MUAE “Conversation With the Candidates”

Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) will be hosting a “Conversation With the Madison School Board Candidates” on Tuesday, March 11, at 7:00 p.m. in the Wright Middle School LMC, 1313 Fish Hatchery Road. Marjorie Passman and Ed Hughes are running for Seats 6 and 7, respectively. Both are running unopposed. Please join us for a relaxed and productive dialogue, sans political sparring. Bring your questions, comments, concerns and ideas. The candidates are as eager to listen as they are to speak.
As an introduction to the candidates —
Isthmus Take-Home Test, Week One:

Isthmus Take-Home Test, Week Two:
Marjorie Passman’s website:

Ed Hughes’s website:
All are welcome!

Madison School Board Candidates Discuss Why They Are Running

Take Home Test, Week 1 by Marc Eisen:

Why is The Daily Page wasting precious pixels by questioning two Madison school board candidates who are running unopposed on the April 1 ballot?
Because the success of the public schools is absolutely essential to Madison’s future. And by questioning Marjorie Passman, the lone candidate for Seat 6, and Ed Hughes, the lone candidate for Seat 7, we hope to further the discussion of education in Madison.
So for the next five weeks we will revive Take Home Test, asking the candidates large and small questions each week. Their responses to our questions follow.

Via a couple of emails, including Ed Hughes, who urges us to look forward!
Ed’s website includes an interesting set of Questions and Answers, including those from Madison Teachers, Inc..

Madison School Board Candidates are “Shoo-ins”

Susan Troller:

Ed Hughes, a Madison attorney, and Marj Passman, a retired local teacher, will fill two Madison School Board seats in the spring election on April 1. They are running unopposed for seats now held by Lawrie Kobza, a single-term board member, and Carol Carstensen, who has served since 1990 and is by far the most senior member of the board.
In fact, when Hughes and Passman join the board, only Johnny Winston Jr. will have served more than one three-year term.
James Ely, an East High School custodian who had filed papers Dec. 27 with the City Clerk’s Office to register as a candidate for Carstensen’s Seat 7, decided to withdraw from the race because he was unable to complete the necessary filing information to change his candidacy to a run for Kobza’s Seat 6.
Hughes is running for Seat 7, and Passman is the candidate for Seat 6. Neither Hughes nor Passman has previously served on the board, although Passman lost a race last year against Maya Cole.

Candidate Enters Race for Madison School Board

Susan Troller:

James Ely of Madison has made a late December entrance to the 2008 Madison School Board race.
On Friday, an official in the City Clerk’s Office said Ely is a registered candidate for Seat 7, which will be open next spring when veteran School Board member Carol Carstensen retires from the board.
Ely has until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 2, to turn in his nomination papers, which had not been filed as of Friday.
Ely will take on Ed Hughes, a Madison attorney whose children have attended east side schools and who declared his candidacy for the Carstensen seat over six months ago.

Wisconsin’s largest teachers unions again ask state leaders to move all schools to virtual-only instruction

Annysa Johnson: The news conference, which also featured Madison Teachers Inc. President Andy Waity, was part of a national day of action by teachers unions across the country, calling for safe working conditions in schools during the pandemic. The renewed push to bar in-person instruction comes as the number of COVID-19 cases has spiked in the … Continue reading Wisconsin’s largest teachers unions again ask state leaders to move all schools to virtual-only instruction

Viewpoint Diversity Gets a Boost as Families Flee Public Schools

JD Tuccille: Earlier this year, The New York Times looked at different editions of the same public-school textbooks published in California and Texas and found them spun in opposite directions to suit the ideological tastes of the dominant political factions in those states. It was a handy summary of the long-raging curriculum wars that have … Continue reading Viewpoint Diversity Gets a Boost as Families Flee Public Schools

2020 Madison school board election: Candidate “suspends campaign”

Scott Girard: When he initially filed papers to run, Strong said he considers school safety and racial disparities in discipline and achievement to be the top issues facing MMSD. “We have to make sure that our schools are safe and that they’re safe learning environments for our kids to learn and for our teachers to … Continue reading 2020 Madison school board election: Candidate “suspends campaign”

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

Rachel Lu: It’s an interesting conundrum. It seems obvious that many of these regions need help. Even our most desperate and impoverished citizens, though, seem to prefer the dignity of a free exchange to the discomfort of being patronized by people with an agenda. Who is able and willing to provide the goods they want … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: “Encountering the Provincials”

Commentary on temporary madison school board memBer appoIntment, replacing Mary Burke

Logan Wroge: The temporarily six-person School Board is scheduled to decide Monday who will join the body for a nine-month stint. During that time, the board will hire a permanent superintendent and work on a potentially large November 2020 facilities referendum. Those interested in the appointment have until 4 p.m. Friday to apply for the … Continue reading Commentary on temporary madison school board memBer appoIntment, replacing Mary Burke

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results. Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans: Yet the statutory FoRT requirement is now deemed satisfied by “attempts” … Continue reading Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

K-12 Governance Diversity: the 2019 Madison School Board Election, Parental Choice and our long term, disastrous reading results

Chris Rickert: Endorsements in this month’s School Board primary from the influential Madison teachers union include one for a candidate who sends her two children to the kind of charter school strongly opposed by the union. Madison Teachers Inc. this week endorsed Ali Muldrow over David Blaska, Laila Borokhim and Albert Bryan for Seat 4; … Continue reading K-12 Governance Diversity: the 2019 Madison School Board Election, Parental Choice and our long term, disastrous reading results

Commentary on a 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Forum

David Blaska: The occasion was a school board candidate forum. An organization named GRUMPS sponsored it. It stands for GRandparents United for Madison Public Schools. Its major domos are former school board members Nan Brien, Anne Arnesen, Barbara Arnold, Arlene Silviera, and Carol Carstensen. We also encountered former board guys Bill Keyes, Bill Clingan, and … Continue reading Commentary on a 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Forum

2019 Madison School Board Candidate Events; Kaleem Caire on Accountability

I’ve added the following audio recordings to the 2019 Madison School Board Candidate page. WORT FM Candidate discussion 2.5.2019 Cris Carusi and Kaleem Caire [mp3 audio] Mr. Caire: “If we don’t reach our benchmarks in five years, they can shut us down”. There is no public school in Madison that has closed because only 7 … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Candidate Events; Kaleem Caire on Accountability

Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

Negassi Tesfamichael: MTI cited Carusi’s opposition to voucher and independent charter schools in its endorsement. “Carusi is opposed to vouchers and independent charter schools and strongly believes that we need to continuously work to improve our public schools, rather than support alternatives,” MTI’s endorsement said. Caire’s One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early … Continue reading Advocating status quo, non diverse K-12 Madison Schools Governance

UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school

Chris Rickert: According to emails released to the State Journal under the state’s open records law, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham on Sept. 10 asked her chief of staff, Ricardo Jara, and other front-office officials whether Arbor was “worth trying to stop? Or change somehow? If so, how?” Cheatham expressed the district’s opposition to the school in … Continue reading UW rejects application for independent Madison charter school

2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions

Negassi Tesfamichael: Nearly all current candidates for the Madison School Board have started to make their case to voters and potential endorsers as the primary election heats up. That included answering questions from Madison Teachers Inc., the city’s teachers’ union. Nine candidates are running for three seats on the seven-person School Board. MTI executive director … Continue reading 2019 Madison School Board Election: Madison Teachers Union Candidate Questions

deja vu: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Laurie Frost and Heff Henriques: Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare. Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District’s reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and … Continue reading deja vu: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot

Negassi Tesfamichael: Madison School Board candidate Skylar Croy said in an interview with the Cap Times Friday that he would suspend his campaign and withdraw from the Seat 3 race, citing personal reasons. Because Croy turned in his verified nomination signatures on Wednesday to the city clerk’s office, the third-year University of Wisconsin law student’s … Continue reading Skylar Croy withdrawing from 2019 Madison School Board race, name will still appear on ballot

Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019

Negassi Tesfamichael: The Madison School Board’s general election is still nearly five months away, but candidates have been jumping into the race the past few weeks at a rapid pace. Three seats on the seven-person School Board will be on the ballot this spring, and each seat will be contested. Here’s what you need to … Continue reading Who’s running for Madison School Board (so far)? 2019

Organization vs Mission: Madison’s legacy K-12 Governance model vs Parent and Student choice; 2018

Chris Rickert: Meanwhile, in a sign of how the Madison district is responding to subsequent charter applications, former Madison School Board member Ed Hughes said he went before the Goodman Community Center’s board on the district’s behalf on Sept. 24 to express the district’s opposition to another proposed non-district charter school, Arbor Community School, which … Continue reading Organization vs Mission: Madison’s legacy K-12 Governance model vs Parent and Student choice; 2018

“And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Amber Walker: Critics were also concerned about Madison Prep’s operating costs — totaling $11,000 per student — and its reliance on non-union staff in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10, a state law that severely limited collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees which passed early in 2011. Caire said despite the challenges, … Continue reading “And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Unfair Madison schools election system elicits yawn from liberal leaders

Chris Rickert: Instead, candidates are forced to choose which seat to run for, meaning that if there are two seats up for election and three candidates are interested in serving on the board, two of them end up vying for one seat and the third runs unopposed. This year, two people, incumbent Ed Hughes and … Continue reading Unfair Madison schools election system elicits yawn from liberal leaders

Change: Madison School Board members will face challengers in 2017

Lisa Speckhard Several individuals have filed paperwork to run for the Madison School Board this spring, ending its members’ trend of running unopposed. During the last school board election, with three seats up for grabs, TJ Mertz, Dean Loumos and James Howard all ran unopposed. Including those three, six of the last seven board races … Continue reading Change: Madison School Board members will face challengers in 2017

Madison’s Reading Data, an Update

Our community, via the quite traditional Madison School District, has long tolerated disastrous reading results. Has anything changed? The District’s 2015-2016 “annual report” includes a bit of data on reading and math: Tap for larger versions. Unfortunately, the annual report lacks a significant amount of data, from enrollment to staffing and total spending. Boston publishes … Continue reading Madison’s Reading Data, an Update

The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

James Wigderson: Despite the administration’s plan to make sure no employee experienced a net loss in pay in the coming year, Loumos wanted the district to cover the cost of the employee contributions for the first year so every employee could have the full amount of their raises. “What would it be if we held, … Continue reading The Madison School Districts Maintenance And Healthcare Spending Priorities

Commentary On Improving Madison’s $17k/student School District

Ed Hughes: long arc of successful school improvement efforts, we should pay more attention to long-term trends than test-to-test or even year-to-year progress. This requires a kind of patience that coexists uneasily with the sense of urgency for our urban public schools. It also calls for the kind of long-term commitment that isn’t very compatible … Continue reading Commentary On Improving Madison’s $17k/student School District

Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: Is it misguided, inefficient and wasteful to compel school districts to resort to referenda for authority to meet the rising costs of school operations? Not everyone thinks so. For example, Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, does not see a problem with government by referendum. … Continue reading Commentary On Wisconsin’s K-12 Tax and Spending Climate; Madison’s Above Average Spending

Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Wisconsin’s stürm and drang over “Act 10” is somewhat manifested in Madison. Madison’s government schools are the only Wisconsin District, via extensive litigation, to still have a collective bargaining agreement with a teacher union, in this case, Madison Teachers, Inc. The Madison School Board and Administration are working with the local teachers union on a … Continue reading Madison’s Schwerpunkt: Government School District Power Play: The New Handbook Process is worth a look

Unconventional school board risks little backlash in Madison

Chris Rickert: In other words, it’s wrong for a school board member to vote specifically on policy affecting his finances, but OK to vote on a budget including that very same policy. There are probably people in other parts of Wisconsin who would object to a local school board that gives itself big, immediate raises … Continue reading Unconventional school board risks little backlash in Madison

Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

Possible de-regulation of Wisconsin charter school authorizations has lead to a bit of rhetoric on the state of Madison’s schools, their ability to compete and whether the District’s long term, disastrous reading results are being addressed. We begin with Chris Rickert: Madison school officials not eager to cede control of ‘progress’: Still, Department of Public … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

Molly Beck: “We are confident the proposal can fundamentally transform the educational opportunities that are available to students in Wisconsin’s two largest school districts,” he said. Delaporte pointed to Department of Public Instruction data that shows less than 40 percent of Madison students have tested proficient in reading in recent years — slightly higher than … Continue reading K-12 Governance: Proposal May Change Madison’s Non-Diverse School Governance/Choice Model

Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Molly Beck: “That charter authorizer is without accountability, if you will, to the voter in any way,” she said. “And so why would we want to do that? That’s what I would like explained to me. Why would that be a good thing for the state of Wisconsin? Honestly, I can’t fathom what the justification … Continue reading Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

Tap to view larger versions.Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff: In support of the continued work of developing a thriving workforce, the HR team conducted a survey of the 10 largest districts in the State of Wisconsin as well as districts in Dane County to provide a picture of our current compensation standing. It is our intent to develop … Continue reading Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Pat Schneider: “It seems reasonable to attribute a good share of the improvements to the specific and focused strategies we have pursued this year,” Hughes writes. The process of improvement will become self-reinforcing, he predicts. “This bodes well for better results on the horizon.” Not so fast, writes Madison attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick in his Systems … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Long Term Achievement Gap Challenges; Single Year Data Points…

Madison “Strategic Framework Process” Update; a few tweets

Supt. Cheatam on 1st year of new school improvement effort: Schools moving away from wanting to be complaint, to adapting for their students — Molly Beck (@MollyBeckWSJ) June 28, 2014 "You don’t get to opt out of doing what works in schools, but there are lots of ways that can look (for each school)." — … Continue reading Madison “Strategic Framework Process” Update; a few tweets

MTI Preserves, Gains Contracts Through June, 2016

Madison Teachers, Inc. Newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF): Last fall, MTI asked the District to bargain Contracts for multiple years. They refused, and a Contract was negotiated for the 2014-15 school year. After hundreds of MTI members, sporting their MTI red shirts, attended two school board meetings in late May, the Board … Continue reading MTI Preserves, Gains Contracts Through June, 2016

Commentary & Votes on The Madison School Board’s Collective Bargaining Plans

Pat Schnieder: Maybe the formal deliberations on strategy don’t start until a closed session of the Madison School Board on Thursday, May 15, but engagement over a proposed extension of the teachers contract already has begun. School board member Ed Hughes is stirring the pot with his remarks that the contract should not be extended … Continue reading Commentary & Votes on The Madison School Board’s Collective Bargaining Plans

Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Seth Jovaag: Melissa Droessler tries not to flinch when she tells people her dream of opening a charter school in Madison. “Even the word ‘charter’ in Madison can be emotionally charged,” she says. But Droessler, director of Isthmus Montessori Academy, is steadfast in her belief that a century-old pedagogy created in the slums of Rome … Continue reading Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Kobza decides to not run for school board next year

Andy Hall: Madison School Board Vice President Lawrie Kobza announced Monday that she won’t seek re-election, and retired teacher Marj Passman immediately jumped into the race to succeed her. Kobza’s move guarantees that the board will gain two new members in the April 1 election. “I’ve very much appreciated the opportunity to serve on the … Continue reading Kobza decides to not run for school board next year

“Mathiak, Cole would bring Fresh Perspective”

Ed Hughes, writing in the Capital Times: The most important qualifications for a School Board member today are a willingness and ability to grapple with the budget challenges our schools confront under the state’s ill-advised school funding laws. School Board members will have to think boldly and creatively about how best to preserve the quality … Continue reading “Mathiak, Cole would bring Fresh Perspective”

On Madison: “It was a lot of talk”

Cathleen Draper: “It was a lot of talk,” Johnson said. “[There’s] a lot of good people doing a lot of good things, but systemically, when you look at the data, things are not getting better. Systemically, we’re still operating in silos.” Before leaving Madison, Johnson called for greater funding and committed community leadership. He cited … Continue reading On Madison: “It was a lot of talk”

“We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

CBS News: Our series, School Matters, features extended stories and investigations on education. In this installment, we’re looking at a lawsuit winding its way through the federal appeals process that questions whether access to literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge in Michigan recently ruled it wasn’t when he dismissed a 2016 case. That … Continue reading “We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

The Harsh Truth About Progressive Cities; Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

David Dahmer: How can this be, in a “unversity town”? It’s true, some more affluent people reside in this city due to the existence of a large, world-class university. People with more money do create disparities. Does that explain the exodus of brown and black professionals when they complete their four years at the university … Continue reading The Harsh Truth About Progressive Cities; Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Emily Hanford: Balanced literacy was a way to defuse the wars over reading,” said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight.” “It succeeded in keeping the science at bay, and it allowed things to continue as before.” He says the reading wars are over, and science … Continue reading Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? “The study found that teacher candidates in Mississippi were getting an average of 20 minutes of instruction in phonics over their entire two-year teacher preparation program”

Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Molly Beck: But Walker and his campaign accused Evers of flip-flopping on the issue of school funding because Evers once said in an interview with WisconsinEye that improving academic outcomes for students struggling the most could still be achieved even if the state didn’t provide a significant funding increase. Evers in the interview did say … Continue reading Wisconsin Election Commentary on our disastrous reading results

Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

neeravkingsland: table below to compare New Orleans African-American students and economically disadvantages students against the same subgroups in other places across all subjects in grades 3-8, with the hope that looking across grades and varied proficiency differentials might illuminate trends. It should be noted that New Orleans students used paper and pencil versions, so in … Continue reading Love It or Hate It, Common Core is Giving Us Interesting Data About Black Student Achievement

Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Chris Arnold: As the economy continues to recover, economists are seeing stark differences between people with high school and college degrees. The unemployment rate is nearly twice as high for Americans with a high school diploma as for those with a four-year college degree or more. But economists say that doesn’t mean everybody needs a … Continue reading Economists say millennials should consider careers in trades

Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything

Allison Slater Tate: On the days that I drive the middle school carpool, I purposely choose a route that takes us past a huge river. Some mornings, the water looks like glass; others, it reflects the moody clouds above with choppy waves – either way, it’s gorgeous. Every time we drive past it, I point … Continue reading Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything

Madison Schools’ Referendum & Possible Boundary Change Commentary

Molly Beck: Even though expanding eight schools is only part of the plan, “if there’s any one (school) that looks particularly challenging to explain,” Hughes said, “we know that will be what the opponents of the referendum will latch onto. … We are going to have to be able to work through that and decide … Continue reading Madison Schools’ Referendum & Possible Boundary Change Commentary

Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

Pat Schneider: Yet some of those strategies have been used by the school district for years, and the results have not been good, Hughes acknowledged. “The results have been disappointing not just because African-American kids are achieving at lower rates than white kids, but because our African-American kids are doing worse than African-American kids in … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s Achievement Gap: “More than Poverty”

The Dark Power of Fraternities

Caitlin Flanagan:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him–under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself–to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.
Also on the deck, and also in the thrall of the night’s pleasures, was one Louis Helmburg III, an education major and ace benchwarmer for the Thundering Herd baseball team. His response to the proposed launch was the obvious one: he reportedly whipped out his cellphone to record it on video, which would turn out to be yet another of the night’s seemingly excellent but ultimately misguided ideas. When the bottle rocket exploded in Hughes’s rectum, Helmburg was seized by the kind of battlefield panic that has claimed brave men from outfits far more illustrious than even the Thundering Herd. Terrified, he staggered away from the human bomb and fell off the deck. Fortunately for him, and adding to the Chaplinesque aspect of the night’s miseries, the deck was no more than four feet off the ground, but such was the urgency of his escape that he managed to get himself wedged between the structure and an air-conditioning unit, sustaining injuries that would require medical attention, cut short his baseball season, and–in the fullness of time–pit him against the mighty forces of the Alpha Tau Omega national organization, which had been waiting for him.
It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus. But the fraternity lawsuit is a lucrative mini-segment of the personal-injury business, and if ever there was a deck that ought to have had a railing, it was the one that served as a nighttime think tank and party-idea testing ground for the brain trust of the Theta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega and its honored guests–including these two knuckleheads, who didn’t even belong to the fraternity. Moreover, the building codes of Huntington, West Virginia, are unambiguous on the necessity of railings on elevated decks. Whether Helmburg stumbled in reaction to an exploding party guest or to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is immaterial; there should have been a railing to catch him.
And so it was that Louis Helmburg III joined forces with Timothy P. Rosinsky, Esq., a slip-and-fall lawyer from Huntington who had experience also with dog-bite, DUI, car-repossession, and drug cases. The events of that night, laid out in Helmburg’s complaint, suggested a relatively straightforward lawsuit. But the suit would turn out to have its own repeated failures to launch and unintended collateral damage, and it would include an ever-widening and desperate search for potential defendants willing to foot the modest bill for Helmburg’s documented injuries. Sending a lawyer without special expertise in wrangling with fraternities to sue one of them is like sending a Boy Scout to sort out the unpleasantness in Afghanistan. Who knows? The kid could get lucky. But it never hurts–preparedness and all that–to send him off with a body bag.

Getting beyond insults in the school choice debate; Responding to the Madison School Board President on Vouchers, Parents & School Climate

Rick Esenberg, via a kind reader’s email:

Whether or not he is right, we are left with, again, with the very philosophical divide that I identified. Mr. Hughes thinks that centralized and collective decision-making will more properly value diversity (as he defines it) and make better educational choices for children than their parents will.
Of course to describe a philosophical divide does not tell us who has the better of the argument. Mr. Hughes defends his position by relying on a 2007 “study” by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute which, strictly speaking, was not a study at all and had more to do with the impact of choice on public schools than its value to the families who participate in the program.
The 2007 WPRI publication collected no data on what was actually happening in Milwaukee. It simply took a national data base on the educational involvement of families and extrapolated it to Milwaukee based on the socioeconomic characteristics of Milwaukee families. It was, strictly speaking, nothing more than a calculation. If low income and minority families in Milwaukee behave like low income and minority families nationally, the calculation showed, then, based on certain assumptions, very few would engage in informed decision-making regarding their children’s education.
It was an interesting and thought provoking exercise but one with an obvious limitation. It is not at all clear that national findings would extend to a city with a relatively longstanding and actively promoted choice program. It is possible that the existence of a greater array of educational choices would change the incentives and capacity of parents to engage in the informed and engaged decision-making that would otherwise not happen.
Beyond that, the fact that only a subset of families will exercise a choice tells us precisely nothing about whether they ought to have the opportunity to make one – unless you entertain a presumption against individual choice and a diversity of alternatives in education.
Mr. Hughes argues that education is an “experience good” which is a fancy way of saying that it is something that consumers have a difficult time evaluating before deciding whether to buy it. But, again, the extent to which you think something is that type of good (many things are difficult to be sure about before you try them) and whether, having decided it is, you think that people should have someone else choose for them reflects very philosophical divide I’m concerned with.

We know best” has long been associated with parts of Madison’s K-12 community, despite long term, disastrous reading scores and spending twice the national average per student.
Background: “The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”.
It would certainly be useful to spend a bit of time learning about Milwaukee’s experiences, positive and negative with a far more open k-12 climate. The results of Madison’s insular, non-diverse approach are an embarrassment to students, citizens, taxpayers and employers.

American Calendar: Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.

What So Proudly We Hail, via a kind reader’s email

Are we at last one nation, with liberty and justice for all? In this ebook, we reflect on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and assess their efforts to overcome racial discrimination and to promote racial equality and integration. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration, with particular attention to the American character of the holiday. The second chapter presents powerful accounts of the black American experience during the era of racial segregation–from Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, to Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin–with a focus on showing the need for civil rights. The third chapter brings us to the Civil Rights Movement itself, evaluating the goals, strategies, and tactics of the Movement’s various leaders. The final chapter raises questions about the challenging and vexed issues left open in the wake of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement: equality; family, religion, and culture; and identity.
Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Also unique to this collection is a never-before published letter by coeditor Leon R. Kass about his and his wife Amy’s experience working with civil rights activists in Mississippi during the summer of 1965.

“A civics and history curriculum done right”.

The Folly of Scientism

Austin Hughes:

The temptation to overreach, however, seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth. And this attitude is becoming more widespread among scientists themselves. All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects.
Of course, from the very beginning of the modern scientific enterprise, there have been scientists and philosophers who have been so impressed with the ability of the natural sciences to advance knowledge that they have asserted that these sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field. A forthright expression of this viewpoint has been made by the chemist Peter Atkins, who in his 1995 essay “Science as Truth” asserts the “universal competence” of science. This position has been called scientism — a term that was originally intended to be pejorative but has been claimed as a badge of honor by some of its most vocal proponents. In their 2007 book Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized, for example, philosophers James Ladyman, Don Ross, and David Spurrett go so far as to entitle a chapter “In Defense of Scientism.”
Modern science is often described as having emerged from philosophy; many of the early modern scientists were engaged in what they called “natural philosophy.” Later, philosophy came to be seen as an activity distinct from but integral to natural science, with each addressing separate but complementary questions — supporting, correcting, and supplying knowledge to one another. But the status of philosophy has fallen quite a bit in recent times. Central to scientism is the grabbing of nearly the entire territory of what were once considered questions that properly belong to philosophy. Scientism takes science to be not only better than philosophy at answering such questions, but the only means of answering them. For most of those who dabble in scientism, this shift is unacknowledged, and may not even be recognized. But for others, it is explicit. Atkins, for example, is scathing in his dismissal of the entire field: “I consider it to be a defensible proposition that no philosopher has helped to elucidate nature; philosophy is but the refinement of hindrance.”

Faces of the achievement gap in Madison: The stories behind the statistics

Pat Dillon:  

In 2010, just five black and 13 Hispanic graduating seniors in the Madison Metropolitan School District were ready for college, according to data from the district and Urban League of Greater Madison. These statistics should make your heart race. If they don’t, and you’re white, you may be suffering from what anti-racism educator Tim Wise calls “the pathology of white privilege.” If you do get it and don’t take action, that is almost worse.
The issue affects all of us and fell a little harder into my lap than it does in most white middle-class families when my daughter told me last summer that I was going to have a biracial grandson. My response? “Not in this school district.”
The dismal academic record of minorities has long been apparent to me, through my own experiences and the stories of others. But many people only hear about the statistics. To help humanize these numbers I asked students and parents who are most affected to share their stories so I could tell them along with mine. The experiences are anecdotal, but the facts speak for themselves.


In my view, the status quo approach to Madison’s long lived reading challenges refutes Mr. Hughes assertion that the District is on the right track.  Matt DeFour’s article:

Overall student performance improved in math and dipped slightly in reading across Wisconsin compared with last year, while in Madison scores declined in all tested subjects.

 Perhaps change is indeed coming, from a state level initiative on reading.

Wisconsin’s annual school test (WKCE) still gets lots of attention, but it seems less useful each year

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin (and just about every other state) is involved in developing new state tests. That work is one of the requirements of getting a waiver and, if a bill ever emerges form Congress, it will almost certainly continue to require every state to do testing.
But the new tests aren’t scheduled to be in place for three years – in the fall of 2014. So this fall and for at least the next two, Wisconsin’s school children and schools will go through the elaborate process of taking a test that still gets lots of attention but seems to be less useful each year it lives on.

The oft-criticized WKCE often provides grist for “successes”. Sometimes, rarely, the truth about its low standards is quietly mentioned.
I remember a conversation with a well educated Madison parent earlier this year. “My child is doing well, the WKCE reports him scoring in the 95th percentile in math”…… is worth a visit.

XIAO HUA Interview; Chinese International School, Hong Kong

William Hughes Fitzhugh, Founder & Publisher, The Concord Review
1. Please tell us about yourself. What inspired you to start The Concord Review?
Diane Ravitch, an American historian of education, wrote a column in The New York Times in 1985 about the ignorance of history among 17-year-olds in the United States, based on a recent study of 7,000 students, and as a history teacher myself at the time, I was interested to see that what concerned me was a national problem. I did have a few students at my high school who did more than they had to in history, and when I began a sabbatical leave in 1986, I began to think about these issues. In March 1987, it occurred to me that if I had one or two very good students writing history papers for me and perhaps my colleagues had one or two, then in 20,000 United States high schools (and more overseas) there must be a large number of high school students doing exemplary history research papers. In June of 1987, I incorporated The Concord Review to provide a journal for such good work in history. In August 1987, I sent a four-page brochure calling for papers to every high school in the United States, 3,500 high schools in Canada, and 1,500 schools overseas. The papers started coming in, and in the Fall of 1988 I was able to publish the first issue (of now 89 issues) of The Concord Review.
2. What makes for a great history research essay?
In order to write a great history essay it is first necessary to know a lot of history. Students who read as much as they can about a historical topic have a better chance of writing an exemplary history paper. Of course they must make an effort to write so that readers can understand what they are saying and so they will be interested in what they are writing, and they must re-write their papers, but without knowing a good deal about their topic, their paper will probably not be very interesting or very good.
3. Please tell us about some of the most outstanding essays you have received. What made them special?
In 1995, I as able to begin awarding the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes for the best few papers from the 44 published in each volume year of The Concord Review. Many of these papers are now on our website at, and students and teachers who are interested may read some there. I have several favorites and would be glad to send some to anyone who asks me at
4. Please tell us about some of your most interesting authors. Where did they go to college, what did they study, and what are they doing now?
About 30% of our authors have gone to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford and Yale, and many have gone to other good colleges, such as those at Cambridge and Oxford. Three, that I know of, have been named Rhodes Scholars. I work alone, so that I am not able to follow up on authors very well. I know that many are doctors and lawyers and some are professors and entrepreneurs, but I have lost track of almost all of them, for lack of funding and staff to help me keep in touch with them.
5. Please tell us how you evaluate and select essays for publication in The Concord Review.
The purpose of The Concord Review is two-fold. We want to recognize exemplary work in history by secondary students (from 39 countries so far) but we also want to distribute their work to inspire their peers to read more history and work harder on their own research papers, because being able to read nonfiction and write term papers are important skills for future success in college and beyond, and also because students should know more history if they want to be educated. So I look for papers that are historically accurate, well-researched, serious and worth reading.
6. What are your favorite books and why?
I was an English Literature major at Harvard College and I read English Literature at Cambridge for one year, and I still enjoy Dickens, Thackeray, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, and so on, but I also have a number of favorite historians, such as Martin Gilbert, David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, G.M. Trevelyan, John Prebble, Max Hastings, and others. I also read a fair number of books on education and contemporary intellectual culture.
7. Do you have any advice on how to write well?
As I suggested, there is no substitute for knowing a lot about the subject you are writing about. I think it helps to read your drafts to a friend or family member as you go along as well. You will find all sorts of things you want to improve or correct as you offer what you write to another person. So, read (study), write, and re-write…that is about it. And read the good writing of other authors.
8. Do you have advice on how students can best prepare themselves to do well in college?
There is a great deal of emphasis, at least in the United States, on math and science, but, in my view, there is much too little attention here on the importance for secondary students of being able to read complete nonfiction books and to write serious (e.g. 6,000-word) research papers. I have heard from a few of my authors that they are mobbed when they get to college by their peers who never had to write a research paper when they were in high school and so have no idea how to do it. Students who write Extended Essays for the International Baccalaureate Diploma have an advantage, as do the many students from all over the world who write history research papers on their own as independent studies and send them to The Concord Review.
Chinese International Schools’ website, Hong Kong.

At Last, A Reason Why Stress Causes DNA Damage

Duke Medicine News and Communications:

For years, researchers have published papers that associate chronic stress with chromosomal damage.
Now researchers at Duke University Medical Center have discovered a mechanism that helps to explain the stress response in terms of DNA damage.
“We believe this paper is the first to propose a specific mechanism through which a hallmark of chronic stress, elevated adrenaline, could eventually cause DNA damage that is detectable,” said senior author Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Duke University Medical Center.
The paper was published in the August 21 online issue of Nature.

Superintendent Comments on Wisconsin School Budgets

Susan Troller:

In his rural district, which serves 249 students, the 2011-13 state budget has been nothing to celebrate. In fact, it has accelerated a difficult process of belt-tightening that’s been going on for almost 20 years due to revenue controls that have limited the amount districts can increase taxes to keep up with rising costs. The revenue controls hit some schools especially hard, especially those with declining enrollment, high-needs students or high property values. The new state budget’s huge reduction in overall aid for schools — $793 million over the biennium — accompanied by new limits on how much money districts can raise in property taxes to offset those losses — has, for many school districts, made a bad situation worse.
According to Quinton, Pepin parents are supportive of education, and he credits his School Board and staff for helping run “a tight financial ship.” Nonetheless, many of the district’s programs and services have been trimmed once again, from transportation to teaching staff, athletics to academic assistance for at-risk students. Paring back has been a way of life in Pepin for many years, Quinton says, but the newest round of losses caused by this budget cut to the bone.


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding and K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%
Wisconsin’s essential challenge is to grow the economy. We’ve been falling behind Minnesota for decades.
Siobhan Hughes:

The U.S. economy will have another big budget deficit in fiscal 2011 and faces at least a couple more years of sluggish growth, as the effects of the recent recession persist, government forecasters said Wednesday.
The Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit of almost $1.3 trillion for fiscal 2011. Though that will mark the third straight year of deficits above $1 trillion, the deficit forecast was a slight improvement from the almost $1.4 trillion estimated in an April analysis and reflected higher-than-anticipated revenue from individual income taxes.
The outlook for the U.S. economy also remains challenging, with growth expected to remain too slow this year and next year to make a big dent in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate will fall to 8.9% by the end of calendar 2011 and 8.5% by the end of 2012, the forecast said, as the economy grows by 2.3% this year and 2.7% next year, measured from fourth quarter to fourth quarter.

National Standards: Raising the Bar for Global Opportunity

Woodrow Wilson International Center:

Arundhati Jayarao, Middle and High School Chemistry and Physics, Virginia; Sarah Yue, High School Chemistry, California; Kirk Janowiak, High School Biology and Environmental Science, Indiana; Ben Van Dusen, High School Physics, Oregon; Mark Greenman, High School Physics, Massachusetts; and John Moore, High School Environmental Science, New Jersey.
Moderated By: Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy.
The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows offer a unique perspective on U.S. schools and educational policymaking; they have been chosen by the Department of Energy to spend a fellowship year in congressional or executive offices based on their excellence in teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics(STEM) subjects in K-12 schools. The Fellows will discuss how to achieve national standards that are benchmarked to the world’s best and how higher standards will affect changes in curricula.

Cheating at a Springfield, MA Charter School to Improve Test Scores

James Vaznis:

One staff member at a Springfield charter school told state education investigators he felt so pressured by his principal last spring to improve MCAS scores that, in order to keep his job, he helped one student write an essay for the test.
Another staff member said he was fired after he accused the principal of encouraging cheating, while another staff member observed a colleague pull some students away from watching a movie so they could fix answers on their tests.
The findings, released yesterday by state education officials, offer the first public glimpse into the specific cheating allegations that have been leveled against Robert M. Hughes Academy, which was ordered last winter to improve its scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests to avoid being closed.
Previously, Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, had said only that the cheating, described as pervasive and systemic, was orchestrated by the principal and carried out by several adults at the school, which teaches 180 students in kindergarten through grade 8.

The Madison School District’s 2009 Strategic Planning Team

Members include:
Abplanalp, Sue, Assistant Superintendent, Elementary Schools
Alexander, Jennifer, President, Chamber of Commerce
Atkinson, Deedra, Senior Vice-President, Community Impact, United Way of Dane County
Banuelos, Maria,Associate Vice President for Learner Success, Diversity, and Community Relations, Madison Area Technical College
Bidar-Sielaff, Shiva, Manager of Cross-Cultural Care, UW Hospital
Brooke, Jessica, Student
Burke, Darcy, Elvehjem PTO President
Burkholder, John, Principal, Leopold Elementary
Calvert, Matt, UW Extension, 4-H Youth Development
Campbell, Caleb, Student
Carranza, Sal, Academic and Student Services, University of Wisconsin
Chandler, Rick, Chandler Consulting
Chin, Cynthia, Teacher, East
Ciesliewicz, Dave, Mayor, City of Madison
Clear, Mark, Alderperson
Cooper, Wendy, First Unitarian Society
Crim, Dawn, Special Assistant, Academic Staff, Chancellor’s Office, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dahmen, Bruce, Principal, Memorial High School
Davis, Andreal, Cultural Relevance Instructional Resource Teacher, Teaching & Learning
Deloya, Jeannette, Social Work Program Support Teacher
Frost, Laurie, Parent
Gamoran, Adam Interim Dean; University of Wisconsin School of Education
Gevelber, Susan, Teacher, LaFollette
Goldberg, Steve, Cuna Mutual
Harper, John, Coordinator for Technical Assistance/Professional Development, Educational Services
Her, Peng,
Hobart, Susie, Teacher, Lake View Elementary
Howard, James, Parent
Hughes, Ed, Member, Board of Education
Jokela, Jill, Parent
Jones, Richard, Pastor, Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Juchems, Brian, Program Director, Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools
Katz, Ann, Arts Wisconsin
Katz, Barb, Madison Partners
Kester, Virginia, Teacher, West High School
Koencke, Julie, Information Coordinator MMSD
Laguna, Graciela, Parent
Miller, Annette, Community Representative, Madison Gas & Electric
Morrison, Steve, Madison Jewish Community Council
Nadler, Bob, Executive Director, Human Resources
Nash, Pam, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools
Natera, Emilio, Student
Nerad, Dan, Superintendent of Schools
Passman, Marj, Member, Board of Education
Schultz, Sally, Principal, Shabazz City High School
Seno, Karen,Principal, Cherokee Middle School
Sentmanat, Jose, Executive Assistant to the County Executive
Severson, Don, Active Citizens for Education (ACE)
Steinhoff, Becky, Executive Director, Goodman Community Center
Strong, Wayne, Madison Police Department
Swedeen, Beth, Outreach Specialist, Waisman Center
Tennant, Brian, Parent
Terra Nova, Paul, Lussier Community Education Center
Theo, Mike, Parent
Tompkins, Justin, Student
Trevino, Andres, Parent
Trone, Carole, President, WCATY
Vang, Doua, Clinical Team Manager, Southeast Asian Program / Kajsiab House, Mental Health Center of Dane County
Vieth, Karen, Teacher, Sennett
Vukelich-Austin, Martha, Executive Director, Foundation for Madison Public Schools
Wachtel, Lisa, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning
Zellmer, Jim, Parent
Much more here.
The Strategic Planning Process Schedule [PDF]

Racine Promise: City officials explore college funding for Racine graduates

Dustin Block:

A group of city officials are exploring a program that would pay for Racine high school graduates to attend college.
The idea is based on the Kalamazoo Promise, a program started three years ago in Kalamazoo, Mich. to attract families to the city. The program is simple: If a child graduates from a Kalamazoo High School, their tuition is paid to any Michigan university or tech school. That could amount to $36,000 for a student attending the University of Michigan. The only requirement is that a student maintains a 2.0 GPA and makes continual progress toward their high school diploma.
Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Greg Helding, and City Administrator Ben Hughes, are seeking two $8,000 grants to study creating a similar program here. The City Council is expected to grant permission to pursue the grant on Wednesday.

The High School Years: “Raw and Still Unfair”

Karen Durbin:

HIGH school can be hard to shake. Some people never make it out of the cafeteria; they’re still trying to find the cool kids’ table. With “American Teen,” opening nationwide on Friday, Nanette Burstein can claim a certain expertise on the subject. This movie earned her the documentary directing award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and set off a bidding war. It’s also something of an exorcism. Ms. Burstein was co-director, with Brett Morgen, of two highly regarded documentaries: the Oscar-nominated “On the Ropes,” about three young boxers hoping to fight their way out of poverty, and “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” a portrait of the flamboyant Hollywood producer Robert Evans. But the impetus for “American Teen” was more personal: her own intense high school experience two decades ago in Buffalo.
To make the 90-minute film Ms. Burstein moved to Warsaw, Ind., and, deploying multiple cameras, gathered 1,000 hours of footage as she and her crew followed four 17-year-olds through their senior year at the town’s large, modern high school. The students could almost be the template for a John Hughes teen pic: the pampered queen bee Megan, whose imperious will to power masks a terrible secret; the basketball player Colin, who must win a sports scholarship or forgo college for the Army; the gifted bohemian Hannah, ready to break away but terrified that she may have inherited her mother’s bipolar disorder; and the lonely band nerd Jake, funny and appealing but afflicted with vivid acne flare-ups that complicate his wry, determined search for a girlfriend.
To watch these real teenagers is to see egos and identities in raw, volatile formation; on the verge of entering a larger world, they are reaching for a sense of self.

Wall-e (for it’s brief look at assembly line education and cultural homogonization) and the controversial Idiocracy (for its look at ongoing curriculum reduction initiatives) are also worth watching.

Odyssey Project Celebrates its Latest Graduates

Maria Bibbs:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Odyssey Project held its fifth annual graduation ceremony for its 2007-2008 graduates on May 7. Family, friends, and loved ones gathered at the UW Memorial Union to celebrate the students’ accomplishments and the exciting journey that lies ahead of them.
“This is the beginning of a journey: for some, a journey to college, while others are returning to college,” said Odyssey Project Director Professor Emily Auerbach.
The Odyssey Project offers members of the Madison community an opportunity to begin a college education through an intensive, two-semester course. The program’s goal is to provide wider access to college for nontraditional and low-income students by offering a challenging classroom experience, individual support in writing, and assistance in applying for admission to college and for financial aid.
Auerbach said that the Langston Hughes poem “Still Here” embodies this remarkable class’s collective sentiment, after they had spent a year engaged in rigorous study while handling financial and family responsibilities that had previously made a college education seem little more than a dream deferred. “Sometimes you can make a way out of no way. If you open the door to education, you can change lives,” Auerbach said.

The Power of Birth Order

Jeffrey Kluger:

In 1883, the year Elliott began battling melancholy, Teddy had already published his first book and been elected to the New York State assembly. By 1891—about the time Elliott, still unable to establish a career, had to be institutionalized to deal with his addictions—Teddy was U.S. Civil Service Commissioner and the author of eight books. Three years later, Elliott, 34, died of alcoholism. Seven years after that, Teddy, 42, became President.
Elliott Roosevelt was not the only younger sibling of an eventual President to cause his family heartaches—or at least headaches. There was Donald Nixon and the loans he wangled from billionaire Howard Hughes. There was Billy Carter and his advocacy on behalf of the pariah state Libya. There was Roger Clinton and his year in jail on a cocaine conviction. And there is Neil Bush, younger sib of both a President and a Governor, implicated in the savings-and-loan scandals of the 1980s and recently gossiped about after the release of a 2002 letter in which he lamented to his estranged wife, “I’ve lost patience for being compared to my brothers.”

A new International Baccalaureate program is raising the game in middle school

Jay Matthews:

The letter published in the Reston Connection four years ago said the program at Langston Hughes Middle School promoted “socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty.”
The Middle Years Program, part of the International Baccalaureate system, was just getting started at Langston Hughes, and it wasn’t the first time an IB program had been slapped around in Fairfax County. W.T. Woodson High School had thrown out its IB courses in 1999, in part because some parents and teachers thought they were too global and played down American history. Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell reported in 2004 that Fairfax parents were in revolt against IB. It was an exaggeration, but there was enough of a fight to raise concern about the program’s future in the Washington area’s biggest school district.
Some parents and teachers at Langston Hughes, and next door at South Lakes High School, where the MYP continued for ninth- and 10th-graders, distrusted a program invented in Switzerland and alien to what they remembered of their own more traditional middle school days. Other parents and teachers thought the MYP was wonderfully rigorous, with its commitment to global awareness, foreign languages and writing. The differences of opinion appeared to reflect tension between Americans who thought the country was too soft and those who thought the country was too dumb.
Who won? A visit to Langston Hughes this fall reveals that the people favoring smarter students have beaten those fearing foreign influence to an apparently invisible pulp. It is hard to find anyone who even remembers when the school’s unusual curriculum was considered a threat to American values. Instead, past and present Langston Hughes parents are greeting an unexpected jump in SAT scores at South Lakes — the biggest this year in Fairfax County — as proof that they were right to go with the MYP, perhaps the most challenging middle school program in America for non-magnet schools.

School Basics: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Real Estate

CJ Hughes: Not surprisingly, then, towns with blue-ribbon public school systems — like Greenwich, Fairfield and West Hartford — have consistently commanded some of the higher home prices in the state. But prices within a town can fluctuate, even by neighborhood, based on the strength of the local elementary school, according to a new study … Continue reading School Basics: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Real Estate

High Quality Teaching make the difference

Young, Gifted and Black, by Perry, Steele and Hilliard is a little gem of a book. (Hereafter, YGB). The subtitle is “Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students”. Though specifically addressing African-American kids, the descriptions and proscriptions proposed can be applied to all – important, given the continual poor showing of U.S. students generally on international … Continue reading High Quality Teaching make the difference