How Do Parents Handle Legal Drugs?

Sarah Viren:

A couple weeks back I wrote a story about the drug Salvia divinorum, a legal hallucinogen that is sold over the Internet and at area smoke shops. The DEA and some states are considering banning it, but only a few have (Texas lawmakers tried, but didn’t succeed last session).
So far schools say they haven’t seen teenagers with Salvia and police said they are unaware of it, which makes some folks less than eager to go through the effort of banning it. Their argument: it’s not doing any visible harm. And, indeed, many I talked with said the effects of the plant are so strong that those who try it once never want to take it again. I heard recently, though, from two parent in the Katy area who said it’s becoming popular among some teens out there. Neither wanted to be quoted, but said I could post parts of theirs emails and their stories on this blog. Here they are:

Pro / Con on Appleton Charter Schools

Tim Maylander:

As a former charter school student, I can attest to how valuable they can be to a child’s education. When they’re properly planned, a charter school can give a student exactly what he or she needs to succeed later on in life. I feel I owe many of my present successes to my charter school upbringing.
However, we need to cut back on the number of educational options in Wisconsin, specifically in the Fox Valley.
In the last decade, there has been an explosion of charter schools in Appleton alone. Programs like the Classical Charter School, Magellan Charter School, Tesla Engineering School and the Renaissance School for the Arts are examples of the numerous alternative schooling opportunities now available to parents and their children.
Despite my earlier comments about the good qualities of charter schools, the increasing number of programs isn’t beneficial to anyone, especially the student. It is, after all, possible to have too much of a good thing.
Take the charter school I participated in, for example. When most kids would have gone to middle school, my parents opted to send me to the Magellan program. It allowed gifted students to take classes at a high school setting with high school teachers at an accelerated pace.
Not only did the Magellan students learn a great deal more about traditional subjects then they would have normally, they were also exposed to a world of new opportunities at Appleton West, where the program was located. Students in the program were allowed to join the debate team as well as many other character-building activities and organizations.
Magellan was exactly what the students needed — accelerated learning in a high school locale with endless possibilities for development.

Sara Hetland:

A visit to a public school classroom will reveal the immense range of learning styles among students.
There’s the boy sitting seemingly idle in the back corner. He says little, but his test scores indicate he’s among the intellectually gifted.
In the middle of the room is the student who can play anything he wishes on the piano, but simply can’t comprehend long division.
There’s the student who finds it difficult to learn from a lecture, but she makes great academic strides while doing a hands-on project.
Charter schools allow for more academic freedom. They’re publicly funded schools that have been released from some of the regulations that apply to other public schools, and instead are accountable for producing certain results written in the school’s charter.
Charter schools can avoid many of the procedural obstacles that distract other schools’ resources and energy away from the goal of education. Diversity in learning styles, a sense of community and potential benefits to public schools make expanding charter schools in the Fox Valley a good decision.
One reason why charter schools should be expanded is to address the diversity in learning styles.

Virtual Schooling Growing at K-12 Level (Though not in Madison)

Bill Kaczor:

As a seventh-grader, Kelsey-Anne Hizer was getting mostly D’s and F’s and felt the teachers at her Ocala middle school were not giving her the help she needed. But after switching to a virtual school for eighth grade, Kelsey-Anne is receiving more individual attention and making A’s and B’s. She’s also enthusiastic about learning, even though she has never been in the same room as her teachers.
Kelsey-Anne became part of a growing national trend when she transferred to Orlando-based Florida Virtual School. Students get their lessons online and communicate with their teachers and each other through chat rooms, e-mail, telephone and instant messaging.
“It’s more one-on-one than regular school,” Kelsey-Anne said. “It’s more they’re there; they’re listening.”

Meanwhile, just down the street at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jan Miernowski, Professor of Italian and French won a national award for his online learning course.

Arabic-language teaching arrives in New York

The Economist:

“MARCH on,” wrote the Lebanese-American philosopher and poet Khalil Gibran, “and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.” Thus did the pupils, staff and administrators of the institution named after him march through a storm of controversy and into the doors of the Khalil Gibran International Academy this week.
The school, which will teach Arabic as well as Middle Eastern history and culture and will inevitably discuss Islam, has been under scrutiny since the New York Department of Education announced its creation last February. Conservative commentators have muttered that it will be a training ground for terrorists. Many portrayed Debbie Almontaser, the school’s Yemeni-American principal, as an apologist for suicide-bombers after she insufficiently denounced an Arab women’s group that produces “Intifada NYC” T-shirts.

Latino, Black, Indian And Asian Elementary Kids Likely To Top 50% Of Madison’s Enrollment

Susan Troller:

ased on recent demographic trends, this is likely to be the year when minority students become the majority in Madison’s elementary schools.
While the student census in all districts in Wisconsin will not be verified until Sept. 21, which is the official enrollment count, statistics from the Madison district over the last 10 years suggest a combination of Hispanic, Asian, African-American and American Indian students will exceed 50 percent of the elementary school population during the 2007-08 school year.
“This could be the tipping year when minority students become the majority,” Sue Abplanalp, assistant superintendent for elementary education, confirmed in a recent interview.
During the 2006-07 school year, Madison’s 5,542 American Indian, Hispanic, Asian and African-American elementary students accounted for 49.6 percent of the kindergarten through fifth grade student body, compared to 5,636 white students. Minority enrollment in Madison has been growing by about 2 percent each year for more than a decade.

Teacher Report Cards
Florida has launched a new Web site allowing parents to check on the disciplinary records of teachers. Other states may follow suit.

Peg Tyre:

Just in time for the start of school, the state of Florida has launched an eye-opening Web site that enables parents to see the disciplinary records of their kids’ teachers. The site, called, makes public a troubling secret in education: that the people who teach our kids and discipline them sometimes have a few demerits on their own permanent records.

NAACP & Education

Michael Meyers:

Third, the NAACP must make public education the civil-rights issue of our times. Everything else will fall into place if young blacks overcome illiteracy, stay in school, and are inculcated with a love for learning and for the pursuit of excellence instead of trained to accept mediocrity and quotas as a means of social advancement.
Holding school authorities accountable — including black teachers and black-dominated school boards such as in Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C. — must be the priority. That means tutoring pupils and coaching teachers so that they pass standardized competency tests, and eschewing notions that such examinations are “culturally biased.”
A revamped NAACP should not accept any alibis for blacks’ academic underachievement. It would take the lead in answering those black educators and their paternalistic allies who develop ghetto industries for grants and careers explaining blacks’ deficits. It would confront separatist schemes such as “black paradigms” of learning and Ebonics as the language of Africans in America.

Housing Slump Strains Budgets of Cities, States

Amy Merrick:

Tremors from the housing market’s slump are straining the budgets of state and local governments from coast to coast, sending officials scrambling to plug gaps.
Rising defaults on subprime home loans are boosting the inventory of unsold homes and driving sale prices lower. That’s cutting into housing-related revenues from building-permit fees, taxes on contracting and recording property transfers, and even sales taxes.
As a result, legislators in Florida, which was at the forefront of the housing boom, plan a special session this month to consider deep budget cuts to offset a projected $1.5 billion funding gap. California forecasts a shortfall of at least $5 billion in next year’s budget. And Chicago faces a $217 million gap in its $5.6 billion budget for 2008.
In the Kansas City, Mo., area, more than two dozen agencies that serve the homeless are likely to lose at least some of their funding this year. Meanwhile, the tiny town of Sultan, Wash., near Seattle, has had to lay off the janitor at City Hall, forcing office workers to take over bathroom-cleaning duties.
In many cases, budget officials knew that the fast pace of housing-related revenue growth in recent years wasn’t sustainable, but the extent of the slowdown has sometimes surprised them. Unlike the federal government, states and local governments generally balance their budgets. That means sudden revenue shortfalls can translate into serious cutbacks in spending plans.
“Our forecasts for the last couple of years have been building in a decline” of revenue as the economy headed toward a soft landing, says Amy Baker, coordinator of the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “What we discovered, when we met in 2006 and then spring 2007, is that the decline was actually occurring more rapidly than we thought.”

Opportunities and Risk with the Departure of Madison School District Superintendent and Staff

Jason Shephard:

This week, nearly 25,000 Madison schoolchildren will settle into the routines of a new school year defined by anticipation and anxiety about big changes to come.
After eight years as superintendent, Art Rainwater, 64, will retire in June. Last week, the Madison school board moved decisively on its new top priority by agreeing on key details for the replacement search and setting a half-dozen deadlines leading to the hiring of a new superintendent early next year.
Rainwater’s announcement in early January of his plan to step down has given his loyal deputies ample time to consider retirement or new jobs. In recent months, Rainwater has lost three top aides: chief of staff Mary Gulbrandsen, legal counsel Clarence Sherrod and budget director Roger Price.
Rainwater calls Gulbrandsen and Sherrod his “two closest advisers,” and tried to convince both to stay for his final year. “I honestly talked to Mary probably 15 times a day,” Rainwater says. “There probably hasn’t been a thought that went through my head in the last nine years that she didn’t react to.”
More high-level retirements are expected at the end of this school year, leaving in place as few as three of nine department heads with significant time on the job. The brain drain is coupled with a relatively inexperienced principal base, especially at the city’s four major high schools, and departures in other administrative positions.

No Child Left Behind Loopholes Decried

Jay Matthews:

Should suburban schools that barely miss federal learning targets be allowed to escape penalties, while inner-city schools that never even hit the dart board are required to give free tutoring and let students transfer to better schools?
That question is at the heart of an emerging argument in Washington over how to improve the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Influential House Democrats and Republicans have circulated a draft proposal that would take many schools off the hook if they raise achievement for most students but miss the mark for a few.
Yesterday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings pushed back hard against that approach. “To move from reasonable accommodations to big loopholes would be a huge mistake,” she said.
In a speech to the Business Coalition for Student Achievement, which supports the federal law, Spellings said she is willing to consider proposals to allow states to use more than just annual tests in reading and math to rate schools and to treat differently schools that fall only slightly short of targets. But she said she is not willing to bend if the changes mean struggling students won’t get the extra help they need.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling’s Speech.

School District Has Dress Code, and Is Buying the Uniforms, Too

Winnie Hu:

Many public schools are supplying their students with an ever-growing list of essentials that go far beyond textbooks to include scientific calculators, personal laptops and free breakfast.
Now they are dressing them, too.
The Elizabeth school district has spent more than $2 million since January 2006 to buy navy blazers, khaki pants, polo shirts, gym shorts and even socks as part of a new policy to put all its students in uniforms.
The district, which serves mostly poor and minority families, has outfitted more than 9,000 students — nearly half its enrollment — so far as it phases in the uniforms a few schools at a time over five years to spread out the cost.
“They’re just getting another school supply; that’s how we see it,” said the Elizabeth superintendent, Pablo Muñoz, noting that schools had long provided uniforms for athletic teams, choirs and marching bands. “If we expect high-quality academic achievement in the Elizabeth schools, not only do we need the staff and the materials, the kids need their uniforms.”

The School Cafeteria, on a Diet

Andrew Martin:

As students return to school this week, some are finding an unusual entry on the list of class rules: no cupcakes.
School districts across the country have been taking steps to make food in schools healthier because of new federal guidelines and awareness that a growing number of children are overweight.
In California, deep fryers have been banned, so chicken nuggets and fries are now baked. Sweet tea is off the menu in one Alabama school. In New Jersey, 20-ounce sports drinks have been cut back to 12 ounces.
Food and beverage companies have scrambled to offer healthier alternatives in school cafeterias and vending machines, and some of the changes have been met with a shrug by students. The whole-wheat chocolate-chip cookies? “Surprisingly, the kids have kind of embraced them,” said Laura Jacobo, director of food services at Woodlake Union schools in California.

Bipolar Illness Soars as a Diagnosis for the Young

Benedict Carey:

The number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 1994 to 2003, researchers report today in the most comprehensive study of the controversial diagnosis.
Experts say the number has almost certainly risen further since 2003.
Many experts theorize that the jump reflects that doctors are more aggressively applying the diagnosis to children, and not that the incidence of the disorder has increased.
But the magnitude of the increase surprises many psychiatrists. They say it is likely to intensify the debate over the validity of the diagnosis, which has shaken child psychiatry.

The Toughest Assignment: A Year with Montie Apostolos’ Eighth Grade Class

Stephanie Banchero & Heather Stone:

At a school where every other reform had failed, Montie Apostolos was the last, best chance for students to succeed.
She had been brought in because she produced impressive gains in reading test scores at her last school. She was tough. Her lessons were rooted in the best research, and she was trained for inner-city schools.
She’s an uncompromising, charismatic 56-year-old grandmother with an irresistible life story: She had fought off water cannons, attack dogs and white supremacists to get her own education in the segregated South. Nothing her students faced was going to surprise her.
But on a fall morning last year, at Sherman School of Excellence on Chicago’s South Side, Apostolos’ steely demeanor met its match.
A baby-faced 8th-grade boy stood at a lectern analyzing a poem. In a squeaky voice, he talked about feeling alone and neglected, like the narrator. And, matter-of-factly, he ticked off events that brought him there.
He had been taken away from his crack-addicted mother. His brother had been shot in the heart and head during a gang fight. His young cousin had died of neglect.

Thinking About K-12 Building Maintenance, Spending and School Climate in Colorado

Nancy Mitchell:

Colorado’s speaker of the house is traveling the state in daylong jaunts – driving on unpaved roads to meet with kids, eating lunch in restaurants decorated with rusted farm tools, singing America the Beautiful with the Lions Club – to learn more about rural schools.
It’s not always a pretty picture.
In the San Luis Valley, the high school’s only math teacher is too busy with other subjects to teach calculus; in Ordway, the gym weights are prison castoffs; in tiny Joes, a teacher applies for Gerber Foods grants to buy textbooks.
In repairs alone, K-12 schools statewide need $6 billion to $10 billion. Which is why Romanoff may propose, for the first time in Colorado history, a statewide ballot measure to build and repair schools.

No break, no bells in school of the future

Anushka Asthana:

Jared Downer, 17, stared in awe at the curved, concrete walls towering above him. Stepping into the open lobby, more than 15 metres high, he saw sweeping staircases, multi-coloured up-lighting and soundproof glass walls. A striking, arched ceiling stretched above him with retractable panels and mirrors that reflected light back towards the centre-piece – a huge eye-shaped pod filled with computers.
Designed by architects working for Norman Foster, this could have been the futuristic headquarters of a multinational company. It was, in fact, Jared’s new school.
It is more than just the architecture that will be different when the Thomas Deacon Academy opens in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, next week, replacing three local schools. This project will break apart the traditional notion of how a school should operate. Under head Alan McMurdo, the academy will be a school with no playground, no break time, no bells and no register. A school that McMurdo hopes will help shape the future of British education.
‘People have got to realise that things develop,’ he said, standing by a vast window overlooking the red-brick building that was until recently Deacon’s School. ‘We know more about the brain, about how people work and about effective teaching. It would be an outrage if you went to the doctor and they were still treating you like they did 40 years ago.’

Related: The Big Picture.

Goal is to get students walking, bicycling

Tom Held:

As children make their way back to classrooms, schools and municipalities in Wisconsin will start spending $4 million in federal transportation grants to encourage and help more of them make that trek by foot or bicycle.
Milwaukee Public Schools will spend the largest planning grant, $242,000, to teach 6,000 grade school and middle school students how to walk or bike to school safely.
That such an educational program is deemed necessary suggests how much society has changed from a time in the late 1960s when more than half of the students in the country walked or biked to school. That percentage has dropped to 15%, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The decline in walking or biking to school has been cited as a cause behind a different trend: the growing number of children who are overweight or obese. A national study found that 18.8% of children ages 6 to 11 were obese in 2003′-04, roughly triple the percentage found two decades earlier.
Looking to reverse the trends, Congress allocated $612 million for the national Safe Routes to Schools program, spread across the 2005-’09 fiscal years.

Putting Our Changing (Milwaukee) District to the Test

Alan Borsuk:

As a new school year opens, we look at the new challenges and recurring demands facing education and ask what can be done to aid our classrooms and students
The start of the school year is always a time when children, parents, teachers and administrators have to rush to take care of a zillion small questions, from what to wear on the first day to whether there’s a teacher in every classroom.
But it is also the start of the next round of the wrestling match with the largest questions hanging over education, especially in urban places such as Milwaukee.
Here are 10 of the big questions facing Milwaukee as the school year begins in earnest today and thumbnail thoughts on how they are being answered.
1) What works? Want to hear a recitation of all the reforms that haven’t really succeeded in getting better educational outcomes for Milwaukee children? Neither do we. Nonetheless, there are bright spots on the local education scene – specific schools that are doing well – and they tend to have common traits, including excellent principals, united and stable staffs, a strong commitment to clear education programs and a willingness to keep working with each child to get the child engaged and to the point of success.

The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Michael Dirda:

Anyone who reads is bound to wonder, at least occasionally, about how those funny squiggles on a page magically turn into “Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” or “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” Where did this unlikely skill called reading come from? What happens in our brain when our eyes scan a line of type? Why do some of us, or some of our children, find it difficult to process the visual information held in words?
In Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf, a professor at Tufts University and director of its Center for Reading and Language Research, offers explanations for all these questions, but with an emphasis that is “more biological and cognitive than cultural-historical.” This means that Wolf focuses on the physiological character of the human brain, which holds at its disposal “three ingenious design principles: the capacity to make new connections among older structures; the capacity to form areas of exquisitely precise specialization for recognizing patterns in information, and the ability to learn to recruit and connect information from these areas automatically.” These “design principles” provide the neuronal foundation of reading, and Wolf spends half her book explaining the evolution and minutiae of this “reading brain.”

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain @

Navigating Middle School Takes Just the Right Combination of Skills

Michael Alison Chandler:

“Strike two,” said Brian Hill as his stepdaughter Briana DeLeon, 11, rotated the dial on her red locker, searching for the number 39 through slightly crooked, wire-framed glasses. “Left, right, left,” he coached, as she spun it around. After the third misdial, her mother gave it a go. Then Hill rolled up his sleeves. “Let me try.”
After a few more strikes, a teacher parted the crowd of sixth-graders and parents at Seneca Ridge Middle School’s orientation last week in Sterling and helped Briana and her family cross the first of many potential middle school hurdles to come: opening her locker.
For the first days of school, the anxieties of moving from the familiarity of the one-teacher classroom in elementary school to a bigger, more anonymous middle school can be boiled down to a three-digit combination.
Worries include “I could be late to class,” “I could grab the wrong book” and a myth that Jack Berckemeyer, assistant executive director of the National Middle School Association, said is “passed down from generation to generation: ‘I could get locked in there.’ “

Education Roundtable


Today we kick off a new month-long series on education. While public school may be free, the price of making sure kids are equipped to learn is out of reach for some parents.
Joining Farai Chideya are Rudy Crew, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the author of Only Connect: The Way to Save Our Schools; Janelle Thompson, a third grade teacher at Kohne Elementary in the Chicago Public School District; and Genea, a single mom living in Southern California.

Student Loans: Reeling in the College Bound

Erich Dash:

Mr. Meyers’s student-lending niche has exploded into something of the norm as the cost of a college education has skyrocketed. And the company he helped to found 16 years ago, First Marblehead, is now one of the biggest in a $20 billion industry that occupies one of the most lucrative segments of consumer lending.
But such growth — as well as the fact that debt levels for newly minted graduates have more than doubled over the last decade — has drawn the scrutiny of Congress and regulators. Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York State attorney general, has helped expose financial ties between some lenders and colleges — including kickbacks to financial aid officers — that put their own interests ahead of those of students. (First Marblehead was not one of the companies implicated.)
The student loan industry could be in for more jolts. Policy makers and regulators say that there are dangerous parallels between the private student loan and subprime mortgage markets. In both, there have been phenomenal profits, aggressive marketing and, until the recent credit market turmoil, a healthy appetite from Wall Street investors.
And, as was seen in the subprime market, many student loans that were made in the last couple of years are resetting at much higher rates.

Police calls for Madison schools, July 2006-June 2007

Madison Parent:

The tables linked below summarize Madison Police Department calls for service to MMSD schools from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007, as follows:
The tables linked below summarize Madison Police Department calls for service to MMSD schools from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007, as follows:
By call date
By school, subgrouped by call date
By school, subgrouped by incident type
School subtotals
Incident type subtotals
To repeat the commentary from the last time we posted call data statistics:

Data like this provides a starting point for getting a sense of the type and levels of incidents that affect safety in our children’s schools, and it’ll be useful to compare these numbers from time to time against like categories of data going forward. Context that we need, but don’t have, is information on the number and types of violent or disruptive incidents occurring in the schools as a whole (not just those resulting in police calls), and to what extent policies on summoning law enforcement in response to a violent or disruptive incident vary from school to school (in which case call data alone may be an unreliable index of the school’s relative safety).

Madison School Board August 2007 Progress Report

Arlene Silveira:

Superintendent Search: The search for our new Superintendent officially started on August 27. The Board met with our search consultant, Hazard, Young and Attea, to plan the timeline and action items for the search. Ideally, we would like to have a new Superintendent in place in the February time-frame. This will give the new person time to transition properly with Superintendent Rainwater. The first big step in the process is the development of the Superintendent Leadership Profile. The development of the profile will involve the Board, staff and community. Our consultants will conduct focus groups and forums on September 19 and 20 to determine what people value in a new Superintendent. We are in the process of scheduling times for our staff and community to be involved in this process. More detailed information will be available the week of September 3. Everyone will have an opportunity to participate in this process.
School Naming: The Board has made final revisions to Board Policy 6700, the policy for naming an MMSD building or facility. A Citizens Naming Committee will now be part of the process. The committee will review all of the proposed names, copies of public comments, and ay additional research conducted on the proposed names. The committee will recommend to the Board a minimum of four names which meet the naming criteria established by the Policy and provide the reasons for the Committee’s recommendation. At least 2 of the recommended names shall be for a prominent national or local figure who is deceased. The committee will have 12 members and 1 chairperson. Board members will submit citizen recommendations to the Board President who will assign the committee members. We will start accepting new names the week of September 17. The process and information on how to submit names will be found on the MMSD home page at .
Referendum Discussion: The Board had its first discussion on a potential referendum to be held during the 2007-2008 school year. Below are the questions the Board will have to answer as we move through the evaluation process:

  • Should the Board submit a referendum question(s) to the public during the 2007-2008 school year to alleviate the continuing reduction of services caused by the revenue caps?
  • If the Board decided to submit a referendum question(s) to the public, should it be recurring or non-recurring?
  • How many years should the referendum question(s) cover?
  • What should be the content of the referendum question(s)?
  • Should the referendum be one question or separate questions?
  • When should the referendum be held? February 19, 2008 or April 1, 2008

Racine School District is a “Lesson for Hands Off Boards”

Amy Hetzner & Jennie Tunkieicz:

Among the problems highlighted in a recent investigation of the Racine Unified School District’s relationship with a private firm was the “broad discretion” given to the district’s superintendent.
Although the words are never mentioned in the seven-page preliminary report by Milwaukee-based law firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, to those familiar with the Racine School Board, that complaint refers to policy governance.
Begun in Racine in early 2006, policy governance was intended to reduce board micromanagement in operational issues that could be left to hired professionals, such as superintendents, so members could focus more on student achievement. It’s a concept that is gaining support in school systems throughout the state with encouragement and training by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
The idea is that while school boards have traditionally been intimately involved in the operational issues of running school districts – some believe too involved – they have not been active enough in monitoring student achievement. Under policy governance, they draft policies and achievement goals and give wide leeway to their superintendents to meet those high expectations.
Area school boards are trying to change the traditional model, and three – Brown Deer, Kettle Moraine and Wauwatosa – have agreed to participate in a multistate study into whether their efforts can affect student performance.
“The demands have changed, where years ago boards were really to focus on the budget and maybe boundary lines,” said LuAnn Bird, a governance consultant for the school board association. “What’s changed for school boards is . . . there’s more demand from the public that it’s no longer acceptable to have children who, for example, can’t read or graduate without the basics.

Mistaking Attendance

Harold Levy & Kimberly Henry:

HERE’S a math problem only truant officers will get right: How is it possible for many school districts in America to report both that average daily attendance is better than 90 percent and that almost 30 percent of students miss a month of school annually?
(a) Averages hide underlying data. While a few schools have nearly perfect attendance, most have a serious truancy problem.
(b) Elementary schools are large and have high attendance, while middle and high schools have smaller enrollments and miserable attendance. Large numbers of dropouts in the upper grades hide mass absences because enrollments there are lower.
(c) That 90 percent average daily attendance doesn’t mean the same 10 percent of children are out all the time; it could mean 30 percent are chronically absent, only on different days.
Sadly, the answer is:

Paying Parents to “Do the Right Thing”

Raina Kelley:

Paying kids for good grades is a popular (if questionable) parenting tactic. But when school starts next week, New York City will try to use the same enticement to get parents in low-income neighborhoods more involved in their children’s education and overall health. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised more than $40 million (much of it from his own money and the Rockefeller Foundation) to pay families a modest amount for small tasks—$50 for getting a library card or $100 to take a child to the dentist—that could make a big difference.
The experimental program, called Opportunity NYC, is modeled on a 10-year-old Mexican program called Oportunidades, which has been so successful in reducing poverty in rural areas that it has been adopted by more than 20 countries, including Argentina and Turkey. International studies have found that these programs raise school enrollment and vaccination rates and lower the number of sick days students take

Auditors Rejecting AP Course Syllabuses

Jay Matthews:

Students of David Keener, an ex-priest who teaches at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, almost always pass the Advanced Placement biology exam. So when the teacher submitted a description of his course for the College Board’s first quality-control audit of the AP program, nobody thought there would be a problem.
A clean audit was also expected for Frazier O’Leary of Cardozo High School in the District. The College Board has often asked the highly regarded AP English teacher, who has long experience in urban education, to help train others to meet the challenge of teaching at a college level.
Yet Keener, O’Leary and other AP veterans in the last few months have met with a surprising initial response from auditors: rejection. Most ultimately win approval, but the new audits begun this year have rubbed raw the already bruised relations between some high school AP teachers and the college professors who are rating them.

Top 3 Ways Parents Can Boost Kids

Judie Kleinmaier:

It’s that time of year — a chance for a fresh start for all students. It’s been a long time since I started a school year, but I remember the anxiety and anticipation: Will it be a good year? What do I have to do to be successful?
With that in mind, I e-mailed principals at three Madison schools and asked them to offer a bit of advice. My question was simple and straightforward: What are the three most important things parents can do to help their kids get off to a good start in school this fall?
Their answers brought to mind a book that was a bestseller in the 1980s: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. The advice from these experienced educators involves a lot of common sense and caring and sharing.
Here are their responses:

Madison Reading Conference: October 12 – 13, 2007

Blowing the Lid Off Reading Achievement: Putting All the Pieces Together [120K PDF Conference Program] [160K PDF Registration Form]
Alliant Energy Center, Exhibition Hall, Madison, WI [Map]
October 12-13, 2007
Conference Program
Friday, October 12, 2007________________________________________________________
9:00-12:00 Keynote Speakers:
Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia
Extraordinary progress in understanding the nature of reading and dyslexia, including their neural underpinnings, have direct implications for the earlier and more accurate identification and more effective treatment of dyslexia. This presentation focuses on these discoveries and their translation into clinical practices for overcoming dyslexia and for appreciating the sea of strengths associated with dyslexia.
12:00-1:30 Luncheon: Entertainment provided by Ervin Allen and the Walbridge Choir
2:45-3:45 Breakout Sessions

  1. Karin Chenowith from the Education Trust answers questions following her keynote address and provides a book signing opportunity.
  2. Fort Atkinson, WI Public School District, Principal of Barrie Elementary, Tony Bolz, and his staff outline their study and implementation of Overcoming Dyslexia and their overall K-12 reading plan.
  3. SRA/McGraw-Hill, Resources For Reaching Students With Disabilities The most proven and popular Direct Instruction Programs presented by professionals in this field.
  4. Project Read presenters share their research-based curriculum and instructional methodology for at-risk students in grades kindergarten through third grade and special education students.
  5. Wisconsin Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (WIBIDA) creates an awareness of what it is like to be dyslexic with simulations and a description of the association’s programs and services.
  6. Madison Reading and Learning Center Director, Janice Schreiber-Poznik, M.S., with staff, parents, and students, describe their remedial and enrichment programs of one-on-one tutoring for children and adults, which includes evidence based instruction, parent participation, and community partnerships.