Rod Carew Leads Education Workshop

Michael Schwartz:

Hall of Famer Rod Carew felt right at home Wednesday morning speaking to a group of Temple City High School teachers as part of a traveling education workshop put on by the Hall of Fame, right down to receiving a school hat with a “TC” logo much like his old Minnesota Twins cap as a gift.
Carew told the enthralled group of Southern California educators the story of his life and career, from growing up in Panama, to not making his high school team, to being discovered by a Twins scout on a sandlot field in New York, to becoming an 18-time All-Star elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Because of his life journey, he often tells kids not to let anybody tell them they can’t do something, because anything can happen in life.
“It’s OK to dream, because dreams do come true,” said Carew, whose career proves that point. “No matter what walk of life you take.”

Little interest again in Richmond superintendent

Richmond’s School Board yesterday held the last of four meetings asking city residents what they want to see in a superintendent — and again drew only a small group.
About two dozen people showed up at Linwood Holton Elementary School for the session.
“We need someone who is very top notch,” Tammy Williams, a parent from South Richmond, told the board. “We need someone who can concentrate on the entire system.”

One district is finding that simple measures are helping kids read.

Maria Elena Baca:

If administrators in the Centennial School District are right, all it takes is a few minutes a day to get many of their struggling readers on track.
The district’s five elementary schools are finishing the first year of the Centennial Early Reading Foundations program (CERF), a K-3 literacy initiative created to reduce the number of special education referrals, to lift more students to grade level, and to improve children’s social development, through increased small-group instruction and assessment, tailored to each child’s needs. Much of the extra work occurs right in the classroom.
“We recognize that literacy is a cornerstone to the success of our children,” said Dan Bittman, the district’s director of elementary and secondary schools. “Literacy affects achievement in all areas and prepares them for the global world.”

Incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Receives UW-Green Bay Chancellor’s Award

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard will present Chancellor’s Awards to longtime UW-Green Bay friends Daniel Nerad and Leonard A. Seidl during commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 17, on campus.
The Chancellor’s Award is UW-Green Bay’s highest community honor. It recognizes distinguished service to the University and community.
Daniel Nerad, Ph.D., is recognized for his service to the community and success in promoting partnerships with its public university.
Nerad has been superintendent of schools and learning in the Green Bay Area Public School District since 2001. Prior to his appointment as superintendent, he served the Green Bay district in a variety of roles including assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and executive director of curriculum. He earned Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year honors in 2006.
UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard notes that Dr. Nerad’s “commitment and dedication to education have had a major impact on students and people of all ages in our community.” In particular, the superintendent’s support of Phuture Phoenix at UW-Green Bay has helped the precollege program expand its reach to thousands of local students as early as fifth grade. The program matches volunteer mentors with students from low-income neighborhoods and counsels children to value education and plan for college. Nerad has also been a partner with the Institute for Learning Partnership at UW-Green Bay.

Much more on Dan Nerad here.

School of the future in the Philippines

Rina Jimenez-David:

The opening of the new school year in this country coincides with the onset of the rainy season, highlighting twin problems that confront us year after year.
The first is the seemingly perennial lack of classrooms and school buildings, with the Department of Education hard-pressed each time school opening season comes round to build enough classrooms for the ever-increasing population of students. Add to this the need to repair, if not rebuild entirely, school buildings damaged in typhoons and other natural disasters or simply falling apart due to time and substandard construction.
Around this time of the year, too, the Philippines comes in for its share of rains, typhoons, floods, landslides and other disasters. And for many communities, especially in the rural areas, the nearest and most convenient evacuation center is the local school, which many consider to be built of stronger, sturdier materials than their own flimsy houses. But what if this isn’t the case? What if the school house itself is vulnerable to the elements?

Do We Really Need School Boards?

Marilla Stephenson:

A school board expert from Iowa who spoke at a conference in Dartmouth earlier this month noted that elected school boards in both Canada and the United States are increasingly being replaced by appointed bureaucrats.
Mary L. Delagardelle, who is in favour of elected boards, warned that “giving up elected school boards . . . is also giving up a little piece of democracy.”
True enough. But we have surely reached the point in Nova Scotia, after a decade of troubles with school boards, where a little less democracy would be welcome change.

A GAAP Toothed (Wisconsin) Budget

Mike McCabe:

There are at least two negative consequences for taxpayers. First, failing to pay today’s bills until tomorrow makes paying tomorrow’s bills even harder. The state’s problem keeps getting bigger. A report issued in January had the GAAP deficit at over $2.4 billion. The previous year, it was $2.15 billion, which was more than the year before. And that year’s GAAP gap was bigger than the year before that. You get the picture.
The second consequence of the GAAP deficit is it hurts the state’s bond rating. That means the state has to pay higher interest rates when it borrows money. And, of course, it’s the taxpayers who pay the penalty for our lawmakers’ fiscal irresponsibility.
This problem has been 20 years in the making. GAAP deficits have been happening under Democratic governors and Republican governors, and they’ve been happening when Republicans control the Legislature as well as when Democrats are in charge. But while the problem isn’t new and both parties are to blame, it’s important to remember that it hasn’t always been this way.

Something to consider with respect to the potential for growth in redistributed state education tax dollars.
Related: Michigan recently raised taxes significantly, only to see a smaller increase than expected.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Releases Latest State Test Results, Madison Trails State Averages

380K PDF Press Release [AP’s posting of DPI’s press release]:

Results for statewide testing show an overall upward trend for mathematics, stable scores in reading, and a slight narrowing of several achievement gaps. This three-year trend comes at a time when poverty is continuing to increase among Wisconsin students.
The 434,507 students who took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) this school year showed gains over the past three years in mathematics in six out of seven grades tested. Reading achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels was stable over three years. An analysis of all combined grades indicates a narrowing of some achievement gaps by racial/ethnic group.
“These three years of assessment data show some positive trends. While some results point to achievement gains, we must continue our focus on closing achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Andy Hall notes that Madison Trails State Averages [Dane County Test Result Comparison prepared by Andy Hall & Phil Brinkmanpdf]:

But in the Madison School District, just two of the 23 proficiency scores improved, while five were unchanged and 16 declined, according to a Wisconsin State Journal review of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school year data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Madison’s scores trail the state average in 22 of the 23 scores. Typically the percentage of Madison students attaining proficient or advanced ratings trails the state average by several percentage points.
“The fact that we’re able to stay close to the state average as our demographics have made dramatic changes, I think is a positive,” said Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater, who added that the district’s “strong instructional program” is meeting many of the challenges of immigrant and low-income students while ensuring that “high fliers are still flying high.”
A district analysis shows that when the district’s students are compared with their peers across the state, a higher percentage of Madison students continue to attain “advanced” proficiency scores — the highest category.
Madison students who aren’t from low-income families “continue to outperform their state counterparts,” with higher percentages with advanced scores in reading and math at all seven tested grade levels, the district reported.
Rainwater said he’s long feared that the district’s increasingly needy student population, coupled with the state’s revenue limits that regularly force the district to cut programs and services, someday will cause test scores to drop sharply. But so far, he said, the district’s scores are higher than would be expected, based on research examining the effects of poverty and limited English abilities on achievement.
This school year, 43 percent of Madison students are from low-income families eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, while 16 percent of students are classified as English language learners — numbers that are far above those of any other Dane County school district.
Rainwater noted that students with limited English abilities receive little help while taking the reading and language arts tests in English.

Tamira Madsen:

Reading test scores for Madison students changed little compared to 2006-07, but math results decreased in six of the seven grades tested. Of 23 scores in five topics tested statewide, Madison lagged behind state peers in 22 of 23 of those scores.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater attributes the district’s performance and trends to the growing population of English language learners in the district.

Officials now are able to draw upon three years of results since Wisconsin began administering testing to students in grades three through eight and grade 10 in reading and mathematics. Based on state regulations, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade were also tested in language arts, science and social studies.

Alan Borsuk on Milwaukee’s results:

But there is little room for debate about what the scores say about the need for improvement in the outcomes for Milwaukee Public Schools students: The gaps between Milwaukee students and the rest of the state remain large, and school improvement efforts of many kinds over the years have not made much of a dent.
The problem is especially vivid when it comes to 10th-graders, the highest grade that is part of Wisconsin’s testing system. The gap between sophomores in Milwaukee and those statewide has grown larger over the last two years, and, once again, no more than 40% of 10th-graders in MPS were rated as proficient or better in any of the five areas tested by the state. For math and science, the figure is under 30%.

Amy Hetzner notes that Waukesha County’s test scores also slipped.
Notes and links regarding the rigor of Wisconsin DPI standards. DPI academic standards home page. Search individual school and district results here. The 2006 Math Forum discussed changes to the DPI math test and local results.
TJ Mertz reviews Wright Middle School’s results.
Chan Stroman’s June, 2007 summary of Madison WKCE PR, data and an interesting discussion. Notes on spin from Jason Spencer.
Jeff Henriques dove into the 2007 WKCE results and found that Madison tested fewer 10th graders than Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee and Kenosha. There’s also a useful discussion on Jeff’s post.
Advocating a Standard Grad Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”.
Madison School District’s Press Release and analysis: Slight decline on WKCE; non-low income students shine

Advocating a Standard Graduation Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”

Leslie Ann Howard:

Back in 1995, when the Wisconsin State Journal and WISC-TV began a civic journalism project to study the racial achievement gaps in our schools, the statistical measures of student achievement and reading in third grade put the issue in sharp focus.
United Way and our community partners’ efforts, through a variety of strategies including the Schools of Hope tutoring program, relied on those strong, focused statistics to measure the success of our 1-on-1 and 1-on-2 tutoring.
By 2004, Superintendent Art Rainwater was able to announce the elimination of the racial achievement gap in third grade reading scores, because our community had focused on stable statistical measure for over 10 years.
A standard graduation rate formula would create the same public focus for our nation’s efforts to increase high school graduation rates.


U.S. Schools Tap Growing Ranks of Chinese Students

Larry Abramson @ NPR:

As more and more Chinese go to college, U.S. universities are trying to grab a piece of this growing market. Even smaller schools feel they must have some sort of exchange program with Chinese schools. Exchange students were once motivated by a desire to spread international understanding, but now many feel that global education is important to their success in the job market.


National Spelling Bee Brings Out Protesters Who R Thru With Through

Rebecca Dana:

A fyoo duhzen ambishuhss intelectchooals, a handful ov British skool teechers and wuhn rokit siuhntist ar triing to chang the way we spel.
They are the leaders of the spelling-reform movement, a passionate but sporadic 800-year-old campaign to simplify English orthography. In its long and failure-ridden history, the movement has tried to convince an indifferent public of the need for a spelling system based on pronunciation.
Reformers, including Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and Theodore Roosevelt, argued that phonetic spellings would make it easier for children, foreigners and adults with learning disabilities to read and write. For centuries, few listened, and the movement, exhausted by its own rhetoric and disputes within its ranks, sputtered out. It’s back.
Spelling reform is currently enjoying a renaissance in the U.S. and Britain. At a time when young people are inventing their own shorthand for email and text messages, the reformers see a fresh opportunity 2 convert people 2 the cause.
In recent years, the ranks of Britain’s Spelling Society and the American Literacy Council have swelled from a few stalwart members to more than 500, which in this effort is a lot. Reformers are energized: Some are writing to dictionary editors urging them to include simplified spellings in new editions. Others are organizing academic conferences, including one on June 7 in Coventry, England, on “The Cost of Spelling.” The American Literacy Council just allocated $45,000 of its $250,000 private endowment to develop a series of DVDs using simplified spelling to teach English to international students. The Spelling Society has hired its first publicist.

US Schools: Not that Bad
America’s educational system is easier than those in China and India — but it’s still teaching valuable life lessons

Vivek Wadhwa:

Students have 2 million minutes—the time from the beginning of eighth grade to high school graduation—to build the intellectual foundation they’ll need for professional success. That’s the premise of a new documentary, Two Million Minutes, that’s making waves in education and political circles.
The film tracks six students—two each in the U.S., India, and China—during their senior year of high school. The Indian and Chinese students work diligently on math and science, while the American students work hard but appear less focused and leave plenty of time for video games and social lives. The message is that because of our education system, we’re getting left behind.
Two Million Minutes provides a provocative glimpse of the global competition now facing U.S. students. And the conclusion many are drawing is that to keep our edge, our children need to study more math and science and work harder. It is true that the U.S. education system should be improved; that’s essential for economic success.
But the solution isn’t for us to become just like our new competitors. We need to do what we do better.

Retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s Reign, A Look Back


On June 30th, Art Rainwater is stepping down as superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
It’s a position the 65-year-old never expected to fill, in Madison or anywhere else.
“My only career goal was to be a high school football coach,” says Rainwater.
He was in 1965. Rainwater’s career kicked off in Arkansas. The teacher-coach then moved to Texas. Next, Rainwater took a principal job in Alabama. His path eventually led to administrative work in Missouri. Then, in 1994, Rainwater became deputy superintendent in Wisconsin’s Capitol City.
“I’ve served at almost every level of the K-12 education system that you can serve,” he says.
In 1998, he added interim superintendent to his resume, replacing Cheryl Wilhoyte. During her tenure the district hit plenty of road bumps. Tensions were high.
“I think there was a lot of dissatisfaction, across the community, with the school district, at that time,” says Rainwater. “So, the damage control was pretty obvious, (it) was going to happen.”
Rainwater came in with three immediate goals. Smooth things over with the teachers union. Repair the district’s relationship with the UW. And, gain the support of the business community.
“I thought by doing those three things, it would put the new superintendent, in place, to come in and hit the ground running,” he adds.

Many notes and links on Art Rainwater can be found here.

Waukesha’s Superintendent Search

Amy Hetzner:

The board is in the midst of interviews with six semifinalists for the superintendent’s job, chosen from a pool “just shy of 20” applicants screened by search consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. The interviews are scheduled to wrap up tonight, with the board naming one or several finalists afterward, Warren said.
That puts the district on track to bring in its finalists next week for meetings with administrators, community leaders, labor groups and board members, with the possibility that the board could know whether it has a final candidate by week’s end, he said.
The names of the semifinalists have not been released.

Summer no holiday for college coaches, high school football prospects

Bill Conley:

Memorial Day marks the time high school and college students are anxious for the school year to end and the summer to begin; graduation ceremonies take place and families plan their vacations.
Not so fast!
College football coaches and athletes who are going into their senior season of high school football have other plans. For both college staffs and high school athletes, the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is extremely important for recruiting.

Childhood Obesity Rates Stop Rising

Rob Stein:

The obesity epidemic may have peaked among U.S. children, halting a decades-long trend of inexorably expanding waistlines among the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable, federal health officials reported yesterday.
A new analysis of the most recent data collected by an ongoing government survey, considered the most authoritative on the subject, detected the first sign since the 1980s that the proportion of 2-to-19-year-olds who are overweight may have stopped rising, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

Girls are becoming as good as boys at mathematics, and are still better at reading

The Economist:

Luigi Guiso of the European University Institute in Florence and his colleagues have just published the results of a study which suggests that culture explains most of the difference in maths, at least. In this week’s Science, they show that the gap in mathematics scores between boys and girls virtually disappears in countries with high levels of sexual equality, though the reading gap remains.
Dr Guiso took data from the 2003 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. Some 276,000 15-year-olds from 40 countries sat the same maths and reading tests. The researchers compared the results, by country, with each other and with a number of different measures of social sexual equality. One measure was the World Economic Forum’s gender-gap index, which reflects economic and political opportunities, education and well-being for women. Another was based on an index of cultural attitudes towards women. A third was the rate of female economic activity in a country, and the fourth measure looked at women’s political participation.

Expeditionary Learning Schools Outward Bound

Expeditionary Learning Schools Outward Bound:

Expeditionary Learning Schools Outward Bound (ELS) is a comprehensive K-12 educational design. Our approach combines rigorous academic content and real world projects — learning expeditions — with active teaching and community service. The ELS design focuses on teaching in an engaging way. Faculty members receive intensive professional development in curriculum, teaching practices, and building a strong school culture. Expeditionary Learning is now being implemented in over 140 urban, rural, and suburban schools.

Toughest Summer Job This Year Is Finding One

Peter Goodman:

School is out, and Aaron Stallings, his junior year of high school behind him, wanders the air-conditioned cocoon of the Woodland Hills Mall in search of a job.
Mr. Stallings, 18, says he has been looking for three months, burning gasoline to get to the mall, then filling out applications at stores selling skateboard T-shirts, beach sandals and baseball caps. He likes the idea of working amid the goods he covets. But so far, no offers.
“I’m going to go to Iraq and get a job,” he says acidly. “I hear they’ve got cheap gas.” He grins. “I’m just playing. But I’ve been all over, and nobody’s hiring. They just say, ‘We’ll call you tomorrow.’ And no one ever calls back.”
As the forces of economic downturn ripple widely across the United States, the job market of 2008 is shaping up as the weakest in more than half a century for teenagers looking for summer work, according to labor economists, government data and companies that hire young people.
This deterioration is jeopardizing what many experts consider a crucial beginning stage of working life, one that gives young people experience and confidence along with pocket money.

Related: Milwaukee Sisters Sell Root Beer To Raise Money For College.

Colorado’s Innovation Schools Act of 2008

Colorado State Senate President Peter Groff (D-Denver) submitted a bill that:

  • Allows hiring decisions outside Union Labor Contracts
  • Gives schools control over:budgets, hiring decisions, and length of school days
  • Allows schools to dictate teacher qualifications and how much time to spend in class
  • Allows public schools to sidestep restrictions for the purpose of creating wide-ranging innovation in Colorado schools.

More from Jeremy Meyer and Democrats for Education Reform. Download Colorado SB08-130 here. Governor Bill Ritter signed the “Innovation Zones” bill into law on May 28, 2008.
Todd Engdahl summarizes the changes during the bill’s “sausage making” process:

First big change
The original bill required only “a statement of the level of support” for the plan by school employees, students and parents, and the community. The amended bill requires a four-part test of support among various constituencies: “a majority of administrators,” “a majority of teachers” and a “majority of the school advisory council,” plus “a statement of the level of support” among other school employees, students and parents, and the surrounding community.
The amendments add a requirement to the application process – a description of the elements of any collective bargaining agreement that would need to be waived for an innovation plan to work.
Second (really) big change
The original bill gave innovation schools blanket exemption from laws and rules on: performance evaluations, authority of principals, employment of teachers, transfer of teachers, dismissal of teachers, salary schedules, teacher licensing and teacher salary payment.
All of that was struck by the amendments and replaced with language allowing a school board to waive any requirements deemed necessary to an innovation plan, except provisions of the school finance law, the exceptional children’s educational act, data requirements necessary for School Accountability Reports, laws requiring criminal background checks of employees and the children’s Internet protection act. (The original language barred any waivers of CSAP and No Child Left Behind requirements, and those remain in the bill.)
Third (really) big change
The original bill allowed innovation schools to be removed from a district’s entire collective bargaining agreement by a vote of a majority of the personnel at the affected school or schools.
The amendments require “waiver of one or more of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement” (italics added) to be approved by vote of “at least sixty percent of the members of the collective bargain unit who are employed at the innovation school.”

Live Video Language Learning


We have a simple (but not easy) mission: Revolution education.
Our goal is to create a platform to allow live learning to take place over the Internet anytime from anywhere.
Most importantly…for anyone. We’re the first people (we know) to create something that’s totally open and community-driven (rather than closed and transaction-driven).
We’re excited to create tools for people to teach and learn what they love in ways they never imagined possible.
If changing the world is your thing and you’re as passionate about education and learning as we are, please get in touch.

There is certainly a revolution underway in education – largely occurring outside the traditional school models. Innovation always starts at the edges, in this case homeschooling, and non-traditional school leaders and teachers. Much more on technology & education here.

Japan Urges Limiting Kids Cell Phones


Japanese youngsters are getting so addicted to Internet-linking cell phones that the government is starting a program warning parents and schools to limit their use among children.
The government is worried about how elementary and junior high school students are getting sucked into cyberspace crimes, spending long hours exchanging mobile e-mail and suffering other negative effects of cell phone overuse, Masaharu Kuba, a government official overseeing the initiative, said Tuesday.
“Japanese parents are giving cell phones to their children without giving it enough thought,” he said. “In Japan, cell phones have become an expensive toy.”
The recommendations have been submitted from an education reform panel to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s administration, and were approved this week.
The panel is also asking Japanese makers to develop cell phones with only the talking function, and GPS, or global positioning system, a satellite-navigation feature that can help ensure a child’s safety.

Working Relationship: Patrick Spottiswoode, director of education at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and his PA, Adrienne Gillam

Rosalind Renshaw:

“We get 100,000 students a year, aged from 3 to postgraduates,” says Patrick Spottiswoode, the Globe’s education director, “and at our busiest, we have 800 in a day. Children often arrive bored and cynical, but once they’ve been introduced to Shakespeare, they become animated and positive.” His PA, Adrienne Gillam, sees it for herself: “It’s wonderful to watch an audience of kids come alive,” she says.
The education programme is run by 23 members of staff with the help of 60 freelancers, usually actors who have been specially trained in each year group’s syllabus and can help students of all ages to create a production in less than a day.
The events have come a long way since 1984 when Patrick arrived — by coincidence, on Shakespeare’s birthday. He recalls: “I was working on a PhD and decided to take a year off, but 24 years later, I’m still here. There were only two members of staff, and the job advertisement was for someone to run an arts centre, museum and cafe. In reality, I started the arts centre with L200 of my own books, the museum was in a leaking warehouse and the cafe consisted of a kettle.”

Shakespeare’s Globe Education.

Checking Up: States’ Reports On Child-Care Centers Hit Web

Sue Shellenbarger:

Some important government child-care safety records are entering the Internet age at last.
In the past, state regulators’ inspections of child-care centers and homes for safety, quality and cleanliness typically were cloaked in bureaucratic obscurity. To see the records, parents often had to drive to a state office during the workday or file cumbersome written requests under state freedom-of-information laws.
Now, 20 of the 50 states have begun posting the records online, and at least 13 more plan to do so soon. Searches usually can be done by Zip Code, city or facility name, bringing up state inspection reports, safety or health citations, complaint investigations or all three. (See a list of state links.)

Obama’s Education Speech

Karl Vick:

Obama backed into his answer, praising charter schools and suggesting the federal government encourage innovation both by the president’s “bully pulpit” and by advertising “best practices” for schools to observe and emulate.
But, he went on, “this has always been a problem when it comes to education reform policies. There are always good schools in every state, in every school district and at every income level. You can go into every state and you can point to one school or five schools or ten schools that are doing a great job of educating their kids. The question we have to figure out is how do we scale up? How do we take the lessons of a great school like MESA, and have a hundred good schools like MESA?
“And there are a lot of ingredients to that, but probably the biggest challenge is making sure that we’ve got great educational leaders, both teachers and principals, in those schools and we’ve got to produce more and more of those.

Allison O’Keefe:

During the question and answer period, Obama was asked about bilingual education, especially given current climate of immigration. Obama believes that everyone should be bilingual or even “trilingual.” “When we as a society do a really bad job teaching foreign languages – it is costing us when it comes to being competitive in a global marketplace,” he said.
He was also asked about the federal government’s role in a world of charter schools and the success of private foundations on small school public education, such as the school where he was appearing. Obama immediately expressed his support for charter schools, citing the importance of “innovation at the local level.” But Obama treaded lightly, saying that there are always good schools in every state. Earlier in his speech, Obama referred to the ongoing teacher talks in Denver. Dozens of teachers in two different public schools called in sick in opposition to their ongoing contract negotiations.

Alexander Russo has more:

At the Wednesday event, Obama regurgitated the (inaccurate) slam that NCLB relies on a “a single, high-stakes test,” according to this report (Obama tours Colorado school, touts education plans EdWeek) and did the whole curriculum narrowing thing, too, about which I have my doubts.
He’s also proposing a national service-type thing that to my eye looks an awful lot like a federal version of TFA. Just what schools (and school reform) doesn’t need — more FNG short-timers making everyone feel good about high-need schools (Full text of Obama’s education speech). Yeah, I’m against that.

Friend or Foe: The scoop on Toki lunches

Monika Hetzler & Erika Rodriguez:

Ask Toki Middle School students how they feel about school lunches, and you’ll get varied responses. Some say they never eat it, while others claim “it’s the best lunch I’ve had!” Whether people like the food or not isn’t necessarily indicative of the healthfulness of school lunches.
University of Wisconsin nutritionist Marcy Braun said the nutritional value of school lunches could be “greatly improved” and described her ideal school lunch.
“Well, first, I would make the lunch period longer,” said Braun, adding that if schools provided more space and played music during lunch, it would “make the room more alive,” which could be a “key factor” in creating a better environment.

Via Isthmus.

How to Solve Toddler Tantrums: Think Like a Neanderthal

Meredith Small:

You’re in a store, little kid in hand, and then suddenly she tries to pull away. You bend down and whisper quietly in her ear, “Stay with Mommy, honey,” knowing full well that this reasonable request is a foolish attempt to dampen the temper tantrum that is rising like a tsunami inside your kid. With a pounding heart, you scoop her up and run from the store before someone shouts, “Bad parent. Dreadful child. Get out!”
No one knows why 2-year-olds have temper tantrums, but most of them do. It starts with mild anger over something simple but then quickly escalates into full blown fury dramatized by screaming, fist pounding, foot-stomping, and screaming. The child also descends psychologically into a place where they can’t be reached by words or physical comfort, and parents stand by helpless and confused.
Clearly, the child is distressed, but to the parent, the distress seems way out of proportion to the situation. And it is physically stressful for the child, which suggests that there must be some evolutionary reason why temper tantrums are so universal for little kids.

Keeping Science In Children’s Orbit
As Schools Focus on Reading and Math, Educator Has Students’ Eyes on the Skies

Theresa Vargas:

Bob Nicholson can make the sun rise in the west, the stars come out at noon and the moon wax and wane with his whims.
“I will show you what the sky will look like on your last day of fifth grade,” the 56-year-old educator told students gathered one afternoon this month in the domed planetarium at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
“This is not only a space machine,” he continued, “it’s a time machine.”
Open-mouthed, the Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy fifth-graders stared up as the sun suddenly took Nicholson’s cue, rising and setting on the course it would take June 19, the last day of school.

Middleton High School Students Collect Donations to Aid Individuals in War-Torn Nation
Project Liberia inspires students to give

With the school year winding down and summer almost here, it would be easy for any area high school student to spend his or her time simply counting down the days to the start of summer fun. But for one group of students at Middleton High School, there is no time like the present to start a new project, aimed at helping those in need halfway around the world.
For the past three weeks, this group of students have been collecting used sports equipment for children in the country of Liberia, all in the name of helping the youth of this nation, which is recovering from a 15-year civil war, learn how to see each other as teammates rather than enemies.
The inspiration for the project — titled Sports For Africa and part of a burgeoning non-profit organization called Project Liberia — came from 16-year-old Laytee Norkeh, whose mother and father are Liberian nationals. As Norkeh and her friends listened to heartbreaking stories of the great need that exists across the small West African country, they couldn’t help but see an opportunity to get involved.
“We felt a strong need to take matters into our own hands and help those who are so helpless,” Norkeh says. “It takes so little to make such a big difference in the lives of these people. We want to help them and give them hope of a better future.”
Norkeh, along with Eli Rosen, Carli Kopatz, Lexie Jordee, Sam Delabarre, Ashley Guse, Campbell White, David Ripp, Alex Koritzinsky, and John Zimmerman have been working to collect used sports equipment at their school and other local businesses. The collection runs from May 28 – June 6th. Laytee has created a video which will be shown to the student body beginning May 28th.
About Project Liberia:

Project Liberia is a collection of individual programs designed to meet some of the most pressing needs for a nation recovering from a devastating civil war. Each venture — from building a community center, developing a micro-loan system and bringing sports equipment to children in villages and orphanages — has been developed to enhance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fiber of the people of Liberia. 501(c)(3) status pending.

For more information, please contact Bulleh Bablitch at (608) 577-6711 or
Liberia via the CIA’s World Factbook.

Gwinnett County, GA Schools asked math teachers to stay for summer school

D. Aileen Dodd:

Gwinnett County Schools began to prepare teachers for higher than normal failure rates on the standardized math exam for middle-schoolers long before the state announced the troubled scores.
Tougher standards made the new middle school math section of the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test more challenging for students. New curriculum changes also proved to be more difficult for some educators to teach and students to grasp.
When you have a new assessment on a new curriculum you usually anticipate that you will have a dip in performance,” said Sloan Roach, spokesperson for Gwinnett Schools.
Planning ahead for problems, Gwinnett administrators asked more middle school teachers than usual to stick around for summer school, so the district wouldn’t be overwhelmed by eighth-graders seeking help in math. Eighth-graders are required to pass the CRCT for promotion to high school.

Three women rise to the top of AFT union

Greg Toppo:

Hillary Clinton’s bid to become the first female U.S. president could falter, but another milestone for women probably will fall into place this summer with little fanfare: Three women are slated to become the first to run a major labor union.
Delegates to the American Federation of Teachers’ biennial meeting here in July are expected to elect Randi Weingarten their new president, along with two other longtime AFT officials: Antonia Cortese and Lorretta Johnson as secretary-treasurer and executive vice president, respectively.
The three announced their candidacy last week at a small, private event for top union officials.
“It’s powerful because these are three knowledgeable women,” says Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. “This is the year for women. I’m excited.”

Wisconsin Host schools and families needed for Japanese teachers

SEAchange online:

A father from Thailand recently observed the power of international exchange programs in an e-mail to Wisconsin staff about his daughter’s visit to the state: “She has learned many things and felt very connected to her host, friends and you. I think this is the best part of this program: to get people to know each other, understand each other and feel that they belong to the same family. It is very amazing that only few weeks can make this strong relationship.”
Another opportunity to build international relationships is now here. Schools and districts have until June 6 to apply to host visiting teachers from Japan this fall.
The Japan-Wisconsin Education Connection, now in its 12th year, gives a select number of K-12 Wisconsin school districts the opportunity to host a talented elementary, junior or senior high school teacher from Japan.

Rhee Changes DC’s School Budget Formula: Seeks to Bring Art & Music to Schools

Bill Turque:

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has scrapped a funding formula introduced in the late 1990s to bring more transparency and public participation to budget deliberations, replacing it with a system that critics say diminishes the autonomy of individual schools.
Rhee says that the funding method, known as the “weighted student formula,” has not served many schools well, placing too much power in the hands of principals. Her alternative, she said, will increase transparency and help her make good on a core promise: to provide every D.C. school with art, music and physical education teachers.
Dismay over changes in the formula is part of a broader unhappiness with the development of the 2008-09 budget, the first on Rhee’s watch. Information about the proposed allocation of money, usually available to the public in February, was posted only a week ago on the D.C. Public Schools Web site.

The Washington DC District posts individual school budgets online.

Kettle Moraine School Plans Weekly Short Day for Teacher Development

Amy Hetzner:

Some parents in the Elmbrook School District have complained about their district’s move away from weekly, one-hour early releases to a schedule that dismisses students two hours and 15 minutes earlier than usual less frequently.
Kettle Moraine’s plan has yet to be shared with all of the school’s parents, said Kotlowski, although she said it has the near unanimous support of teachers.
The school should look into whether it could offer activities to occupy the student body while teachers are meeting as an alternative to sending them home early, Kettle Moraine board member Colin Butler suggested. He said students in Vermont, where he previously served on the school board, were allowed to ski free on the days when they went home early from school.
“Time given away will be very difficult to retrieve later on,” Butler said.

Science Students Need To Get Out Of The Classroom

Joann Klimkiewwicz:

It’s a late Wednesday morning and these three high school students from Meriden should be hunkered down in the classroom. But here they are, jammed around a digital monitor at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, fingers hovering over the touchscreen display that morphs scorpions and other critters through evolutionary time.
“Oh, wow,” says Alexis Rivera, 16, neck craning and eyes fixed to the screen. “This is crazy.”
Rivera was among 40 biology students from Orville H. Platt High School who fanned across the museum last week for a field trip on biodiversity, peering at ecological dioramas and touching interactive displays. To education experts, this is “informal” or “free-choice” science learning, which means it’s happening outside of school.
“When we’re in class, we can say, ‘Do you know that bird, the so-and-so?'” says Walt Zientek, the school’s special-education teacher for science. He is standing in the dimmed exhibit hall on Connecticut birds as his students weave their way through the museum’s three floors.

Parents question proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s gifted-student regulations

Susan Snyder:

Pennsylvania is taking steps to make gifted education available to more students, but that has done little to quell long-standing tension between parents and school districts over how the state’s brightest are educated.
The proposed changes on course to become final this summer make clear that districts must use more than an IQ score to identify gifted students – as most other states do.
The state sets a 130 IQ as the trigger for gifted education and allows districts to choose the other criteria, such as teacher recommendations and classroom work.
Just how much impact the clarification will have is uncertain. State officials had no estimate of how many more students would be identified or the potential cost to districts.
While most area school administrators interviewed said they already use more than an IQ score to evaluate students, education advocates disagree.

Education activist led school board
After 10-year hiatus, she joined efforts to remove controversial superintendent

Liam Ford::

Margaret V. Soucek and a small group of friends set out in the mid-1960s to help reform the Morton High School District 201 Board.
Their group, The Organization for Better Education, met with so much stonewalling and hostility from local political forces in Berwyn and Cicero that one of their candidates, Mary Karasek, considered dropping out of the race, Karasek recalled Monday. But when Mrs. Soucek heard about her friend’s wish, she wouldn’t have it.
“I thought, ‘It isn’t worth it,'” Karasek said. “But Margaret got so worked up about the fact that I withdrew, that I decided I had to [run].”
Mrs. Soucek, 86, a longtime Berwyn resident, would go on to serve as president of the District 201 Board, frequently squaring off against forces loyal to west suburban figures such as former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese. Mrs. Soucek died Wednesday, May 21, in Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital after a heart attack.

Few Solutions in Book on Charters

Jay Matthews:

Journalists, particularly me, tend to get excited about charter schools, the independently run public schools that have produced — at least in some cases — major improvements in achievement for children from low-income families. The charter educators I write about are often young, energetic, witty, noble and pretty much irresistible. But their charter schools, which use tax dollars with little oversight, are relatively new and untried. Like all experiments, they could easily fizzle.
That is the point of a short, readable and fact-filled new book, “Keeping the Promise? The Debate over Charter Schools,” available for $16.95 at The seven chapters make the best case I have ever read for a skeptical attitude toward the nation’s 4,000 charter schools. For reasons I will explain, it did not change my view of charters, but it should spark, as the subtitle says, a thought-provoking debate.

Local Politics: Madison Mayor Dave Meets with MTI’s John Matthews & Former WEAC Director Mo Andrews

Jason Joyce’s useful look at Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s weekly schedule often reveals a few nuggets of local political trivia. Today, the Mayor met with Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews and former WEAC Executive Director Morris (Mo) Andrews.
Related links:

Might parents and taxpayers have a meeting?

Study echoes MPS, voucher findings
Graduation rates higher among voucher students

Alan Borsuk:

A second round of results comparing high school graduation figures for Milwaukee Public Schools and a group of private schools in the city’s publicly funded voucher program has reached the same conclusion as a report issued in January: Students who attend voucher schools are more likely to graduate than those who attend MPS.
The second report, issued today, adds data for the class of 2007 to its figures. The earlier report had figures for the classes of 2003 through 2006.
The report was funded by and released by School Choice Wisconsin, the main organization for advocacy for Milwaukee’s voucher program, which is the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States. About 19,000 students attended about 120 private schools in the city this year, with public funds of up to $6,501 per student going to the schools.

Press release and complete report – PDF

Grand Rapids School Board to stop collecting union dues

Tony Tagliavia:

The Grand Rapids Board of Education voted to suspend collecting union dues out of teachers’ paychecks.
The move comes after a mediation session was held Thursday. School officials say that session was unproductive. The board also took a no-confidence vote in Grand Rapids Education Association president Paul Helder.
The dues are now taken out of teachers’ paychecks by the district and forwarded to the union. It amounts to $57,000 every pay period, once every two weeks.
The district continued the practice voluntarily after the old contract expired, but that will end May 30.
Board leadership said they are trying to send a message that union leadership is dysfunctional, in part because the board president said Thursday’s mediation session wasted time repeating the same arguments about the district’s financial condition.

On the Sadness of Higher Education

Alan Charles Kors:

The academic world that I first encountered was one of both intellectual beauty and profound flaws. I was taught at Princeton, in the early 1960s—in history and literature, above all—before the congeries that we term “the ’60s” began. Most of my professors were probably men of the left—that’s what the surveys tell me—but that fact was never apparent to me, because, except in rare cases, their politics or even their ideological leanings were not inferable from their teaching or syllabi. Reasoned and informed dissent from professorial devil’s advocacy or interpretation was encouraged and rewarded, including challenges to the very terms of an examination question.
In retrospect, professors who must have disagreed fundamentally with works such as David Donald’s “Lincoln Reconsidered” (with its celebrated explanation of the abolitionists’ contempt for Lincoln in terms of the loss of status of their fathers’ once-privileged social group) assigned them for our open-minded academic consideration. My professor of Tudor-Stuart history, emerging from the bitter Oxbridge debates over explanations of the English Civil War in terms of class conflict, assigned Jack Hexter’s stunning “Reappraisals in Social History” to us. When I opined to him somewhat apprehensively that Hexter appeared to have exposed the tendentious use of statistics in my professor’s own prior work, he replied, “You’re absolutely correct.” These were not uncommon experiences in Princeton’s classrooms, and I knew, then and there, that I wanted both to do history and to teach.

Clusty Search: Alan Charles Kors.

Algebra I stumping high school freshmen

Lori Higgins:

Thousands of high school freshmen across Michigan are failing Algebra I, the first of four math courses this class of students must take and pass to fulfill what are among the toughest graduation requirements in the nation.
The failure rate — estimated at 20% to 30% of about 113,000 freshmen — has some predicting a crisis by the time these students are juniors and must take Algebra II.
In Macomb County after the first semester of this school year, the failure rate was around 28%.
“We have enough data to think this is going to continue to be a problem,” said Gayle Green, assistant superintendent with the Macomb Intermediate School District. Failure rates for Oakland and Wayne counties haven’t been compiled but officials there are concerned, too.

Related: April, 2004 West High School Math Teacher Letter to Isthmus.

May 21, 2008 Congressional Hearing on Math Curriculum

Via a kind reader email: House Committee on Education & Labor:

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing to examine a recent report released by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel on the state of math education and instruction in the United States. Among other things, the report found that the nation’s system for teaching math is “broken and must be fixed” if the U.S. wants to maintain its competitive edge.

Skip Fennel’s wide ranging testimony can be read here [66K PDF]:

However, I would add that at a time of teacher surplus at the elementary school level, it is perhaps time to scrap the model of elementary teacher as generalist. Why not have specifically trained elementary mathematics specialists starting from day one of their career? Our country can’t wait until such specialists are graduate students.

Francis “Skip” Fennell is Professor of Education, McDaniel College and Past President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Notes and links on the recent NCTM report.

Hope in the Unseen: Maryland’s SEED Public Boarding School

Thomas Friedman:

SEED Maryland was admitting boys and girls beginning in sixth grade. They will live in a dormitory — insulated from the turmoil of their neighborhoods. In Washington, nearly all SEED graduates have gone on to four-year colleges, including Princeton and Georgetown.
Because its schools are financed by both private and public funds, SEED can offer this once-in-a-lifetime, small-class-size, prep-school education for free, but it can’t cherry-pick its students. It has to be open to anyone who applies. The problem is that too many people apply, so it has to choose them by public lottery. SEED Maryland got more than 300 applications for 80 places.
The families all crowded into the Notre Dame auditorium, clutching their lottery numbers like rosaries. On stage, there were two of those cages they use in church-sponsored bingo games. Each ping-pong ball bore the lottery number of a student applicant. One by one, a lottery volunteer would crank the bingo cage, a ping-pong ball would roll out, the number would be read and someone in the audience would shriek with joy, while everyone else slumped just a little bit lower. One fewer place left …

Sounds of hope from Paraguay dump

Alfonso Daniels via a kind reader’s email:

Suddenly the sound of violins playing Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks breaks the sound of stray dogs’ barking and rubbish trucks, taking the visitor to the streets of any European city like Prague or Vienna.
This is Cateura, the main rubbish dump of Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, where the conductor of the country’s symphony orchestra, Luis Szaran, has established a music school.
“I came here once and saw a woman holding a newborn child with one hand and picking up rubbish with the other, and told myself this could not go on, this is how everything started,” recalls Mr Szaran, who is of Hungarian and Polish origin.
He launched the Sonidos de la Tierra (Sounds of the Land) initiative six years ago to bring classical and folkloric music to the poorest children with the help of the Swiss non-governmental organisation,

Students with learning disabilities get extra attention at Walbridge, a private Madison school

Pamela Cotant:

One morning, students at Walbridge School used their fingers to trace letters representing sounds in a mix of sand and sparkling glitter on a paper plate.
When a student was squeamish about the task, he asked if he could trace with a pen instead of his finger.
This lesson is an example of the multisensory approach taken by Walbridge School, which was founded in 1986. The private, nonprofit school enrolls children in grades 1 through 8 at 7035 Old Sauk Road on the Far West Side.
“We teach children who learn differently, who cannot succeed with traditional ways of learning,” said Gary Lewis, head of the school.
The primary concerns for students at Walbridge are learning issues rather than behavioral, he said. Some have specific disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and attention deficit disorder.
Some students have other concerns such as confusion over space and time.

$60M Blown on PR: Why Education isn’t a Hot Topic in the 2008 Presidential Election

Ari Shapiro @ NPR:

The “Ed in ’08” campaign got $60 million to try to make education a prominent issue in the race for the White House. Former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, the chairman of the nonprofit in charge of the project, talks with Ari Shapiro about why the topic hasn’t been high on the candidates’ radar.


Money is not always the answer, nor is a top down approach. Edin08 is funded by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Gates and Broad Foundations.

The Hidden Costs of Education Reform

Anneliese Dickman:

Here at the Forum we have long bemoaned the lack of data with which to measure the success of Milwaukee’s various education reform efforts. From the 32-year-old Chapter 220 integration program to the 10-year-old open enrollment program (not to mention the 18-year-old private school choice program), our policymakers have become expert at funding reform programs long-term without measuring their effectiveness at improving student achievement.
It turns out we’re not alone. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district’s pre-K Bright Beginnings program, which later became a model for a similar statewide program, was passed with the promise of better middle and high school outcomes. However, the inaugural class of Bright Beginnings preschoolers is now part of the high school freshman class and the district cannot say whether they are doing better than their peers who did not attend preschool.

An Interview with Terry Grier, San Diego’s New Superintendent

Maureen Magee:

What kind of reforms are you planning for the district?
The budget crisis is not over. We’ve got to look at closing small schools. There are 40 with enrollments under 400.
How would you help the district’s poorest-performing schools?
I’d like to look at lowering class size to an average of 15 (students) in grades kindergarten, one and two at 10 to 15 of our most impacted schools. Some of these schools have a tremendous mobility factor; I’d to treat them like magnets and provide busing if (students) move, as many of them often do for various reasons, so they can continue at the same school.
What about the rest of the district?
I want schools to have flexibility. But one thing I think – and research says – all schools could benefit from is creating a sense of community by keeping cohorts of children together in kindergarten, first and second grades.
What about high schools?
I’d like every high school to offer at least 10 Advanced Placement courses. It’s not ethical to deny some students access to this curriculum.


“That’s Why it is Called a Grade Point Average”

Ms. Cornelius:

Like my new haircut?
I got it from the whirling blades of the latest helicopter parents to hover over my head now that the semester is inexorably subsiding like a California mudslide into the onslaught of finality which is known as “end of semester” time.
The question before us, ladies and gentlemen, is if it possible for Sugarplum to increase his semester average 8 percentage points in the next six school days. Never mind that Sugarplum has never come within sniffing distance of the grade that this parent has suddenly just plucked out of the ether as their “dream grade.”
Sugarplum has come to after school help sessions 4 times over the entire year. I speak to Sugarplum every single day after class for at least five minutes– or for as long as I can take his whining about how something is “not fair!” or his wheedling for me to increase his grade on the latest assignment because he “tried really hard”– as I have my planning period and Sugarplum has lunch. Never mind that I have to repeat every single thing I say to Sugarplum, and yet he still tells his mom that I never told him about deadlines. I actually like Sugarplum, since if you haven’t gotten to the point that you can tolerate this behavior, you would go batty as a teacher. But liking Sugarplum and buying the crock he’s selling are two different things.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz Tells Graduates To Have a Viewpoint — and to Stick by it

Susan Kinzie:

Leibovitz told the graduates of Corcoran to keep their eyes open.
“The artistic process is still about seeing. Things don’t stop unfolding in front of you. As you go out in the world, keep in mind the possibilities,” she said.
The photography majors, in particular, leave school with a new sense of perspective.
“Everything starts to look different through the lens,” Anthony said.
The best thing about her education, she said, was the exposure — to new ideas, new techniques, new artists.
The work of Leibovitz, Richard Avedon and other commercial photographers is usually the first thing photography students see, Anthony said, the first thing that gets them excited about the field. At school, Anthony learned about edgier, lesser-known artists, and she experimented with color and interactive pieces.

Violence & Drugs in Middle School?

Kamela Harris:

Last week, a 6-year-old boy brought a gun to Cleveland Elementary School in San Francisco. And that was only three weeks after an Oakland first-grader had his skull fractured by another student and a few days after a 17-year-old brought a semiautomatic pistol to Lowell High School.
It’s terrible when even one child has a gun, has drugs or gets violent in school, but apparently nearly half the students in some Bay Area elementary and middle schools are being suspended for this kind of conduct. On Monday, The Chronicle reported that some Bay Area elementary and middle schools suspend up to 40 percent of their students a year for drugs or violence.
This is an outrage. But school suspensions aren’t the problem; they’re a symptom of a much more serious problem. In some schools, guns, drugs and violence are becoming the norm. The students getting suspended are typically the same students who are chronically truant, end up dropping out and wind up in the criminal justice system. But they’re not the only ones at risk here. Every student in these schools is being robbed of the chance to learn. Students can’t learn when they’re worried that someone might bring a gun to class. Students can’t learn when fights are breaking out around them. Even bright, eager students can become truants or dropouts when they fall behind or get too scared to go to school.

Much Ado about Germantown School Referendum Do-Over

Mike Nichols:

The board wants to nullify the ballots of all the Germantown citizens who, just last month, voted 55% to 45% against a $16.5 million school referendum.
Unhappy with the results, the board is now considering a “do-over.”
It wants to schedule the exact same referendum in November it just staged in April – sort of a déjà screw.
Not everyone sees it that way, of course, as I found out when I opened my e-mail.
Today, I give a little space to the other side.

Mike Nichols previous article on Germantown’s referendum.

Texas English Standards Go Back to the Basics

Gary Sharrer:

For some board members, though, it came down to process and a different educational approach. The prevailing side wants grammar taught separately instead of incorporating it in the context of writing.
We believe you need to know those skills first, and then you can incorporate them into your writing,” said member Terri Leo, R-Spring. “We feel the other side thinks that you are going to learn things by osmosis, by just writing.”
The existing approach is not adequately preparing students for college, Leo said, noting the significant need for remedial work necessary before college students acquire basic writing skills.
Board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, said neither approach is particularly wrong nor right. “But you are going to vote for the one you believe in,” he said.
Leo said she and other board members represent more than teacher groups.
“My district, for the most part, supports going back to those basic skills,” she said.
The board voted unanimously in March on a tentative plan, calling for teachers and others to improve a document published in the Texas Register, which serves as the official bulletin of state agency rule-making.

Texas Education Agency.

School Budget Climate: City of Madison

Via Brenda Konkel:

Currently, there are two significant revenue categories of note:
1) Building Permit Revenues: These are way down, with revenues of just over $800K posted through the first quarter. Total posted receipts comprise only 17% of the total anticipated for the year. At a minimum, we’d like to see this at 20%, or 25%. The number of residential construction permits issued in the first quarter of ’08 is 51, versus 89 issued during the same period of 2007.
So, the softening continues, and our projections suggest revenues ranging from $2.8M to $3.5M for the year, as compared with $4.69M budgeted. If we use a mid-point of $3.2M, this suggests a revenue shortfall for the year of $1.5M for this category.

65% of the Madison School District’s Budget ($367M in 2008/2009) is generated from local property taxes.

Waukesha Considers Closing an Elementary School

Amy Hetzner

Now, School Board members say, it could be time to close one of the district’s 17 elementary schools.
“I hate to close schools,” board member Ellen Langill said. “But on the other hand, our enrollment’s been shrinking, too, with the demographics of people having fewer children and our schools having fewer students. In some ways, I think it’s overdue. It’s never an easy thing to do.”
Classroom space has opened up throughout the district with enrollment declines in recent years. According to the state Department of Public Instruction, between 1996-’97 and 2006-’07, the district lost 405 students in the elementary grades.
But much of that loss occurred early in the decade.

Waukesha’s Executive Director of Business Services will soon move to a similar position in Madison.

High School’s Worst Year?

Jonathan Kaufman:

Jennifer Glickman, a 17-year-old high school junior, gets so stressed some days from overwork and lack of sleep that she feels sick to her stomach and gets painful headaches.
A straight-A student, she recently announced at a college preparatory meeting with her mother and guidance counselor that she doesn’t want to apply to Princeton and the other Ivy League schools that her counselor thinks she could get into.
“My mom wants me to look at Ivy League schools, but my high school years have been so stressful that I don’t want to deal with that in college,” says Ms. Glickman. “I don’t want it to be such a competitive atmosphere. I don’t want to put myself in this situation again.”
High school has long been enshrined in popular culture — from the musical “Grease” to television shows like “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Friday Night Lights” — as a time of classes, sports and overwrought adolescent drama. But these days, junior year is the worst year in high school for many ambitious students aiming for elite and increasingly selective colleges — a crucible of academic pressure.

ACLU Lawsuit Against Kentucky Single Sex Classrooms

WORT’s 8 o’clock Buzz: Emily Marton of the ACLU on Sex Segregation in the Classroom Kentucky Public School. 30MB mp3 audio file. Interesting interview. Discussion topics include the lack of data to support the success of sex segregation in the classroom, curriculum reduction, and that “a lot of people would be shocked if they knew what their local school systems were doing”. Much more on the ACLU’s lawsuit here.

On behalf of five families, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky filed an amended complaint in federal court today charging that segregating classes by sex Breckinridge County Middle School is illegal and discriminatory. The ACLU’s lawsuit expands a previous lawsuit filed by a private attorney against the Breckinridge County School District and other county entities to include the U.S. Department of Education.
“The Breckinridge County sex-segregated classrooms are not only unlawful because they deny boys and girls equal opportunities in education these kinds of experimental programs are also misguided in that they distract from efforts that we know can improve all students’ education like improved funding, smaller classes, more parental involvement and better trained teachers,” said Emily Martin, Deputy Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Shaved Heads and Fund Raising for Becky Buchman at Madison’s Cherokee Middle School


The school year started with tragedy for Cherokee Middle School when their librarian was killed in an accident right in front of the school.
Friday, students and staff remembered Becky Buchman with a fundraiser in her honor.
Three students and nine staff members shaved their heads to raise funds for a memorial in honor of the beloved librarian.

Donations can be sent to

Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr.
Madison, WI 53711

Download (CTRL-Click) this mpeg4 video clip for your iPod, iPhone or other portable device.

Bold Etonians

Harry Eyres:

When I left Eton College, aged 17 in 1975, the headmaster Michael McCrum, a remote figure who had had very little impact on our lives over the past five years, presented each of us with a signed copy of the poems of Thomas Gray. At the time it seemed one of the most meaningless of the many arcane rituals and traditions that gave the school its peculiar flavour (the wearing of Victorian undertakers’ dress, the playing of bizarre games involving walls and mud, the private language).
Gray, author of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, wasn’t even the best old Etonian poet. But unfortunately Percy Bysshe Shelley was a rebel, an atheist and a proto-socialist advocate of free love – not the sort of man whose poems you hand out to teenagers.
But Gray did write “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, the poem that distils nostalgia for a carefree adolescence spent rowing and playing cricket near those “distant spires” and “antique towers which crown the watery glade”. The ode ends with the famous lines, “Where ignorance is bliss/ ’Tis folly to be wise,” which seem an unlikely advertising slogan for an expensive and exclusive seat of learning.

A Technological Fix For Education

Sramana Mitra:

Venture capitalists are chasing hot areas with planet-scale problems: energy, water, global warming. Industry legends, including John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, have become prominent spokesman for the issues and have pumped huge sums of capital into these markets.
In our enthusiasm for green, however, there’s a forgotten society and industry segment that remains woefully unaddressed–namely, education.
With the advent of social media, and with the revival of entrepreneurship and investments in consumer Internet services, technology-enabled education looks like a huge opportunity for wealth creation.
Why have entrepreneurs and investors ignored education? “The market is relatively tough to crack due to its seasonal nature and the dysfunctional sales cycle which results in wary investors,” says Edward Fields, chief executive of HotChalk, a free online community application that aims to connect teachers, students and parents from kindergarten through grade 12. Unlike many other efforts, HotChalk seems to be getting real traction.

My Divorce from the College Board

Nick Giulioni:

For two-plus years, the monopoly known as College Board has plagued my life. Whether it was the PSAT, AP tests, or the SAT, I have found myself preparing for, resting for or stressing over the tests this company convinces students they need to take. But last Thursday, I faced my last examination administered by College Board.
I was not sure exactly what to expect when I walked out of the AP literature exam. I didn’t know how I would feel when I finished that test, and my relationship with College Board. I didn’t know what I would do with my spare time, if not constantly checking the site for my scores.
But when I woke from my boredom-induced sleep (largely because of the three essays I was forced to write) and it was time to head out to an early lunch, I felt little of the relief that I expected.

Nonstop campus construction eats up education dollars

Andrea Neal:

Despite the economic downturn affecting the housing market, construction continues apace on Indiana’s college campuses. It’s little wonder. Public universities have little incentive to stop building.
That’s because most projects are paid for through debt financing: a buy-now, pay-later approach that spreads out costs over time and thus minimizes the impact on taxpayers and students.
It also masks long-term effects and contributes to the rising costs of higher education in Indiana. Since 2001, state appropriations for debt service have increased 66 percent while funding for university operating expenses has increased 22 percent.
“I think one of the hidden costs — multimillion-dollar costs people aren’t aware of at all — is debt servicing,” said Murray Sperber, professor emeritus at Indiana University. Sperber has written extensively about college sports and how they’ve diverted funds away from the core academic mission of big colleges.

Garden City New York School Board Seeks to Expand AP & International Baccalaureate Opportunities

Stephanie Mariel Petrellese:

The AB/IB Committee, co-chaired by Drs. Prendergast and Bacotti, and comprised of administrators, teachers and three parents, conducted a comprehensive study of the current AP program and researched the possibility of implementing the IB program. They then compared the two and presented their recommendations to the Board.
“It is clear that some of the issues that we realize are out there with AP programs may in fact be addressed by a rigorous IB program,” said School Board President Kenneth Monaghan. He gave the example of the study of world language. Many students do not pursue foreign language study at the AP level because the course and exam are recognized to be extremely difficult and students are concerned with how it might affect their overall grade point average.
“It’s not that the AP program is irrelevant. It’s not,” he continued. “Nor is it a matter of whether or not the IB program is more relevant. The question is whether or not the two together, or in combination, may balance out each other’s shortcomings and help us devise a program which has greater relevance for our students going forward, in particular for the vast majority of our students who are going on to collegiate work. We want to make sure that they are as prepared as possible.”
The committee will take their research to the next level by establishing contacts with other high-performing districts that are offering the IB program and expanding the number of parents on the committee. Committee members plan to attend a Guild of IB Schools of the Northeast orientation seminar in Commack on June 7th and file an official “Intent to Apply” interest form with the International Baccalaureate Organization. After they file the interest form, teachers and administrators will be allowed to attend professional development Level 1 workshops. The committee will report back to the Board in the fall.


I’m glad Garden City included three parents and some teachers on their AP/IB committee.

Raising African American Student Achievement: California Goals, Local Outcomes


alifornia’s nearly half-million African American students often get lost in the state’s policy debates about improving student achievement, in part because they represent less than 8% of the K-12 student population. This 24-page report asks:

  • How are African American students in California’s public school system doing?
  • What do we know about how and where these students are succeeding academically?
The report finds that although the academic achievement of the state’s African American students is improving, California educators and policymakers still have much to do to ensure that these students are served more effectively and consistently within the K-12 system. But the report also finds good reason to hope that this is possible. Behind the state-level numbers, African American student achievement varies widely across California districts and schools, with these students doing well academically in many places.

State curriculum on legalities of parenting coming to Texas high schools this fall

Karen Ayres Smith:

Do you know the difference between an “alleged father” and a “presumed father?” Your child soon will.
The Texas attorney general’s office has created a new parenting curriculum that will be required in every public high school this fall. It will cover everything from the legalese of paternity to dealing with relationship violence.
State officials say the goal is twofold: They want to teach teenage parents their legal rights and they want to show other students the difficulties of being a parent in hopes that they’ll wait to have children.
The program, which has already drawn some skepticism, promises to bring personal and family values out of the home and into the classroom.

Reports on Schools Cite Student Discontent

Bill Turque:

The question to a focus group of Dunbar High students was: What did they like best about going to school there?
“Freedom,” said one who takes Advanced Placement classes at the school in Northwest Washington. “We can do whatever we want at this school. That’s the only good thing about this place.”
At Green Elementary School in Southeast, one child urged: “Give us harder work, not the busywork that we already know.”
“They let us struggle,” a student at Lincoln Middle School in Northwest said of the teachers. “They let you know you are failing, but then let you go on struggling and then send you to summer school.”

Madison schools need to get real on equity, New value-added approach is needed for improving schools

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes, writing in this week’s Isthmus:

A couple of weeks ago in these pages, Marc Eisen had some harsh words for the work of the Madison school district’s Equity Task Force (“When Policy Trumps Results,” 5/2/09). As a new school board member, I too have some doubts about the utility of the task force’s report. Perhaps it’s to be expected that while Eisen’s concerns touch on theory and rhetoric, mine are focused more on the nitty-gritty of decision making.
The smart and dedicated members of the Equity Task Force were assigned an impossible task: detailing an equity policy for me and other board members to follow. Equity is such a critical and nuanced consideration in school board decisions that, to be blunt, I’m not going to let any individual or group tell me what to do.
I am unwilling to delegate my responsibility to exercise my judgment on equity issues to a task force, no matter how impressive the group. Just as one school board cannot bind a future school board’s policymaking, I don’t think that the deliberations of a task force can restrict my exercise of independent judgment.
Admittedly, the task force faced a difficult challenge. It was obligated by the nature of its assignment to discuss equity issues in the abstract and offer up broad statements of principle.
Not surprisingly, most of the recommendations fall into the “of course” category. These include “Distribute resources based on student needs” and “Foster high academic expectations for all students.” I agree.


Texas English Curriculum Controversy

Gary Scharrer:

Berlanga faults McLeroy for the way he has engineered the rewriting of the state’s English language arts and reading curriculum, which will go to the board for a final vote on Thursday.
She said McLeroy has ignored board instructions to Texas Education Agency staff by issuing separate dictates and deceived public school teachers, ignoring their recommendations in favor of out-of-state teachers in the development of new English language arts and reading standards.

“Legendary Madison West Girls Soccer Coach Retiring”

Dennis Semrau:

While the administrative headaches he has endured this year have played a huge factor in his decision to retire from coaching, Kaehler preferred to talk about why he enjoyed coaching a sport with which he didn’t become involved until he was an adult.
“I was a four-sport athlete. I played football, basketball and baseball and I ran track at Delavan-Darien High School. I’ve been involved in sports all my life and I played semi-pro basketball in Europe, in Grenoble, France,” he said. “I picked up the game of soccer in France. I was there six years and it took me about two years to appreciate the game. What I’ve always said is that soccer is a player’s sport. It’s not a coach’s sport.

Sun Prairie’s Classroom 2010 “Technology Standard”

Sun Prairie School District:

Classroom 2010 is our technology standard model for classrooms at the new Sun Prairie High School, and for our remodeled upper middle school, which will both open in the year 2010.
To inspire 21st Century learning in these schools, we are providing the following equipment:
Interactive White Board
Teacher Computer
Video Projector
Integrated amplification system
Wireless Infrared Microphone
Computer with DVD Player
5-12 student computers
VOIP telephone
ceiling mounted electrical outlets
Upgraded networking
Wireless network access

Some of these items will be obsolete the moment they are purchased. This article generated some discussion on the topic of technology & schools. Much more on schools & technology here. Related: Online education cast as “distruptive innovation”.

DC Teacher Contract Would End Seniority

V. Dion Haynes:

The Washington Teachers’ Union is discussing a proposed three-year contract from the school system that would eliminate seniority, giving Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee more control in filling vacancies, a union member familiar with the talks said yesterday.
Without seniority, Rhee could place teachers based on qualifications or performance rather than years of service, said the union member, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. The union member said Rhee sought the provision as a recruiting tool so she could offer talented candidates the position of their choice. She would be able to fill positions with less experienced teachers.
Under the proposed contract, teachers would give up seniority in exchange for annual raises of about 6 percent, more personal-leave days and more money for supplies, the union member said. In the last contract, which expired in the fall, teachers received a 10 percent raise over two years.
Rhee “does want to infuse some new blood [into the schools]. She wants to make it attractive for young people coming in to advance,” said the union member, adding that the union’s negotiating team will meet with her tomorrow or Friday. “We’ve come to realize we’re going to have to give in to her.”

The International Baccalaureate, Another Approach to Education

Patrick Hilbert:

The nearest alternative to the Higher School Certificate is the International Baccalaureate. Though it is expensive and considered exclusive, it proposes a wider programme.
LBIS is committed to offer its students an environment and a pedagogy that promotes interaction between pupils. They are not judged on comparison with others but on their own capacities.
Our secondary education system has been under continuous criticism as being too bookish, and not training young people to think out of the box and not preparing them both for university or working life. Out of the 189 secondary schools in Mauritius, only two – Northfields International High School and Le Bocage International School (LBIS) – offer an alternative programme for the last two years of secondary, which leads to the International Baccalaureate (IB). The only hitch is that it is very expensive and out of reach for many parents. The entry fee to LBIS is Rs 40 000 and the monthly school fees amount to Rs 10 000 while at Northfields, the fees are quite similar

Arizona School District Consolidation

Meghan Moravcik:

School districts that unify this fall will have an extra year to combine their governing boards, administration and finances under a bill signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.
New unification provisions would also phase out money that small school districts receive over four years, rather than taking it away all at once.
On Nov. 4, voters will decide whether to unify 76 elementary and high-school districts across the state into 27 new K-12 districts.

Rio School District Voters Approve a $1,270,000 Referendum


Voters in the Rio School District approved a referendum on Tuesday that some called a last-ditch effort to save the school district.
The referendum was to exceed the levy limits over the next three years for a total of $1,270,000.
The final vote was 627 to 340 in favor of the referendum.
Village leaders and business owners said the existence of the school ensures the small town’s survival.
“I’ve seen towns in other states that have lost schools and they’ve become ghost towns,” said resident Jennifer Wearne.
Wearne has two children in Rio schools.

Put School Curricula over Buildings

John Torinus:

The West Bend School Board, chastened by a two-to-one defeat of its $119 million referendum for improved facilities, is seeking input from the community on how to go forward.
To their credit, district leaders have done that all along. But they still missed the mark on gauging what the community wanted.
One thing is clear: just coming back at a slightly reduced total will probably not work. The margin of defeat was too large. So, some creative thinking is needed.
My own guess is that the referendum failed on two counts: its sheer size in dollars was too much for taxpayers to swallow and it lacked vision.
It’s hard to get excited about bricks, mortar and maintenance, necessary as they are.
It would be exciting, though, to come up with a program of study that would allow our young people to compete better in the globalizing world.
A stunning new book, “The Post-American World,” by Fareed Zakaria, a Newsweek columnist and perhaps the most insightful journalist in the country, outlines the challenges facing the United States and its next generations.
He calls it “The Rise of the Rest” and generally says the rise into prosperity of other countries can be a positive for America if we react in the right way.

Wineke: Teachers often inspiration for the successful

Bill Wineke:

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds, perhaps thousands, of successful men and women.
I almost always ask the same question: What is it in your life that made the difference? What caused you to end up where you are now, rather than someplace else.
My favorite answer came from a very successful Madison businessman, who spent a few minutes extolling the virtues of hard work and can-do attitude and, then, asked “you do know that I married the owner’s daughter, don’t you?”
Most often, however, the answer I get is some variation of this: “Well, there was this teacher. . .”
There was this teacher who convinced me that mathematics could be fun. There was this teacher who took the time to help me repair my car. There was this teacher who dug into her own pocket when she observed that I couldn’t see the blackboard and bought me a pair of glasses.

Leaving Too Many Boys Behind & The Facts About Gender Equity in Education

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

When the State Journal this week published the list of the top 4 percent of this year ‘s graduating seniors from Dane County high schools, girls outnumbered boys by nearly two to one.
That academic gender gap highlights a national problem with costly consequences: Boys are falling behind in the American educational system.
The dominance of girls among high school honors students is only the tip of the problem. The most alarming aspect is the scarcity of men earning college degrees.
Since 1970, the number of women enrolling in college has risen three times faster than the number of men.
Women now receive 60 percent of all associate, bachelor ‘s and master ‘s degrees.

American Association of University Women:

Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education presents a comprehensive look at girls’ educational achievement during the past 35 years, paying special attention to the relationship between girls’ and boys’ progress. Analyses of results from national standardized tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the SAT and ACT college entrance examinations, as well as other measures of educational achievement, provide an overall picture of trends in gender equity from elementary school to college and beyond.

Valeria Strauss has more.

Promoting Science Education – in India

Sakshi Khattar:

Students these days are keen to pursue engineering rather than medicine. A few dream of becoming scientists at an early age, but by the time they grow up, they want to become engineers. “Interest in medicine is falling and students don’t want to pursue medicine and rather go for engineering, mainly due to socio-economic reasons,” observes Dilip Kumar Bedi, principal, Apeejay School, Pitampura.
Most educators feel that an interest in science education is gradually declining among students. To this end, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has recently proposed setting up of a mission, headed by the Prime Minister to transform the entire scenario of science education and research in the country. The commission has suggested that a science and mathematics mission be constituted with a team of 40-50 ‘brightest of the bright’ Indian scientists and mathematicians below the age of 45 years. Furthermore, the NKC said that such an initiative would be effective only if it is launched across the country covering every school, college, university and institution.

More on Madison’s Leopold Elementary School Overcrowding

Tamira Madsen:

Over the last six weeks, Assistant Superintendent Sue Abplanalp and Chief Information Officer Kurt Kiefer have created an array of options based on research and surveys of faculty and parents. The options include remodeling classrooms, increasing the size of fourth-grade classes, relocating the computer lab to the library, or incorporating music and art in one classroom, since each room currently is scheduled for use only 50 percent of the school day. The project to remodel and reconfigure the classrooms would cost $20,000.
The administration will decide on one of several available options, and Abplanalp anticipates that decision will be made in the next few weeks.
But teachers and parents have hopes for a much broader solution for the school, which serves a large number of students in nearby apartments.

Many notes and links on proposed Leopold changes.

Aiming to Coach Students to Excellence in Exams

Winnie Hu:

LIKE a football coach before a big game, James Carlo, a vice principal at the Newton Street School, ticked off last-minute pointers to a group of 32 middle-school students hunkered silently around folding metal tables in the cafeteria.
Do not waste time. Do not get distracted. Do not get nervous.
“Please, please, please pull up what strength you have and what concentration you have and just attack that test,” Mr. Carlo told the students on a recent Wednesday morning. “It shouldn’t just be all the schools and districts around us that are scoring high on this test.”
As public schools everywhere gear up for the annual state assessments, few others have as much to prove — or as much at stake. Newton, with 500 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, has come under escalating sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law because many of its students have scored below proficiency on the standardized test known as NJ ASK, which covers language arts, math and science. It is one of only 4 schools in this city — and among 38 schools in New Jersey, 57 in New York and 6 in Connecticut — that have missed testing benchmarks for seven consecutive years and now risk being shut down or overhauled if there is no sign of improvement.

‘Hands-on’ science teaching gains momentum in Wisconsin

Karyn Saemann:

In an approach based in Green Bay that has spread down the Lake Michigan shoreline, about 40 Wisconsin districts (though not Madison) belong to a consortium called the Einstein Project, a nonprofit group that buys the kits from publishers, leases them for a nominal fee to schools and arranges teacher training on their use.
Hailed as a national model by the National Science Teachers Association, the Einstein Project began on a shoestring and now has 10 employees, two kit warehouses and a $1 million annual budget supported by the rental fees, year-round fundraising and private and corporate backing.
But critics of the hands-on movement charge that without textbooks and the structured reading, teacher-driven learning and broad memorization of facts that traditionally define classroom science, kids are being short-changed on core knowledge.
A major fight over science curriculum in California got national attention in 2004, as the state weighed a proposal to allow no more than 25 percent of science classroom time for hands-on activities. But in an abrupt reversal after intense debate, the adopted standard reads that at least 25 percent of science classroom time has to be hands-on.
Stanley Metzenberg, an assistant biology professor from California State University-Northridge, said in congressional testimony that reading is critical for scientists and that children are best served through traditional textbooks and teacher-directed instruction.

Words on pages can be powerful tools — if used correctly.

Jessa Crispin:

It starts when you’re in the first grade. All of a sudden, reading is no longer this exciting thing you just figured out how to do, it has become “good for you.” You’re given free books through a program that says Reading Is Fun-damental, way before any of your teachers will tell you what “fundamental” means. Soon after you’re bribed with a free pizza from Pizza Hut if you can finish five whole books. The message is clear: reading is not something you’re supposed to enjoy, it’s something that will make you a better person.
It continues on into adulthood. We’re given continuous updates on the state of reading in our country as if it were the unemployment rate. Orlando Bloom shows up on posters in libraries, holding a book that you’re slightly surprised to see is right side up. “Read!” he tells us. Read, and you can be as effeminate as he is. If you’re the type of person who enjoys reading — and not just enjoys it, but takes four books on a five-hour flight just in case you finish one and then your back up book isn’t as compelling as you thought it would be and the thought of not having reading material fills you with dread — all of this can be confusing. I would get a lot more reading done if you would stop yelling in my ear about how important reading is, thank you very much.

School votes come amid economic woes, investigations

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher:

On Tuesday, voters will decide the fates of school budgets across Long Island. Most will be asked to support or reject spending increases that would inflate taxes during trying economic times of soaring gas and food prices.
“I think we are in a recession. In general, it’s impacting all of us,” said Donna Jones, superintendent of the Brentwood district, whose $295 million budget proposal is the largest on Long Island. “We know that these are challenging times.”
But she is hopeful voters will see the worth of new initiatives such as the implementation of a nine-period day for middle schools and the freshman center, and the creation of an online system where parents can track student records, such as report cards and attendance.
Compounding economic worries is the state attorney general’s subpoenas of all 124 Long Island districts over the issue of “double-dipping” – previously-retired administrators receiving salaries on top of hefty pensions after returning to work.

Vietnam School Reform

Vietnamnet Bridge:

Vietnam is developing the UNICEF ‘friendlier school’ model to boost primary education
Vietnam will expand UNICEF’s “Friendlier School” model across the nation. The concept, which has already been applied experimentally, has been found to improve educational quality and help students enjoy studying, said Nguyen Thien Nhan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training.
The minister was speaking at a ceremony yesterday to launch a campaign to extend the model developed at Van Phuc secondary school in Ha Dong City in the northern province of Ha Tay.
The model’s purpose is to create a safer, fairer educational environment, attract students to study, ensure their rights and improve teaching quality. Creating an interesting educational environment is focused on keeping students from being bored so that they can enjoy their studies.
“Being friendlier is also a good way of preventing students from leaving schools,” said Associate Professor Tran Kieu, former director of the Institute of Educational Sciences.
Recently, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) released a report showing that by March, 2008, about 147,000 students had quit school.
One of the 10 reasons given was the rigid and uninspiring teaching environment that had limited students’ interest in studying.

NJ Assembly OKs ending school budget votes, moving elections

Tom Hester, Jr.:

Public votes on school budgets would be eliminated and April school board elections moved to November under a bill approved Monday by the state Assembly.
The bill, hailed as a vital election reform by backers and antidemocratic by critics, was pushed by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr. was approved 45-31.
It comes after this year’s school election drew just 14 percent of voters. No school election in the past 25 years has topped 20 percent turnout.
“I know one thing for sure, and that is that our current system that elects school board members is a system that’s broken and needs to be fixed,” said Roberts, D-Camden.
New Jersey is the only state where voters in most districts can give direct approval to their entire school property tax bill. The average homeowner in the state pays about $6,800 per year in property taxes _ the highest in the nation _ and schools get the largest share.
The bill would eliminate budget votes, except on spending that exceeds a 4 percent cap on tax levy increases.

What’s in an education? It’s about how to think, not about how to do.

Rodger Lewis:

Esther Jantzen’s article, “Literacy begins at home” provides an excellent explanation of what parents can’t or won’t do by themselves.
However, I greatly fear that, unlike Alexander Pope’s warning that “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” our leadership prefers a little learning, but not too much. American consumerism supports the oligarchic wealth that rules this country. And a truly well-educated majority, well-versed in history, might threaten the “greed is good” axiom that has enslaved so many by seductive credit options.

California’s STaR Test

Jason Song:

The high-stakes state exams measure campus’ achievement each year. Getting students to show up is a major concern; dull pencils and the wrong type of scratch paper can create havoc as well.
Five-foot-two Erica O’Brien pushes a tall stack of gray cartons across the floor, straining as if they were full of coal, not tests. The office on the top floor of Banning High School is stuffy, even though it’s only 6 a.m. But when the phone rings, O’Brien answers affably.
“Penthouse,” she says.
That’s what life is like these days for testing coordinators such as O’Brien. After weeks of preparing in the background, they suddenly become the most important person on campus. Students across the state last week took high-stakes standardized tests, which can bring a school glory through improved test scores, or, in the worst-case scenario, state sanctions. To make sure the tests go smoothly, O’Brien distributes tests, sharpens pencils and deals with the unexpected.
There’s a note next to her computer screen that reads “Vomit.”
“A kid threw up on his test, so we had to find him a new one. Poor guy,” O’Brien explained.

Democrats for School Choice

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

When Florida passed a law in 2001 creating the Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program for underprivileged students, all but one Democrat in the state legislature voted against it. Earlier this month, lawmakers extended the program – this time with the help of a full third of Democrats in the Legislature, including 13 of 25 members of the state’s black caucus and every member of the Hispanic caucus. What changed?
Our guess is that low-income parents in Florida have gotten a taste of the same school choice privileges that middle- and upper-income families have always enjoyed. And they’ve found they like this new educational freedom. Under the scholarship program, which is means-tested, companies get a 100% tax credit for donations to state-approved nonprofits that provide private-school vouchers for low-income families

He Gets His Old Room but Not for Free, Not Forever

Michelle Singletary:

They’re coming home.
Many parents already know this, but after four, perhaps five or even six years of school, many college graduates — faced with a tight job market, higher gas and food costs, and mountainous debt — have no choice but to move home to get their financial bearings.
And you know what?
Despite assurances that they will stay for only a little while, this time next year many of those graduates will still be living at home. That’s what MonsterTrak found in its annual nationwide survey of college students, recent graduates and entry-level employers.
Continuing a three-year trend, just under half of prospective graduates, 48 percent, plan to boomerang — or move home — after graduation, according to the online career resource company.

Obesity Threatens a Generation

Susan Levine & Rob Stein:

In ways only beginning to be understood, being overweight at a young age appears to be far more destructive to well-being than adding excess pounds later in life. Virtually every major organ is at risk. The greater damage is probably irreversible.
Doctors are seeing confirmation of this daily: boys and girls in elementary school suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and painful joint conditions; a soaring incidence of type 2 diabetes, once a rarity in pediatricians’ offices; even a spike in child gallstones, also once a singularly adult affliction. Minority youth are most severely affected, because so many are pushing the scales into the most dangerous territory.
With one in three children in this country overweight or worse, the future health and productivity of an entire generation — and a nation — could be in jeopardy.

Words of Advice for the Class of ’08 and Beyond

Dan Zak:

We give them at the start of things and at the end of things. Toasts at weddings. Eulogies at funerals. A college graduation, both the end of one era and the start of another, gets the mother of all speeches: the commencement address. This is where a graduate summons his best prose to motivate peers, where a famous person drops in to provide last-minute dispatches from the real world, all in an effort to pack inspirational gunpowder into a cannon about to hurtle an entire class into its future.
Speech: You’ll do fine! Here’s your diploma. Boom.
This is happening all over the country this month, and we’re in the thick of commencement season here. Washington area colleges are catapulting armies of graduates into a tightening job market and a wintry economic climate. It’s a hostile world, and maybe it always has been. But it’s the commencement speakers’ duty to herald the light at the end of the tunnel, even if Social Security is gone by the time the audience gets there.
Chins up, though. For those of us already out in the real world, and for collegians hungry to soak up some more inspiration, we picked the brains of seven people who spoke or were scheduled to speak at area schools. Read on to hear from them.

Teacher questions Muslim practices at charter school

Katherine Kersten:

Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.
Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.
TIZA has many characteristics that suggest a religious school. It shares the headquarters building of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, whose mission is “establishing Islam in Minnesota.” The building also houses a mosque. TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, is a Muslim imam, or religious leader, and its sponsor is an organization called Islamic Relief.

The Netherlands – A Proper Emphasis on Vocational Education

Open Education:

Today we wrap up our four-part series on education in the Netherlands with a final look at the vocational training track available to students. Whereas in America we continue to try and force feed students of all abilities and interests through a high school program that is almost entirely academic-based, the Dutch school system has created an extremely viable option for students who prefer hands on learning and a career in the skilled trades.
Though we have used the term track to refer to this option, particularly since students are assigned to one of the secondary school options based on test results and performance at the primary level, it should be noted that the model does not mirror American school tracking. Instead of students essentially taking the same classes as they progress through school but being placed in those classes based on ability (the American tracking system), the Dutch offer both different programming and outcome expectations for the various tracks.
There is an understanding that students may not be able to (or for that matter, want to) pursue academics at a university. More importantly, there is an understanding that students who do not attend such a post-secondary option must develop specific labor skills to have some form of work option available to them. Yet, even within that component of studies there is additional delineation between those who will become laborers and those who will become designers, administrators and even company owners.

Fuel costs sting Dallas-area school districts

Matthew Haag:

Area school districts are finding ways to cut costs as fuel prices soar. Some are taking shorter field trips. Others prohibit bus drivers from idling. And some are raising prices in the lunch line.
“Fuel costs trickle on through everything,” said Tony Harkleroad, a Richardson ISD administrator. “We either have to cut other things within our budget to cover cost increases like this, or we have to find other ways to raise revenue.”

Perhaps increasing fuel costs are a benefit for expanded virtual learning opportunities.

Latin, prayers, chilly dorms at school in France

Lisa Essex:

Learning Latin, attending Catechism and hurrying along draughty corridors to prayer, two dozen boys are experiencing old-fashioned British boarding school life — deep in the French countryside.
Boxing, folk-dancing and Gregorian chant also figure on the curriculum at Chavagnes International College, a traditional Catholic English boys’ boarding school in the Vendee wine-growing region on France’s Atlantic coast.
Housed in a 200-year-old former seminary in a region marked by France’s wars of religion in the mid-16th century, it says it attracts parents who are disillusioned by the British state school system or the values of modern life.
The fees are also significantly cheaper than in Britain, at 15,000 euros (11,800 pounds) for boarders per year compared with an average of about 22,000 sterling in Britain, according to figures from the Independent Schools Council.