Facebook & Privacy

Danah Boyd:

Facebook implemented a new feature called “News Feeds” that displays every action you take on the site to your friends. You see who added who, who commented where, who removed their relationship status, who joined what group, etc. This is on your front page when you login to Facebook. This upset many Facebook members who responded with outrage. Groups emerged out of protest. Students Against Facebook News Feeds is the largest with over 700,000 members. Facebook issued various press statements that nothing was going to change. On September 5, Mark Zuckerberg (the founder) told everyone to calm down. They didn’t. On September 8, he apologized and offered privacy options as an olive branch. Zuckerberg invited everyone to join him live on the Free Flow of Information on the Internet group where hundreds of messages wizzed by in the hour making it hard to follow any thread; the goal was for Facebook to explain its decision. In short, they explained that this is to help people keep tabs on their friends but only their friends and all of this information is public anyhow.

Texas Gives Teachers in 76 Schools $7M in Bonuses

Ericka Mellon:

Some critics of merit pay argue it puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, but Perry and Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley defended the state’s plan for compensating teachers who prove themselves.
“When you reward excellence, excellence becomes the standard,” Perry said Tuesday at Oleson Elementary in the Aldine Independent School District.
Eleven schools in Houston ISD and two schools in North Forest ISD also are expecting the staff bonuses. Schools had to give at least 75 percent of the bonus money to teachers, but they could include others.
Perry said the bonuses could be as large as $10,000. At Oleson Elementary, the figure was much lower. Some at the campus received $2,800 while others earned $1,100 based on the school’s formula, said Principal Cassandra Cosby.

Failure to Understand Science is a National Security Issue

Charles Anderson:

A hint of the politicians’ dilemma was buried in a May 10 New York Times-CBS News poll about the performance of U.S. elected officials on a host of policy issues.
Not surprisingly, neither President Bush nor Congress earned high marks. What startled me, though, was the response to this question: “Regardless of how you usually vote, do you think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party is more likely to see to it that gasoline prices are low?”
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said that the Democrats could keep prices low. Another 14 percent chose the Republicans or both parties. Seventy-one percent of Americans, in other words, see the price of gas as a political issue. This is tantamount to living in a fantasy world and ignoring both the economic law of supply and demand and the accumulating environmental damage caused by our fossil-fuel-dependent economy.
It’s not surprising that many politicians choose to respond to numbers like these with stopgap measures that delay the inevitable reckoning, hoping that something will come up in the meantime. But the root of the problem stretches beyond Washington to an electorate that can’t evaluate science-based statements. It’s time, then, for a sea change in science education in our nation’s schools.
Imagine how politicians would act differently if the public were more knowledgeable about ideas currently considered too arcane for political debate—fossil-fuel supply chains; hidden costs not included in the price we pay for a product; and the chemistry of tailpipe emissions.
That scenario remains imaginary for now, since, by every indication, the public is ill-equipped to evaluate arguments based on such ideas. Adults and children know that pollution is bad for the environment and that trees are good, but they have no idea why experts see the price of gasoline as connected to housing policies, ethanol production, or plug-in hybrids.

Elections, Referendums, School Boards and Administrators

Aaron Bensonhaver:

Phil Hartley, legal counsel for the school boards association, said one area that school board members and superintendents often get into trouble is in supporting a referendum or candidate.
Hartley said either can support such situations on their own time, but must be careful not to use tax money, including being on the clock while campaigning, while working for the cause.
He said using tax money to encourage people to vote is OK, but doing so to encourage people to vote a certain way can get systems into trouble, which usually amounts to fines of $1,000-$10,000, depending on the number of violations of the Ethics and Government Act, which is also the law that requires candidates to disclose contributions they have received.

Continue reading Elections, Referendums, School Boards and Administrators

Schools Active Year Round

Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater:

Twenty-two year old Louisa Brayton stepped before her class of 12 students to begin the first day of school. It was not only her first day but also the first day for all of her students and more importantly the first day of school in Madison Wisconsin. It’s March, 1838 and school will be in session for only two months.
How times have changed! School now operates all year.
After school ended last June, over 4,000 children continued in school for the following six weeks. Some attended because they needed extended time to learn and to reach a level where they will be successful next year; others took courses to extend their knowledge in their area of interest. Many of the students who attended our morning summer program continued at school in the afternoon in recreation programs conducted by our own Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) department.

Return to Basics in Teaching Math

Critics of “Fuzzy” Methods Cheer Educators’ Findings; Drills Without Calculators. Taking Cues from Singapore.
John Hechinger:

The nation’s math teachers, on the front lines of a 17-year curriculum war, are getting some new marching orders: Make sure students learn the basics.
In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from prekindergarten through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe schools should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division.
The council’s advice is striking because in 1989 it touched off the so-called math wars by promoting open-ended problem solving over drilling. Back then, it recommended that students as young as those in kindergarten use calculators in class.
Those recommendations horrified many educators, especially college math professors alarmed by a rising tide of freshmen needing remediation. The council’s 1989 report influenced textbooks and led to what are commonly called “reform math” programs, which are used in school systems across the country.
Francis Fennell, the council’s president, says the latest guidelines move closer to the curriculum of Asian countries such as Singapore, whose students tend to perform better on international tests. There, children focus intensely on a relative handful of topics, such as multiplication, division and algebra, then practice by solving increasingly difficult word and other problems. That contrasts sharply with the U.S. approach, which the report noted has long been described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.”
If school systems adopt the math council’s new approach, their classes might resemble those at Garfield Elementary School in Revere, Mass., just north of Boston. Three-quarters of Garfield’s students receive free and reduced lunches, and many are the children of recent immigrants from such countries as Brazil, Cambodia and El Salvador.
Three years ago, Garfield started using Singapore Math, a curriculum modeled on that country’s official program and now used in about 300 school systems in the U.S. Many school systems and parents regard Singapore Math as an antidote for “reform math” programs that arose from the math council’s earlier recommendations.
The Singapore Math curriculum differs sharply from reform math programs, which often ask students to “discover” on their own the way to perform multiplication and division and other operations, and have come to be known as “constructivist” math.


Strong parent and teacher views on the MMSD’s math strategy may well spill over to non-support for referendums and incumbent board members, particularly in light of increasing UW Math Department activism on this vital matter.

High School Dropouts Face Steep Costs

Ben Feller:

Dropping out of high school has its costs around the globe, but nowhere steeper than in the United States.
Adults who don’t finish high school in the U.S. earn 65 percent of what people who have high school degrees make, according to a new report comparing industrialized nations. No other country had such a severe income gap.
Adults without a high school diploma typically make about 80 percent of the salaries earned by high school graduates in nations across Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Countries such as Finland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden have the smallest gaps in earnings between dropouts and graduates.
The figures come from “Education at a Glance,” an annual study by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report, released Tuesday, aims to help leaders see how their nations stack up.

Working in Schools May Reduce Senior’s Property Taxes

Katharine Goodloe:

Seniors citizens in Germantown may soon be able to get a discount on their property taxes – by working in schools throughout the year to earn it.
The district is considering adopting a program, popular in several Wisconsin districts, that places seniors in school-based roles, then issues them a check to be applied toward their property tax bill.
Richmond Elementary in Waukesha County adopted the program eight years ago, and seniors there can work up to 78 hours a year for $5.50 an hour. They must be age 62 or older, and at the end of the year a two-party check is issued to the senior and to the county treasurer to be applied to their property tax bill.
“Everybody I talk to, I tell them what I’m doing and they can’t believe I’m getting money off my property taxes for doing this,” said Lois Fast, 78, one of the school’s seven volunteers in the Senior Citizen Tax Exchange Program, or STEP.

Per Pupil Spending Parity

Sara Neufeld:

The city spends the equivalent of about $11,000 per child in its regular public schools.
Charter schools in the city receive $5,859 per child in cash and the rest in services that the school system provides, such as special education and food.
Two city charter schools, City Neighbors and Patterson Park Public, appealed that formula to the state school board in 2005, saying it limited their ability to choose how to provide services.
The state school board ruled in the charter schools’ favor, and the city school system appealed that decision in court.
“All we’re asking for is parity,” said Bobbi Macdonald, president of the City Neighbors board. “We’re not asking for anyone to spend more money on charter school kids.”

Via Joanne.

How Lowering the Bar Helps Colleges Prosper

Daniel Golden:

Twice a year, after reviewing applicants to Duke University, Jean Scott lugged a cardboard box to the office of President Terry Sanford. Together, Ms. Scott, director of undergraduate admissions from 1980 to 1986, and Mr. Sanford pored over its contents: applications from candidates she wanted to reject but who were on his list for consideration because their parents might bolster the university’s endowment. Ms. Scott won some battles, lost others and occasionally they compromised; an applicant might be required to go elsewhere before being taken as a transfer.
“There was more of this input at Duke than at any other institution I ever worked for,” says Ms. Scott, now president of Marietta College in Ohio. “I would have been very pleased to have the best class as determined by the admissions office, but the world isn’t like that.”
Over more than 20 years, Duke transformed itself from a Southern school to a premier national institution with the help of a winning strategy: targeting rich students whose families could help build up its endowment. At the same time, and in a similar way, Brown University, eager to shed its label as one of the weakest schools in the Ivy League, bolstered its reputation by recruiting kids with famous parents. While celebrities don’t often contribute financially, they generate invaluable publicity.

On Homework: Busy Work

Ben Wildavsky:

Perhaps homework really is out of control in certain (generally affluent) schools and districts. But that would be a far narrower problem than the national epidemic these authors describe. Their books are best understood as part of a broader ideological struggle over the direction of American education. From his approving invocation of Noam Chomsky to his denunciation of testing and other accountability-based reforms, it’s clear that Kohn sees homework as just one more instrument of social control. Even the valid points he makes (for instance, that the correlation between homework and academic achievement in some grades doesn’t necessarily imply causation) are undercut by his tendentious approach. There’s no small irony in a professional provocateur like Kohn accusing respected researchers of being “polemicists” who cherry-pick studies to buttress their preexisting views. Bennett and Kalish, though less overtly political, are just as apt to cast children in the role of an oppressed class.
It’s a shame these volumes aren’t more credible. Averages notwithstanding, some kids certainly do get buried in assignments of dubious worth — and in those cases Bennett and Kalish’s lobbying tips could prove useful. Similarly, Kohn’s insistence that schools justify both the quantity and quality of the work they’re assigning is perfectly reasonable. But in the absence of more persuasive evidence that American kids are plagued by excessive, rather than insufficient, academic rigor — homework included — parents and policymakers should look elsewhere for a nuanced and reliable guide to this eminently worthy subject. ·

Mississippi Free School Fruit Pilot Program


Results of a pilot program in Mississippi hints that distributing apples, oranges and other fresh fruit free of charge at school may be an effective part of a comprehensive program aimed at improving students’ eating habits.
During the 2004-2005 school year as part of the Mississippi Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, 25 secondary schools gave out free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day and provided nutrition education to promote and support the program.
Initial results based on 851 participating students in grades 5, 8, and 10 from 5 schools suggest that the program significantly increased the variety of fruit and vegetables tried by the students in all three grades.
The program appeared to be most effective among students in grades 8 and 10, report Doris J. Schneider from the Child Nutrition Program, Mississippi Department of Education and colleagues in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children from low-income families often suffer exclusion at school

Children from low-income families often suffer exclusion at school
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
©2006 Ann Arbor News
Imagine this: You live in Ann Arbor. Your first-grade student comes home from school and tells you the teacher handed out cupcakes today – to every child except yours and two others. Why? “Teacher said I wasn’t on the list of kids who were paid for.”
You call the teacher and are told you never sent in money for daily snacks. The reason you didn’t pay was because you couldn’t. With four mouths to feed, living on disability, you struggle to pay your rent, utilities and food bills. There is no money for extras. And now your child watches, while almost everyone in the class enjoys snacks every day.
Does this really happen in Ann Arbor? It does not. If it did, we would collectively rise in protest. We can’t imagine a teacher who would skip a student when distributing treats just because his or her parent is too poor to pay. In fact, when research showed hungry children had trouble focusing on academics, policy makers universally embraced the concept of free and reduced school breakfast and lunch programs.
Now ask yourself this: Which would a child rather have – a cupcake or school pictures? A bag of chips or a yearbook? Every year in most of our children’s classrooms, teachers hand out school picture packets to some kids, but not others. They give certain children yearbooks, but skip their peers. Why? Because their parents didn’t pay. Sometimes by choice, but more often the reason is financial.

Continue reading Children from low-income families often suffer exclusion at school

Hundreds of kids flock to state’s new online schools

Linda Shaw:

Washington’s two newest online schools didn’t know how many students to expect when they announced they would open their virtual doors this fall. Leaders cautiously hoped for 250, maybe 300 as a start.
They were low — way low. As school starts, the two public schools are happily struggling to handle double and triple that number.
Insight School of Washington, the state’s first fully online high school, stopped accepting students after 650, and has 1,000 more who’ve expressed interest. The Washington Virtual Academy, a K-8 based in Steilacoom, has 652 students registered, and another 500 in the application pipeline.
It’s another spurt in the growth of online learning in Washington state, where more than 9,000 students took one or more online classes last year.
Going to school via computer is “not for most kids,” said Bill Finkbeiner, executive director of Insight School, a partnership between a Portland company and the small Quillayute Valley School District in Forks. “Most students are going to do better in traditional high schools. But there are a significant percentage of students who don’t fit in to a regular high school and, for many of them, this is a good option.”

Advice for (School) Administrators

Ms. Cornelius:

A while back, a friend asked me what advice I would give administrators, since we were discusing advice to new teachers. After having gotten through the first few weeks of school, I am riled up enough now that I’m going to pick up that challenge. So here we go: advice for vice principals, principals, assistant superintendents, superintendents, and any other person who gets to dip their toes into actual policy-making for the educational world.

Outsourcing Homework

Charles McGrath:

For $9.95 a page she can obtain an “A-grade” paper that is fashioned to order and “completely non-plagiarized.” This last detail is important. Thanks to search engines like Google, college instructors have become adept at spotting those shop-worn, downloadable papers that circulate freely on the Web, and can even finger passages that have been ripped off from standard texts and reference works.
A grade-conscious student these days seems to need a custom job, and to judge from the number of services on the Internet, there must be virtual mills somewhere employing armies of diligent scholars who grind away so that credit-card-equipped undergrads can enjoy more carefree time together.

America on the cusp of education renaissance

Matthew Ladner:

In the past, a lack of data enabled stagnation. Armchair observations of real-estate agents were often the most sophisticated opinions regarding the quality of local schools. Today, online services like www.greatschools.net provide a mountain of comparative testing and parental review data in a few short clicks.
New technologies and practices, such as self-paced computer-based instruction and data-based merit pay for instructors, hold enormous promise which has only begun to be explored. That said, disadvantaged children in KIPP Academy schools, among others, have achieved phenomenal academic results not with new technologies, but rather with old-fashioned “time on task” hard work and extended school days.
In short, we now have the primordial soup of a market for schools.

Via Joanne.
No doubt. I’ve mentioned before that Milwaukee, over the next few decades (despite stops and starts) will have a far richer K-12 climate than Madison. Madison has the resources and community to step things up – I hope we do so (does it have the leadership?).

Madison Teen Gets Perfect SAT Score

Doug Erickson:

e represented Wisconsin in the National Spelling Bee. Now Robert Marsland III has another claim to fame.
The Madison high school senior earned a perfect score on the SAT college entrance exam, a feat all the more impressive because the test was revamped and expanded this year, with a writing essay added.
Last year, 1,050 students got a perfect 1600 score, according to the College Board, which administers the test. This year, just 238 students earned the new perfect score of 2400.

“Candy isn’t Dandy in Madison Schools”

Susan Lampert Smith:

Expect details of the Madison School District plan in the coming week. Here’s what my sticky fingers were able to pry out of Mary Gulbrandsen, student services director:
Soda pop has already vanished from Madison school vending machines. Candy is no longer sold in school, and in two years, no school group will be allowed to sell candy for fundraising.
(Horde your hockey team candy bars – soon you can sell them on eBay as collectors’ items!)

Reality Doesn’t Meet the Ambitions Of Many Teens

Elizabeth Agnvall:

As parents and guidance counselors encourage high school students beginning the new school year to pursue their dreams, a new study suggests that many of them are setting their sights too high.
Researchers at Florida State University (FSU) studied teens’ educational and occupational plans between 1976 and 2000 and found a widening gap between what teens believe they will do after graduation and their actual achievements, a problem that the study’s authors say can lead to wasted resources, anxiety and distress.
“High school students’ plans for what they will achieve are increasingly distant from what’s likely,” said lead author John Reynolds. The FSU sociology professor said other studies have shown a disconnect between students’ goals and their achievements, but this one shows that the gap has grown in the past 30 years.

How Can This Continue: Negotating Health Insurance Changes

Robert Butler[PDF]:

Health insurance has become the most prevalent issue discussed at the bargaining table today. Recent premium increases for school districts with July renewal
dates have focused even more attention on this issue.
Many administrators and board members ask: How can this continue? How do we communicate to our employees, our taxpayers and other interested constituents the effect that our health insurance costs have on our budgets? How do we maintain and, hopefully, expand our educational offerings when our costs for health insurance continue to eat up an ever larger portion of our budget?
There are many factors that have contributed to the high cost of health insurance: utilization of services, demographic trends (such as life expectancy and obesity), healthcare provider consolidation, duplication of services, new products and services, the growing number of uninsured, marketing of prescription drugs, medical malpractice expenses, level of benefits and plan design, among others.
This article will provide insight on how to address items that we can control at the bargaining table: the level of benefits, plan design and consumer behavior. Remember, health insurance is an economic and emotional issue; people don’t always make rational decisions when negotiating over this topic.

Butler is Co-Director of Employee Relations Services, Staff Counsel; Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Negotiating health care costs with employees is the first item on the Board’s Human Resources Committee agenda: Monday, September 25, 2006 @ 6:00p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium [map].

The Hidden Cost of Curriculum Narrowing

Craig Jerald [PDF]:

in March, The New York Times published a major education story under the headline “Schools Cut Back Subjects To Push reading and Math.” The article claimed that “thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math requirements laid out in No Child left Behind […] by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”1 The headline appeared “above the fold” in the Sunday edition of the Times, the most valuable and influential real estate in american print journalism.
Predictably, the rest of the media quickly picked up the story in a series of ripples extending outward to other newspapers and magazines to radio and finally to television, cycling back to newspapers in the form of outraged editorials. By the time the story hit the late-night talk shows and drive-time airwaves, commentators had begun to express near hysterical dismay that social studies, science, and the arts were all but disappearing from american schools.
Not so fast. as often happens when complex educational issues encounter the popular media, the extent of the problem was blown out of proportion. The original study on which the Times based its story had actually found that about one third of districts reported that their elementary schools had reduced social studies and science “somewhat” or “to a great extent,” and about one fifth said the same of art and music.

More about the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. Via Rotherham.

Schools Find Free Veggies a Hard Sell

Mike Stobbe:

Bad news – but probably no surprise to parents – when it comes to young children and vegetables: A government study showed fifth-graders became less willing to try vegetables and fruits when more were offered as free school snacks.
Older kids in the same study upped the amount of fruit they ate, but there was no change in their vegetable consumption.
The study results are somewhat disappointing for champions of getting more fresh produce into school lunchrooms.

Teacher Blogs

Maria Sacchetti:

One Needham teacher gushed about the time a student worried that Australia would fall off the planet — and how that led to a lesson on gravity. A Brookline teacher banned the word “stuff” from her fourth-graders’ vocabulary. A young teacher, also from Needham, got personal, thanking parents for their support after her husband died.
Meet the newest group of bloggers drawing audiences online: teachers.
Teacher-generated blogs have been increasingly popping up from Needham to Martha’s Vineyard, many in the past year. Teachers at all grade levels reveal glimpses of themselves as well as the magical moments — and at times, difficult ones — that can happen in a classroom. Parents, in turn, scour the blogs, post comments, or borrow snippets to use as dinner conversation with their children.
As students head back to school this week, teachers are again typing dispatches during breaks at school, or from home in their pajamas.

Philadelphia Opens High Tech School

Jon Hurdle:

Philadelphia on Thursday opened a public high school where students work on wireless laptops, teachers eschew traditional subjects for real-world topics and parents can track their child’s work on the Internet.
Called “The School of the Future” and created with help from software giant Microsoft, it is believed to be the first in the world to combine innovative teaching methods with the latest technology, all housed in an environmentally friendly building.
The school, which cost the school district $63 million to build, is free and has no entrance exams. The 170 students in the inaugural ninth-grade class were selected by lottery from 1,500 applicants.

Joanne says it’s New Tech with the same old curriculum.

Madison School District Progress Report

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

Welcome back to school! I hope you had a wonderful summer. On August 28th the Madison school board approved plans Plan CP2a and Plan CP3a relative to boundary changes that will be necessary if the November 7th referendum to construct an elementary school on the Linden Park site passes or fails. The plan will need to be adjusted depending on enrollment. The board also passed a resolution to place $291,983.75 of the Leopold addition/remodeling monies in the contingency fund of the 2006-07 budget if the referendum passes less the expenses incurred relative to the initial financing of the project
On August 21st, Partnerships, Performance and Achievement and Human Resources convened. The Partnerships Committee (Lucy Mathiak, Chair) discussed strengthening partnerships with parents and caregivers and is working to develop a standard process for administering grants to community partners. Performance and Achievement (Shwaw Vang, Chair) had a presentation on the English-as-a-Second Language Program. Human Resources (Ruth Robarts, Chair) discussed committee goals and activities for 2006-07
On August 14th the board approved a policy that allows animals to be used in the classroom by teachers in their educational curriculum but also protects students that have allergies or other safety concerns. Questions about the November referendum were discussed and an additional JV soccer program at West High school was approved. This team is funded entirely by parents and student fees. The Finance and Operations Committee (Lawrie Kobza, Chair) met to discuss concepts and categories of a document called the People’s Budget that would be easier to read and understand. Lastly, three citizens were appointed to the newly created Communications Committee (Arlene Silveira, Chair): Deb Gurke, Tim Saterfield and Wayne Strong

Continue reading Madison School District Progress Report

Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College

Tamar Lewin:

The United States, long the world leader in higher education, has fallen behind other nations in its college enrollment and completion rates, as the affordability of American colleges and universities has declined, according to a new report.
The study, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, found that although the United States still leads the world in the proportion of 35- to 64-year-olds with college degrees, it ranks seventh among developed nations for 25- to 34-year-olds. On rates of college completion, the United States is in the lower half of developed nations.
“Completion is the Achilles’ heel of American higher education,’’ said Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, Calif., and Washington.

Wisconsin’s “Report Card” [200K PDF]: Preparation: B+, Participation A-, Affordability: F, Completion: A, Benefits: B- and Learning: I. 2004 Report Card.

“How We Dummies Succeed”

Robert Samuelson:

If you’re looking for the action in education, forget the Ivy League. Talk instead to Anthony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. It has six campuses and 70,000 students taking classes in everything from remedial English to computer networking. With about 12 million students, the nation’s 1,200 community colleges help answer this riddle: Why do Americans do so badly on international educational comparisons and yet support an advanced economy?
At this back-to-school moment, the riddle is worth pondering. Those dismal comparisons aren’t new. In 1970, tests of high school seniors in seven industrial countries found that Americans ranked last in math and science. Today’s young Americans sometimes do well on these international tests, but U.S. rankings drop as students get older. Here’s a 2003 study of 15-year-olds in 39 countries: In math, 23 countries did better; in science, 18. Or consider a 2003 study of adults 16 to 65 in six advanced nations: Americans ranked fifth in both literacy and math.

Locked-in lunches now for East High 9th-graders

A story from Susan Troller and The Capital Times:

Freshmen at East High School will no longer be spending their lunch hours at Burger King or the local convenience store.
A new closed-campus policy for ninth-graders went into effect today at Madison’s oldest public high school.
“We’re interested in getting our entering freshmen off to a good start,” East Principal Alan Harris said as he explained the sharp departure from a policy that had given freshmen through seniors the ability to come and go at lunch time.

Continue reading Locked-in lunches now for East High 9th-graders

First item on Human Resources Agenda for MMSD: Negotiating health care costs with employees

In August the Human Resources Committee of the Madison School Board—Lawrie Kobza, Shwaw Vang and I–voted unanimously to adopt committee goals for 2006-07 previously presented in this blog.
Human Resources Committee of Madison Board To Set Agenda

Accordingly, Bob Butler, a collective bargaining consultant from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, will discuss why and how school boards should approach negotiating changes in the cost of employee health insurance plans [How Can This Continue? Negotiating Health Insurance Changes]. The meeting of the Human Resources Committee is currently scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in McDaniels Auditorium on Monday, September 25.

Learning to Teach Math

“John Dewey”:

I am in a class in which the teacher is, shall we say, an adherent of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and its standards. In fact, the NCTM standards and our understanding of same make up a portion of the syllabus. Our first assignment is a comparison of those standards with the math standards for the state in which we reside for a particular “content standard”, grade level, and “process standard. The content standard describes what students are supposed to learn. The process standard describes how they are supposed to learn it. I got assigned Geometry/11th grade/representation. “What is ‘representation’?” I hear you asking. Expressing things in different ways, I think. You can use a graph to express a function, or a table of values, or a formula, for example. Which one is best to analyze the problem at hand, I think is what they’re getting at but they go on and on in the standards, bringing in all sorts of ways to show things which might be good things to mention as an aside, but to devote so much class time to it supplants the basics that they are supposed to be learning. (And which educationists think is mundane, and mind numbing.)

Joanne has more. John Dewey background.

The Ed School Disease, Part Two

Jay Matthews:

I read Stanford University educational historian David F. Labaree’s new book, “The Trouble With Ed Schools,” shortly after last week’s column scorching those same education schools. You would think his wonderfully insightful book, which is even harder on ed schools than I was, would make me feel good. Here is a distinguished education school professor who knows that world so well, and he is validating my opinions.
Instead, the book made me ashamed of myself. It was similar to the feeling of loathsome guilt I had when I was eight years old and beat up a five-year-old with a lisp next door who had annoyed me for reasons I no longer recall. Labaree succeeds in making American education schools such objects of pity, suffering from decades of low status and professional abuse, that you want to give the next ed school professor you meet a big hug and promise to bake her a plate of cookies.
That is not the worst part. In last week’s online column, and in a column in The Washington Post Magazine Aug. 6, I fussed over the failure of education schools to pass on tips from the real world of expert teachers working in inner city schools. I cited several methods used by famous teachers who have raised student achievement significantly. I decried the response from many ed school people: We can’t teach that until we subject it to thorough research.
But Labaree has gone a long way toward convincing me that ed schools are doing no such thing. He concludes, after an exhaustive examination of the birth and evolution of teacher training in the United States, that education schools have about as much impact on what happens in U.S. classrooms as my beloved but woeful Washington Nationals are having this season on the pennant race.
Teachers in training, he shows, are far more influenced by their memories of how their own school teachers behaved, and by orders and advice they get from supervisors and colleagues in the schools that eventually employ them. Rookie teachers are happy for the credential they get from ed schools that allow them to start earning a paycheck, but they don’t use very much of what they learn there, Labaree says.
At the heart of the book is a Frankie and Johnnie romance between two losers, ed schools and child-centered progressive education. Labaree notes several books that have decried the effect on public schools of progressive education, including the thoughts of theorist John Dewey. Then he asks a simple question: What evidence is there that many classroom teachers are actually doing anything that Dewey would want them to do? As the faculty lounge saying goes, Dewey advocates are supposed to act like a guide on the side, letting each student follow his or her natural instincts and curiosity, rather than a sage on the stage, dispensing wisdom which everyone must write down and memorize.

Fear is Shaping Our Children

Patricia Pearson:

The helmet perfectly symbolizes childhood today. Nothing is safe, kids should be wary of everything, pass the Ritalin. This phenomenon would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.
“Summertime,” goes that wonderful old song by the Gershwins, “and the livin’ is easy.”
Well, it used to be, anyway. This past one seemed fraught with peril, as they usually do, these days, for parents. Allergies, skin cancer, air pollution, injuries, drownings, heat stroke, West Nile virus … oh my.
Gone are the golden afternoons of my own childhood, when I left the house without a hat, or sun screen, to noodle about on my bike (without a helmet) and play hide-and-seek in the bushes (without benefit of mosquito repellant or pedophile spray) and invariably stayed out until supper (which consisted of fattening foods).
Now, my children cannot exit my home from May through October unless they are dressed in the equivalent of a hazmat suit.

Stereotypes and the Achievement Gap

Richard Monastersky:

In a striking experiment about stereotypes and academic achievement, African-American seventh graders performed better in school months after they were asked to spend 15 minutes thinking about their identity and values.
The results of the study, published in today’s issue of the journal Science, demonstrate how racial stereotypes can adversely affect minority students and how simple interventions can partly counteract those stresses, researchers said on Thursday. . . .

MPS Often Lacks Librarians

Alan Borsuk:

If your children are elementary school students in Milwaukee Public Schools, there’s a strong chance that Lisa Chatman or Mildred McDowell will be their librarian this year.
Don’t expect Chatman or McDowell to read stories to your kids. Don’t expect them to check out books, keep the shelves orderly or choose new books or other materials to purchase. In fact, don’t expect Chatman or McDowell to set foot in the building more than occasionally.
That’s because Chatman and McDowell work in central administration. To meet state regulations, they are listed officially as the certified supervising librarians at more than 60 elementary schools this year. But the hands-on work in the libraries will be done by paraprofessionals, aides, teachers or volunteers, often with limited hours and limited background in library work.

Education in Medieval Britain

The Economist:

FEW children, in the developed world, spend their summer holidays bringing in the harvest. Yet the timing of the summer break dates from the days when child labour was too valuable to lose in the vital final weeks of the growing season. The roots of modern education, in Britain and elsewhere, lie in the half-hidden world of ancient schools.
Nicholas Orme’s previous book, a definitive history of English medieval childhood, disproved the notion that previous generations treated children as miniature adults. This one explodes some pervasive myths about their education. First, there was quite a lot of teaching available: it was not just confined to the rich and priestly. There were hundreds of schools in England, some in monasteries and cathedrals, others founded with individual charitable endowments, often with a large bunch of private pupils paying modest fees.

Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England by Nicholas Orme.

Continue reading Education in Medieval Britain

Movement toward “Small Learning Communities” Slowing?


Hopes were high in this blue-collar town when Lebanon High was broken up into four smaller schools-within-a-school to try to reduce the dropout rate.
At the time, in 2004, the small-schools movement was growing across the country, and it had a powerful backer in Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
But just two years later, criticism from parents and educators has put the future of small schools in jeopardy across the country.
“We made a mistake trying to push autonomy really hard, and the community blew back at us,” said Mark Whitson, a journalism teacher at Lebanon High School. “Parents want us to slow our pace of change until they know what we are doing.”
The small-schools concept calls for dividing large high schools into groups of about 300 students with similar academic interests. (Lebanon was divided into “academies” devoted to communications; farming, natural resources, and health; arts, business, community and family affairs; and engineering and other technical fields.)
The groups then take classes together for four years, with the same teachers. Proponents say students learn more because they and their teachers get to know one another better.

Joanne has more.


Many of you probably read John Stossel’s polemic in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal (9/3/06). I’d reprint here, but I don’t want to give it a wider readership than it already has. Instead I want to say few words about a central fallacy in the thinking of Stossel (and many others who wish to destroy public education). Contrary to their rhetoric, PUBLIC EDUCATION IS NOT A MONOPOLY.
I’m not talking about the fact that many fine non-public schools thrive (although that’s true), what I want to do is remind people of the important distinctions between the public and private spheres, between government and enterprise (these distinctions aren’t quite the same, but they are close enough for the purposes here). Education is a public matter, a government function because we have for 150 years (more-or-less, depending on the state and locality) we have wanted it that way.
There were and are many good reasons why this is the case. At base, education is – like garbage disposal, safe food and drugs, efficient roads, airline safety, clean water and much else – too important to be left to the vagaries of the market. At one point Stossel quotes an economist praising the “unpredictability” of the market as a source of innovation. That’s fine for producing a better mousetrap, but in schools (as in all the other examples listed) the stakes are too high to let greed be the motive force. I hear “unpredictability” and think of the children in scam voucher schools who lost out so someone could profit. The successes and innovations of capitalism are the successes of greed. The failures of capitalism are the failures of greed. Tainted milk, like bad charter schools in Milwaukee, was profitable; the market did its work by inducing more people to sell tainted milk. It isn’t the all powerful and all wise market that makes sure our children have safe milk — profit is profit, the market doesn’t care — it is the government. Schools were once all private or semi-private, but this – like tainted milk – was not satisfactory and in a democracy things that aren’t satisfactory can be changed.
Democracy is one key to why education is a public matter. If you read the words of those 19th and early 20th century men and women who created and expanded public education, you can sense both their fears and faith. Democratic self-government was a new thing and many scoffed at the idea that “the masses” were capable of the tasks. There was a very real fear of rule by the ignorant mob. But there was also a faith that given the tools their fellow-countrymen (and later women) would be up to the job. The most basic tool was literacy and more broadly education. The state of our political culture may induce many to think that these optimists were wrong about the potential for self-government or perhaps that public education has failed in this mission. I feel that way sometimes, but the republic has survived and the experiment isn’t over. I don’t think we should abandon the basic idea, I think we should work to improve our execution. And since public education is democratically governed (another reason that terming it monopoly is a misnomer), we have the means to make our calls for improvement heard.
Democracy also requires a sense of belonging to the community and the nation. There has long been a tension between the Pluribus and the Unum. America has always been diverse and group identities have threatened to overwhelm a sense of common purpose. When German children went to German schools and Presbyterian children went to Presbyterian schools and rich children went to elite schools and many children went to no school at all (or to charity schools), there was very little to bind them together and much to pull them apart. By making schools public and “common,” the school promoters sought to bolster the Unum. We also struggle with these issues and have arrived in a slightly different place where most of us desire schools to respect group identities, teach respect for group identities (multiculturalism) as well cultivate our commonalities. Finding the balance is not easy and never finished. That cultivating the common is necessary and that the best place to do this is in democratically controlled public schools seems beyond question to me.
Interestingly, capitalism is another reason why public education was considered essential to the health of the nation. There has always been a desire for trained workers and for people to be trained for work, but that isn’t the most interesting or important way that public schools support capitalism. Capitalism is a system of winners and losers. Democracy depends on a rough sense of egalitarianism – “All men are created equal.” So there is another tension here and public education helps resolve it. With free public education, equality becomes “equality of opportunity” and eventually “equality of educational opportunity” (as in the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974). The promise (unfulfilled to a great degree) of equality of opportunity through education further binds the nation together, diffuses the resentments of existing inequalities and provides hope for mobility. Without this, capitalism would be constantly threatened by the “losers.”
Disciples of the market like Stossel rarely address a basic premise of their philosophy and that is that greed and only greed can produce progress and improvement. They see schools that aren’t as good as they should or must be and see “introducing market forces” as the only solution. I don’t hold this dark view of human nature or society. I think that we can be genuinely altruistic; I think that we can work together (cooperation) instead against each other (competition) to produce better schools and a better world. The people who founded public education were far from perfect and filled with self-interested motives, but at the core most shared this belief and I would point to their creation (as imperfect as it is) as evidence that they were right.

Student Math & Writing Skills

I have a friend that teaches at MATC–she tells me that she is shocked at the lack of math and writing ability of the Madison high school students coming to MATC’s two year technical programs. MATC is very important to Wisconsin’s future. What is happening at the high school level that these students are not prepared properly? Anyone have any thoughts?

Chief Proposes Year-Round Classes to Aid Ailing Programs

V. Dion Haynes:

D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey is proposing year-round classes at five mainly low-achieving schools in an effort to give students more time in the classroom by shortening the long summer break.
The proposal, which is the school system’s first attempt to adjust the traditional calendar, will probably ignite a local and nationwide debate: Education experts extol the benefits of a year-round calendar, citing studies that show significant knowledge loss over the summer, but many parents argue that children need downtime.

The High Price of Easy Homework

Valerie Ulene:

Two weeks ago, Kerry and Lee Schmelzer left their Montana dream home and relocated to a rental in Reno. Pulling up stakes wasn’t easy, but, they ultimately decided, it had to be done. Their 13-year-old daughter, Emma, needed a new school.
For years, the Schmelzers had struggled to challenge Emma academically at their local public schools. Although some years were better than others, they believed Emma wasn’t getting what she needed. “She learned a lot of things,” says her mom, Kerry. “But she learned them really, really quickly. She spent most of her time waiting around for her classmates to catch up.” In spite of skipping two grades by the ninth grade, Emma remained well ahead of her peers at school, and the family agreed that they needed to make a change.
Last week, Emma began attending the Davidson Academy, a school for profoundly gifted students.
In many respects, Emma’s story is not unusual. The needs of many gifted children are largely overlooked, some educational experts say. Not only does this practice prevent these students from reaching their full academic potential, but it has other surprisingly serious consequences for them as well.
“There is a pervasive myth that gifted kids will be fine on their own,” says Jane Clarenbach, director of public education at the National Assn. for Gifted Children. “I think it’s simply an excuse not to deliver the necessary services.”

Teachers in the Most Challenging Classrooms

Noah Mackert:

I teach a group of South Bronx sixth graders with reading and emotional disabilities. One day last year, I was having them write essays. Most everyone selects a topic — bring the troops home, stop pollution, don’t demolish Yankee Stadium — and most everyone gets to work. Katherine, on the other hand, pulls a Mickey Mouse bandanna over her hair, which violates the school’s dress code, and slumps in her chair.
I sit down next to her. What does she care about? Cats. What is she angry about? She doesn’t know. Then I have an idea. It’s my job to know what she’s been through; I ask her to tell me about when she was in foster care.
“They shouldn’t take kids away from their parents,” she says.

National School Testing Urged

Jay Matthews:

Many states, including Maryland and Virginia, are reporting student proficiency rates so much higher than what the most respected national measure has found that several influential education experts are calling for a move toward a national testing system.
A recent study by Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, found that states regularly inflate student achievement. In 12 states studied, the percentage of fourth-graders proficient in reading climbed by nearly two percentage points a year, on average.

Kevin Carey [Ed Sector, Hot Air: How States Inflate Their Educational Progress Under NCLB] and the Fordham Foundation have criticized Wisconsin’s state standards.
Andrew Rotherham has more:

Sherman Dorn weighs-in on Jay Mathews much chattered about Sunday front page Washington Post splash on national standards. Sherman raises the issue of cut scores on tests. This recent ES Explainer looks at that issue, which doesn’t get the attention it should.

What I think is unfortunate is that Mathews’ article has set off something of a false debate, namely about whether all these people who support using NAEP as a national test are right or wrong. Thing is, the Fordham report (pdf) looked at a multiple routes to national standards including my favored route of common standards developed by the states themselves. I actually think using the NAEP for this is a lousy idea and that the states are not going to enforce anyone else’s standards anyway, hell they mostly won’t enforce their own now under No Child. Worth reading the entire report not just the clips.

At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager but Unready

Diana Schemo:

At first, Michael Walton, starting at community college here, was sure that there was some mistake. Having done so well in high school in West Virginia that he graduated a year and a half early, how could he need remedial math?
Eighteen and temperamental, Mickey, as everyone calls him, hounded the dean, insisting that she take another look at his placement exam. The dean stood firm. Mr. Walton’s anger grew. He took the exam a second time. Same result.
“I flipped out big time,’’ Mr. Walton said.
Because he had no trouble balancing his checkbook, he took himself for a math wiz. But he could barely remember the Pythagorean theorem and had trouble applying sine, cosine and tangent to figure out angles on the geometry questions.
Mr. Walton is not unusual. As the new school year begins, the nation’s 1,200 community colleges are being deluged with hundreds of thousands of students unprepared for college-level work.
According to scores on the 2006 ACT college entrance exam, 21 percent of students applying to four-year institutions are ready for college-level work in all four areas tested, reading, writing, math and biology.
For many students, the outlook does not improve after college. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently found that three-quarters of community college graduates were not literate enough to handle everyday tasks like comparing viewpoints in newspaper editorials or calculating the cost of food items per ounce.
“It’s the math that’s killing us,’’ Dr. McKusik said.
The sheer numbers of enrollees like Mr. Walton who have to take make-up math is overwhelming, with 8,000 last year among the nearly 30,000 degree-seeking students systemwide. Not all those students come directly from high school. Many have taken off a few years and may have forgotten what they learned, Dr. McKusik said.

Notes and links on math curriculum.

On Grade Inflation

Erin O’Connor:

As part of University of Colorado president Hank Brown’s decision to tackle the tough issue of grade inflation, CU regent Tom Lucero is inviting members of the public to contribute their thoughts on the subject:

Even cum laude graduates sometimes lack the skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace. This can prove to be an expensive and frustrating problem for new employers who must allocate the time and resources to adequately train new-hires.

I would like to invite you to participate in a discussion about grade inflation and its impact on the quality of our college graduates.

–What influence does grade inflation have on individuals, society and the economy?

–What are your experiences with the caliber of work from recent college graduates?

–What measures can be taken to better prepare students for life in the real world?

We are beginning a debate at the University of Colorado about the important issue of grade inflation. Please send your comments and thoughts to tom.lucero@colorado.edu.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni took up grade inflation in its 2003 report, Degraded Currency: The Problem of Grade Inflation. It’s a good starting point for anyone interested in thinking about the issue.

Are out-of-state students crowding out in-staters?

Mary Beth Marklein:

For Virginia native Max Wilson, getting into the University of Vermont, his top choice, practically was easier than driving up to start his freshman year. Not only was he accepted early, he was admitted into the honors college, which landed him in a brand-new dorm — “an awesome perk,” he says.
Compare that with Steve Connor, whose family lives just 45 miles or so from campus, in East Montpelier. With his solid grades and extracurriculars, everyone thought he was a shoo-in. Yet Connor was one of 92 Vermont applicants placed on a waiting list, a first for the university. Only after weeks of uncertainty did he finally learn he was admitted for the fall.
Sparsely populated states and those with tight higher education budgets always have relied on non-residents and the higher tuition payments they bring to help sustain their public universities. Tiny Vermont falls into both categories.


Chocolate & Zucchini:

Cantine is French for school cafeteria*, and it is hard to find a grown-up that doesn’t have a story or two to recount about his cantine days. These memories are often a mix of the bitter (the food was less than stellar, and the atmosphere was one of constant struggle for social survival) and the sweet (petit-suisse fights were fun, and if you knew what strings to pull, you could lay your hands on an extra serving of fries — du rab de frites), but in both cases, they are an integral part of how personalities and palates were formed.
A book called Cantines came out yesterday in France, based on these very premises. Food writers Sébastien Demorand and Emmanuel Rubin have selected sixty dishes that used to be were served, with varying degrees of gastronomic success, at school cafeterias when we were kids — from friand au fromage (a puff pastry envelope with a creamy cheese filling) to petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork and lentils), by way of macédoine de légumes (a mayo-laden salad of peas, potatoes, and carrots) and hachis parmentier (a sort of shepherd’s pie).

How did this St. Paul 18-year-old ace the SAT and ACT?

Tad Vezner:

arents and teachers call him St. Paul’s low-key whiz kid. Jake Heichert grew up spurning studying, sleeping through the occasional exam — and, most recently, earning a rare pair of perfect scores on the ACT and SAT.
Last week, his family sat around their living room, wondering how it all happened.
Rich and Susan Heichert’s only child received a 2400 on his SAT college assessment test in May. In February he scored a 36 on his ACT. He earned perfect 5s on his Advanced Placement tests in chemistry, U.S. history, and government and politics.
Oh, and calculus, Jake added. Almost forgot.
His parents searched for an explanation.
“Do you study, Jake?” Susan asked.
“We’ve never seen it,” Rich added.
“They told us he might have a learning disability,” Susan said of the day Jake was born, oxygen deprived.

Via Ed Gadfly.

Standard & Poor’s Recognizes 20 Wisconsin Schools for Narrowing Achievement Gaps (including Madison’s Cherokee and Black Hawk)

Standard & Poors “School Matters”:

Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services today announced it has identified 20 Wisconsin schools that have significantly narrowed the achievement gap between higher- and lower-performing student groups during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years. This is the first year Standard & Poor’s conducted an achievement gap analysis in Wisconsin.
The 20 schools are located in 19 school districts throughout the state. One school district–Madison Metropolitan School District–has two schools that have significantly narrowed at least one achievement gap between student groups. And one of those two schools, was able to narrow the gap among multiple student groups.
Of the 20 Wisconsin schools that have narrowed the achievement gap, one school is recognized for reducing its black-white gap, two schools for narrowing the gap between Hispanic and white students, and 17 schools are recognized for narrowing the gap between economically-disadvantaged students and all students.
Brown Deer Middle School in the Brown Deer School District was the only school recognized for narrowing the achievement gap between its black and white students.
Two schools: Preble High School in the Green Bay Area School District and Cherokee High School in the Madison Metropolitan School District are recognized for narrowing the gap between Hispanic and white students.


  • Summary Findings 108K PDF

  • Wisconsin Schools home page on S & P’s School Matters site.
  • Susan Troller:

    Black Hawk Middle School and Cherokee Middle School were hailed along with 18 other Wisconsin schools for significantly narrowing achievement gaps between groups of students in different demographic groups.
    Madison was the only district to have two schools cited for progress in this area, which has drawn increased scrutiny and concern among educators and parents nationwide over the past decade. In addition, Cherokee was the only school that was able to narrow the gap among multiple student groups.
    “This is a great boost for our staff as we go back to school next week,” Cherokee Principal Karen Seno said. “It’s an absolute recognition of their professionalism, commitment and the effectiveness of their practices.”