School and Parent Choice + Taxpayer Funds Supreme Court Case: Kendra Espinoza vs Montana Department of Revenue

Supreme Court:

MR. KOMER: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case asks whether the Federal Constitution allows the wholesale exclusion of religious schools from scholarship programs. It does not.

Yet, Montana’s Blaine Amendment requires that exclusion. As a result, the Blaine Amendment discriminates against religious conduct, beliefs, and status in violation of the free-exercise clause under Trinity Lutheran.

The Montana Supreme Court disagreed. That court held that barring religious schools from the program did not violate the Federal Constitution

Notes and links on Espinoza v Montana.

Mission vs organization: leadership of the taxpayer supported ($500m+ annually) Madison School District

David Blaska:

Only 8.9% of Madison’s African American high school students are proficient in English, according to 2019 ACT scores. One of every five African American students never graduate. In math, 65% of black students test below basic proficiency, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Not to worry, the district now prohibits teachers from telling parents if their child wants to change genders.

Cheatham’s behavior education plan, Anderson wrote, “led students to conclude that there are no longer any consequences for bad behavior.”

The parents and teachers at Jefferson Middle School know that all too well. They are wondering how a 13-year-old boy who shot another student with a BB gun in December remained in school after two dozen previous incidents, including threatening to “kill everyone in the school.” The district is hunting down the whistleblower who leaked the student’s chronic misbehavior record.

School gag rules hide much of the chaos in the classroom, but no schoolhouse door can contain the disrespect for authority — as when 15 to 20 young teenagers busted up Lakeview Library last March, taunting: “We don’t have to listen to the police.” In December alone, 56 cars were stolen in Madison. Police arrested 15 kids (all but two younger than 17), along with three adults.

The district’s brain-dead, zero-tolerance for the N-word — no matter the educational context — resulted in the summary dismissal of a beloved black security guard and of a Hispanic teacher. The district still hasn’t done right by a dedicated positive behavior coach at Whitehorse Middle School, who school officials threw under the bus even before the district attorney cleared him of all wrong-doing. (The man is white.)

Parents are voting with their feet. MMSD enrollment is expected to decline — even though more people are moving here than any other city in the state. Meanwhile, Sun Prairie is building a second high school. Between the state open enrollment program and private schools, just over 13% of Madison’s children are opting out. Good luck convincing their parents to vote for Madison’s $350 million spending referendums next fall.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

“I’ve never worked [for a school district] more obsessed with mediocrity….”

Dylan Brogan:

On top of news headlines over safety problems at Jefferson, the district is also

investigating a whistleblower who is believed to be a teacher at the school.

Using an anonymous email account, the educator leaked to Isthmus and Channel3000 the behavior record of the student who shot two classmates with a BB gun. Isthmus did not report on the document when it was received on Dec. 11. But the television station ran with it, using the headline, “Student in BB gun incident previously threatened to ‘kill everyone in the school.’”

The leaked document was a report from EduClimber, software that teachers use to track student behavior incidents. It showed that the student on Sept. 20 was yelling threats in the hallway including “how he hated school and wanted to shoot it up and kill everyone in the school.”

The staff member who documented the incident also wrote that the student’s “language felt like attention seeking behavior rather than actual threats.”

“However, I have no idea how the students in class felt about his comments regarding shooting up the school and killing people,” adds the Jefferson teacher in the EduClimber report. “Over time he calmed down and was able to stay in the class.”

For weeks, Isthmus has been in contact with the whistleblower via email. The teacher says the document was leaked to the media because it was proof that Kurth had “been lying.” 

After the BB gun incident, Kurth had written in a Dec. 3 email to parents that “at this time we do not have any reason to believe the student intended to harm anyone with it.”

A Jefferson parent, who did not wish to give her name, says her daughter was on the bus when the incident occurred. She was upset about how Kurth handled the situation, especially after she saw the Channel3000 story.

“[The story] revealed that this same boy threatened to kill everyone at the school and was involved in 25 incidents in just a few months. That seems like Dr. Kurth lied,” says the parent. “A typical person would know that his threats and behavior go hand-in-hand and that he needs help. Plus, it’s just scary to think that someone threatened our kids and we were never told by the school, and that the same kid was still allowed at school and on the school bus.”

Why are Madison middle school principals leaving?

Choose Life: China’s Birthrate Hits Historic Low, in Looming Crisis for Beijing

Sui-Lee Wee and Steven Lee Myers:

The number of babies born in China last year fell to a nearly six-decade low, exacerbating a looming demographic crisis that is set to reshape the world’s most populous nation and threaten its economic vitality.

About 14.6 million babies were born in China in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That was a nearly 4 percent fall from the previous year, and the lowest official number of births in China since 1961, the last year of a widespread famine in which millions of people starved to death. That year, only 11.8 million babies were born.

Births in China have now fallen for three years in a row. They had risen slightly in 2016, a year after the government ended its one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children, a shift that officials hoped would drive a sustained increase in the number of newborns. But that has not materialized.

Reasons Not to Study Life Science or Anything Related

Lei Mao:

So sounds like you don’t need to know anything and there is no prerequisite in order to do life science studies. This is true to some extent. Otherwise you would not see there are so many middle school or high school students spending their summer doing life science research in some labs. The only one thing I think is useful for life science or you can learn from life science is the design of experiments. This is probably the only thing in life science that shares something in common with other disciplines. What makes you stand out in life science is not how well you are doing for the course work, but how well you know about using different kind of experiment instruments, and your experiences of different kind of life science experiments. These knowledge and skills are highly domain specific, and they do not apply to other disciplines.

Wait, how about data analysis? Can we learn data analysis from life science? In life science, the experiments could be categorized based on the size of data you generated. For experiments generating small amount of data, usually it is too simple to analyze, and you would learn nothing. Compute the mean and standard deviation of the samples, analyze whether there is any statistical difference between the control group and experiment group. Because usually the students and even the professors do not know too much about statistics, they often made mistakes in choosing the right statistical methods for analysis, thus resulting in error-prone conclusions. This is called “You don’t know what you were doing”. For experiments generating large amount of data, such as genome sequencing experiments, it is usually handled and processed by professional software. Essentially you got results magically from a black-box software without knowing what the underlying analytical algorithms are. This is called “You don’t know what it was doing”.

The Triple Jeopardy of a Chinese Math Prodigy

Kit Chellel and Jeremy Hodges

Before he was denounced as a thief and cast out of the hedge fund industry, before he was a Goldman Sachs banker or a math prodigy, Ke Xu was a little boy in Hubei province, China, who loved puzzles. His parents, junior government clerks, didn’t have much money, so Xu would scour the house to find old algebra and science textbooks. He spent hours with the series 100,000 Whys, children’s brainteasers with a Maoist flavor. The commune wants to build 40 tractors—how many wheels should it buy?

When Xu was 16, his head teacher identified him as a gifted student and recommended him for a scholarship at the Raffles Institution in Singapore, a prestigious British-style boarding school with the Latin motto Auspicium melioris aevi (Hope of a better age). Xu mastered English and cruised through his classes, if not the school’s extracurricular activities. Cricket was a mystery he could never solve.

Madison West High School student found with loaded handgun in school, police say

Logan Wroge:

West High School student was arrested Tuesday after he brought a loaded handgun to the Near West Side school, Madison police said.

Tyrese T. Williams, 18, was arrested on a tentative felony charge of possession of a firearm in a school zone, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

West High’s school resource officer received information Tuesday morning about a student possibly having a gun in the building, DeSpain said. The handgun was found in Williams’ backpack when it was searched, DeSpain said.

Principal Karen Boran said in an email to parents that “response protocols” were put in place when school staff learned about the potential of a firearm.

2005: Gangs and school violence forum: audio and video.

2017: West High Teacher on our disastrous reading results:

“Here’s my data from this year and this is why I’m here: 

Of the 65 students plus or minus it kind of changes this year 24 of them are regular ed students. 

Another way to say they don’t have an IEP so there is no excuse for that reading intervention in (that group). 

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.”

More, here.

NBC 15 coverage:

Police department spokesman Joel DeSpain said a school resource officer was notified Tuesday morning that a student may have a gun in the building.

DeSpain said the gun was found in Tyrese T. Williams’ backpack. The 18-year-old was arrested for possessing a firearm in a school zone.

According to Tim Lemonds, the school district spokesperson, in an interview with NBC15 News: “The way the principal and her team and especially our educational resource officer – the way they were able to respond quickly and isolate this student and make that area safe for other students, to address the issue, was exactly the way we train.”

A letter was sent to parents by Madison West High School principal Karen Boran.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: school district’s over reliance on property taxes

The Economist:

In 1990 a generation of baby-boomers, with a median age of 35, owned a third of America’s real estate by value. In 2019 a similarly sized cohort of millennials, aged 31, owned just 4%. Young people’s view that housing is out of reach—unless you have rich parents—helps explain their drift towards “millennial socialism”. And homeowners of all ages who are trapped in declining places resent the windfall housing gains enjoyed in and around successful cities. In Britain areas with stagnant housing markets were more likely to vote for Brexit in 2016, even after accounting for differences in income and demography.

Religious-schools case heads to a Supreme Court skeptical of stark lines between church and state

Robert Barnes:

Parents who believe religious schools such as Stillwater absolutely are the places for their children are at the center of what could be a landmark Supreme Court case testing the constitutionality of state laws that exclude religious organizations from government funding available to others. In this case, the issue rests on whether a scholarship fund supported by tax-deductible donations can help children attending the state’s private schools, most of which are religious.

A decision in their favor would “remove a major barrier to educational opportunity for children nationwide,” plaintiffs said in their brief to the Supreme Court. It is part of a movement by school choice advocates such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to allow government support of students seeking what she recently called “faith-based education.”

Said Erica Smith, a lawyer representing the parents: “If we win this case, it will be the U.S. Supreme Court once again saying that school choice is fully constitutional and it’s a good thing and it’s something parents should have. And that will provide momentum to the entire country.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said such a ruling would be a “virtual earthquake,” devastating to the way states fund public education.

And Montana told the court that, as in 37 other states, it is reasonable for its constitution to prohibit direct or indirect aid to religious organizations.

“The No-Aid Clause does not prohibit any religious practice,” Montana said in its brief. “Nor does it authorize any discriminatory benefits program. It simply says that Montana will not financially aid religious schools.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

New York City now spends $325 million a year to send students with disabilities to private schools

Alex Zimmerman:

Shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014, he made it easier for students with disabilities to attend private schools with the city picking up the tab.

That policy change is quietly having an enormous impact: The cost of sending students with disabilities to private schools has doubled since de Blasio was sworn in and has reached $325 million per year, dwarfing the price tag of some of the mayor’s highest-profile education initiatives.

The expense eclipses the mayor’s Renewal program to turn around struggling schools ($192 million per year); a recent increase in the funding formula that governs city school budgets ($125 million); and even the often-debated Absent Teacher Reserve for educators without permanent placements ($136 million in 2018).

“Progressive Cities have higher graduation gaps between students of color and white students than conservative cities”


Leaders of progressive cities often frame their policy proposals in terms of what’s best for those with the least opportunity and the greatest obstacles. And yet, students in America’s most progressive cities face greater racial inequity in achievement and graduation rates than students living in the nation’s most conservative cities.

As you read, keep in mind that this is a first look at the problem plaguing progressive cities. Our work is just getting started.

Progressive cities are failing to prepare students for their future.

Our most conservative cities are closing opportunity gaps.

This report is an attempt to highlight a problem we see as fixable.

All of us, whether we identify as progressive or conservative, should not be satisfied with impassioned rhetoric and token initiatives alone. We need positive action.

It’s time to stand up and make sure our leaders work with communities to create a path for success for all students.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

There’s a new obstacle to landing a job after college: Getting approved by AI

Rachel Metz:

College career centers used to prepare students for job interviews by helping them learn how to dress appropriately or write a standout cover letter. These days, they’re also trying to brace students for a stark new reality: They may be vetted for jobs in part by artificial intelligence.

At schools such as Duke University, Purdue University, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, career counselors are now working to find out which companies use AI and also speaking candidly with students about what, if anything, they can do to win over the algorithms. This shift in preparations comes as more businesses interested in filling internships and entry-level positions that may see a glut of applicants turn to outside companies such as HireVue to help them quickly conduct vast numbers of video interviews.

Why Won’t My Child Show Any Work?

Matt Weber:

As an AoPS Academy campus director, a big part of my job is meeting with parents of prospective students. One of the most common complaints I hear is that their children never show any work. Parents are surprised when I push back, gently, on the underlying assumptions. In fact, showing work is sometimes a bad idea, and forcing students to show work unnecessarily can be harmful.

Doing all math work mentally is, of course, not a good habit. Adults understand this because they have been through the entire course of schooling, and they know what lies ahead for their children. They know that Algebra, Geometry, and other higher level classes will require students to lay out their thoughts on paper in order to have any hope of solving the problems.

But many students who come to us can get everything right in their school math classes without showing any work at all. Why should they? The directive to write down lots of intermediate steps often feels like something that is done for the teacher’s benefit, not for the student’s.

China’s Birthrate Hits Historic Low, in Looming Crisis for Beijing

Sui-Lee Wee and Steven Lee Myers:

The number of babies born in China last year fell to a nearly six-decade low, exacerbating a looming demographic crisis that is set to reshape the world’s most populous nation and threaten its economic vitality.

About 14.6 million babies were born in China in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. That was a nearly 4 percent fall from the previous year, and the lowest official number of births in China since 1961, the last year of a widespread famine in which millions of people starved to death. That year, only 11.8 million babies were born.

Births in China have now fallen for three years in a row. They had risen slightly in 2016, a year after the government ended its one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children, a shift that officials hoped would drive a sustained increase in the number of newborns. But that has not materialized.

Hong Kong teachers living in fear over protest support

Xinqi SU and Yan Zhao:

Hong Kong’s teachers say they are living in fear as the city’s democracy protests rumble on, with some not daring to discuss the movement and others anxious they could even lose their jobs if they are caught supporting it.

The education sector has always been at the vanguard of the financial hub’s pro-democracy fight, with teachers and students taking to the streets in 2012 to oppose a government order for schools to teach classes that praised China’s communist history while criticising democracy movements.

And since the recent wave of protests started last June, police said out of the 6,500 people arrested, about one third are students and around 80 are teachers.

Millions have come out on the streets in demonstrations sparked by opposition to a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China.

But they morphed into wider demands for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability in the starkest challenge to Beijing since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

– Explain every post –

Primary school teacher Nelson is facing disciplinary proceedings for writing Facebook posts critical of the police, telling AFP he is under investigation by the education bureau following an anonymous tip.

Feds close 1 of 4 cases into UW-Madison’s handling of sexual assault

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights dismissed a UW-Madison case in November because of the agency’s inability to contact the person who filed the complaint to get information relevant to the investigation, according to a department spokesperson.

Federal and university officials declined this week to provide details on the closed case, which was launched in May 2016.

A federal student privacy law prevents the university from sharing specifics, UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said. She noted the university uses timely and fair policies and practices to investigate allegations of sexual assault.

A survey of UW-Madison students released last fall found that about one in four responding undergraduate women reported they had experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during their time at the university, while 11% had been raped. The survey also showed students reporting higher levels of knowledge about sexual assault and campus resources than a similar survey conducted in 2015.

Disruptive students may not be the easiest to have in class, but perhaps defiance should be encouraged.

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair:

It tends to be common knowledge that Albert Einstein was bad at school, but less known is that he was also bad in school. Einstein not only received failing grades—a problem for which he was often summoned to the headmaster’s office—but he also had a bad attitude. He sat in the back of the class smirking at the teacher; he was disrespectful and disruptive; he questioned everything; and, when he was faced with the ultimatum to straighten up or drop out, he dropped out. That’s right: Albert Einstein was a dropout. And yet, he grew up to become one of the greatest thinkers in human history.

One can write off Einstein’s accomplishments as an exception to the rule; they can reason that his behavior was actually a symptom of being so smart that school didn’t challenge him, which is probably somewhat true. But what if what made Einstein a change agent was his rebellious nature rather than his intelligence? After all, the world is full of brilliant people who accomplish very little compared to Einstein.

Chicago Teachers Union Inc.: How the clout-heavy labor group spends its money

Lauren Fitzpatrick & Nader Issa:

Some CTU members have grumbled on Facebook about how their dues — a flat $55.85 per pay period — are being spent directly on political candidates. For example, the union put $215,000 into Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s failed campaign for mayor. The CTU also shifted $56,000 from its budget to the CTU-PAC.

“Can someone please post, again, the way to opt-out of your union dues going to support political candidates?” one teacher wrote on the “Members First” Facebook page of CTU members who have been pushing for more accountability on union spending. The group unsuccessfully ran a slate against the current teachers union leadership.

“That is on the minds of many members who are frustrated with the lack of transparency and accountability in political spending,” another member responded to the Facebook post. “Opting out of PAC voluntary contributions is an option, and sends a message and hopefully brings about change.”

Asked about the union’s political activities, Jennifer Johnson, the CTU’s chief of staff, says the CTU’s work is “inherently political.” But she notes that members can decide whether their dues go to the union’s PACs.

Related: WEAC: $1.57M for four State Senators.

How Swedes were fooled by one of the biggest scientific bluffs of our time.

David Sumpter:

Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of Swedes have spent an estimated total of more than ten million euros on a book which many of them believed contained a scientific account of human psychology, written by an expert in the area. The book’s success has led many companies and other organizations to order personality tests, from a growing number of suppliers eager to exploit the new market, and apply them on their employees. Surrounded by Idiots has had a major impact on how Swedish people talk to each other about psychology and discuss the behaviour of those around them. Indeed, Thomas Erikson has undoubtedly had the greatest influence on the public’s interest in psychology in a generation.

Unfortunately, the theory behind this book, and the various follow-ups, is no more than pseudoscientific nonsense. And Erikson appears to lack even basic knowledge of psychology or behavioural science. This is why we at VoF (Vetenskap och Folkbildning — the Swedish Skeptics Society) named Thomas Erikson fraudster of the year in 2018.

Accusing an individual of being a fraud should never be done lightly. We need to be very sure of where we stand. Here I lay out the case as to how and why Thomas Erikson books have misled so many people…

China Ends Independent Admissions Program for Colleges

Yuan Ye:

China’s decades-old independent admissions program allowing top universities to cherry-pick talents from high schools is coming to an end.

In a notice published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Education announced that the Independent Freshman Admission Program (IFAP) — an alternative to the country’s test-centric college admission program instituted in 2003 to recruit students who may have underperformed on the rigorous exams — will be replaced by a new pilot plan that vows to address enrollment inequality with a centralized recruitment scheme.

Under the new plan, 85% of applicants’ eligibility will be based on their college entrance exam — or gaokao — scores, restricting schools from making independent decisions based on their own criteria, according to the notice. A number of universities had already lowered their preferential admissions quotas last year.

Currently, 36 elite schools have been picked for the pilot program, with the application process starting in April. However, certain students with outstanding performance in related fields — as yet unnamed — could be exempt from the strict standards, according to the notice.

The new enrollment process will be more equal and transparent than IFAP, said Wu Xiaogang, a sociologist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The system has been dogged by controversies over enrollment corruption and fraud, as well as accusations of favoringstudents from privileged families.

A cry for freedom in the algorithmic age

The Economist:

As artificial intelligence makes its way to all areas of life, the most prominent people aiming to explain the technology and translate it for the public tend to be scientists, businessmen and often, Americans. Gaspard Koenig is different. A French philosopher, he runs GenerationLibre, a think-tank that promotes classical liberal values of individual freedom. And he brings vibrant intellectual energy to the debate.

In his latest book, “The End of the Individual: A Philosopher’s Journey to the Land of Artificial Intelligence” (Éditions de l’observatoire, 2019), Mr Koenig argues that society should be cautious about the power of AI not because it will destroy humanity (as some argue) but because it will erode our capacity for critical judgement. He already sees that happening, as people blindly follow algorithmic recommendations, be it to watch a film or use a map. He frets this will only get worse.

Anti Parent and Student Choice Political Rhetoric

Will Flanders:

Conservatives are often accused of being “science deniers” when it comes to issues like climate change. But recent events reveal that those on the left suffer from significant confirmation bias when it comes to a stance that is increasingly central to the liberal education agenda — opposition to charter schools.

In December, the Network for Public Education put out a report entitled, “Still Asleep at the Wheel.” The study purports to examine the prevalence of waste in the Department of Education’s Charter School Program, which provides resources for new charter schools to get started, or for existing charter schools to expand and improve. 

The NPE report claims that a significant number of charter schools that received grants under the program never opened, or had already closed. But even a cursory look at the data revealed to me that at least three of the schools in my home state described as “closed” are very much open — indeed, they are among the top-performing schools in the city of Milwaukee. If they got that wrong, what else might there be?

Further examination of the report’s findings led myself and the president of School Choice Wisconsin, Jim Bender, to write a post for the Fordham Institutethat brought to light some additional errors. Indeed, at least 10 Wisconsin schools that the report claims are closed remain open. Christy Wolfe, vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, identified similar errors in the identification of closed charter schools in California. Additionally, Nina Rees, president of NAPCS, pointed out that the total amount of money received by schools that never opened is likely to be far less than what is reported in the study because such schools are likely only to receive the planning portion of multi-year grants.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Montclair State sued over unconstitutional speech policy, arbitrary favoritism toward student groups

Alliance Defending Freedom:

A student and a student group represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Montclair State University officials Wednesday after they forced students to stop peaceful, expressive activity without a permit. The lawsuit also challenges the university’s Bias Education Response Taskforce and an unconstitutional class system that grants preferential treatment to student organizations based on their viewpoints.

On Sept. 10, 2019, Mena Botros and two fellow students dressed in orange jump suits and held up signs voicing their support—as pretend criminals—for gun-free zones. The purpose was to express their belief that laws creating gun-free zones only benefit criminals and harm law-abiding citizens. Despite peacefully expressing their ideas in a common outdoor area of campus, a campus police officer forced them to stop. He told the students that anyone who wants to speak on campus has to obtain permission at least two weeks in advance and that the dean’s office would assign them a time and place to speak. The students, affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty, are challenging the two-week requirement because it unconstitutionally suppresses all speech and because it allows the university to deny or delay a student’s request for permission for any reason.

“A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can’t function if officials impose burdensome restraints on speech or if they can selectively enforce those restraints against disfavored groups,” said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross.

Ethnic Studies 101: Playing the Victim

Heather Mac Donald:

On November 27, 2019, Harvard University denied tenure to an ethnic-studies professor specializing in Dominican identity. Students and faculty at Harvard and across the country sprung into protest mode. The failure to tenure Lorgia García Peña, they said, resulted from Harvard’s racism. NBC Nightly News, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and other outlets covered the controversy from the same angle.

In fact, García Peña had been catapulted into the academic firmament with a speed that most non-intersectional professors can only dream of. She has been showered with benefits. Thirty-one percent of Harvard’s tenure-track professors lost their tenure bids in the 2018‒19 academic year without alleging bias, since most of those failed contenders were white. Yet García Peña has gone through her academic career playing the victim, reflexively accusing those around her of white supremacy. In this, she is a perfect synecdoche for ethnic studies itself, which also stakes its identity on the conceit that it is in a nonstop battle for survival against the forces of racism and exclusion.

To the contrary, ethnic studies is ascendant. It is spreading rapidly throughout K‒12 schools; its ideology has already bled into the political realm. It’s worth reviewing García Peña’s career as an emblem of a fast-rising academic field whose worldview is taking over American culture.

UW System presidential search committee will consider non-academic applicants

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The University of Wisconsin System’s presidential search committee is casting a wide net for applicants in not stating a preference for candidates with a doctoral degree, opening the door for a non-academic to potentially lead the state’s public colleges.

The committee assigned to select System President Ray Cross’ successor held a conference call Friday to go over the job description. Committee members agreed on language that calls for at least 10 years of experience in a “significant senior executive position” and an understanding of public higher education.

University leaders traditionally have come from academia, though some politically appointed governing boards for universities have chosen businessmen or politicians. The strategy has seen mixed success with faculty and staff often arguing that those leading institutions should have experience working at them and others saying that the job has evolved to demand more government and business acumen.

What Went Wrong With IBM’s Watson

Felix Salmon:

What if artificial intelligence can’t cure cancer after all? That’s the message of a big Wall Street Journal post-mortem on Watson, the IBM project that was supposed to turn IBM’s computing prowess into a scalable program that could deliver state-of-the-art personalized cancer treatment protocols to millions of patients around the world.

Watson in general, and its oncology application in particular, has been receiving a lot of skeptical coverage; STAT published a major investigation in 2017, reporting that Watson was nowhere near being able to live up to IBM’s promises. After that article came out, the IBM hype machine started toning things down a bit. But while a lot of the problems with Watson are medical or technical, they’re deeply financial, too.

As of 2018, IBM is shrinking: In 2011, when the company first introduced the idea that Watson might be able to one day cure cancer, its revenues were $107 billion. They’ve gotten smaller every year since, ending up at $79 billion in 2017. That presents enormous problems for any CEO, who’s generally charged with growing the company, or, failing that, growing the stock price.

Math 101: A Reading List for Lifelong Learners

Jennifer Ouellette:

1. Number: The Language of Science
Tobias Dantzig
Plume, 2007

“First published in 1930, this classic text traces the evolution of the concept of a number in clear, accessible prose. (None other than Albert Einstein sang its praises.) A Latvian mathematician who studied under Henri Poincare, Dantzig covers all the bases, from counting, negative numbers and fractions, to complex numbers, set theory, infinity and the link between math and time. Above all, he understood that the story of where mathematical ideas come from, how they relate to each other, and evolve over time, is key to a true appreciation of mathematics.”

Why are Madison middle school principals leaving?

David Blaska:

Wanted: More Milton McPikes, fewer guilt mongers 

Obsessed with identity politics, Madison school board member Ali Muldrow posts on social media an article headlined:  “The discomfort of white adults should never take priority over the success of our black and brown students.”

“I didn’t come here to teach those kinds of kids.”

As harmful as that kind of statement is, very few teachers are brazen enough to express their racist thoughts out loud. If teachers express bias at all, particularly White teachers, they do so silently or even unconsciously — implicitly.

Are they also victims of MMSD identity politics?

The clear implication is that school board member Muldrow is, once again, accusing Madison educators of racism most foul.

Hire more educators of color? Fine with us. Go For It!

But if race is so important, why have so many principals of our middle schools failed? Tequila Kurth stepped aside this week as principal of often-violent Jefferson middle school to take “an extended leave of absence.” That makes nine schools at MMSD’s 12 middle schools to experience a change of leadership in the last 3½ years, according to  Chris Rickert in the WI State Journal.

Rickert also named Kenya Walker, who quit as principal of Black Hawk Middle School in April 2017 amid suspicions of financial mismanagement, and Sherman Middle School Principal Kristin Foreman the next year after a teacher alleged in a blog post that the school was “in crisis.” Those were the only principals Rickert named.

We reached out to Ms. Muldrow to ask why the leadership turnover at Madison’s middle schools? If these principals are incompetent, why were they appointed? If color is so critical, why did they fail?

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: middle school governance edition

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Chris Borland criticizes Wisconsin Badgers, NFL in Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary

Colten Bartholomew:

Chris Borland criticizes Wisconsin Badgers, NFL in Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary

Former University of Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland spoke harshly of the football program and his brief time in the NFL on a Netflix documentary released this week.

Borland was featured in two of three parts of “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez,” a documentary detailing the life and death of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who was convicted of murder and took his own life while in prison.

Borland, an Ohio native who won three Big Ten Championships during his Badgers career, criticized the program and college football as a whole for the position it puts players in.

“At Wisconsin, I was taken aback by how serious practice was taken. I was playing on every special team, I was running scout team, I was running with our twos on defense. Objectively, just like, too much of a load for anybody. And I saw, you know, a line of our upperclassmen with their pants to their knees just waiting to get their Toradol injection. And I didn’t know this at 18, I thought, ‘Oh my God, these 15 upperclassmen starters are taking steroids before the game.’ Completely naïve. I later found out it was Toradol, this painkiller that our team docs would administer so guys could play with whatever they had going on,” Borland said in the second part of the series.

“To see that at 18, that was really enlightening to just how seriously it’s taken. Kind of my first glimpse at, ‘This is very real. It’s a big industry. And they’re willing to put in basically kids, young men, in situations that will compromise their long-term health just to beat Northwestern.’”

Brian Lucas, UW’s Director of Football Brand Communications, said players’ well-being is “first and foremost” in their decision-making process.

Digital sharecropping

Nicholas Carr:

A while back I wrote that Web 2.0, by putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the product of their work, provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very few.

Richard MacManus’s new analysis of web traffic patterns helps illustrate the point. Despite the explosion of web content, spurred in large part by the reduction in the cost of producing and consuming that content, web traffic appears to be growing more concentrated in a few sites, not less. Using data from Compete, MacManus shows that the top ten sites accounted for 40% of total internet page views in November 2006, up from 31% in November 2001, a 29% increase. The greater concentration comes during a period when the number of domains on the web nearly doubled, from 2.9 million to 5.1 million.

Even if we grant that traffic numbers are unreliable and that page views are not the only way to measure traffic, the trend seems clear: A few big sites increasingly dominate the web.

On the surface of it, this might seem to contradict the long-tail, or power-law, theory. But it’s not so simple. As MacManus shows, the greater concentration of traffic can largely be explained by the popularity of two “social networking” sites, MySpace and Facebook, which together accounted for 17% of all page views in November 2006. Both MySpace and Facebook are made up of millions of “user profiles” created by their members. If we counted each profile as a separate site, which in a content sense it is, we would find no increase in the concentration of traffic, consistent with the long-tail theory.

Candidate Quotes from Madison’s 2020 Superintendent Pageant

Scott Girard:

Behavior Education Plan

Vanden Wyngaard: “Just like in previous districts I have been in, it appears we have a perception issue in the community.”

Gutiérrez: “What I’ve seen is a rather comprehensive plan. I think it may be a little overwhelming for folks. How can we simplify that to be user-friendly, easy to read, easy to follow?”

Thomas: “There’s a group of teachers who are not excited and at the same time there’s a group of kids who are not excited about it, so I’m not exactly sure how we got there. We have to create structures and strategies to build relationships.”

Charter schools

Vanden Wyngaard: “I expect us to partner with charters. I would partner with any other group so why wouldn’t I do that as well? Parents made a decision on where their child could best learn. Our job is to make sure the children of Madison can be successful.”

Gutiérrez: “There are circumstances when public schools partner with a charter system to serve students. Those are very unique circumstances. I believe that we’ve got to continue to find a way to meet the needs of our students in the public school system. It’s just part of our democratic society.”

Thomas: “I’m an advocate of traditional schools. And I’m an advocate of ensuring that every school is of high-quality.”

No budget or reading discussion?

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results: middle school governance edition

Chris Rickert:

In at least two cases, principals left under a cloud.

In 2017, district officials decided not to pursue legal action against former Black Hawk Middle School Principal Kenya Walker, who abandoned her position and oversaw more than $10,000 in spending on the school’s credit card that could not be accounted for. In 2018, Sherman Middle School Principal Kristin Foreman decided to leave after a teacher alleged in a blog post that the school was “in crisis” due to deteriorating student behavior and disrespect for staff.

Tense hallways

Former Jefferson math teacher Mauricio Escobedo said Kurth had “lost control of the school” and described an environment there in which he felt threatened and had “all kinds of racial epithets and insults hurled at me” by students.

According to confidential student records obtained by WISC-TV (Ch. 3), the student in the Dec. 3 incident had been involved in 25 disciplinary incidents this school year prior to his suspension in the BB gun case.

Escobedo was fired on Dec. 20, he said, after pointing out to school leaders that the student who fired the BB gun had previously threatened to “shoot up the school.” Officially, he was let go for failing to earn a state teaching license, he said.

Kurth did not respond to email and Facebook messages seeking comment. Escobedo is one of five teachers who have left Jefferson during the current school year.

While declining to comment on specific employees, district spokesman Tim LeMonds said one of the teachers left for personal family reasons, two for another job in the district, one for “dissatisfaction” with her job and one for not meeting state licensing requirements.

Escobedo, who said he has more than 20 years of teaching experience, said he was properly licensed. But Department of Public Instruction spokesman Benson Gardner said that unless Escobedo “has used another name, he has never held a license to work in a school in Wisconsin.”

David Blaska:

Just Wednesday afternoon (01-15-2020) a Jefferson middle school student hospitalized with a concussion after being punched by a classmate. The victim told police he had been bullied for some time by the boy who hit him.

A school staff member said the victim fell to the floor after the initial blow, and was then punched a couple of more times. The employee said the suspect was screaming and knocking over chairs.

Mauricio Escobedo told Blaska’s Policy Werkes:

“I was fired and ushered out the back door because I would not allow Tequila Kurth to cover up her dangerous lack of sound disciplinary policies. On Wednesday, yet another child was nearly killed at Jefferson. YOU helped to divulge the fact [earlier this week] that the Jefferson Administration was no longer in control of the school to a wider audience than I could ever reach.  For that, I thank you.

And now that Tequila Kurth is gone, the job is remains unfinished. …

The idea that race should be considered before meting out disciplinary consequences (or disciplinary data) is inimical to the foundational principle that Justice is blind.  This aberration of America’s justice System must be changed inside of the MMSD from which it was removed by verbal artifice and deception.”

Because of the leadership change, the parent/citizen meeting is rescheduled for 6 p.m. February 6 at the school.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Two Tsunamis are About to Hit Higher Education

Andrew Gillen:

But the second tsunami bearing down on higher education will be even bigger — informed choice on the part of students and parents.

For years we’ve asked students to make one of life’s most important decisions essentially blindfolded. We’ve told them a college degree is the surest path to success but have given them little guidance on where to go to college or what major to choose once they get there. As a result, too many students leave with a mountain of debt and a credential that isn’t worth much on the labor market. The new data will help equip students — and their parents — with the information necessary to avoid these costly mistakes in several ways.

First, the data will help guide students toward non-risky majors. Potential students will know that earning a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing is likely a safe choice, as there are 100 programs that pass GEE for every program that fails.

Second, the data will help students avoid risky programs within generally non-risky fields or colleges. Of the universities in the top 5 of the US News and World report college rankings, Harvard and Yale both had one program fail, and Columbia has 10 programs that fail. Helping students avoid these financial bad apples will help all students by keeping the pressure on individual academic programs, not allowing them to coast on a college’s (or field’s) reputation.

Civics: Toronto is surveillance capitalism’s new frontier

Shoshana Zuboff:

The city of Toronto now sits in the crosshairs of a uniquely 21st-century economic model that I call surveillance capitalism. Invented at Google two decades ago, surveillance capitalism claims private experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Most data are hunted, captured and valued not for service improvement but rather for their rich predictive signals. These data flows lay the foundation for a lucrative new surveillance economy. First, data are extracted from private experience. Next, they are conveyed to computational factories called “machine intelligence,” where they are fabricated into behavioural predictions. Finally, prediction products are sold to business customers in markets that trade exclusively in human futures, where companies compete on the quality of predictions: they sell certainty.

Surveillance capitalism has become the default model of the tech sector and now migrates across the normal economy, infiltrating every sector: insurance, education, health care, retail, finance, transportation, the list goes on. As its name suggests, this rogue mutation of capitalism operates stealthily, designed for secrecy and camouflaged by a fog of carefully crafted rhetorical misdirection, euphemism and mendacity, all of which aims to keep us ignorant.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Civics: US Government-funded Android phones come preinstalled with unremovable malware

Dan Goodin:

An Android phone subsidized by the US government for low-income users comes preinstalled with malware that can’t be removed without making the device cease to work, researchers reported on Thursday.

The UMX U686CL is provided by Virgin Mobile’s Assurance Wireless program. Assurance Wireless is an offshoot of the Lifeline Assistance program, a Federal Communications Commissions plan that makes free or government-subsidized phones service available to millions of low-income families. The program is often referred to as the Obama Phone because it expanded in 2008, when President Barack Obama took office. The UMX U686CL runs Android and is available for $35 to qualifying users.

Researchers at Malwarebytes said on Thursday that the device comes with some nasty surprises. Representatives of Sprint, the owner of Virgin Mobile, meanwhile said it didn’t believe the apps were malicious.

The first is heavily obfuscated malware that can install adware and other unwanted apps without the knowledge or permission of the user. Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX contains striking similarities to two other trojan droppers. For one, it uses identical text strings and almost identical code. And for another, it contains an encoded string that, when decoded, contains a hidden library named

Once the library is loaded into memory, it installs software Malwarebytes calls Android/Trojan.HiddenAds. It aggressively displays ads. Malwarebytes researcher Nathan Collier said company users have reported that the hidden library installs a variant of HiddenAds, but the researchers were unable to reproduce that installation, possibly because the library waits some amount of time before doing so.

‘Cancel Culture’ Comes to Science

Peter Wood:

An unhappy side effect of the digital age is “cancel culture.” Anyone with an attitude of moral superiority and a Twitter account can try to shut down an event where opinions he dislikes are likely to be spoken. For several years the National Association of Scholars has inveighed against this infantile form of protest, which undermines free expression of ideas and legitimate debate. Now the cancel caravan has arrived at our door.

We are holding a conference co-sponsored by the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., in early…

Nearly half of the Palmyra-Eagle school board quits following the ruling that the district won’t dissolve

Bob Dohr:

Three of the seven members of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School Board, including the president and vice president, have resigned following the state’s denial of the district’s dissolution attempt.

School board president Scott Hoff, vice president Tara Bollmann and clerk Carrie Ollis announced their resignations at the Jan. 14 board meeting, effective at the end of the meeting.

The resignations come five days after the School District Boundary Appeal Board, a panel made up of school board members from around the state, denied the district’s dissolution by a 6-1 vote.

The school board ordered the district to dissolve last year after the failure of an operational referendum that members said was needed to keep the financially-troubled district open.

Hoff said one of the reasons he stepped down is because during the SDBAB’s hearing process, a member of a citizens group came forward and said a community member was willing to give $100,000 in matching donations to help the district if the current school board would step down.

“They need the money far more than they need me,” Hoff said. 

Hoff also said those who came to the appeal board with ideas on how to save the district need an opportunity to put those in place. 

“I’d be nothing more than a roadblock,” he said. 

Civics: Warren says she would bypass Congress, begin canceling student loans on 1st day as president

Jordyn Pair:

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on Tuesday that she would start to forgive student debt on the first day of her presidency by using legal tools meant to bypass Congress.

“We have a student loan crisis — and we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act,” Warren said in a tweet that included a link to her student debt erasure plan. The U.S. Department of Education already has authority to cancel student debt, she added.

Warren also released a letter written by three legal experts that vouched for the legality of erasing student debt through executive action. The experts described it as “lawful and permissible.”

A 2014 Saturday Night Live skit on then President Obama’s attempts to create law around Congress.

How Will History Books Remember the 2010s?


We aren’t just approaching the end of a very newsy year; we’re approaching the end of a very eventful decade. To mark the occasion, Politico Magazine asked a group of historians to put all that happened over the past 10 years in its proper historical context—and literally write the paragraph that they think will describe the 2010s in American history books written a century from now.

Will the seemingly significant events we have lived through this decade be important in the grand scheme? Are there powerful historical forces playing out that we’re missing? Where will Black Lives Matter, the social media revolution, #MeToo, climate change, Barack Obama and Donald Trump fit into the history books?

Many described the 2010s, in the words of Andrew Bacevich, as an era of “venomous division,” characterized by massive racial, economic and political divisions. Some saw hope in the discord—as a catalyst for much needed reform, soon to come. Still other historians pointed out less-noticed trends—in technology and foreign policy—that will resonate far into the future.

How will the future remember the 2010s? Here’s what the experts had to say:

How Negativity Can Kill a Relationship

John Tierney & Roy Baumeister:

There’s an elegant symmetry to traditional wedding vows: for better or for worse. But love is not symmetrical, and most of us don’t realize how lopsided it can be. The worse matters far more than the better in marriage or any other relationship. That’s how the brain works.

Our thoughts and feelings are skewed by what researchers call the negativity effect, which is our tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. When we hear a mix of compliments and criticism, we obsess over the criticism instead of enjoying the praise. This imbalance, also known as the negativity bias, evolved in the brain because it kept our ancestors alert to deadly threats, but too often it warps our perspective and behavior. A slight conflict can have ruinous consequences when the power of bad overwhelms your judgment, provoking you to actions that further alienate your partner. You’d fare better by using your rational brain to override your irrational impulses, but to do that you need first to understand just how powerful bad can be.

In relationships, the negativity effect magnifies your partner’s faults, real or imagined, starting with their ingratitude, because you’re also biased by an internal overconfidence that magnifies your own strengths. So you wonder how your partner can be so selfish and so blind to your virtues—to all that you’ve done for them. You contemplate one of life’s most exasperating mysteries: Why don’t they appreciate me?

Madison 2020 Superintendent Pageant: Eric Thomas appearance notes

Logan Wroge:

“We have a district that is successful for a group of kids. We have a different district that’s not being successful for a group of kids,” he said of the Madison School District. “That means our organization is uniquely and excellently designed to get the results that we’re presently getting. If we keep doing what we are doing … I can’t imagine why anybody thinks we’re going to get different results.”

Thomas, who goes by his middle name, Eric, said he would not just seek “buy-in” from teachers on programs or initiatives, but rather “co-create” with them changes to improve the district.

If chosen from the pool of three finalists for superintendent, it would be Thomas’ first position leading a school district.

In front of a few dozen people in the theater at La Follette High School, Thomas addressed questions submitted by those in the audience or watching a live-stream of the meeting.

More on Eric Thomas.

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

US colleges struggling with low enrollment are closing at increasing rate

Karina Huber

For 185 years this college campus in Vermont was teeming with students. Now it sits empty. In January, the school announced it would be closing.

‘I’ve had a very long professional career. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – to stand in front – in our auditorium with 400 people and telling principally students, but faculty and staff, that we wouldn’t be opening this fall,” said  Bob Allen, President at Green Mountain College.

The liberal arts college, that specialized in environmental studies, wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to keep up with costs. Enrollment was down and it had to offer ever-larger tuition discounts to attract students. 

While annual tuition was around $36,000, no one paid that.

“We were actually discounting that about 67%. So the average student was really only paying about $12,000 for tuition,” said Allen.

Four years ago, UTLA increased its member dues by 33 percent. What did the union do with the money?

Mike Antonucci:

In the summer of 2015, Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, gave a state of the union speech in which he alerted members to the dire necessity of raising dues by 33 percent. Without the increase, he said, UTLA would be “bankrupt or dramatically weakened” in the years to come.

Though there was considerable squawking from the rank-and-file, they ultimately approved the increase in February 2016.

Did the increase have an impressive effect on UTLA’s finances and avert a cataclysm to its bottom line? An examination of the union’s financial disclosure reports to the Internal Revenue Service both before and after the dues hike indicates it didn’t do much except pad UTLA’s payroll and bank account.

Before the increase went into effect, UTLA collected $41 million in dues, of which about $9.4 million was spent on officer and staff compensation. The union’s net worth was about $28.5 million, of which about $7.9 million was in non-interest-bearing cash. This hardly appears to be a case of impending doom.

The dues increase led to an additional $5.8 million in revenue, of which about $1.4 million was added to staff salaries and benefits. The number of UTLA employees earning more than $100,000 ballooned from 12 to 23 in just two years.

The union had other windfalls. Its legal expenses fell by more than one-third, and its accounting expenses by two-thirds.

L.A. Unified pays $25 million to settle sexual misconduct cases

Howard Blume:

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to pay more than $25 million to settle lawsuits over alleged sexual misconduct. Some cases were related to well-known incidents of abuse at Telfair and De La Torre elementary schools, for which teachers went to jail. Others never led to convictions. The larger settlements are about $2 million per student.

Officials with L.A. Unified like to believe they’ve turned the page on the worst employee misconduct following a spate of high-profile cases, and they can cite a long list of new safeguards. But attorneys for the victims questioned the district’s commitment to reform.

“No one has a full account of how many children have been abused, how many cases they’ve settled,” said attorney John Manly, who represented some of the victims. “This board has made every effort to keep it secret. That is troubling. There is a culture at LAUSD that accepts this as a cost of doing business.”

L.A. Unified General Counsel David Holmquist defended the district’s intentions and response.

School Helps Top Testers Bring Home the Bacon for Lunar New Year

Sixth Tone:

A Shanghai-based women’s rights group is planning to propose a new parental leave policy for the city that would extend time off for new parents and include mandatory leave for fathers, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Wednesday.

The Shanghai Women’s Federation — the municipal branch of China’s quasi-official women’s rights group — said Wednesday that it plans to raise the issue during the city’s upcoming “two sessions” political meetings. The federation is seeking to extend the current maternity leave from 138 days to six months, and to introduce shared parental leave for couples, with fathers having at least 30 days of mandatory time off after the birth of a child.

A spokesperson for the federation’s Shanghai branch said the proposal is aimed at encouraging more fathers to get involved in childrearing, as well as supporting women’s professional development after giving birth, according to The Paper. She added that the move could also help boost the city’s fertility rate.

Education and Men without Work

Nicholas Eberstadt:

America today is in the grip of a gradually building crisis that, despite its manifest importance, somehow managed to remain more or less invisible for decades — at least, until the political earthquake of 2016. That crisis is the collapse of work for adult men, and the retreat from the world of work of growing numbers of men of conventional working age.

According to the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “work rates” for American men in October 2019 stood very close to their 1939 levels, as reported in the 1940 U.S. Census. Despite some improvement since the end of the Great Recession, Great Depression-style work rates are still characteristic today for the American male, both for those of “prime working age” (defined as ages 25 to 54) and for the broader 20 to 64 group.

Unlike the Great Depression, however, today’s work crisis is not an unemployment crisis. Only a tiny fraction of workless American men nowadays are actually looking for employment. Instead we have witnessed a mass exodus of men from the workforce altogether. At this writing, nearly 7 million civilian non-institutionalized men between the ages of 25 and 54 are neither working nor looking for work — over four times as many as are formally unemployed. Between 1965 and 2015, the percentage of prime-age U.S. men not in the labor force shot up from 3.3% to 11.7%. (The overall situation has slightly improved in the last four years, but this group still accounted for 10.8% of the prime-age male population in October 2019.) Over that half century, labor-force participation rates fell for prime-age men in all education groups, but the decline was much worse for men with lower levels of educational attainment than for those with higher levels. Labor-force participation dropped by about four percentage points for college graduates and by two points for men with graduate training; it fell by 14 points for those with no more than a high-school diploma, and by 16 points for those who didn’t finish high school. By 2015, nearly one in six prime-age men with just a high-school degree was neither working nor looking for work, and for those without a high-school diploma, the ratio was worse than one in five.

Study: Newark’s large charter school networks give students a big boost. Other charters, not so much.

Patrick Wall:

Newark’s largest charter school networks give students a big bump in their test scores, while other charter schools are far less effective at boosting scores, a new study finds.

Students who enrolled at schools run by the city’s two largest charter operators — KIPP and Uncommon Schools — saw large and lasting gains on their test scores, according to the analysis of data from 2014 to 2018. But students who attended a different set of charter schools, on average, got a much smaller boost.

The study by the Manhattan Institute adds to previous research showing that Newark’s charter schools, which educate more than a third of the city’s public-school students, collectively raise students’ test scores. But the analysis also sheds new light on the wide variation within Newark’s large charter sector, showing that the big charter school networks with the most students drive the sector’s positive results.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district has long resisted parent and student choice, despite spending far more than most and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Milwaukee and many other cities offer extensive parent and student choice. An interview with Henry Tyson, Superintendent of the inner city St. Marcus elementary school.

An elegy for cash: the technology we might never replace

Mike Orcutt:

Think about the last time you used cash. How much did you spend? What did you buy, and from whom? Was it a one-time thing, or was it something you buy regularly?

Was it legal?

If you’d rather keep all that to yourself, you’re in luck. The person in the store (or on the street corner) may remember your face, but as long as you didn’t reveal any identifying information, there is nothing that links you to the transaction.

This is a feature of physical cash that payment cards and apps do not have: freedom. Called “bearer instruments,” banknotes and coins are presumed to be owned by whoever holds them. We can use them to transact with another person without a third party getting in the way. Companies cannot build advertising profiles or credit ratings out of our data, and governments cannot track our spending or our movements. And while a credit card can be declined and a check mislaid, handing over money works every time, instantly.

The Rise of the Rural Creative Class (?)

Richard Florida:

One of the most persistent myths in America today is that urban areas are innovative and rural areas are not. While it is overwhelmingly clear that innovation and creativity tend to cluster in a small number of cities and metropolitan areas, it’s a big mistake to think that they somehow skip over rural America.

A series of studies from Tim Wojan and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service documents the drivers of rural innovation. Their findings draw on a variety of data sets, including a large-scale survey that compares innovation in urban and rural areas called the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS). This is based on some 11,000 business establishments with at least five paid employees in tradable industries—that is, sectors that produce goods and services that are or could be traded internationally—in rural (or non-metro) and urban (metro) areas.

The survey divides businesses into three main groups. Roughly 30 percent of firms are substantive innovators, launching new products and services, making data-driven decisions, and creating intellectual property worth protecting; another 33 percent are nominal innovators who engage in more incremental improvement of their products and processes; and 38 percent show little or no evidence of innovation, so are considered to be non-innovators.

The first table below charts this breakdown for rural and urban areas. Establishments in urban areas are more innovative, but not by much. Roughly 20 percent of rural firms are substantive innovators, compared to 30 percent of firms in urban areas.

I recall chatting with a former Madison School District Superintendent, who, when I asked about learning from rural (far less $) schools, replied that “I would never do that”.

Life Under the Algorithm

Gabriel Winant:

Until, it turns out, they don’t anymore. The unwinding of this agreement in recent decades, such that workers must continue to produce more without expecting it to show up in their pay stubs, has now been the subject of a good deal of discussion and debate. The decline of unions, the rise of inequality, the crisis of liberal democracy, and the changing face of American culture all, in one form or another, relate to this transformation. We work and work and barely get by, while wealth pools up in obscene quantities out of view. Pile more pig iron, but don’t imagine you’re high-priced. What, ask new books by Emily Guendelsberger and Steve Fraser, is this colossal insult doing to our heads? No wonder, Guendelsberger observes, the country is collectively “freaking the fuck out.”

In her new book, On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane, Guendelsberger re-creates a version of Barbara Ehrenreich’s famous experiment in Nickel and Dimed. Guendelsberger, a reporter for the alt-weekly Philadelphia City Paper until it was sold off and shut down in 2015, went undercover at three low-wage workplaces: an Amazon warehouse in Indiana, a call center in North Carolina, and a McDonald’s in San Francisco. Whereas Ehrenreich’s main discovery was that there still existed an exploited working class—a controversial point in the late 1990s and early 2000s—Guendelsberger takes inequality and exploitation as given, asking instead what these jobs are doing to the millions who work them.

What does the phrase “in the weeds” mean to you? In the professional-managerial class, “in the weeds” signifies knotty detail (as in the Vox public policy podcast, The Weeds). In the working class, Guendelsberger points out, “in the weeds” means the same thing “swamped” does in professional-speak: overwhelmed and stressed out. And America’s working class, Guendelsberger argues, is in the weeds all the time, increasingly subjected to an automated neo-Taylorism. Workers are scheduled by algorithm, their tasks timed automatically, and their performance surveilled digitally. This was what she learned on these jobs: “The weeds are a terribly toxic place for human beings. The weeds make us crazy. The weeds make us sick. The weeds destroy family life. The weeds push people into addiction. The weeds will literally kill you.”

What Guendelsberger found in her experiment was that employers now “demand a workforce that can think, talk, feel, and pick stuff up like humans—but with as few needs outside of work as robots. They insist their workers amputate the messy human bits of themselves—family, hunger, thirst, emotions, the need to make rent, sickness, fatigue, boredom, depression, traffic.” The results are “cyborg jobs,” and they account, by Guendelsberger’s reckoning, for almost half of the American workforce. The hidden moments of reclaimed freedom that make any job bearable are being discovered and wiped out by bosses everywhere: That trick you used to use to slow down the machine won’t work anymore; or that window of 23 minutes when you knew your boss couldn’t watch you is vanishing. Whatever little piece of humanity survived in these fragments dies with them.

Madison’s Jefferson Middle School principal taking ‘extended leave of absence’

Shanzeh Ahmad:

Madison police said a Jefferson student suffered a concussion Wednesday after being punched by a classmate who had been bullying him for some time. The injured boy was taken to a hospital, and the student who punched him was removed from the classroom and later taken to the Juvenile Reception Center on tentative charges of substantial battery and disorderly conduct, police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

Another incident in December resulted in the arrest of two 13-year-old boys, one for shooting a BB gun out of a bus window and the other for bringing the BB gun inside the school the next day, police said. Two girls, ages 13 and 14, were struck by the BB gun shots as they were getting off the bus. All of the teens were Jefferson students.

No safe space for reformers at Madison’s Jefferson middle school? “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

Desegregation, Then and Now

R. Shep Melnick:

The central, unstated assumption of Hannah-Jones and other defenders of court-ordered busing is that the meaning of the crucial term “desegregation” remained constant from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 to busing in Boston two decades later. To oppose busing in Detroit, Dayton, or Delaware (as Biden did), so the story goes, is to reject the most important Supreme Court decision of the 20th century. Moreover, if “desegregation” has a coherent, constant meaning, we should focus on the benefits of the entire project, from desegregation of the border states in the 1950s to the “reconstruction of Southern education” in the 1960s and 1970s, to the effort to create racially balanced schools outside the South during the 1970s and 1980s. There is no need to distinguish among the diverse projects lumped under the heading “desegregation.”

This story is just plain wrong, as anyone who has studied the history of desegregation well knows. The starting point for any serious evaluation of desegregation must be acknowledging how much the meaning of that key term changed over time. We can argue over the merits of this transformation, but not over the nature and extent of the change.

In his opinion for a unanimous court in Brown v. Board, Chief Justice Earl Warren presented arguments he hoped would not only convince legal skeptics, but appeal to the better angels of citizens in the North and South. He never explained what school districts must do to achieve desegregation. For that omission the Court has been justly criticized, since its silence allowed the South to evade its constitutional responsibilities for a decade and a half. Nor did Warren provide an adequate explanation for why state-sponsored segregation is wrong. His reliance on dubious social-science evidence needlessly left him open to attack by segregationists.

Although the Court never cited the famous words of Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson — ”Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens” — that understanding lay at the heart of the NAACP’s legal argument and formed the foundation of the Court’s discussion of remedies. In oral argument, the NAACP’s Robert Carter explained that the “one fundamental contention which we will seek to develop” is that “no state has any authority under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunity among its citizens.” Thurgood Marshall assured the Court that “the only thing that we are asking for is that the state-imposed racial segregation be taken off, and to leave the county school board, the county people, the district people, to work out their solutions of the problem to assign children on any reasonable basis they want to assign them on.”

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

“Madison teachers say ‘society is murdering black & brown people”

David Blaska:

We are a group of educators planning a Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Madison as part of the National BLM Week of Action February 3-7, 2020.

The Black Lives Matter movement recognizes the impact of mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unfair immigration laws and policies, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare. All of these injustices exist in the intersection of race, class and gender. And they have always existed and continue to exist within our Madison community, including within our own school system.

…. If society continues to marginalize, murder, and devalue Black and Brown lives, then there is little hope for America to ever reach her fullest potential.

We call all of our colleagues, administrators, students, families and community members to partner with us as we engage in the National Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 3-7, 2020. We commit to analyzing and challenging both our personal and systemic or institutional racialized beliefs and practices.

For Extra Credit: Madison superintendent hopeful would concentrate on social justice and equity. Read it and weep.

diversity/inclusion programs “benefit higher education institutions rather than contributing to a commitment to inclusion, equity and creating a diverse workforce.”

Jack Grove:\

One interviewee observed that the leadership courses were in essence adapted from those aimed at “white, middle-class women”, and had not been tailored to provide “tools to navigate the complex interpersonal relationships we have to think about as BME people”. Another questioned whether black staff would want to “conform to the white style of leadership…that may not work for us because we are not white”.

Some questioned the fact that the courses were run by black trainers without an academic background, with one stating that it was “bit strange” that there were only BME people in the room.

“White senior academics…should be brought in at the end so that they can also understand first-hand some of the issues we are facing – which many of them don’t really comprehend,” said one black male interviewee quoted in the paper.

This lack of engagement from senior management led some to conclude that “institutions are using these courses as a tick-box exercise to say they are supporting BME staff”, Professor Bhopal told Times Higher Education.

Cracking the code on reading instruction stories

Holly Korbey:

In late 2018, WHYY Philadelphia education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent was asked to coffee by a group of suburban Philadelphia moms who had “this little movement” going to push their highly regarded school district to help their struggling readers, some of whom had been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Wolfman-Arent had recently heard APM Reports senior producer and correspondent Emily Hanford’s audio documentaries on reading instruction and decided to pursue the local story because he understood there was “something in the water about it.”

His February 2019 story, Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading, surprised readers with its description of parents who were angry at a well-funded, desirable suburban district where as it turned out, lots of children hadn’t learned how to read.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

We all agree that inequality is bad. But what kind of equality is good?

Joshua Rothman:

Michael and Angela have just turned fifty-five. They know two people who have died in the past few years—one from cancer, another in a car accident. It occurs to them that they should make a plan for their kids. They have some money in the bank. Suppose they were both killed in a plane crash—what would happen to it?

They have four children, who range in age from their late teens to their late twenties. Chloe, the oldest, is a math wiz with a coding job at Google; she hopes to start her own company soon. Will, who has a degree in social work, is paying off his student debt while working at a halfway house for recovering addicts. The twins, James and Alexis, are both in college. James, a perpetually stoned underachiever, is convinced that he can make it as a YouTuber. (He’s already been suspended twice, for on-campus pranks.) Alexis, who hopes to become a poet, has a congenital condition that could leave her blind by middle age.

At first, Michael and Angela plan to divide their money equally. Then they start to think about it. Chloe is on the fast track to remunerative Silicon Valley success; Will is burdened by debt in his quest to help the vulnerable. If James were to come into an inheritance, he’d likely grow even lazier, spending it on streetwear and edibles; Alexis, with her medical situation, might need help later in life. Maybe, Michael and Angela think, it doesn’t make sense to divide the money into equal portions after all. Something more sophisticated might be required. What matters to them is that their children flourish equally, and this might mean giving the kids unequal amounts—an unappealing prospect.

The decline of nonfiction in the IP era

James Pogue:

In early 2018, I was spending a warm West Hollywood Sunday evening on the balcony of a young director of film development, drinking a beer and hoping for an early night[*]. I had planned to sleep on his couch, but when I suggested we turn in, he said, “Nah, just take my bed, I’m probably not sleeping tonight.” I asked why not, and he looked momentarily surprised, as though it was strange I wasn’t aware of the impending event that had a small but important segment of the film and publishing industries alive with anticipation at the two ends of the great book-to-film pipeline connecting agents, assistants, film execs, and book scouts through endless emails and group chats. “That new David Grann story drops at midnight,” he said.

I expressed mild shock at this, saying it was sadistic for an agent to send out notices to otherwise self-respecting adults calling on them to stay up to read and compose notes on a magazine story instead of trying to sleep before a workday. Surely they would still be expected, as is the custom in the newly big business of turning books and magazine pieces into films, to send the regular weekly memo about recent publications their peers and bosses might find interesting enough to read, or maybe to offer on, and to be alert and shrewd at the regular meetings about the reading that everyone did over the weekend. The expectation now is to mine, on a bulk scale, for writing that producers might want to buy. In this case, the aim was to acquire a story by a staff writer at The New Yorker who I personally don’t consider one of his generation’s great talents—though living in Los Angeles in the era of book-to-film has given me reason to wonder about the acuity of my taste in literature. My friend gave me a slightly patronizing look, implying that he didn’t need, at that moment, to hear opinions about the great David Grann from a younger writer whose work emphatically does not keep execs and agents awake late on a Sunday night waiting to pull million-dollar triggers. Rather than live as a curmudgeon, I would do better to learn from this moment and start producing books and articles that would get me up off his couch and into some serious money. He knew I knew how to do it because he’d told me how, many times.

Hard Questions: Hear the Voices of Young Journalists

Simpson Street Free Press:

Several of the most dynamic and accomplished young journalists working in the Madison media market answer questions from student reporters.

Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She recently took on the criminal justice beat for the paper.

Jenny Peek is a digital news editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and an education reporter for Isthmus.

Amanda Quintana is a general assignment reporter and news anchor at WISC-TV, News 3 Now.

Taylor Kilgore is a graduate of the UW-Madison School of Journalism and the managing editor at Simpson Street Free Press.

Unmerited: Inequality and the New Elite

Nicholas Lemann:

About 25 years ago, I spent a memorable afternoon in London with Michael Young, the author of the strange 1958 dystopian novel in the form of a dissertation called The Rise of the Meritocracy, which introduced that term into the English language. In the United States, for years, people have liked to insist that wherever they work or go to school is a meritocracy, meaning, roughly, that they understand it as an open competition in which the most deserving succeed. Americans assume meritocracy to be an unalloyed good; the term implies a contrast to some past system or an era when success went instead to lazy inheritors, timeservers, or adept players of office politics.

Young, however, wanted not to celebrate meritocracy but to warn the world against it. He had the detached air of someone who has quietly noticed everything, and a sense of humor so bone-dry that most people missed it. By the time I met him, he was Baron Young of Dartington—an oft-noted irony. But intellectually, he was a creature of the post–World War II British Labour Party, in which he served as an important adviser on education, and of the impoverished East End, where he did his sociological research. He had been involved in the great expansion of the state-run school system after the war, which was an aspect of the broader socialist project aimed at creating structured mass opportunity for the first time in British history. It was in keeping with the tenor of the time that this effort relied on administering intelligence tests to masses of 11-year-olds, who were then each directed into what was, essentially, a blue-collar or a white-collar educational track and who would, when they were a few years older, take another set of exams that would anoint a small cohort as bound for higher education.

No safe space for reformers at Madison’s Jefferson middle school? “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

David Blaska:

“Teachers are very very afraid.” — former teacher*

Parents are mobilizing for a showdown at Madison’s Jefferson middle school, which they describe as ruled by virtue-signaling administrators and out-of-control students.

The flash point was on December 3 when a 13-year-old boy shot a girl with a BB gun outside from a bus window. The student had remained in school despite a history of transgressions, include threatening to shoot up the school “and kill everyone” three months earlier.

* Former teacher Mauricio Escobedo told Blaska Policy Werkes that students at Jefferson, located on the same campus as James Madison Memorial high school on Madison’s far west side, must be bribed with candy and potato chips to follow instructions because there are no penalties for disobedience.

School district spokesman Tim LeMonds seemed to acknowledge problems at Jefferson. He told the Werkes: “We’ve been reviewing the culture and climate of that school for a few months now and we are working with the leadership at that school.” 

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

I raised my hand and said, ‘Well, I don’t agree. I don’t have skin in the game. I’m not white.’ The educational philosophy of the school district is focused on feelings of safety not on discipline.”

Mr. Escobedo told this blog: “One can create the greatest safe space on earth here in Madison but when they go out in the world you are killing these children, they won’t be able to function out in the world which lacks such safe spaces.”

Escobedo feels that school administration blamed him for leaking the disciplinary file of the December 3 shooter to Channel 3000, which he denies. “Instead of focusing on safety policies, school principal Tequila Kurth wrote memos that threatened the school employee/s who divulged this public information.” Kurth is in her second school year as principal at Jefferson.

LeMonds, public information officer for the school district, told Blaska Policy Works no one has been accused of leaking the information. “That was federally protected information, so the district has been actively investigating the release of that record. We haven’t even narrowed it down to a point where we can interview folks.”

Escobedo said: “I come from business and if you’re black or white, I don’t care what race, if you’re hired at McDonald’s and you burn the food, they’re going to fire you because you are not getting the job done. But here in this school, here in Madison WI and in the United States, schools are saying ‘alright students you are failing but we’re going to protect you from failure. We’re not going give you an F but draw you a happy face for effort.’”

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Schools without discipline will fail

Peter Anderson:

Jennifer Cheatham’s tenure, to a not-insignificant extent, became increasingly defined by her efforts to deflect vocal pressure from Freedom Inc., by how those efforts affected her determination to convince opinion leaders of her commitment to racial justice, and by her inability to actually reduce the black achievement gap.

To reinvigorate her bona fides, she caved in to unsubstantiated claims of racism and sacrificed teachers with no record of bias. 

But that undermined teachers’ ability to discipline disruptive students who are African-American, and, in consequence, significantly contributed to schools becoming increasingly dysfunctional, which leads to middle class flight. Then, because her efforts also proved misdirected to reduce the black achievement gap, Dr. Cheatham misrepresented performance data by lowering expectations in order to artificially inflate the reputation she cultivated.

Behavior Education Plan

The debilitating problems began with the roll out or Dr. Cheatham’s Behavior Education Plan in 2014. The plan itself was a well-intentioned replacement of the earlier zero tolerance policy, which had a disparate impact on black students from troubled homes. The Plan provided for a progressive approach to discipline, and restorative justice in lieu of punishment, that was intended to keep misbehaving students in classrooms.

Problems arose in the Plan’s implementation that led students to conclude that there no longer any consequences for bad behavior.

No consequences for misbehavior

For the Plan’s positive approach to work, it was critical that students continued to believe that there were real consequences for bad behaviors, which meant they had to see positive reinforcements and restorative practices as something serious, and not as a free pass to continue misbehaving. Otherwise, discipline will break down and the other students will increasingly be unable to learn, and will convey that fact to their parents.

Additional Commentary.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Tax & Spending Increase Referendum Planning: School Board Rhetoric Ko

Scott Girard:

During a board retreat Saturday to discuss strategies for both a capital and an operating referendum in April, board members generally agreed they wanted to vote in March — before board member Kate Toews’ term is over and a new board member takes her place.

Toews is not running for re-election to Seat 6 in April, and some board members said it could be a complex topic for a new board member to walk into. Board president Gloria Reyes also said she wants the outreach and communication process to begin as soon as possible.

“I do strongly believe that if we’re going to start a process and strategy we should all have voted,” Reyes said.

Public input on the projects, presented Monday night during an Operations Work Group meeting, shows overall support for both, though there are some concerns about how the operating funds would be used.

Board members and district staff have been working with a plan for a $315 million capital referendum to renovate the four high schools, build a new school in the Rimrock Road neighborhood and relocate the alternative Capital High School to the Hoyt building. The same ballot could ask voters for up to $36 million in operating funds over four years. That would allow the district to exceed state revenue caps by $8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24, though some board members asked to go lower than that at least for the first school year.

That complicates this summer’s budget process, as the board will have to approve two budgets — one for if the operating referendum passes and one in case it fails — but it also presents an opportunity for the board to show voters its priorities and the cost to the district if it fails, board members said.

Much more on the planned 2020 tax and spending increase Madison referendum.

A presenter [org chart] further mentioned that Madison spends about $1 per square foot in annual budget maintenance while Milwaukee is about $2.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Eric Thomas stresses success for ‘all students’ in Madison School District is key

Scott Girard:

“My background is very much anchored on supporting all students,” Thomas said. “That’s sort of why I wake up every morning. The notion that all students are able to achieve at a high level, I truly not only believe it, but I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. I know it’s possible.”

He will be the third and final candidate for the Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent position to visit for his Day in the District. Thomas will be here Thursday to meet community members, interview with the School Board and hold a public session from 6-7:30 p.m. at La Follette High School, 702 Pflaum Road.

Various news reports have listed him as a finalist for multiple superintendent positions in recent years, as well as being among 51 applicants for the superintendent position in Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Florida. An Atlanta Journal Constitution article says there has been “long running tension between (Thomas’) office and that of state school Superintendent Richard Woods, who has always wanted control” over the turnaround program Thomas leads.

Thomas began his career as a high school social studies teacher in Cincinnati in 1994, and after four years moved into a district coordinator position for a program supporting “overaged” eighth graders (those older than their peers) until 2002. He then moved to the nearby Middletown City School District to be an administrator at an alternative high school.

More on Eric Thomas.

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard

Logan Wroge:

She also highlighted the importance of having teachers know the cognitive process of how children learn to read to improve literacy outcomes.

When asked about school-based police officers, a divisive topic in the Madison School District, Vanden Wyngaard said she doesn’t have a problem with police being in schools but thinks they should only be involved if a felony-level crime is suspected.

She also spoke to giving teachers the ability to “fail forward” when they make mistakes, allowing them to learn and adjust.

To increase the number of teachers of color, Vanden Wyngaard said the district can try to recruit directly from historically black colleges, expand a district program that encourages minority students to become teachers and change the culture of the district to be more welcoming for teachers of color.

People can provide online feedback for each candidate until 8 a.m. Friday. For Vanden Wyngaard, the website is:

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Ramanujan’s First Letter to G.H. Hardy

Jorgen Veisdal:

By the second paragraph however, Ramanujan was already getting to the point of his inquiry by suggesting that he could give meaning to negative values of the so-called  “); background-size: 1px 1px; background-position: 0px calc(1em + 1px); background-repeat: repeat no-repeat”>gamma function:

Just as in elementary mathematics you give a meaning to aⁿ when n is negative and fractional to conform to the law which holds when n is a positive integer, similarly the whole of my investigations proceed on giving a meaning to Eulerian Second Integral for all values of n. My friends who have gone through the regular course of University education tell me that

A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse

Thomas Teasdale and David Owen:

In the 1980s reviewed evidence indicated that, through the preceding decades of the last century, population performance on intelligence tests had been rising substantially, typically about 3–5 IQ points per decade, in developed countries. The phenomenon, now termed the ‘Flynn Effect’, has been variously attributed to biological and/or to social and educational factors. Although there is some evidence to suggest a slowing of the effect through the 1990s, only little evidence, to our knowledge, has yet been presented to show an arrest or reversal of the trend. Substantially replicating a recent report from Norway, we here report intelligence test results from over 500,000 young Danish men, tested between 1959 and 2004, showing that performance peaked in the late 1990s, and has since declined moderately to pre-1991 levels. A contributing factor in this recent fall could be a simultaneous decline in proportions of students entering 3-year advanced-level school programs for 16–18 year olds.

Life at the End of American Empire

Richard Lachmann:

Student achievement at the primary, secondary, and university levels has fallen from the top ranks. US students, who attend ever more decrepit schools, are performing less well than their peers in countries with much lower levels of income or educational spending. The United States, which pioneered mass higher education with the GI Bill of 1944 and held the lead in the percentage of its population with university degrees for the following five decades, has now fallen to fourteenth among developed nations.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Fieldston, Elite Private School, Faces Backlash From Jewish Parents

Eliza Shapiro:

The episode comes at a highly charged moment for the school, and for New York.

Fieldston spent much of last year trying to contain a rebellion by its students, some of whom locked themselves in buildings on the school’s campus in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in March to protest what they said was a racist school culture.

The school agreed to many of the students’ demands, including anti-bias training and a commitment to hire more teachers of color.

Our Tax Dollars at Work: Wisconsin DPI loses School Choice Case


Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Bohren issued a summary judgement order Tuesday in favor of School Choice Wisconsin Action (SCWA), a WILL client, that sued the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the state education agency, for their unfair, illegal treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs. WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of SCWA in March after DPI denied private choice schools the opportunity to fully utilize online, virtual learning as part of classroom instruction.

Judge Bohren wrote in his decision, “There is not a legitimate government interest in denying Choice Schools the opportunity to use “virtual learning” as Public schools do. The denial is harmful to the Choice Schools and its students.”

The Quotes: Libby Sobic, Director of Education Policy at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said, “Today, the Waukesha Circuit Court ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction broke the law when it denied private schools in the choice program the opportunity to fully utilize online learning as part of classroom instruction. For too long, DPI has been unfair in their treatment of private schools in Wisconsin’s choice programs and today’s decision affirms that when they break the law, they will be held accountable.”

Terry Brown, Chair of School Choice Wisconsin Action said, “State statutes are created and changed by elected officials accountable directly to the public. State agencies run by unelected bureaucrats are not allowed to modify or interpret those laws without legislative oversight.”

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Parent union forming to combat power of public school teachers unions; “The tyranny of low expectations”

Nick Givas:

Keri Rodrigues and Alma Marquez said they were so appalled by the low standards of America’s public school teachers unions, they formed the National Parents Union (NPU), so families could have a greater say in their children’s education.

Rodrigues, a mother of three from Boston, and Marquez, a mother of one from Los Angeles, are no strangers to public-sector unions. Rodrigues worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), while Marquez grew up in a union household and worked for Green Dot Public Schools — a public charter organization

“I worked in labor, working for the SEIU, and I spent a big chunk of my career in politics,” Rodrigues told Fox News. “But at the same time, I’m a single mom with three little boys. My oldest son has Asperger’s and ADHD. So we knew from a very young age that he was going to need help.”

Her son had been suspended from kindergarten 36 times and was supposed to be aided by an individualized education program (IEP). Instead, Rodrigues said she was met with indifference and ineptitude from instructors who were supposed to be helping her boy.

“An emphasis on adult employment”.

“The tyranny of low expectations.

A scandal in Oxford: the curious case of the stolen gospel

Charlotte Higgins:

To visit Dr Dirk Obbink at Christ Church college, Oxford, you must first be ushered by a bowler-hatted porter into the stately Tom Quad, built by Cardinal Wolsey before his spectacular downfall in 1529. Turn sharp right, climb a flight of stairs, and there, behind a door on which is pinned a notice advertising a 2007 college arts festival, you will find Obbink’s rooms. Be warned: you may knock on the door in vain. Since October, he has been suspended from duties following the biggest scandal that has ever hit, and is ever likely to hit, the University of Oxford’s classics department.

An associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford, Obbink occupies one of the plum jobs in his field. Born in Nebraska and now in his early 60s, this lugubrious, crumpled, owlish man has “won at the game of academia”, said Candida Moss, professor of theology at Birmingham University. In 2001, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” award for his expertise in “rescuing damaged ancient manuscripts from the ravages of nature and time”. Over the course of his career, he has received millions in funding; he is currently, in theory at least, running an £800,000 project on the papyrus rolls carbonised by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.

Since he was appointed in 1995, Obbink has welcomed many visitors into his rooms at Christ Church: dons, undergraduates, researchers. Less orthodox callers, too: among them, antiquities dealers and collectors. In the corner of Obbink’s study stands a pool table, from which two Egyptian mummy masks stare out impenetrably. Its green baize surface is all but obscured by papers and manuscripts – even, sometimes, a folder or two containing fragments of ancient papyrus. One bibliophile remembers a visit to this room, “like the set of an Indiana Jones movie”, a few years ago. He was offered an antique manuscript for sale by a man named Mahmoud Elder, with whom Obbink owned a company, now dissolved, called Castle Folio.

Nygren and Thiesfeldt Call for Audit of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin Legislature:

–State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance and State Representative Jeremy (R-Fond du Lac), Chair of the Assembly Education Committee released the following statement calling for an audit of the Department of Public Instruction:

“Representing nearly one-fifth of the entire state budget, the Department of Public Instruction budget has increased by nearly $3 billion since 2012,” said Rep. Nygren. “Despite providing more resources than ever for public schools, student achievement in reading, unfortunately, continues to decline.”

“Wisconsin’s overall test scores are headed in the wrong direction. Especially concerning is the downward trend in reading scores, the core of education attainment,” said Rep. Thiesfeldt. “Recent Forward Exam results show that 60% of Wisconsin students cannot read or write at grade level. Taxpayers and students deserve better.”

The proposed audit would examine approaches to reading instruction and resulting student achievement. Specifically, LAB would examine methods of reading instruction utilized in Wisconsin’s schools, the impact of the Foundations of Reading Test on teacher licensure, and whether DPI consistently measures student achievement. A similar audit was conducted in 1998.

“Given the significant level of taxpayer resources dedicated to education, the need for oversight and accountability could not be clearer,” said Reps. Nygren and Thiesfeldt. “It is our hope that this audit will provide long overdue oversight of funding provided to DPI and help inform legislative action to improve student outcomes.”

Long overdue. An “emphasis on adult employment.

The Wisconsin DPI, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass a content knowledge examination. This exam, the Foundations of Reading is identical to the highly successful Massachusetts’ MTEL teacher requirement.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Gutiérrez hopes to be ‘uniter’ for Madison School District

Scott Girard:

Are we able to be laser focused on a number of a initiatives?” Gutiérrez said. “When you really do the research, the most highly successful systems have just three or four initiatives that they’re focused on, and you can do them really well.”

He also brings recent experience with one of the likely immediate roles he would take on, having seen Seguin voters approve a bond referendum last spring. He said he learned the importance of “proactive” communication throughout a referendum process, especially given the “conservative community” that had “a large amount of distrust in the school district” a few years before the successful referendum.

“To be able to have a referendum pass with those challenges I believe is pretty huge and something I’m very proud of,” he said. “When you can really take a proactive approach to community, a transparent approach to communication, really put yourself out there to meet with people, meet with different groups, you can certainly accomplish that goal.”

More on Matthew Gutiérrez

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

The Disgusting New Campus Novel

Kristina Quynn:

If contingent faculty were being killed at your university at the rate of one per day, how many days would it take for someone in your administration to notice?” That’s the question asked by Geoff Cebula’s murder-mystery novel Adjunct (2017), set at fictional Bellwether College. The mysterious disappearance of faculty members compels Elena Malatesta, an adjunct professor in the modern-language department, to unravel budget cuts from murder and uncover the real cause behind the disappearance of Bellwether’s adjuncts. In the end, Malatesta also disappears from campus. She quits teaching to pursue a life of the mind outside academe. She will, however, advise a part-time colleague to continue teaching. Because a full-time position may — just may — open up in the future. Thus the crisis continues.

Cebula’s novel contributes to a new trend in American campus fiction that features contingent faculty and staff as protagonists seeking to understand the changing nature of higher education and to gain job security, professional recognition, and promotion. Such novels and short fiction — instances of what Jeffrey Williams has called the “Adjunctroman” — include Julia Keefer’s How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling (2006), J. Hayes Hurley’s The Adjunct (2008), Alex Kudera’s Fight for Your Long Day (2010), A.P. O’Malley’s “Vagrant Adjunct” (2012), and Gordon Haber’s “Adjunctivitis” (2013).

Feces, vomit, blood, amputated limbs, corpses — these are some of the motifs by which the new campus fictions announce their difference from the old.
These small-press or self-published narratives of contingency frustrate the most recognizable mode of campus fiction, the “Professorroman,” with a saga of Sisyphean lack of progress. If the Professorroman is a version of Bildungsroman that substitutes a story of coming into tenure for a coming-of-age narrative, in the Adjunctroman no one achieves professordom or even gets close: These are cautionary tales of academic drudgery and professional woe.

Civics: disinformation, “surveys” and Madison’s proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendum

Michael Ferguson:

In October 2019, select U.S. officials offered closed-door congressional testimony regarding their knowledge of events surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Dr. Fiona Hill, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, testified it was very likely Russian disinformation influenced the documents used to acquire a surveillance warrant on members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign. A January 2018 Wall Street Journal editorial by the Central Intelligence Agency’s former Moscow station chief, Daniel Hoffman, appears to support her assessment.

If even partially true, this is a significant development. It would force the national security enterprise to amend its understanding of disinformation’s potential to shape the national consciousness—a conversation that until recently has been defined by references to social media bots and Internet trolls.

Reporting on disinformation generally focuses on either violent extremists or hostile states deploying carefully crafted lies to influence portions of the civilian population by distorting their perception of the truth. But this was not always the case. In fact, this emphasis on public opinion is a rather nascent phenomenon. How did we get to this point, why is disinformation so prevalent, and what should the world expect from it going forward? The following analysis explores these increasingly important questions, and concludes that the skyrocketing volume, reach, and subtlety of disinformation from both states and non-state actors will make it harder to combat at the policy level in the future.

The taxpayer supported K-12 Madison School District continues to push the proposed 2020 tax and spending increase referendums.

The district acknowledges, though, that survey results are “not fully indicative of the general population,” because 85% of those who responded either currently have a student in Madison schools or work for the district.

 spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Civics: Younger Americans more likely than older adults to say there are other countries that are better than the U.S.

Hannah Harris and Hannah Gilberstadt:

However, slightly more than a third (36%) of adults ages 18 to 29 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., the highest share of any age group.

Age differences in these views are evident within both partisan coalitions but are particularly wide among Democrats. Nearly half (47%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents under 30 say there are other countries that are better than the U.S., as do roughly a third (34%) of those ages 30 to 49. By comparison, just 20% of Democrats ages 50 and older say this.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 19% of adults under 30 say there are other countries that are superior to the U.S. In contrast, just 4% of Republicans 50 and older take this view.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

South Korea’s fertility rate falls to a record low

The Economist:

FOR MUCH of its history, South Korea worried about having too many babies. In the 1960s and 1970s the government set targets for family size. South Koreans were told that “even two are a lot”. Sterilisation was subsidised. Today the country has the opposite problem. In 2006 the government set a goal of raising the total fertility rate—a measure of births per woman—from 1.2 to 1.6 by boosting child-care subsidies and cutting taxes for families. Yet instead of rising, the figure tumbled even lower. On August 28th new data showed that the fertility rate fell to 0.98 in 2018, from 1.05 in 2017. South Koreans are having fewer babies than ever.

Civics: Paging Dr. Google: How the Tech Giant Is Laying Claim to Health Data

Rob Copeland, Dana Mattioli and Melanie Evans

Roughly a year ago, Google offered health-data company Cerner Corp. an unusually rich proposal.

Cerner was interviewing Silicon Valley giants to pick a storage provider for 250 million health records, one of the largest collections of U.S. patient data. Google dispatched former chief executive Eric Schmidt to personally pitch Cerner over several phone calls and offered around $250 million in discounts and incentives, people familiar with the matter say.

Google had a bigger goal in pushing for the deal than dollars and cents: a way to expand its effort to collect, analyze and aggregate health data on millions of Americans. Google representatives were vague in answering questions about how Cerner’s data would be used, making the health-care company’s executives wary, the people say. Eventually, Cerner struck a storage deal with Inc. instead.

The failed Cerner deal reveals an emerging challenge to Google’s move into health care: gaining the trust of health care partners and the public. So far, that has hardly slowed the search giant.

Google has struck partnerships with some of the country’s largest hospital systems and most-renowned health-care providers, many of them vast in scope and few of their details previously reported. In just a few years, the company has achieved the ability to view or analyze tens of millions of patient health records in at least three-quarters of U.S. states, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of contractual agreements.

In certain instances, the deals allow Google to access personally identifiable health information without the knowledge of patients or doctors. The company can review complete health records, including names, dates of birth, medications and other ailments, according to people familiar with the deals.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.

Special sunglasses, license-plate dresses, Juggalo face paint: How to be anonymous in the age of surveillance

Melissa Hellman:

Cory Doctorow’s sunglasses are seemingly ordinary. But they are far from it when seen on security footage, where his face is transformed into a glowing white orb.

At his local credit union, bemused tellers spot the curious sight on nearby monitors and sometimes ask, “What’s going on with your head?” said Doctorow, chuckling.

The frames of his sunglasses, from Chicago-based eyewear line Reflectacles, are made of a material that reflects the infrared light found in surveillance cameras and represents a fringe movement of privacy advocates experimenting with clothes, ornate makeup and accessories as a defense against some surveillance technologies.

Some wearers are propelled by the desire to opt out of what has been called “surveillance capitalism” — an economy that churns human experiences into data for profit — while others fear government invasion of privacy.

Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.

Dana Goldstein:

The textbooks cover the same sweeping story, from the brutality of slavery to the struggle for civil rights. The self-evident truths of the founding documents to the waves of immigration that reshaped the nation.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

Civics: ‘Richard Jewell,’ Nicholas Sandmann and the media mob

John Kaas:

Nicholas Sandmann, the kid from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. He suffered the same kind of agony and humiliation.

It was only a year ago that Sandmann was all over the news, branded as a hateful racist in a MAGA hat. The media got it wrong. Sandmann was in the news again the other day, after CNN settled that $275 million libel suit he filed. Terms were not disclosed.

Jewell and Sandmann were each publicly stripped of their honor through no fault of their own. Yes, “honor” is a terribly old-fashioned word, a bizarre medieval concept to some, but others can’t live without it.

Jewell was a security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He spotted a bomb in Olympic Park and police began pushing people away. If it weren’t for Jewell, many would have died. But he was torn apart by the media mob in wild, speculative stories pinning him as the prime suspect in the bombing.

But Jewell wasn’t the bomber. The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was eventually caught.

I’ve been a reporter most of my life, and “Richard Jewell” was unsettling. I’ve been in media packs staking out a story on some front lawn, the people frightened and unprepared and hiding inside.

Still, I’m glad I watched it. All of us need to be reminded.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Growth Dilemma

Joel Kotkin:

For much of the last seventy years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns.

This sharp break from the past is occurring as growth in Europe, Japan, and the United States has fallen to half or less of what it was just a generation ago, and while fertility rates are at levels not seen since the medieval era. This promises to create a tsunami of retired people whose retirements can only be addressed by economic growth.

A new way to make quadratic equations easy


The ancient Babylonians were a remarkable bunch. Among many extraordinary achievements, they found a now-famous mathematical solution to an unpleasant challenge: paying tax.

The particular problem for the ordinary working Babylonian was this: Given a tax bill that has to be paid in crops, by how much should I increase the size of my field to pay it?

This problem can be written down as a quadratic equation of the form Ax2+Bx+C=0. And it is solved with this formula:

Why Copying Successful People Can Backfire

Scott Young:

Many animals exhibit what’s known as a dominance hierarchy. The alpha picks on the beta, all of whom pick on the omega. These hierarchies are asserted through force and they exist in human beings as much as they do in others. Bosses, commanders and kings all formalize the notion of a dominant individual being higher up in status.

Interestingly, however, human beings have a second, separate status hierarchy that doesn’t seem to exist in other animals: prestige hierarchies. A prestige hierarchy isn’t maintained through force and alliances, but through respect. Artists, academics, celebrities and intellectuals are higher up on prestige hierarchies.

A competitive Wisconsin DPI superintendent election in 2021?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor announced her decision today not to run in the 2021 election for state superintendent of public instruction. Gov. Tony Evers appointed Stanford Taylor to the office in January 2019, and her term ends July 2021.

“I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Evers to lead the Department of Public Instruction and will always be grateful to the governor for the trust he placed in naming me as his successor,” Stanford Taylor said. “I promised Governor Evers I would commit to completing the 2 1/2 years left in his term as state superintendent and to continue the work we had started together at the DPI, and I will maintain that commitment while I serve this office.”

Stanford Taylor says she is making her decision public at this time so others interested in being the state’s chief education officer and leading the department will have sufficient time to organize their campaigns. The state superintendent says she hopes her successor will continue to maintain a focus on educational equity and ensure all of Wisconsin’s students graduate college and career ready.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, long lead by our new Governor, Tony Evers, has granted thousands of mulligans to elementary reading teachers unable to pass the Foundations of Reading content knowledge examination (based on Massachusetts MTEL).

2020 Madison Superintendent Pageant: Vanden Wyngaard wants to focus on social justice, equity in MMSD if selected

Scott Girard:

She noted successes while she was in Albany, mentioning the graduation rate, increased attendance rate and lower disproportionality in its special education programming among them, and said maintaining the programs that helped lead to those was part of the resignation decision.

“I work from a philosophy of students first, and I always will ask the question, regardless of what the subject is, what impact will this have on student success?” she said. “When those philosophical differences started to emerge, I knew that in order for all of those programs to stay in place, in order for all of that work to be continued and in order for me to make sure my students were still successful, I had to not continue.”

‘I truly love the work’

She said her three years and four months in the Albany job showed her how much she enjoyed a position with “the ability to try and influence people, to try to help people, to gather the resources to build the networks.”

“I truly love the work,” she said. “Social justice is my passion and my calling and how I live my life. That role provided me the opportunity to do that work. For me, it showed me who I was and it showed me what impact I could have on the community at large.”

She said, while acknowledging she hopes to hear more during her visit here, that her initial impression is Madison needs to tackle trust and transparency, communication, parental involvement opportunities and “obviously equity.”

“Equity for me means that the students and the staff have what they need in order for them to be successful,” she said.

More on Vanden Wyngaard

Certain events may be streamed (and archived), here.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School District superintendent finalists visit this week

Scott Girard:

The three finalists to be the next leader of the Madison Metropolitan School District will visit the city this week.

Their “Day in the District” will begin at 8 a.m. with meetings with community and staff groups until 11, followed by lunch with students until noon. The afternoon will include school visits, meetings with the School Board and community leaders and end with a public forum from 6-7:30 p.m.

Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard will visit Tuesday, Jan. 14, Matthew Gutiérrez will visit Wednesday, Jan. 15, and Eric Thomas will visit Thursday, Jan. 16. Both Vanden Wyngaard and Gutiérrez’s forums will be at East High School, while Thomas’ will be at La Follette High School.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Notes and links on previous Superintendent searches.

2013; 2019 Jennifer Cheatham and the Madison experience.

Madison School Board would make decision on staff ‘racial incident’ discipline under proposals

Scott Girard:

On Jan. 11, the Madison School Board began evaluating new responses to staff racial incidents that would have the board make discipline decisions.

The conversation came at the end of a week in which the district’s communication on staff use of racial slurs received criticism from an independent hearing officer, who advised the district to overturn a disciplinary suspension given to a Nuestro Mundo social worker last year following her use of the N-word in a staff meeting.

The “zero tolerance” practice the district began using during the 2018-19 school year. Seven staff members were disciplined. The practice came under international scrutiny last fall when West High School security assistant Marlon Anderson was fired for using the N-word while telling a student not to call him that.

Ideas discussed Saturday included the School Board making decisions on any discipline related to a racial incident, focusing on a restorative process rather than a punitive one.

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Outlaw Universities: Discrimination in Academia

Probably everyone in the academy knows that affirmative action is widely practiced: racial minorities (except Asians) and women are commonly given preference in hiring and admission decisions at American universities. I would guess, however, that some academics — and many more non-academics — are unaware that typical university hiring practices are blatantly illegal. So I’m going to talk about that for a while, in case you find that interesting.

Job advertisements commonly say things like that the university rejects discrimination, supports equal employment opportunity, and considers all applicants “without regard to” race, sex, religion, etc. What they actually mean by this is that they only discriminate in certain specific ways. E.g., they don’t discriminate against blacks or Hispanics, but only against whites and Asians. They don’t discriminate against women, only against men. And so on. (This sounds to me like a rather Orwellian use of “equal opportunity”. But what do I know? I’m just some crazy libertarian philosopher.)

I think pretty much everyone in the academic subculture knows this. I don’t know if this is widely known outside academia, though.

Here are a couple of examples:

Why does a highly-educated university town (Madison) need a charter school?

Greg Richmond:

Richmond: Madison is a university town. It is highly educated and pretty solidly middle class. Why does it need One City?

Caire: Madison has been harboring an achievement gap, that they knew about, since they first learned about it in 1965. Back then, there was a 27-point difference between black and white students in reading. That was in a Master’s thesis written by a woman named Cora Bagley, whose work was cited in a report called, “The Negro in Madison.” It was reported on again in 1965 by Dr. Naomi Lede who was responsible for the National Urban League’s assessment of whether or not a chapter of the Urban League should be established in Madison.

But there wasn’t a push to do anything about it until more reports came out in the 1970s that said, not only do we have an achievement gap, we also had a large gap in high school completion rates where only 44% of African-American students graduated with their senior class.

Madison had a surge of African-Americans that came to the university in the 1970s and many were activists. These students began living and teaching in the community and they took on social and economic disparities along with the NAACP and the Urban League. But the activism would die down because the school district would throw some money at it and, out of graciousness, people would wait and see. And then 5 years later it would come up again, and again, and again.

In 1991 or 1992, there was a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute titled, “Dual Education in the Madison Metropolitan School District” that said there were two school districts, one serving black students and one serving everybody else.

About 5 years before that, I myself was part of a data set that showed disparities. I graduated from high school in 1989 and was a sophomore in 1987 when the Urban League looked at sophomores’ course taking patterns.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Detroit homeowners overtaxed $600 million

Christine MacDonald:

Detroit overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million after it failed to accurately bring down property values in the years following the Great Recession, according to an investigation by The Detroit News.

City Hall completed a state-ordered reappraisal of every residential property in 2017 to correct the problem, but the pain of its past mistakes remains with thousands who today face foreclosure over back taxes. 

Of the more than 63,000 Detroit homes with delinquent debt as of last fall, more than 90% were overtaxed—by an average of at least $3,700—between 2010 and 2016, according to calculations by The News. The debt owed on about 40,000 of those homes is less than the properties were overtaxed over those seven years. 

The inflated bills have been an added burden to homeowners in the poorest big city in the nation, and call into question a tax system that has foreclosed on a third of city properties since 2008. 

‘I have a chance now to have a life’: Navy vet who won watershed student loan ruling tells his story

Arthur Swaminathan:

For nearly 15 years, U.S. Navy veteran Kevin Rosenberg owed six figures in student loans.

But on January 7, 2020, a New York judge ruled that the $221,385.49 in student loan debt owed by Rosenberg as of November 2019 was dischargeable under chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“I have a chance now to have a life,” the 46-year-old Rosenberg told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

A bankruptcy expert told Yahoo Finance that Rosenberg’s case is a watershed in that it dispels the notion that student loans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

“What I found most fascinating, and I think heartening, is the very strong language that the judge used to call out on what she calls this quasi-mythic status of student loan non-dischargeability,” Jason Iuliano, an assistant professor of law at Villanova University and an expert on bankruptcy, told Yahoo Finance. “I’ve never seen it put quite so pointedly before in a judicial opinion like that.”

After more than a decade of going through the student loan system — making on-time payments, following up with loan servicers, keeping up with the paperwork —  he was finally free of his student debt.

Civics: 2019: A Year the News Media Would Rather Forget

Matt Taibbi:


The 2019 portion of the 2020 presidential campaign cycle was marked by a crisis of pundit confidence. Old practices like the “invisible primary” were rendered meaningless, thanks to an electorate that no longer flocks to media-endorsed frontrunners. Nonetheless, outlets spilled enormous quantities of ink and devoted oceans of airtime hyping establishment candidates whose “electability” arguments were mostly fictional. The magazine covers for Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris were one thing, but there was real weirdness in the mania over “momentum” for Amy Klobuchar, whose recent “Klobucharge” a whole point or so up in the polls recalled some of the sillier stories of the 2016 cycle (i.e. “Marcomentum”).

Bernie Sanders in particular led a Trotsky-like existence in coverage in 2019, i.e. he was often all but physically cut out of headlines. When he held a huge rally in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times headline was about Biden winning the “electability primary.” CNN ran five stories about a New Hampshire poll showing Sanders in the lead, and none mentioned Sanders in the headline. These things can be in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of innocent oversights look intentional when you’ve invested hopes in a campaign, but the clearest evidence of how the media shaded Sanders coverage (to say nothing of often-detestable treatment of some other, lesser-polling candidates) is that he hasn’t yet suffered the backlash that usually comes with being hyped as a possible nominee. Brace yourself for an avalanche of insane propaganda if the wrong candidate does well in New Hampshire or Iowa.

LGBTQ history lessons will soon be mandatory in NJ classrooms; 12 schools to pilot program

Hannah Adley:

Twelve New Jersey schools will begin piloting a new LGBTQ-focused curriculum this month, the first wave of a requirement that will soon be mandated across the state. 

The pilot sites to be announced by the state Tuesday – including schools in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark and Asbury Park – are intended to be proving grounds for new lessons in history, economics and even grammar designed to improve awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender contributions and issues. The instruction, approved by the state last year, will be a requirement for all of New Jersey’s public schools starting in the fall. 

“We want students to see themselves in the stories that are told,” said Ashley Chiappano, safe schools and community education manager for Garden State Equality, the advocacy group leading the pilot program. “We want to make sure they are getting accurate, appropriate and historically relevant information about the community and the strides that have been made.”

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LGBTQ people but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons. School boards must update standards in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Stirring on Milwaukee’s south side, a building boom of growing and popular choice schools

Alan Borsuk:

Notre Dame School of Milwaukee opened on Milwaukee’s south side in 1996 with a student body of 26 middle school girls.   

It grew steadily — 90 students in 2001, 130 in 2006, 201 in 2012. It added co-ed elementary grades and a middle school for boys, as well as a second building.   

It now has 535 students, a five-star (“significantly exceeds expectations”) state report card, and a lot of construction equipment in what was previously a paved area adjacent to its building at West Greenfield Avenue and South Layton Boulevard as it builds a $7 million addition.  

Three blocks from that Notre Dame building is Nativity Jesuit School. It opened with 14 middle school boys in 1993 and grew within several years to about 60. In recent years, its enrollment has quadrupled to 252, including boys and girls in elementary grades. It also has a five-star report card and it recently completed $3 million in improvements. 

And in four buildings on the south side, there are Carmen charter schools with about 1,400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade (plus another 663 at a northwest side Carmen school). The first Carmen school, which opened in 2007, got a five-star report card this year for the second year in a row. 

Milwaukee parents and students have extensive school options.

Madison’s taxpayer funded K-12 school district has long resisted school choice, rejecting the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (2011) and lobbying against a proposed University of Wisconsin system charter school (2019).

Despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

The 500-Year-Long Science Experiment

Sarah Zhang:

By then, the scientists who dreamed up this 500-year experiment—Charles Cockell at the University of Edinburgh and his German and U.S. collaborators—will be long dead. They’ll never know the answers to the questions that intrigued them back in 2014, about the longevity of bacteria. Cockell had once forgotten about a dried petri dish of Chroococcidiopsis for 10 years, only to find the cells were still viable. Scientists have revived bacteria from 118-year-old cans of meat and, more controversially, from amber and salt crystals millions of years old.

All this suggests, according to Ralf Möller, a microbiologist at the German Aerospace Center and collaborator on the experiment, that “life on our planet is not limited by human standards.” Understanding what that means requires work that goes well beyond the human life span.

The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.

Constance Grady:

So what happened? How did the apparently inevitable ebook revolution fail to come to pass?

To figure out the answers, we’ll have to dive in deep to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2012 against Apple — newly entered into the ebook market with the advent of the iPad — and five of what was then the Big Six publishing houses. The Department of Justice accused Apple and the publishers of colluding to fix ebook prices against Amazon, and although the DOJ won its case in court, the pricing model that Apple and the publishers created together would continue to dominate the industry, creating unintended ripple effects.

The case of US v. Apple encapsulates the dysfunction of the last decade of publishing. It’s a story about what we’re willing to pay for books — and about an industry that is growing ever more consolidated, with fewer and fewer companies taking up more and more market share. What happened to the ebook in the 2010s is the story of the contraction of American publishing.

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 teach in,” Wayne Strong said. He stressed the importance of “tackling the achievement gap and just making sure that all of our students are given the best possible opportunity to get the quality education they deserve.”

The end of his campaign leaves Seat 6 as the only contested election, with three candidates running. Incumbent Kate Toews is not running for re-election, leaving newcomers Maia Pearson, Christina Gomez Schmidt and Karen Ball set for a Feb. 18 primary election. The top two vote-getters will move onto the April general election.

Curiously, this has occurred several times in recent years: Ed Hughes, after 3 unopposed campaigns withdrew from a competitive 2017 campaign after the primary!

2016 commentary.

Similarly, Sarah Manski withdrew after the 2013 primary

Mr Hughes name resurfaces occasionally, lobbying against parent and school choice in the form of the 2019 Arbor school charter proposal and in the taxpayer supported Madison school administration’s 2020 spending increase referendum slides.

Finally, despite spending far more than most K-12 school districts, and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results, Mr. Hughes voted against the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school (2011).

Curated Education Information