip participants at all levels of the education system with the practical skills needed to be both better consumers and users of education finance information. Cohort participants range from (but are not limited to) district and school leaders to analysts and graduate students to nonprofit leaders and policymakers. Our cohorts to date report that working with and learning from professionals across a wide swath of roles and perspectives in the education sector is invaluable in helping them effectively apply their newfound skills.

Designed for full-time working professionals, the 40-hour (4 CEU or 48 CPE) certificate builds on the two-day residency with live, interactive virtual sessions roughly every two weeks through October. Scholarships may be available. For questions, contact Liz Ryan at

Edunomics Lab is a Georgetown University-based research center focused on exploring and modeling complex education finance decisions.

Register here.

Jersey City Board Of Education, Owned and Operated by Teacher Union Leaders. A Board Member Speaks Out.

Laura Waters:

At that time Matt filed an ethics complaint with the State Ethics Commission. The Commission issued an Advisory Opinion on April 3d. (See the bottom of this post for the full opinion.) Regarding Lorenzo Richardson, the Commission opined that

Mr. Richardson may have opted to support the JCEA over the Board and its individual members when he joined the JCEA in filing a lawsuit. Whether Mr. Richardson’s decision was predicated on the support he received from the JCEA during his election, or stemmed from his belief that the actions of certain Board members were inappropriate, his action has the appearance of paying allegiance to the JCEA. By aligning himself with the JCEA to the detriment of the Board and its individual members, it would be reasonable for a member of the public to believe that his involvement violated N.J.S.A. 18A:12-24(b) and/or N.J.S.A. 18A:12-24(c). Therefore, the Commission advises that Mr. Richardson should refrain from being involved in future negotiation discussions and meetings, as well as votes related to the JCEA, for the remainder of his current term

Related: “An emphasis on adult employment”.

Want to Be a Doctor? A Scientist? An Engineer? An Affirmative Action Leg Up May Hurt Your Chances

Gail Heriot:

The assumption behind the fierce competition for admission to elite colleges and universities is clear: The more elite the school one attends, the brighter one’s future. That assumption, however, may well be flawed. The research examined recently by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights provides strong reason to believe that attending the most competitive school is not always best — at least for students who aspire to a degree in science or engineering.

China Media Bulletin: Student indoctrination, surveillance innovation, GitHub mobilization

Freedom House:

The party’s system for influencing students depends in large part on their teachers and professors. In a speech at a Beijing seminar attended by teachers from across the country in March, Xi called on educators to instill patriotism in the country’s youth and reject “wrong ideas and ideology.” He also emphasized that teachers themselves “should have strict self-discipline, be consistent in class and out of class, online and offline, should consciously carry forward the main melody and actively convey positive energy.”

In recent months, a number of teachers have faced dismissal, detention, and other penalties after falling short of these expectations. On March 25, the Financial Times reported that prominent constitutional law professor Xu Zhangrun had been barred from teaching at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He had written numerous essays that sharply and eloquently criticized the top leadership’s decisions, often drawing on ancient Chinese philosophy, literature, and political theory to make his arguments. Xu was subsequently stripped of his other positions and teaching responsibilities. On April 8, scholar Yu Jianrong, known for his research on China’s peasants, had his Sina Weibo microblogging account, which had 7.2 million followers, silenced such that he could no longer post comments, only read others’ messages.

In two other cases, educators have faced jail time for sharing information about the persecuted Falun Gong spiritual group in their private capacities. In January, Zeng Hao, a business professor at Tianhe College in Guangdong Province, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison after posting images related to Falun Gong on Tencent’s QQ messaging platform. On April 15, Amnesty International issued an urgent action for high school chemistry teacher Chen Yan, who is expected to face trial for handing out a calendar with information about Falun Gong to someone on a Beijing street.

Wisconsin DPI should let all schools count online learning

CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic:

The latest attack is from Gov. Tony Evers’ appointed successor at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who is refusing to allow private schools in the choice programs to count online (“virtual”) learning toward annual class-time requirements. She is doing so even though DPI has permitted public schools to use virtual learning for a variety of reasons, including to make up for class cancellations caused by Wisconsin’s winter weather.

This is unfair and wrong. We also believe it is illegal. Last month, attorneys at our organization, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), sued Taylor and DPI in Waukesha Circuit Court on behalf of School Choice Wisconsin Action, a membership organization of private choice schools.

This winter has been brutal for Wisconsin’s schools. With unprecedented snowfall, temperatures frequently below zero and mass flooding, Wisconsin K-12 schools have been forced to cancel classes at an extraordinary rate. Because of a state law that requires students to attend more than 1,000 hours in the classroom, many schools are having to make up class time by extending minutes in their school day or by adding days to the school year.

Dear Dr. Gee: can we teach responsibility instead of guilt?

David Blaska:

Race is the lady’s business, her line of work and boy is she good at it! (Pays well, too, at $83,377 a year.) City of Madison managers have worked up a spreadsheet of workplace violations, shortcomings, insubordination, F-bombing, tasks uncompleted or poorly performed. The lady has been warned, put on notice, and suspended. Her personnel file must be bulging like the hernia on a fat man.

And still, Ms. Pettaway plays identity politics against her boss. Who is also black. Now she is “marginalized” as a black female working in his office.

That is some dedication to the job of race mongering! Well done, Ms. Pettaway!

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Funny thing, having never enslaved anyone, refused service or discriminated in any way, we still don’t feel guilty. Might we all be better off if we focused on behavior instead of race?

Beta testing Facebook’s censorship engine

Stewart Baker:

Day 2. I’m posting a link to an Infowars story taken from CNBC and headlined “JOBS SURGE, UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS TO LOWEST SINCE 1969.”…/ Unlike last time, though, the link does not end at Infowars’s landing page. Could it be that I’m inadvertently helping to beta test Facebook’s censorship engine?

Texas bill would allow state to sue social media companies like Facebook and Twitter over free speech

Elizabeth Byrne:

A bill before the Texas Senate seeks to prevent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. Supporters say it would protect the free exchange of ideas, but critics say the bill contradicts a federal law that allows social media platforms to regulate their own content.

The measure — Senate Bill 2373 by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — would hold social media platforms accountable for restricting users’ speech based on personal opinions. Hughes said the bill applies to social media platforms that advertise themselves as unbiased but still censor users. The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill last week. (Update: The Texas Senate approved the bill on April 25 in an 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House.)

“Senate Bill 2373 tries to prevent those companies that control these new public spaces, this new public square, from picking winners and losers based on content,” Hughes said in the committee hearing. “Basically if the company represents, ‘We’re an open forum and we don’t discriminate based on content,’ then they shouldn’t be able to discriminate based on content.”

Chinese model for early learning part of One City Schools’ educational approach

Logan Wroge:

A Chinese approach to teaching preschool students has made its way to Madison.

One City Schools, a Madison charter school founded by former Urban League president Kaleem Caire and authorized by an office within the University of Wisconsin System, was the first school in the United States to practice Anji Play and is now among a handful of early learning centers and schools in the country using the approach.

The early childhood education model, developed and implemented in kindergartens throughout Anji County, China, allows young children to determine how and with whom they play and encourages them to analyze and reflect on their play.

A crack in Madison’s non diverse K-12 governance model: independent charter One City Schools

A crack in Madison’s non diverse K-12 governance model: independent charter One City Schools

Logan Wroge:

In a previous attempt at a charter school, Caire proposed the Madison Preparatory Academy, which would have served a similar population as One City Schools, but would have been for grades 6-12. The Madison School Board rejected the idea in December 2011.

Caire sought to bring his “change-maker” approach to the Madison School Board, but lost an election last month to Cris Carusi.

“Almost half the electorate, they know what I do, and they like the message I was bringing about trying to implement these changes in the school system, and so we think that Madison is ready,” he said.

School Board president Mary Burke said she has no specific concerns with One City and is supportive of “innovative approaches” meant to lessen the gaps between students of color and their white peers. But she remains concerned about the financial impact charter schools cause on the Madison School District as state aid is moved from the district to charters.

“I’m not saying one way or the other whether it’s the best use of resources,” Burke said. “I’m just saying that expansion comes at a cost for MMSD.”

Doug Keillor, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the union shares similar concerns about the fiscal impact on the Madison School District, but sees some elements in the school’s model he likes.

“I’m particularly interested in the full-day 4K model and what that could mean for Madison schools,” he said. “Even though we disagree with the way it’s funded and the politics of it, we’re still intrigued with the work they’re doing.”

With the school’s expansion into new grade levels comes added personnel, instructional and capital costs.

For the 2018-19 school year, One City has budgeted $2.2 million to operate the entire school, which includes the private One City Junior Preschool for children between ages 1 and 3 and the public One City Senior Preschool. The public 4K and kindergarten components educate 62 children and are expected to cost $1.2 million this year, said Ramakrishnan, of which approximately $413,000 is covered by state funding.

One City also has a federal five-year charter implementation grant, is eligible for school lunch reimbursement, and received less than $10,000 in other federal funding, according to Ramakrishnan.

Curiously, Mr Wroge’s article includes this budget note: :

The Madison School District’s adopted 2018-19 operating budget, which covers traditional costs associated with education like teacher pay and instructional materials, results in spending $15,440 per student. The district’s total budget for this year, which includes among other things capital maintenance and community programming, is $17,216 per student.

Ramakrishnan said the average salary for a lead teacher is $47,000. The starting salary for kindergarten and 4K teachers in the Madison School District is $41,970, according to district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson, and the average salary for all district teachers in those grades is $55,382.

Yet, the district’s budget documents stare that total 2018-2019 spending is $518,955,288, October 31, 2018 Madison School District 2018-2019 2 page budget summary, about $20k/student

Much more on the taxpayer supported Madison school district budget, here

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.

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

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2013: What will be different, this time?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.

Civics: Xinjiang phone app exposes how Chinese police monitor Uighur Muslims

Yuan Yang:

China’s “intelligence-led policing”, which relies on gathering data to identify possible or repeat offenders, was partly copied from the British police, who pioneered the approach in the 1990s, Mr Walton said.

The IJOP app prompts police to gather a vast range of details about individuals they are interrogating. In addition, the app presents data taken from various sources — such as someone consuming more electricity than usual — as flags for “suspicious” behaviour.

Data labels found in the IJOP app overlapped with those found in a recent data leak from the Chinese police contractor SenseNets, which was found to have collected almost 6.7m GPS co-ordinates in a 24-hour period, tracing 2.6m people, mainly in Xinjiang. The matching data labels suggest that multiple companies and sources are feeding into the IJOP system.

The app also dispatches police on missions, for example to interview someone who has left the area of their household registration or who has returned home after spending “too long” abroad.

“What have we done for generations to kids that we didn’t really teach to read?”

PNS Newshour:

Lisa Stark:

This type of reading instruction is the most beneficial for early readers. That was the conclusion of the federally appointed National Reading Panel nearly two decades ago.

Stacy Smith:

So, there is actual scientific evidence about how students learn to read. And it’s largely been ignored.

Lisa Stark:

Ignored largely because of years of ideological fights over how to best teach reading. Should lessons be heavy with phonics or steeped in good literature?

Smith says sure kids of course need time with good books, but from what she’s seen in Arkansas, the first step is comprehensive phonics instruction. That’s why the state is moving to teach every student this way.

Stacy Smith:

Golly, you think, what have we done? What have we done for generations to kids that we didn’t really teach to read?

Lisa Stark:

Arkansas is now retraining thousands of its educators who were never taught this method of teaching.

Miranda Mahan:

When I first started teaching, I honestly didn’t know how to teach kids to read. I didn’t. I taught them some sight words. I taught them the letters and what sounds they make. And I hoped that they put it all together. Rush.

Lisa Stark:

Teacher Miranda Mahan no longer has to hope. She knows kids are learning to read.


Facebook is trying to make the word “private” meaningless

Casey Johnston:

“The future is private,” Mark Zuckerberg declared at Facebook’s F8 conference keynote yesterday. He went on to discuss the importance of building “private” online “living rooms,” an analog for direct messages and Facebook Groups, to contrast the “public square” of the News Feed.

Zuckerberg described a number of new initiatives in this “future is private” push, including encrypted, and even ephemeral, Facebook messaging features, as well as an ephemeral “status” feature (similar to Instagram or Facebook Stories) for WhatsApp. WhatsApp messages have always been end-to-end encrypted, and Zuckerberg noted they would stay that way. He emphasized several times that Facebook will not be able to see the content of this material, saying it was private “even from us” several times about several features, and emphasizing the words “safety” and “secure.”

But what his presentation elided was the fact that Facebook does not need to see the content of what people are saying in order to advertise to them. The metadata — who, or what (as in a business), you’re talking to, and even where you are or what time the conversation is taking place as it comes together with other pieces of information — provides more than enough information to make a very educated guess about what you’re interested in, to the point that knowing specifically what you are saying adds almost nothing.

The value of metadata, not just in advertising but in building an understanding of a person, has been well-studied for years; Facebook is neither inventing it nor even just beginning to use it. It’s easy to forget that while Facebook builds all of these “private” features into its own products, it still has not only an immense body of information that we gave to it freely in its earlier days, but also an extremely robust tracking apparatus across the entire Internet.

Subsidies, not profits, have crumbled the ivory tower

Todd J. Zywicki and Neal McCluskey:

But there is little indication that the United States was suffering a shortage of institutions to provide useful training to future engineers and scientists.

Instead, Morrill-funded education crowded out many private institutions that were successfully training large numbers of people, and both college enrollment and the economy grew faster before the Act took root than after.

As subsidies have become far more ubiquitous, higher education has become dangerously bloated. This has increasingly caused faculty and administrators to wrestle for the steering wheels of their Titanics. Or perhaps Carnival Cruise ships, as waterparks have become a growing presence on campuses.

When the federal government started replacing student’s money with government grants and loans, it had to ensure that dollars weren’t flowing to diploma mills.

In so doing, it took once collegial college accreditation and made it a live-or-die process, heavily controlled by Washington, through which institutions must pass to access students with now-essential federal aid, and that restricts what new models, such as low-cost online education, can viably enter the market.

The sector that has tried hardest to work with the people most poorly served by traditional institutions has been for-profits, with schools that offer classes in demand by non-traditional students and on schedules convenient for students often working and rearing children.

Is this charitable outreach or predation? It’s neither.

The Dutch East India Company was richer than Apple, Google and Facebook combined

Bobby Solomon:

The “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie” (VOC), better known as the Dutch East-India company was set up in 1602, head-quartered in the “Oost-Indisch Huis” (East-India House) in downtown Amsterdam – which still stands today. It was founded as a private merchant company that was granted a two decade long monopoly by the government for spice trading in Asia, in particular the Dutch East-Indies, known today as the Republic of Indonesia.

And if you think Amazon is thrifty with deliveries – the VOC sent over one million voyagers across Asia, which is more than the rest of Europe combined, in a time where a trip from Amsterdam to Batavia (Djakarta) would last no shorter than 8 to 10 months and many ships, or individual passengers, would never return. Many of the massive sailing ships perished in storms, fell prey to piracy or infectious disease. Traveling at the time came at a huge risk, but once on location and with the right knowledge and attitude there was a great chance of becoming wealthy and so many took the risk.

The company was also the first official company to issue stocks, which peaked during the Dutch “Tulip Mania”, a craze for tulip bulbs that is seen as the world’s first true financial bubble. The VOC’s stocks pushed the company’s worth to a massive 78 million Dutch guilders, which is a pretty solid business even today, but translates to a whopping $7,9 trillion dollar worth today… Yes, really, trillion. That’s 7,900 billion – or 79,000 million!

A Chinese Cheating Ring at UCLA Reveals an Industry Devoted to Helping International Students Scam Grades

Christopher Beam:

On paper, Liu Cai was a model student. After moving to the United States from Beijing, he majored in biology at UCLA and volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club. A former teacher, Jose Echeverria, remembers him as “an excellent student” and a “great person” who was “easy to get along with.” Cai graduated in 2017 and landed a job at a health care technology company in Santa Monica. He appeared to be doing everything right.

So it came as a surprise when, on a Tuesday morning in March, federal authorities arrested him on suspicion of facilitating an international cheating ring. According to prosecutors, Cai, along with four current and former UCLA students and another student at Cal State Fullerton, helped at least 40 Chinese nationals obtain student visas by fraudulently taking the TOEFL, an English proficiency exam, on their behalf. Cai’s ringers would show up to testing sites with fake Chinese passports bearing their own photos but with the names of the clients. Where Cai slipped—and where investigators caught up to him—was charging 39 test registration payments to his credit card.

Any other day the UCLA bust might have made national headlines, but the news got swamped by a bigger, sexier college cheating scandal: Operation Varsity Blues. (The UCLA investigation was dubbed “Operation TOEFL Recall.”) While the UCLA case is less shocking—bribes in thousands of dollars instead of millions; Chinese high schoolers instead of Full House cast members—it represents an equally notable underbelly of American college admissions. If Varsity Blues is about the American ruling class perpetuating its privilege, the UCLA scandal reveals the extreme pressures and perverse incentives facing international students, many of them far less privileged and desperate to not screw up their shot.

It’s hard to find data on cheating that is broken down by country of origin, but a survey of 14 public universities by The Wall Street Journal found that in the 2014-15 school year, those universities reported cheating among international students at a rate five times higher than among domestic students. In 2018 a professor at UC Santa Barbara told the Los Angeles Times that Chinese students comprise 6 percent of the student body but account for a third of plagiarism cases. A 2016 study conducted by United Kingdom newspaper The Times says that students from outside the European Union were four times more likely to cheat than U.K. and European Union students.

Wright Middle School students recognized for winning regional African American History Challenge Bowl

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Students at Wright Middle School were formally recognized by the Madison School Board on Monday for their success at the 25th annual African American History Academic Challenge.

The contest, which is sponsored by the group 100 Black Men of Madison, saw teams of students from across the district compete to see who knew the most African American history. The winning group from Wright will compete in June at the national level in Las Vegas.

Teams from Cherokee and Whitehorse middle schools finished second and third in the regional challenge, respectively.

It’s not the first time Madison students have dominated the competition. Wright is currently the defending national champion. Spring Harbor Middle School won the 2017 competition, according to Floyd Rose, president of the 100 Black Men of Madison chapter.

Madison-based teams have won the national competition seven times in the last 25 years.

Blocks from the glitz of Fiserv Forum, a Milwaukee school flounders and a community shrugs

Alan Borsuk:

Let me suggest that at least a bit of our attention should focus on the Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning, known as WCLL (pronounced “wickle”).

There seems to be a surge of unsettling things happening on the Milwaukee education landscape, some of them just more of the same (low student achievement, divisive politics) and some of them not so typical (corruption).

Sweeping things under the carpet or collectively shrugging our shoulders are not good long-term strategies for dealing with these situations, but they seem to be popular practices.

Start with WCLL, an MPS kindergarten through 12th-grade school with about 625 students. The school originally was located on the far south side. It moved a few years ago to the Sarah Scott building at 1017 N. 12th St. That building has housed a list of schools that didn’t do well. WCLL is following suit.

According to data from the state Department of Public Instruction, 1.5% of WCLL’s third through eighth graders were proficient in reading and math last year, 75.4% were rated “below basic” in reading and 82.8% “below basic” in math. Daily attendance averaged 77% and the four-year graduation rate was 38.2%.

Lately, WCLL has been in the news because of a series of fights involving lots of kids that were caught on phone video. Some parents have called the school out of control. The response from MPS leaders has been muted and unspecific. To an outside eye, there’s no sign of doing something to change what’s going on.

Censorship at UConn (AsACC)

Tenzin Miglay:

It had been months of preparation, dedication, and stress, but the day had finally come. March 30th, 2019, the Tibetan Interest Association (TIA) would be performing at Asian Nite for the first time. Twenty-six groups had auditioned, and we were one of only fourteen groups that had been selected to perform. Asian Nite is a showcase that is held in Jorgensen every spring by the Pan Asian Council (PAC), a program that falls under the Asian American Cultural Center (AsACC). We had been frantically painting our props the night before, anticipating a crowd of one thousand, with a mixture of nerves and excitement. After several months of rehearsal, our culturally and ethnically diverse cast was honestly just worried about perfecting our performance and making the Tibetan community proud. Never did we imagine the outpour of negativity we would receive about a performance based on rejecting division and celebrating unity. Even more shocking was the aftermath of the performance and the Asian American Cultural Center’s lack of response to the situation.

Our seven-minute performance included monologues about the three provinces of Tibet. Each monologue was followed by dance from that province. The final dance was a popular Tibetan gorshey (circle dance), meant to symbolize unity. You can watch the entire performance recorded by UCTV for free. Several students, primarily international Chinese students, were disturbed by our performance and began booing. In the UCTV clip, you can audibly hear their disdain during and after TIA’s performance. My aunt and cousin were in the audience that night sitting near where most of the booing was occurring. She confessed to me days later that she was seriously worried for my safety and what the aftermath of this performance would bring.

Civics: Our Suicidal Elites

Joel Kotkin:

The French nobility, observed Tocqueville in The Ancien Regime and The Revolution, supported many of the writers whose essays and observations ended up threatening “their own rights and even their existence.” Today we see much the same farce repeated, as the world’s richest people line up behind causes that, in the end, could relieve them of their fortunes, if not their heads. In this sense, they could end up serving, in Lenin’s words, as “useful idiots” in their own destruction.

Although they themselves have benefited enormously from the rise of free markets, liberal protection of property rights, and the meritocratic ideal, many among our most well-heeled men and women, even in the United States, have developed a tendency to embrace policies and cultural norms that undermine their own status. This is made worse by their own imperious behavior, graphically revealed in the mortifying college admissions scandal in the United States, where the Hollywood and business elites cheated, bribed, and falsified records to get their own kids into elite colleges.

At the same time, these same people continue to boost their own share of the world’s wealth, as a recent OECD report reveals, largely at the expense of the middle and working class. The embrace of inexorable “globalization”—essentially shifting productive work to developing countries—may appeal to the progressive rich even as it, in the words of geographer Christophe Guilluy, “revived the citadels of Medieval France.”

Sometimes the elite policy agenda is justified as part of a “green” agenda that impoverishes the lower and middle classes by expelling basic industries, thereby boosting housing and energy prices. This in turn has set the stage for the kind of peasant rebellions—from Brexit and Trump to the rise of illiberal regimes in eastern Europe as well as the re-emergence of socialism—that threaten their hegemony.

Parents Can’t Monitor Autistic Son with GPS Tracker at School, Nevada Ruling Says

D. Hobbs:

Joshua and Britten Wahrer wanted their 6-year-old son Joshua Jr., who is nonverbal, to use the device at school after his teacher was accused of beating him with a wooden pointer stick and arrested. The Clark County School District in Las Vegas rejected the request, saying the listen-in function could be intrusive to private conversations.

The case has been closely watched by families with special-needs children, who increasingly are in regular classrooms at school. The tracking devices were developed for Alzheimer’s patients but are now being used by parents of children with special needs.

School districts worry the devices could violate the privacy of other students and teachers, and some have banned them or required disablement of any listen-in technology. But some parents say the devices are a way to ensure their vulnerable children are safe and treated well.

In the Las Vegas case, a state-appointed hearing officer agreed with the district, and in a ruling released Thursday said the Wahrers’ son couldn’t have the device at school. The ruling also requires the boy’s principal, teachers and other providers this school year and next school year to each complete four hours of education in areas such as proper restraint and use of positive behavior plans.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” Mr. Wahrer said. “Being able to check on him throughout the day is a peace of mind, and knowing he is safe.”

Every Pronoun Must Go

Theodore Dalrymple:

Two types of people desire to impose politically correct locutions on the rest of us: those who possess unlimited power and fear to lose it and those who aspire to unlimited power and need a means to attain it. And there is, after all, no greater power than that of prescribing what others must say and what others must not think.

The Scottish Maritime Museum, dedicated to the history of the country’s shipbuilding industry, has decided that it will no longer use the words sheand herto refer to ships, but rather itand its. This is in response to feminists, who have defaced plaques referring to ships as sheor her. This change would negate centuries of tradition, during which the words traditionally used on launching a ship, “May God bless all who sail in her,” carried no connotation of insult or deprecation—rather the reverse.

The Maritime Museum’s surrender is yet another instance of the craven surrender of British officialdom to the demands of a small but vociferous group of monomaniacs who make the imposition of their views the purpose of their lives. Museum authorities have argued that they must move with the times, and the prevention of vandalism is important, for economic reasons among others. Yet this rationale is something like awarding burglars a pension in an effort to prevent burglary.
Concessions of this kind will not reduce, but increase, the appetite of monomaniacs of different stripes. How long before the sexist opening stanzas of Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenterare changed to appropriately gender-neutral language:

Commentary on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget

WILL Policy Brief:

Today WILL is releasing “A Deep Dive into Governor Evers’ K-12 Budget Proposal” that goes through nearly every single education proposal in Evers’ budget while utilizing new research as well as LFB analysis and JFC testimony. For each proposal, we explain how it impacts schools and students across Wisconsin.

We dive deep into nearly every provision in his budget, from his infamous voucher freeze – which would cost Wisconsin $110 million in lost economic benefits – to the ending of the Special Needs Scholarship Program – that has a 56% higher parental satisfaction score than public schools for educating students with disabilities. The report looks at lesser known provisions, such as new private school accreditation requirements, new teacher licensing requirements, changes to the early college credit program, the elimination of the private school tuition tax deduction, and more mandates from Madison on local school districts.

Evers’ budget should concern parents and lawmakers alike. It would end school choice as we know it – freezing the expansion of vouchers and charters but also implementing stifling regulations that would halt the growth of private schools in the choice program. It also goes after Wisconsin’s incredibly popular Open Enrollment Program, limiting funding increases for the program and making it less desirable for public schools to participate. Evers’ budget would exacerbate Wisconsin’s teacher shortage problem, making it harder for teachers to work at private and public schools. All in all, Evers’ budget:

This Will Be The Biggest Disruption In Higher Education

Brandon Busted:

When asked about a potential new pathway for their children to get a college degree, 74% of all parents of K-12 students would consider a route where their child would be hired directly out of high school by an employer that offers a college degree while working. (Nearly four-in-ten gave the strongest level of endorsement saying they would “definitely” consider this.) Remarkably, there are no meaningful differences in support for this new pathway by the parent’s education level, race, income or political affiliation – giving the concept broad appeal across the board. And parents not only see this path as a much more affordable route through college, but they also see it as a better pathway in preparing their child for ultimate success in work and life. Ninety-percent say “you can learn a lot from a job,” 89% say “work is important for personal growth,” and 85% say “work is important to one’s purpose.”

This strong value placed on work by parents of the coming generation of college students represents a major pendulum swing. Today’s college students are actually the least working generation in U.S. history. Driven by current dissatisfaction with the work-relevance of college and the work-readiness of graduates and the sheer intimidation of college costs, the parents of the coming generation of college students hope to change this dynamic. They endorse a very different model for the future. That said, they still value certain aspects of “college” such as the social development and critical thinking that are advertised as common benefits of the collegiate experience. But, of course, higher education does not have a monopoly on social development and critical thinking.

Is it ok that Lebron’s school chooses not to serve the most at-risk children in Akron?


Can you imagine the NYT headline if top charters had a formal policy about not serving students in the bottom 10% of performance?


On the substance of the issue, I’m sympathetic to Lebron’s approach. Serving students in the 10th-25th percentile well is both very hard and very important.

Also, starting without the hardest to reach kids helps reduce the risks of creating a new school.

I’ve seen new charter schools nearly collapse because of 5-10 kids who have severe mental health afflictions.

Of course, it’s not scalable for every school in a city to not serve the lowest performing 10% of students. And I also worry about segregating these students into separate schools.

But I think a reasonable policy would be to allow schools to get their footing and reach a bit of scale before having to build programs for the hardest to reach students.

Civics: Why Immigrants Travel West

Victor Davis Hanson:

The harshest critics of the West in general and the United States in particular are the best arguments for it. Take the latest iconic critic, 29-year-old Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. She has a predictable list of complaints against America, past and present.

Yet fortunately for her, her paternal grandparents and mother had experienced firsthand the antitheses of mainland America. And thus they were obsessed with what was right, not wrong, with the continental United States — and with getting there as quickly as possible. If they had once been critics of America, such animus was seemingly not great enough to prevent them moving to a place with a different language, ethnic majority, and traditions from those of their home, itself a territory of the U.S.

They apparently assumed that a free-market economy and transparent government gave them economic opportunities unknown in Puerto Rico, an otherwise naturally rich landscape. They wisely stayed in North America, apparently because they felt as supposed minorities that they would have far more cultural, social, political, and economic opportunities than they would as part of the majority in Puerto Rico. The fact that her father was a second-generation immigrant and architect, that AOC herself grew up in affluent Westchester County, that she received scholarships to attend pricey Boston University, and that she was elected to Congress bore out her parents’ correct assumptions of a meritocracy, not a caste state.

Mutatis mutandis, the same could be said of two other chronic ankle-biters of America, newly elected Representatives Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.). Their families correctly (but internally rather than publicly) had apparently once assumed that Muslims and the so-called nonwhite would enjoy a higher standard of living, more religious protection, and greater political freedom as minority citizens of the U.S. than as part of the majority in either Somalia or the Palestinian territories . Omar and Tlaib both know that if they were to redirect commensurate animus to the government and society of Somalia or the Palestinian territories, their freedoms, if not their very lives, would be in danger.

Left unsaid is that their theoretical doppelgängers, would-be Christian emigrants, especially European Christians, would find no such reciprocal tolerance when they reached the Middle East or East Africa (and they therefore do not emigrate to such places). That reality, along with a greater likelihood of personal security and material affluence, is why in a larger sense immigration is always a one-way street: Those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – the non-West — who are fed up always go westward. Very few disenchanted Westerners emigrate in the opposite direction; those who do are usually affluent and retired.

Transfer American paradigms from frigid Minnesota to warm Somalia, and Ilhan Omar would never have left Mogadishu. And put Somalian protocols in play in Minneapolis, and she and her family would never have set foot in America. And the reason she seems unable to acknowledge that simple truth is also Western to the core — once a pampered Westerner gains the leisure, affluence, and security to critique the very system that provided these boons.

The Underpopulation Bomb

Kevin Kelly:

The shocking news is that the developing world is not far behind. This is not the stereotypical image. While developing countries are above replacement level, their birthrates are dropping fast. Much of Africa, South America, the Mid-East and Iran have fertility rates that are dropping fast. The drop in fertility in has recently stalled in some sub-Saharan African nations but that is because development there has stalled. When development resumes, fertility will drop again — because fertility rates are linked to urbanity. There is a deep feedback cycle: the more technologically developed a society becomes, the fewer offspring couples will have, the easier it is for them to raise their living standards, the more that progress lowers their desire for large families. The result is the spiral of modern technological population decline — a new but now universal pattern.

All that it would take to break this downward spiral is that many women living in cities all around the world decide to have more than 2 children in order to raise the average fertility level to 2.1 children. That means substantial numbers of couples would have to have 3 or 4 children in urban areas to make up for those with none or only one. It is possible it could become fashionable to have 4 kids in the city. The problem is that these larger families are not happening anywhere where the population has become urban, and urbanity is now the majority mode of the population and becoming moreso. Every developed country on the planet is experiencing falling birth rates. The one exception has been the US because of its heavy immigration, primarily because of catholic Hispanic immigrants, but even that is changing. The most recent report shows that the birth rates of hispanic immigrants in the US is dropping faster than ever. Soon the US will be on par with the rest of the world with plunging birth rates.

To counter this scary population implosion Japan, Russia, Australia pay bonuses for newborns. Singapore (with the lowest fertility rate in the world) will pay couples $5,000 for a first child and up to $18,000 for a third child — but to no avail; Singapore’s rate is less than 1 child per woman. In the past drastic remedies for reducing fertility rates were hard, but they worked. Drastic remedies for increasing fertility don’t seem to work so far.

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