How I Got Here: Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Dennis Nishi:

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey grew up with two parents who were also opinionated doctors that often brought work into their Seattle home. She followed their lead, and upon graduating from Harvard University, began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Her specialty: geriatrics. She later chaired several federal advisory committees including a White House task force on healthcare reform. Today she is the first African-American – and the first woman — to head the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropy dedicated to health care in the U.S. Despite a full schedule, she also practices medicine at a community health clinic in New Jersey. Writer Dennis Nishi spoke with Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey about her career path. Edited excerpts follow.

Time to Eliminate Taj Mahal School Building Projects

Open Education:

As education expenses continue to grow, strapped taxpayers have begun pushing back on state and local governments. In the tiny State of Maine, many school districts are finding that passing a school budget for the upcoming school year a sincere challenge.
Even the tiny town of Monmouth, home to one of Maine’s finest public school systems, has seen such a rebellion, leaving school officials without a school budget for 2008-09. With another school year set to begin in less than a month’s time, Monmouth finds itself in an extremely challenging position.

The Biggest Issue

David Brooks:

Why did the United States become the leading economic power of the 20th century? The best short answer is that a ferocious belief that people have the power to transform their own lives gave Americans an unparalleled commitment to education, hard work and economic freedom.
Between 1870 and 1950, the average American’s level of education rose by 0.8 years per decade. In 1890, the average adult had completed about 8 years of schooling. By 1900, the average American had 8.8 years. By 1910, it was 9.6 years, and by 1960, it was nearly 14 years.
As Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz describe in their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” America’s educational progress was amazingly steady over those decades, and the U.S. opened up a gigantic global lead. Educational levels were rising across the industrialized world, but the U.S. had at least a 35-year advantage on most of Europe. In 1950, no European country enrolled 30 percent of its older teens in full-time secondary school. In the U.S., 70 percent of older teens were in school.
In “Schools, Skills and Synapses,” Heckman probes the sources of that decline. It’s not falling school quality, he argues. Nor is it primarily a shortage of funding or rising college tuition costs. Instead, Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years.


Michigan High-School Students Will Have Increased Chances to Develop Science and Engineering Skills

Business Wire:

To help meet the economic and business challenges ahead and retain Michigan’s position as the state with the highest percentage of engineers in the nation, Michigan high-school students will get significantly increased chances to develop critically needed engineering, science and math skills in 2009, thanks to a restructuring of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Michigan.
“Although it is impossible to predict the future, including the economic opportunities and challenges Michigan may face, it is clear that to re-energize our economy we need more than a favorable business tax environment and financial incentives alone,” said Bloomfield, Mich. resident and FIRST in Michigan Director, Francois Castaing.
“We need a steady flow of new engineers and technicians who will help existing and new industries tackle international competition and environmental challenges,” he continued. “Michigan needs the next Larry Page to start another Google or to invent a new fuel from crab grass.”

History Books

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
29 July 2008
Katherine Kersten tells me that at Providence Academy in Plymouth, Minnesota, high school history students are required to read James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom [946 pages] and Paul Johnson’s History of the American People [1,104 pages] in their entirety.
It seems likely to me that when these students get to college and find reading lists in their courses in History, Political Science, Economics, and the like, which require them to read nonfiction books, they will be somewhat ready for them, having read at least two serious nonfiction books in their Lower Education years.
For the vast majority of our public secondary students this may not be the case. As almost universally, the assignment of reading and writing is left up to the English departments in the high schools, most students now read only novels and other fiction.
While the National Endowment for the Arts has conducted a $300,000 study of the pleasure reading habits of young people and others, no foundation or government agency, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, has show an interest in asking whether our secondary students read one complete nonfiction book before graduation and if so, what book would it be?


Kalamazoo’s lesson: Educate and they will come

Jeff Bennett:

More than a year ago, Kaiser Aluminum Corp. was looking for a spot to build an $80 million office-and-research center that would employ 150 workers.
After considering cities in three different states, the maker of aluminum products settled on Kalamazoo, Mich., a once-prosperous manufacturing city that had lost thousands of jobs in the last decade or so.
One of the draws: The Kalamazoo Promise, a program that provides at least partial college tuition to all graduating seniors who spent their high-school years in the city’s public schools.
Just as Kaiser was gearing up its search, a group of wealthy philanthropists who have remained anonymous unveiled the Promise as a gift to the city. The lure of the program as a benefit for Kaiser employees, and its potential to produce a highly educated work force, proved a big attraction, says Martin Carter, vice president and general manager of common alloy products at Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based Kaiser.

The Greatest Scandal

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation’s greatest scandal. The differences between the two Presidential candidates on this could hardly be more stark. John McCain is calling for alternatives to the system; Barack Obama wants the kids to stay within that system. We think the facts support Senator McCain.
“Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent and diplomas that open doors of opportunity,” said Mr. McCain in remarks recently to the NAACP. “When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children.” Some parents may opt for a better public school or a charter school; others for a private school. The point, said the Senator, is that “no entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.”
Mr. McCain cited the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally financed school-choice program for disadvantaged kids signed into law by President Bush in 2004. Qualifying families in the District of Columbia receive up to $7,500 a year to attend private K-12 schools. To qualify, a child must live in a family with a household income below 185% of the poverty level. Some 1,900 children participate; 99% are black or Hispanic. Average annual income is just over $22,000 for a family of four.

Hearing scheduled on English education Funding

Paul Davenport:

A federal judge in Phoenix has scheduled a wide-ranging November hearing on the adequacy and funding of Arizona’s programs for educating students who are learning English.
In the meantime, U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins on Friday left intact a state mandate that school districts begin using a new instructional model that many districts contend is inadequately funded.

Milwaukee-area high schools strive for Newsweek ranking

Amy Hetzner:

Few could call Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School shy about divulging how it stacks up on Newsweek magazine’s annual report on the nation’s best public high schools.
“Newsweek: Top-Ranked School in Wisconsin” blares the headline on the school’s Web site, with a link to the magazine’s site and a rundown on how Rufus King has topped other Wisconsin schools in previous years of comparisons.
This honor distinguishes the school, Rufus King Principal Marie Newby-Randle says in a written statement on the Web site, and it proves its students “are truly among the brightest and the best.”
Colleges have their U.S. News & World Report rankings.
American high schools have the Challenge Index.

The only Madison area high school to make the list was Verona at #808.
Related: Dane County, WI AP Course Offerings.

Changed lives

Patrick McIlheran:

Ahmad Hattix looks preoccupied as he is about to be relaunched.
It could be because he has spectators – his father, his fiancée, young children bouncing around in a hallway at Gateway Technical College in Racine, where he’s about to graduate. Maybe he’s just eager to get moving.
Which happens. People assemble around tables, officials speak, men come up to receive certificates. Hattix, now smiling, makes several trips, as he has not only graduated but has earned some other honors. He is a changed man.
Hattix has been changed by technical education, by Gateway’s “boot camp” in the sort of high-end computerized metalworking called CNC machining. Hattix, 31, of Racine has a prison record and practically no job experience. But thanks to the boot camp, he has bright prospects. As of his graduation July 18, he already has a job offer in Kenosha.

Why I Am a TV Loser

Jay Matthews:

Compton is a successful high-tech entrepreneur who made himself into an first-rate polemicist. His one-hour documentary film, “Two Million Minutes,” pushes our most sensitive cultural buttons. He argues that kids in India and China are studying much harder than U.S. students. In the film he chronicles two fun-loving teens in Carmel, Ind., an affluent Indianapolis suburb, and shows how little attention they pay to their homework compared to two students of similar age in China and two in India.
I interviewed Compton and responded to his film twice, in a Feb. 11 column and in a piece in the spring issue of the Wilson Quarterly. I confessed I, too, was distressed to see, in his film, Carmel High’s Brittany Brechbuhl watching “Grey’s Anatomy” on television with her friends while they were allegedly doing their math homework. I said I agreed we had to fix our high schools, not because of the threat of international competition but to end the shame of having millions of low-income students drop out and fail to get the education they deserve. I said I admired Compton’s consistency in insisting that his daughters spend more time on their studies just as he wants all American teens to do.

California school districts ending or reducing bus service for students

Seema Mehta:

Thousands more California students will have to find their own way to school this fall, as districts slash bus routes to cope with budget shortfalls and high fuel costs.
Critics worry that the cuts will increase traffic around schools, shift costs to parents already struggling with rising gas prices and prompt more absenteeism, hurting students’ academic achievement. But paramount is the fear that the reductions will endanger students as more walk or drive to school.
“All the parents, we’ve been scrambling to try to work out carpools,” said Wayne Tate, whose second-grader’s bus to Castille Elementary, two miles from their home in Mission Viejo, was eliminated. “For somebody that young, that’s a pretty long way to walk or ride a bike. All you need is one kid getting hit to realize that maybe the [savings] wasn’t worth it.”
Districts say they have no choice.

Out of Sight

Pamela Colloff:

For the 140 students lucky enough to attend the Texas School for the Blind, life is about team sports, class plays, American Idol parties, and prom night. In fact, it’s the one place where they can see themselves for who they really are: typical teenagers.
Three days before the prom at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I stopped by House 573, a small girls’ dormitory on the school’s campus, in Austin. Tammy Reed, House 573’s sturdy, perpetually good-natured dorm manager—beloved for, among other things, her Tuesday night American Idol viewing parties, which include running commentary and hot wings—was telling me why the prom was the most thrilling night of the year for her girls. “Blind students usually don’t get asked to the prom,” she said as we sat at the kitchen table, which had been taken over by curling irons, cans of hair spray, bobby pins, Q-tips, nail polish, and costume jewelry. “And if they go to the prom, they end up standing against the wall. Everyone comes to our prom, and there won’t be a kid there who doesn’t dance.”

In Cambodia, learning the lessons of graft

Don Lee:

Before leaving for Chompovon Primary School on the outskirts of the capital, students say, their parents give them 10 to 15 cents of pocket money. That’s enough to buy some breakfast cakes and rice — and pay their teachers a few cents before they walk into class.
The fee, a widespread practice in Cambodia’s public schools, is a kind of informal toll that students must pay. If they don’t, parents say, they risk receiving a lower grade or even being demoted.
Here, schoolchildren are taught at an early age what it takes to get ahead. And it only gets worse as they grow up. At every turn, Cambodians pay under the table: for a birth certificate, a travel visa, a fair ruling from a judge.
Transparency International, a corruption-fighting organization based in Berlin, says the majority of Cambodia’s public servants earn their living by collecting bribes.

The Final Bell:
Is closing an underperforming high school part of the solution to what ails our public education system—or part of the problem?

Paul Burka:

Seven years ago, I watched my daughter, Janet, receive her diploma from Johnston High School, in East Austin. No parent will ever do that again: In June, Johnston ceased to exist. A few days before this year’s graduation ceremony, Texas education commissioner Robert Scott informed the Austin Independent School District that he was invoking the nuclear option authorized by the Texas Education Code to close the school after five consecutive years of “academically unacceptable” performances on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. Scores improved this year, but not enough to save the school. State rules mandate that three fourths of Johnston’s teachers and half of its students be reassigned when the 2008—2009 academic year begins (some students and teachers can opt to remain at the current campus, which will be “repurposed”). The Johnston name will be expunged, and AISD must produce a plan for some sort of educational triage.
I was saddened to read about Johnston’s fate—but not surprised. For almost two years I had served on its campus advisory council (CAC) with other parents, teachers, administrators, and representatives of the community. I knew Johnston’s problems all too well. In one of my first meetings, we learned that 50 percent of the freshman class had failed all four core courses (English, math, science, social studies) the previous year. In an educational environment dominated by high-stakes testing, Johnston got the black mark, but the roots of the problem reached back into the elementary and middle schools that had failed to prepare their students for high school.

Big change for welfarist Sweden: School choice

Malin Rising:

Schools run by private enterprise? Free iPods and laptop computers to attract students?
It may sound out of place in Sweden, that paragon of taxpayer-funded cradle-to-grave welfare. But a sweeping reform of the school system has survived the critics and 16 years later is spreading and attracting interest abroad.
“I think most people, parents and children, appreciate the choice,” said Bertil Ostberg, from the Ministry of Education. “You can decide what school you want to attend and that appeals to people.”
Since the change was introduced in 1992 by a center-right government that briefly replaced the long-governing Social Democrats, the numbers have shot up. In 1992, 1.7 percent of high schoolers and 1 percent of elementary schoolchildren were privately educated. Now the figures are 17 percent and 9 percent.
In some ways the trend mirrors the rise of the voucher system in the U.S., with all its pros and cons. But while the percentage of children in U.S. private schools has dropped slightly in recent years, signs are that the trend in Sweden is growing.

Woman to coach Fennimore varsity boys

Tyler Mason:

When Allison Meyer was a forward on the Fennimore High School girls basketball team in the mid-1990s, all eyes were on her. On her way to winning all-conference honors her sophomore through senior seasons, Meyer ‘s play turned quite a few heads.
Now, she ‘s back at her alma mater turning heads again — for a different reason.
Earlier this summer, the 29-year-old Meyer was named Fennimore boys varsity basketball coach. She will replace Mark Fifrick, who stepped down after 12 seasons.
Fifrick approached Meyer — who coached the school ‘s junior varsity boys team the past two years — and encouraged her to go after the job.

OSU to sponsor proposed Tulsa charter school

April Marciszewski:

Oklahoma State University has agreed to sponsor a proposed charter high school in Tulsa that would recruit juniors and seniors from across the state to study arts and other subjects “through the lens of art,” as leaders described it.
The Oklahoma School for the Visual and Performing Arts is still seeking the Legislature’s approval to create the school and to fund about $5 million annually for operations, said David Downing, the school’s co-chairman with his father-in-law, John Brock, a retired Tulsa oilman and philanthropist.
Leaders plan to raise $20 million in private donations to pay for land, buildings and equipment, Downing said.
The school would be the artistic equivalent of the Ok-lahoma School for Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City.

Dear Parents: Please Relax, It’s Just Camp

Tina Kelley:

A dozen 9-year-old girls in jelly-bean-colored bathing suits were learning the crawl at Lake Bryn Mawr Camp one recent morning as older girls in yellow and green camp uniforms practiced soccer, fused glass in the art studio or tried out the climbing wall.
Their parents, meanwhile, were bombarding the camp with calls: one wanted help arranging private guitar lessons for her daughter, another did not like the sound of her child’s voice during a recent conversation, and a third needed to know — preferably today — which of her daughter’s four varieties of vitamins had run out. All before lunch.
Answering these and other urgent queries was Karin Miller, 43, a stay-at-home mother during the school year with a doctorate in psychology, who is redefining the role of camp counselor. She counsels parents, spending her days from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. printing out reams of e-mail messages to deliver to Bryn Mawr’s 372 female campers and leaving voice mail messages for their parents that always begin, “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just returning your call.”

Will West High School’s Tierney Chamberlain “Get In the Picture”?

West High School senior Tierney Chamberlain is one of six East Coast finalists in the reality-t.v. show “High School Musical: Get In the Picture.” Watch the performance that moved her from semi-finalist to finalist.
As many of you surely know, Tierney has a huge and amazing voice. Check out this 2006 video of her singing the national anthem. Tierney was last seen in the role of Cassie in West’s spring, 2008, production of “A Chorus Line.”
Tierney, our hats are off to you back here in Madison, not just at West, but all over town. You are an AMAZING talent. We’re rooting for you all the way!

Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce supports education sales tax

Bryant Steele:

The board of directors of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously Thursday to support the third phase of the special purpose, local option sales tax for education.
Floyd County citizens will go to the polls on Sept. 16 to vote on SPLOST III.
“Rome and Floyd County have a commitment to offering superior educational opportunities for our children,” said Randy Quick, chairman of the Chamber board and general manager of South 107. “Education is often identified by current employers as necessary to their continuation of business.”
Quick said prospective businesses and industries exploring expansion and relocation to Rome and Floyd County look at the educational opportunities offered.

Attention all faculty and staff: The principal is out of the building. Again.

Ray Cox:

I thoroughly enjoy working for my principal. He’s a great guy, has a no-nonsense approach to dealing with discipline and doesn’t try to micromanage the staff. He’s not perfect (e.g. he still requires me to wear a tie), but after reading all of the comments about other principals, he does an outstanding job. That said, I would very much enjoy to see him more at school, not off at DISD-mandated principals’ meetings.
Now, I don’t know the exact number he has gone to meetings across Dallas, but it’s often more than once a week, and usually half a day or longer. He tries to make it every morning, give the announcements, meet with parents, etc., but then he’s off in a flash to learn about some new initiative, see how our OHI scores are faring, or TAKS test security guidelines. And when we hit the AYP list the first time, he was gone almost twice as much. I’ve yet to see the man take a day off and I wonder how he maintains his sanity sitting in meetings all the time.


Bulleh Bablitch:

Local brat/hot dog sale donates proceeds to Project Liberia
WHAT: A good ol’ fashioned Wisconsin cookout, complete with brats, hot dogs and soda,
will donate proceeds to Project Liberia , a burgeoning non-profit organization, dedicated to helping children and families in Liberia , West Africa recover from a devastating civil war.
WHEN: Saturday, July 26 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
WHERE: Super Wal-Mart 2101 Royal Ave., Monona
WHO: Supporters of Project Liberia and Sports for Africa
WHY: 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.

Bulleh Bablitch, Project Liberia, Inc. 608-577-6711

Who’s better at math? Subtract gender

Emily Johns:

Scores from 7 million students nationwide show that girls and boys do equally well on tests. But Minnesota’s high school girls still lag.
When it comes to math scores, high school girls are measuring up, reports a national study challenging the persistent notion that boys are naturally better with numbers.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison study released Thursday in the journal Science reported that, overall, U.S. girls and boys got equal math scores, from second through 11th grades. The results of the study, the largest of its kind, represented marked improvement over a 1990 study showing measurable differences in complex problem-solving, starting in high school.

The Odd World of E-School Teachers

Ian Shapira:

For Trinity Wilbourn, teaching high school via the Internet offers a heartening and maddening prism into the teenage mind-set.
Sitting one day at her home office overlooking a golf course, the Prince William County teacher received a snarky comment in all capital letters from a devil-may-care summer school student. But the next moment, she marveled at another male student’s frank e-mail: “[W]hen I first went to high school, I did not know who I was for awhile. . . . I tried being someone I could not be.”
“I feel like, what kind of guy is going to say that out loud in his class?” Wilbourn said.
Educators who supplement or replace their day jobs with online teaching for local public schools are discovering that the perks of working at home come with hurdles: grappling with awkward or confusing lines of communication with their pupils; gauging student performance without seeing facial expressions; and struggling to withstand the urge to check e-mails from students during weekends.

Madison rapped for preschool gap

Bill Lueders:

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick says the case could spur the Madison school district to offer 4-year-old kindergarten and amp up its assistance to dozens of families.
“My clients can afford preschool,” says Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin, a nonprofit public-interest law firm. “The people who most need help and most stand to benefit are the ones who can’t.”
Spitzer-Resnick is representing the parents of a 4-year-old special needs child. A district evaluation in mid-2007 determined that the child qualified for special education services, as is mandated for 3- and 4-year-olds by state and federal law.
But the Madison district does not offer 4-year-old kindergarten and has only nominal programming for kids in this category. And so the parents (whom Isthmus is not naming to protect their child’s privacy) asked Disability Rights Wisconsin to argue that the district must pay the costs of a private preschool they used as an alternative.

Madison Referendum Climate: Local Property Tax Bite & Entitlements

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: “Tame State’s Tax Bite on Homes”:

The poor rating should serve as yet another warning to state and local leaders not to jack up this worst-of-all tax even higher. It also should energize groups such as The Wisconsin Way, which is brainstorming for creative and fair ways to reduce our state ‘s property tax burden while growing our high-tech economy.
If anything, the Taxpayers Alliance ranking Tuesday minimized the pinch many Wisconsin homeowners feel. That ‘s because the group looked at the burden on all properties together — homes, businesses, farms and other land.
If you single out just homes, a different study last year suggested Wisconsin property taxes rank No. 1 in the nation. The National Association of Home Builders compiled property tax rates on a median-valued home in each state. Only Wisconsin and Texas (which doesn ‘t have a state income tax) exceeded $18 per $1,000 of property value.
In its report Tuesday, the Taxpayers Alliance measured the property tax bite more broadly. It ranked states based on ability to pay. It found that Wisconsin ‘s property tax burden eats up about 4.4 percent of personal income here.

Mark Perry – “A Nation of Entitlements“:

These middle class retirement programs, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, cost more than $1 trillion annually (about the same as the entire economic output of Canada, the 13th largest ecoomy in the world, see chart above), and will cause federal spending to jump by half, from 20% of the economy to 35% by 2035. This tsunami of spending is a major threat to limited government because it runs on auto-pilot with automatic increases locked in by each program’s governing laws. While other programs are constrained through annual budgets, entitlements get first call on resources. Other goals such as defense or national security must compete for an increasingly smaller share of what’s left.

Danel Nerad, stop shutting out student input

Natalia Thompson:

A case in point: When a class of local elementary school students wrote emails to district officials last year expressing their disappointment over a canceled field trip, the district responded by reprimanding their teacher. (See “The Danger of Teaching Democracy,” 2/7/08.) Apparently, Rainwater didn’t appreciate the teacher’s efforts to give her students a little civics lesson.
That’s not to say the district doesn’t listen to students at all. Each year, students complete a school climate survey, which gathers their opinions on the fairness of school policies and the effectiveness of support services.
But if students want to share what’s on their minds on their own terms? Forget it.

D.C. Schools Chief Institutes Tough Changes, Weathers Controversy

John Merrow @ NewsHour:

JOHN MERROW: … when she announced she would close the 23 chronically under-enrolled schools. Ongoing protests did not slow Rhee down. By the end of the school year, she had removed 36 principals, 22 assistant principals, and 121 employees in her central office.
She also revealed plans to overhaul 27 additional schools that had failed to meet federal standards for academic improvement.
MICHELLE RHEE: I’m proud of the fact that we have made some very difficult decisions that there was very vocal opposition to, that we stuck to our guns.
ADRIAN FENTY: We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this school system excellent. And to the extent we can allow her to do that, as free from outside obstacles as humanly possible, the faster she will move.
JOHN MERROW: Last year, D.C. voted to dissolve the elected school board. Unlike her predecessors, Rhee reports to one person alone: the mayor.
Has he ever said no to you?

Texas schools with high dropouts get a break in state rankings

Terrence Stutz:

Texas schools with student dropout problems are getting a break in the state’s performance ratings this year – a move likely to spare dozens of school districts and campuses from being slapped with “academically unacceptable” ratings.
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott has decided to excuse schools that fail to meet minimum criteria under the new federal definition for dropouts as long as their passing rates for all student groups on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills are satisfactory.
The decision means that no school district or campus can receive an unacceptable rating solely for dropout or student completion rates that fall short of the federal standards.
Those standards basically require a high school completion rate of at least 75 percent and an annual dropout rate of no more than 1 percent of the students in grades 7 and 8. The current completion rate refers to the percentage of ninth graders from five years ago who graduated in the Class of 2007.

A test used by business schools to help choose students is at the centre of a controversy

The Economist:

IT WOULD make great material for a business ethics course. In late June, a website that helped users prepare for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), was shut down following allegations that it had published questions being used in current GMAT exam papers. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the business-school body that created the test, intimated that test-takers’ scores might be cancelled if they had abused access to “live” questions (though the council later said it was concentrating on users who may have posted the offending material).
Ominous rumblings from GMAC sparked a flurry of virtual hand-wringing on websites and in the blogosphere. “As the site always maintained that all the questions are its own material there is not much a student can do”, complained one ScoreTop customer posting on Students are not the only ones fretting. A multi-million dollar industry of test-preparation publishers and training schools has grown up to help aspiring business moguls prepare for the GMAT and the ScoreTop scandal has caused consternation among its ranks. “These threats put users [of test-preparation materials] in a strange position,” wrote a GMAT trainer. “What do you do when sites tell you they have great practice material but you have no clue if its [sic] legal or not?”

School Gets Funds To Open:
Achievement First Institution Is Considered Key To City’s School Reform

Jeffrey Cohen:

A charter school whose widely anticipated opening in Hartford was threatened by a lack of cash will open this school year, city officials said Tuesday.
City hall spokeswoman Sarah Barr said in a press release that the Achievement First charter school, run by the same group that operates the acclaimed Amistad Academy in New Haven, will open to 252 students “thanks to public and private support.”
Barr, along with officials at the public school system and Achievement First, declined to say where the money for the school was coming from. A press conference is scheduled for this morning to announce the opening and the funding source.
“The plan is to announce that at tomorrow’s press conference,” Patricia Sweet, an Achievement First official, said Tuesday.

Oakland Military Institute


Earlier today I had the high privilege of visiting and being given a tour of the Oakland Military Institute, a charter school in the Oakland (California) School District. Summer school was in session so I did get to see some cadets, but I look forward to visiting again some time when the full student population is present–that’s the only way to get a true feel for a school.
The school board and local teachers union were hostile to the creation of OMI from the very beginning; it was only the persistence of then-Mayor Jerry Brown (former CA governor, current attorney general), that allowed the school to get off the ground. For its first few years, OMI was located at the former Oakland Army Base. But that facility became needed, and OMI had to find a new home. There was a closed elementary school in a residential neighborhood…

Ohio Governor’s Conversation on Education

Ted Strickland:

In my State of the State address this year, I outlined six principles that will guide me as I draft my plan for education. We will follow these in pursuit of one clear standard: schools that rank among the best in the world and meet the needs of every Ohio child.
This is not an issue that can be fixed overnight. It involves a grassroots effort and collaboration among communities, governmental leaders and education stakeholders to develop a plan and put it into action.
That’s why I’m holding regional meetings across Ohio. I want to give you the opportunity to vet proposed ideas for creating a system of education that is innovative, personalized and linked to economic prosperity.
As we conduct these conversations, I will engage parents and students, teachers and school administrators, business and community leaders, school board members, and education advocates across the state.

Planned “Global School” A Positive Trend

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Six school districts in Dane County are showing that when the going gets tough, the tough come up with smart ideas.
Administrators in the six districts hope to pool resources and work with Madison Area Technical College to offer courses in specialized skills that might not otherwise be possible.
The administrators hope to launch by 2010 what ‘s being called The Global Academy, a hybrid of career-related high school and college courses for high school juniors and seniors from the Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains, Belleville, McFarland, Mount Horeb and Oregon school districts.
Changing enrollments, higher expenses, taxpayer angst and the state ‘s faulty school financing system are making it harder for individual districts to provide as many courses or offer new ones.

Forget credit; some students attend summer school to ace classes in fall

Stella Chavez:

Julie Chang is spending the summer learning calculus at a college prep school. In the fall, she’s going to take calculus again, as a junior at Plano Senior High.
Her strategy is simple: Learn as much as possible about the subject over the summer so there’s a good chance of acing the class when it really counts – during the school year.
And maybe she can reach her goal of being valedictorian for the Class of 2010

L.A.’s Santee school to team up with Trade-Tech College

Gale Holland:

Mayor Villaraigosa announces a program to train students in culinary arts and tourism while they complete high school. The goal is to prepare them for both a career and further college education.
A $1.2-million program designed to curb galloping high school dropout rates will send Santee Education Complex students to Los Angeles Trade Technical College to train in culinary arts and tourism Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Tuesday.
Funded by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation,, the three-year program will combine college classes with hands-on work experience to produce graduating seniors who are both college-ready and qualified to join the workforce, officials said. Currently, nearly half of Santee’s mostly low-income students drop out.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

William Deresiewicz:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.
It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

All the privileged must have prize

John Summers:

The banality and sense of entitlement of rich students at Harvard left John H. Summers feeling his teaching had been degraded to little more than a service to prepare clients for monied careers
I joined the staff of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University in 2000. As tutor, then as lecturer, I advised senior theses, conceived and conducted freshman and junior seminars and taught the year-long sophomore tutorial, Social Studies 10, six times. The fractured nature of my appointment, renewed annually for six successive years while never amounting to more than 65 per cent of a full-time position in any one year, kept me on the margins of prestige and promotion even as it kept me there long enough to serve three chairmen of social studies, two directors of study and three presidents of Harvard.
The post-pubescent children of notables for whom I found myself holding curricular responsibility included the offspring of an important political figure, of a player in the show business world and the son of real-estate developer Charles Kushner.

Support Grows for Disabled Job Seekers

Suzanne Robitaille:

Lucy Shi, a job seeker who has a genetic condition that causes short stature, says she’s happy to be singled out as a disability candidate as she hunts for a position in New York.
A graduate of New York University, Ms. Shi, 25, recently interviewed with several Wall Street firms at a recruiting event geared toward people with disabilities who aim to develop professional business careers. “It’s hard to have a disability that’s so visible, and it’s just nice to be able to talk to recruiters without competing with the rest of the world,” says Ms. Shi, who believes many interviewers view her as a child because of her height.

100 Useful Reference Sites You’ve Never Heard Of

Laura Milligan:

Beyond Google, Wikipedia and other generic reference sites, the Internet boasts a multitude of search engines, dictionaries, reference desks and databases that have organized and archived information for quick and easy searches. In this list, we’ve compiled just 100 of our favorites, for teachers, students, hypochondriacs, procrastinators, bookworms, sports nuts and more.

Schools & Unions: Learning their lesson – Can a teachers’ union be an engine for reform?

The Economist:

THE election on July 14th of Randi Weingarten as president marks a new era for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), or so the union says. For years teachers’ unions have been demonised as the main obstacles to school reform, often with good reason. Now the AFT is billing Ms Weingarten as a “reform-minded advocate”. With American students lagging, Ms Weingarten insists that “the union is the solution.” She has some convincing to do.
If any teachers’ union were to promote reform, it would be the AFT, America’s second-biggest. While the larger National Education Association has historically been less nimble, the AFT’s president from 1974 to 1997, Al Shanker, supported accountability and even some pay-for-performance schemes. (“I used to shy away from bribery,” he reportedly said, “but I’ve come to the conclusion that it has a place.”) Today the AFT supports such bonuses, if negotiated with a local union. It also represents teachers in more than 70 charter (publicly funded but self-governing) schools, in ten states.

Jump In On Dropouts

Boston Globe Editorial:

DROPPING OUT of high school isn’t just a teenager’s personal problem. It’s a loss for the Massachusetts economy, which needs educated workers.
Recognizing that schools can’t single-handedly solve this problem, a promising bill in the state House would bring in powerful partners to help.
In the 2006-07 school year, more than 11,000 teenagers – nearly 4 percent of the state’s public high school students – dropped out. More troubling is the cumulative number of students who enter ninth grade but, four years later, fail to graduate. Statewide, while 81 percent of the class that entered ninth grade in 2003 graduated on time in 2007, 9 percent dropped out. And 6.6 percent were still in school.
Time can be punishing. Once dropouts reach their 20s, they are no longer seen as youngsters in need of academic help. And their own motivation to get a high school degree can fade. That’s why the state needs a dropout prevention and recovery system that can respond quickly when students quit school. It also needs more alternative programs that meet the needs of young adults who seek diplomas, but who won’t sit in a classroom full of younger students.

Camp Leads a Drumbeat for a Marching Band’s Style

Samuel Freedman:

As his extended family gathered around the table for dinner last Christmas, Ben Brock received one final present. It was a scrapbook, each page adorned with photos of him as a child and handwritten notes from his relatives. Then, on the last sheet, the names of his mother, sister, uncles and aunts appeared, with a dollar figure next to each.
Those numbers reflected the money they had pledged to send Ben, 16, almost as far from his home in Seattle as it was possible to go within the continental United States. At the end of that journey lay the dream he had nurtured since watching the movie “Drum Line” in sixth grade: to become part of the Marching 100, the renowned band at Florida A&M University.
So on a gauzy gray morning seven months later Ben and his snare drum strode onto the dewy grass of the band’s practice field on the Tallahassee campus. He had been awakened at 5 a.m. and the day’s last rehearsal would not end until 10 p.m. His feet screamed. His shoulders ached. Gnats swarmed around his face, daring him to break rhythm and lose composure.

Referendum Climate: Wisconsin Net Property Tax Levies up 5.7% in 2008; Madison’s up 6.9%


Net property taxes in Wisconsin rose 5.7% in 2008, the largest increase since 2005, the year before the recent levy limits on municipalities and counties were imposed. A new report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) found that while gross property taxes climbed 6.2%, state lawmakers increased the school levy credit $79.3 million to $672.4 million to lessen the impact on property taxpayers. The new study, “The Property Tax in National Context,” notes that 2006 property taxes here were ninth highest nationally and higher than those in all surrounding states.
According to the new study, school levies rose the most, 7.4%. With the recent state budget delayed until October 2007, school aids were unchanged from 2006-07. Since school property taxes are tied to state aids through state-imposed revenue limits, the budget delay resulted in higher school property taxes, WISTAX said. Now in its 76th year, WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-policy research organization dedicated to citizen education.
County and municipal levy increases were limited by state lawmakers to the greater of 3.86% or the increase in property values due to new construction. There were exceptions to the limits, particularly for new debt service. The WISTAX report noted that, with a slowing real estate market, statewide net new construction growth was 2.5%. However, municipal property taxes climbed 5.0%, and county levies were up 4.5%.
Among the three types of municipalities, municipal-purpose property tax levies in cities (5.3%) grew fastest, followed by villages (4.6%) and towns (4.2%). The report noted that the state’s two largest municipalities had above-average increases: Milwaukee was up 9.0%, while Madison’s municipal levy climbed 6.9%. The largest county increases were in Eau Claire (19.2%), Polk (13.5%), Door (12.4%), and Pierce (12.3%) counties.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax revenues up 2.9%.

Educators debate gulf dividing schools, students

Andy Gammill:

Ruby Payne and Jawanza Kunjufu had never shared the stage before Friday, but their careers have intertwined for years in a debate over how American teachers differ from their students.
Both believe teachers fail to make connections with students because of differences in cultural backgrounds. Payne, a white former principal, believes poverty is the root of that disconnect. Kunjufu, a black educator, says that theory ignores race.
The two have sparred in writing and in separate appearances but spoke together for the first time Friday at Indiana Black Expo to a room of hundreds of educators from around the state.
“They do not agree on many issues, but they have agreed on one important thing: They have agreed to come together and talk to us and help us better understand their views,” Brownsburg Schools Superintendent Kathleen Corbin said in an introduction.

International education ‘a fundamental need’ today

Linda Lantor Fandel:

Ellen Estrada is principal of Walter Payton College Prep High School on the near north side of Chicago, near downtown. The public magnet school, which opened in 2000, is named in honor of the legendary Chicago Bears football player, who died shortly before it opened. In 2006, Walter Payton won a prestigious Goldman Sachs Prize for Excellence in International Education. Almost all students take four years of a foreign language and have the opportunity to travel abroad. Videoconferences have been held with students in Iraq, South Africa, Morocco, China and Chile, among other places. The school’s reputation for nurturing global citizens brought U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the school for a visit in February. Estrada was interviewed by Linda Lantor Fandel, deputy editorial-page editor.

Chicago high school emphasizes fundamentals – and a world view

Linda Lantor Fandel:

Jordan Nolan didn’t have to show up after school on a Friday in late May for a discussion about the invisible children of Uganda. Neither did about 30 other teenagers sprawled on couches and chairs in a classroom at Walter Payton College Prep High School in Chicago.
But after a brief presentation by four students, they engaged in a spirited, hour-long debate about just whose responsibility it is to try to end a civil war fought with kidnapped child soldiers.
The turnout wasn’t surprising, not even at the end of a week near the end of the school year.
Not at a public high school that’s an American showcase for how to prepare young people for a globally competitive economy in the 21century.
While the national and international conversation grows louder about how to define a world-class education, Payton is a real-life laboratory.

Brookfield man who ran ads now says he opposed high school upgrades

Lisa Sink:

A neurosurgeon who spent $4,230 of his own money to run newspaper ads challenging a $62.2 million referendum to upgrade two Brookfield high schools said Monday that he wishes he would have spent another $10,000 to get it defeated.
Brookfield resident James Hollowell had said in March that his ads were not trying to advocate for or against the building plan and were merely to urge residents to investigate the accuracy of district information.

First Lady defends criticized ‘No Child’ tests

Greg Toppo:

No Child Left Behind can’t catch a break lately on the campaign trail. Barack Obama last week slammed its “broken promises” and John McCain called it “a good beginning” that “has to be fixed.”
Ask first lady Laura Bush and she’ll tell you that, come what may, the 2002 education law, championed by President Bush, will be a lasting part of her husband’s legacy.
Its requirement for annual testing in reading and math for virtually all children in grades three through eight has led critics to charge that it focuses too much on testing, but Mrs. Bush says she doesn’t buy it.
“We would never go to a doctor and say, ‘I’m sick, you can’t try to diagnose me … you can’t use any kind of test,” she says.

High school basketball talent, college staffs swarm Vegas

Eric Sondheimer:

Las Vegas is a city known for making and breaking dreams, and that’s where hundreds of high school basketball players have converged this week hoping to lock up college scholarships.
For five days beginning today, coaches will be out en masse observing and scouting the biggest collection of teenage talent in the nation, with nearly 900 travel teams playing in four tournaments in dozens of high school gyms spread across the city.
In attendance will be the nation’s most recognizable college coaches and just about everyone else whose business is basketball, with shoe company and apparel executives, agents and professional scouts joining the Elvis impersonators.
The most important requirement for a coach: “If you don’t have GPS, you’re in trouble,” USC assistant Bob Cantu said.

State audits again find problems in spending by Seattle Public Schools

Jessica Blanchard:

or the seventh year in a row, state audits of Seattle Public Schools highlighted some questionable expenses and persistent payroll problems.
The audits, released Monday, noted about $23,890 worth of questionable expenses from the 2006-07 school year. In one case, a former school district secretary forged her supervisor’s signature to get paid for nearly 300 hours of overtime that she had not worked, costing the district more than $8,700. The district fired her.
In another case, auditors found that more than $15,100 in Associated Student Body money was used improperly to pay for plane tickets to bring South African exchange students and teachers to Seattle as part of a high school foreign-exchange program.
The district also was faulted for paying some Seattle high school students participating in the exchange program approximately $25,000 up front for travel expenses to South Africa and Ireland. The district should have reimbursed them later, auditors said, and shouldn’t have covered some improper purchases made during the trips — including alcoholic drinks and host gifts.

Meeting special needs through art

Pamela McLoughlin
Early in her career teaching special education, Beverly Levett Gerber once had an unusual mix of students; some had behavior problems, others developmental disabilities and some were gifted.
It was quite the challenge, but she knew how to achieve harmony.
“There were few things we could do together, but we could do the art work together at their rate and level,” Gerber said. “When you reach them at their level, they succeed.”
Gerber, a professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University who still teaches a course each semester, is a nationally recognized star in the fields of both art education and special education, most noted for combining the two seemingly divergent fields. Gerber taught at her alma mater, Southern, for 33 years before retiring from full-time work in 2003.
“Because of the uniqueness of the two fields coming together, I call myself a matchmaker,” Gerber, of Milford said with a twinkle in her eye.
Gerber’s commitment to the notion that art is a vehicle for special needs students to learn other subjects, to express themselves emotionally and show their level, has led to such groundbreaking progress in the field that colleagues from the National Art Education Association established The Beverly Levett Gerber Lifetime Achievement award to go each year to an outstanding art educator who works with special needs children.

Jackson Public Schools trim superintendent list to 5

Nicole Spinuzzi:

Parents have said they want to be more involved with the selection process. About 25 JPS parents and Jackson residents rallied on South State Street in front of the district’s administration buildings Friday, urging the board to slow down the selection process and allow for more community involvement.
In an attempt to get the public more involved, the board asked community members to submit suggested questions for the board to ask applicants. Stamps said at least 20 community members responded.

Jackson supports about 31,000 students and the article notes that “20 community members responded”. I recall that the Madison Superintendent Search consultants mentioned that the approximately 400 community responses (in a district with 24,268 students) was quite good. Certainly, apathy reigns.

Referendum Climate: Wisconsin State Tax Collection Update

Department of Revenue:

This report includes general purpose revenue (GPR) taxes collected by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and does not include taxes collected by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), administrative fees, and other miscellaneous revenues. Total General Fund tax collections are reported in the Department of Administration’s Report of Monthly General Fund Financial Information, which includes GPR and program revenue taxes collected by all state agencies.

Overall tax collections are up 2.9%, however, state spending is growing at a faster rate, which has caused state and local spending changes. I wonder how the 2.9% tax collection increase compares to the average annual wage changes?
More: “Where Does All That Money Go?” by John Matsusaka:

Some of it went to cover increases in the cost of living, and state spending naturally grows with the size of the population. But even adjusting for inflation and population growth, state spending is up almost 20% compared with four years ago, a big enough bump that ordinary Californians should be able to notice it. The state’s financial statements describe where the money went — the big gainers were education ($13 billion), transportation ($10 billion) and health ($10 billion) — but not why these billions don’t create even a blip on our day-to-day radar.
One possibility is that we simply do not notice all of the valuable services we receive. A national 2007 survey by William G. Howell at the University of Chicago and Martin R. West at Brown University found that respondents underestimated spending in their school district by 60%; on average, they believed spending was $4,231 per student when in fact it was $10,377. They also found that Americans underestimated teacher salaries by 30%. How many Californians know that public school teachers in the state earn an average of $59,000 a year, essentially tied with Connecticut for the highest average pay in the country? Likewise, perhaps we don’t notice the repaired roads or new buses and trains that take us to work.
On the other hand, maybe these billions of dollars just do not translate into services that are valuable to us.

Guess What’s Hot This Summer? School

Amy Hetzner:

Believe it or not, walking the halls of local high schools this summer are students not forced to make up courses they flunked in the spring, but ones who maybe — just maybe — want to be there.
And not just because they want to learn how to drive. They’re taking classes so they can have more time for elective offerings and Advanced Placement classes during the regular school year, or maybe pick up an internship, or even graduate early.
“You’re able to take everything you want if you take a lot of classes during the summer,” said Aaron Redlich, an incoming senior at Nicolet High School in Glendale who is enrolled in physical education and creative writing classes this summer.

Meet the Neets

Julie Henry & Miles Goslett:

In 1997, when Gordon Brown announced the “most radical welfare reforms since the Second World War”, he declared that the unemployed young would be first in the firing line. “How,” he asked, “did a society like ours get itself into a position where we are wasting young people’s talents like this?”
The Chancellor had what he thought was a solution. Under his Welfare-to-Work programme, funded by a £5 billion windfall tax on the privatised utilities, the welfare state would be transformed, making it crystal clear that “staying at home is not an option”.
But, 10 years on, the work ethic that Mr Brown was so confident he could inculcate in the nation’s jobless youth remains elusive. In fact, things have got worse: the phenomenon of Neets (young people “not in education, employment or training”) is on the rise.

Global Academy Magnet School from the Verona, Middleton Cross Plains, Belleville, McFarland, Mount Horeb and Oregon School Districts

Seth Jovaag via a kind reader’s email:

Local school officials took another early step Monday toward creating a Verona-based magnet school that could offer area high school students specialized classes they might not get otherwise.
With Madison Area Technical College searching for a new place to build a campus in southwestern Dane County, six area school districts are lining up behind the idea of a “Global Academy,” where high schoolers could learn job skills and earn post-secondary credits.
The Verona Area school board Monday approved the spending of $6,750 to hire a consultant to put together a detailed plan for how the six districts could work with MATC – and possibly the University of Wisconsin – to create such a campus.
That money will pool with similar amounts from five districts – Oregon, Belleville, Mount Horeb, McFarland and Middleton-Cross Plains – eager to see MATC land nearby, too.
The consultant, expected to start Aug. 15, will be asked to hone the concept of the school, including how it could be organized and how the consortium would work together.
Though the academy is currently little more than a concept, board member Dennis Beres said that if it comes to fruition, it could be a huge addition for the district.

Deborah Ziff:

Administrators from six Dane County school districts are planning to create a program called The Global Academy, a hybrid of high school and college courses offering specialized skills for high school juniors and seniors.
The consortium of districts includes Verona, MiddletonCross Plains, Belleville, McFarland, Mount Horeb and Oregon.
The Global Academy would offer courses in four career clusters: architecture and construction; health science; information technology; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We really see a need for vocational and technical programs and career planning,” said Dean Gorrell, superintendent of Verona Schools. “It’s tough to keep those going.”

Smart. Related: Credit for non-MMSD Courses.

Business Schools Try Palm Scans To Finger Cheats

John Hechinger:

In a sign of increasing concern about cheating, the nation’s top business schools will soon require a high-tech identity check for standardized admissions tests.
Aspiring corporate executives taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, will have to undergo a “palm vein” scan, which takes an infrared picture of the blood coursing through their hands. The image — which resembles a highway interchange in a major city — is unique to every individual. The scans are used widely in Japan among users of automated teller machines but only recently have appeared in the U.S.
Palm-vein scanning on GMAT test takers will begin next month in Korea and India, with U.S. centers starting as early as this fall and a world-wide rollout by May.

As education in Iowa slips, where’s the public outcry?

Des Moines Register Editorial:

What would it take for Iowa – and the nation – to fully prepare students for the globally competitive world of today and tomorrow?
What does that mean for the curriculum, training of teachers and expectations for students? What is the best way to transform classrooms to deliver this world-class education, not just to elite students but to everyone? Are national standards the answer, or should that be left to states?
Those are some of the questions The Des Moines Register’s editorial board has asked in recent months. We’ve talked with educators and policymakers, we’ve visited schools and we’ll visit others here and abroad.
everal things are clear from conversations to date:
One is a growing, though hardly universal, concern that the United States must better educate students to keep its competitive edge in a fast-changing global economy. The rise of Asia and the flattening of the world with technology – allowing jobs to move virtually anywhere in the world – create great opportunities but also pose significant threats. That’s especially worrisome when American youngsters perform so poorly in math and science on international tests compared to their peers in many other places.
Interest grows in higher standards.

Doubts Linger on Pre-K-8 Strategy

Bill Turque:

Like surgical scars, once promising or trendy ideas for reform have left their marks all over the D.C. school system. Many came as officials pursued the best way to configure schools for students coping with their turbulent adolescent years.
At one time or another, the city has tried schools starting with kindergarten through ninth grade and K-7; junior highs with grades seven through nine; middle schools with grades six through eight; and, most recently, schools with pre-K through eighth grade.
Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has decided to expand the District’s investment in that last format, making it a major element in the program of school closures and consolidations she launched last month.
At a cost of $58 million, five elementary and middle schools — Oyster-Adams, Powell, LaSalle, Francis and Brown — will expand to pre-K-8, receiving students from the shuttered schools when classes begin in August. An additional 13 will become pre-K-7 this fall and add eighth grade in 2009.

School District Citizen’s Audit Committee Gets Results

Dr. Armand Fusco:

On June 30 and July 1st an historic educational event took place in Enfield, CT (school population of 6500) where a joint meeting of the Board of Education and Town Council convened to hear four reports from a citizen’s audit committee composed of 17 members that was authorized by the Board of Education in January 2008.
It was the determined effort of one board member, Sue Lavelli-Hozempa, who was responsible for getting the audit committee authorized.She learned about the audit committee approach from one of my presentations that she attended on school finance and budgeting that I conduct throughout Connecticut.
It’s historic for four reasons.First, it is probably the first time an audit committee proved that ordinary citizens who were selected without any required qualifications could, with training, education and direction, be a tremendous community and board asset in providing effective and meaningful fiscal oversight of school spending.
But it went beyond what is typically done with typical financial audits; instead, it was also designed to begin a Performance Review Audit (PRA) process.The PRA is “an examination of a program, function, operation or management systems and procedures to assess whether the district is achieving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the employment of available resources.”This is really what taxpayers want to know and certainly it should be what every school board member would want to know and what every administrator should be doing:determining how money is actually spent and whether waste and mismanagement exists in school operations, practices, procedures and policie–something a fiscal audit does not do.

Clusty Search: Armand A. Fusco.

Use technology to connect students around the world

Des Moines Register Editorial:

Elementary students in Sioux City and Wales have been getting together occasionally for years to talk about holiday traditions, sports and school lunches, said Jim Christensen, distance-learning coordinator at the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City. They’ve made presentations and held interactive question-and-answer sessions.
“It’s easy to say, ‘What does that have to do with the curriculum?’ But it has everything to do with learning to communicate and a perspective on the world that’s unbelievable,” he said.
Colin Evans, head teacher of the school in Wales, echoed those thoughts in an e-mail: “Exchanging e-mails or written letters and photographs would be a poor substitute for these experiences. This has brought a whole new dimension to the curriculum… Use of technology is uniting two schools 6,000 miles apart into one global classroom.”

Related: Credit for Non Madison School District Courses.

Senate school budget creates room for more competition

Detroit News Editorial:

With the district facing a $400 million deficit — roughly one-third of its total budget — a careful accounting of how it is using its money would seem to be in order.
“That’s a fairly significant gift for the district of Detroit for which we get nothing in return,” Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, Senate Education Committee chairman, said after he voted no on the plan. “We get no deficit reduction plan, no power to audit the district.”
But in truth, the introduction of more high-quality charters is the best education reform Detroit parents could ask for from the Legislature. It will force Detroit school district to either fix itself or wither away.
Parents who have an alternative will not keep their children in failing schools. This is, in effect, a last chance for Detroit to get it right.

The article implies that Detroit spends about $1.2 Billion to educate around 100,000 students annually (roughly 12K per student). Madison’s 2008-2009 current budget is $367M spends $15,156 per student.

The High School Years: “Raw and Still Unfair”

Karen Durbin:

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

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

Autism is “A Fraud, a Racket”

From Media Matters:

On July 16, the No. 3 syndicated radio talk show host in the country, Michael Savage, made the following statement on autism:
“Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism? … A fraud, a racket.”
Savage went on to say:
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is.
What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, “Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.”
Autism — everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, “Don’t behave like a fool.” The worst thing he said — “Don’t behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.” That’s what I was raised with. That’s what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That’s why we have the politicians we have.
During the same broadcast, Savage also attacked those in “the minority community” who suffer from asthma. He stated: “[W]hy was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I’ll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], ‘When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], “I don’t know, the dust got me.” ‘ See, everyone had asthma from the minority community.”
Michael Savage’s mean-spirited comments are disgusting and are an affront to basic decency.
Find your local Savage Station, log into our calling tool and tell your Savage station manager what you think of Savage’s tirade.

Skepticism Greets Big Test Gains

Maria Glod:

State reading and math tests taken by Maryland students were shortened and tweaked this year, leading some critics to question whether the shifts contributed to surprisingly strong gains in achievement.
State officials said the changes to the Maryland School Assessments, used to measure academic progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law, had no significant impact on performance. They said an outside panel of education experts determined that the tests were as difficult as last year’s exams or those administered in previous years.
Scores released Tuesday attracted attention because of dramatic gains — some of the largest since the federal law was enacted in 2002. Statewide, the share of students who received scores of proficient or better jumped six percentage points in reading to 82 percent, and four percentage points in math to 76 percent.

We Know What Works. Let’s Do It

by Leonard Pitts Miami Herald
This will be the last What Works column.
I reserve the right to report occasionally on any program I run across that shows results in saving the lives and futures of African American kids. But this is the last in the series I started 19 months ago to spotlight such programs.
Let me begin by thanking you for your overwhelming response to my request for nominations, and to thank everyone from every program who allowed me to peek behind the scenes. From the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City to SEI (Self-Enhancement Inc.) in Portland, Ore., I have been privileged and uplifted to see dedicated people doing amazing work.
I am often asked whether I’ve found common denominators in all these successful programs, anything we can use in helping kids at risk. The short answer is, yes. You want to know what works? Longer school days and longer school years work. Giving principals the power to hire good teachers and fire bad ones works. High expectations work. Giving a teacher freedom to hug a child who needs hugging works. Parental involvement works. Counseling for troubled students and families works. Consistency of effort works. Incentives work. Field trips that expose kids to possibilities you can’t see from their broken neighborhoods, work.
Indeed, the most important thing I’ve learned is that none of this is rocket science. We already know what works. What we lack is the will to do it. Instead, we have a hit-and-miss patchwork of programs achieving stellar results out on the fringes of the larger, failing, system. Why are they the exception and not the rule? If we know what works, why don’t we simply do it? Nineteen months ago when I started, I asked Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone why anyone should pay to help him help poor kids in crumbling neighborhoods. He told me, “Someone’s yelling at me because I’m spending $3,500 a year on ‘Alfred.’ Alfred is 8. OK, Alfred turns 18. No one thinks anything about locking him up for 10 years at $60,000 a year.” Amen. Forget the notion of a moral obligation to uplift failing children. Consider the math instead. If that investment of $3,500 per annum creates a functioning adult who pays taxes and otherwise contributes to the system, why would we pass that up in favor of creating, 10 years later, an adult who drains the system to the tune of $60,000 a year for his incarceration alone, to say nothing of the other costs he foists upon society? How does that make sense? Nineteen months later, I have yet to find a good answer.
Instead, I find passivity. “Save the Children,” Marvin Gaye exhorted 27 years ago. But we are losing the children in obscene numbers. Losing them to jails, losing them to graves, losing them to illiteracy, teen parenthood, and other dead-ends and cul-de-sacs of life. But I have yet to hear America – or even African America – scream about it. Does no one else see a crisis here? “I don’t think that in America, especially in black America, we can arrest this problem unless we understand the urgency of it,” says Tony Hopson Sr., founder of SEI. “When I say urgency, I’m talking 9/11 urgency, I’m talking Hurricane Katrina urgency, things that stop a nation. I don’t think in black America this is urgent enough. Kids are dying every single day. I don’t see where the NAACP, the Urban League, the Black Caucus, have decided that the fact that black boys are being locked up at alarming rates means we need to stop the nation and have a discussion about how we’re going to eradicate that as a problem. It has not become urgent enough. If black America don’t see it as urgent enough, how dare us think white America is going to think it’s urgent enough?”
In other words, stand up. Get angry. Stop accepting what is clearly unacceptable. I’ll bet you that works, too.

Saving Young Men With Career Academies

Jay Matthews:

By usual measures of student progress, America’s high school career academies have been a failure. One of the longest and most scientific education studies ever conducted concluded they did not improve test scores or graduation rates or college success for urban youth. People like me, obsessed with raising student achievement, saw those numbers and said: Well, too bad. Let’s try something else.
And yet, because the career academy research by the New York-based MDRC (formerly known as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp.) was so detailed and professional, we have just learned that the academies accomplished something perhaps even better than higher passing rates on reading exams. They produced young men who got better-paying jobs, were more likely to live independently with children and a spouse or partner and were more likely to be married and have custody of their children.
This is a remarkable finding. It has the power not only to revitalize vocational education but to shift the emphasis of school assessment toward long-range effects on students’ lives, not just on how well they did in school and college.


Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Typically serving between 150 and 200 students from grades 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies operating around the country.
Since 1993, MDRC has been conducting a uniquely rigorous evaluation of the Career Academy approach that uses a random assignment research design in a diverse group of nine high schools across the United States. Located in medium- and large-sized school districts, the schools confront many of the educational challenges found in low-income urban settings. The participating Career Academies were able to implement and sustain the core features of the approach, and they served a cross-section of the student populations in their host schools. This report describes how Career Academies influenced students’ labor market prospects and postsecondary educational attainment in the eight years following their expected graduation. The results are based on the experiences of more than 1,400 young people, approximately 85 percent of whom are Hispanic or African-American.

The Next Kind of Integration: Class, Race and Desegregating American Schools

Emily Bazelon:

In June of last year, a conservative majority of the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, declared the racial-integration efforts of two school districts unconstitutional. Seattle and Louisville, Ky., could no longer assign students to schools based on their race, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his lead opinion in Meredith v. Jefferson County School Board (and its companion case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1). Justice Stephen Breyer sounded a sad and grim note of dissent. Pointing out that the court was rejecting student-assignment plans that the districts had designed to stave off de facto resegregation, Breyer wrote that “to invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.” By invoking Brown v. Board of Education, the court’s landmark 1954 civil rights ruling, Breyer accused the majority of abandoning a touchstone in the country’s efforts to overcome racial division. “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret,” he concluded.
Breyer’s warning, along with even more dire predictions from civil rights groups, helped place the court’s ruling at the center of the liberal indictment of the Roberts court. In Louisville, too, the court’s verdict met with resentment. Last fall, I asked Pat Todd, the assignment director for the school district of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and its suburbs, whether any good could come of the ruling. She shook her head so hard that strands of blond hair loosened from her bun. “No,” she said with uncharacteristic exasperation, “we’re already doing what we should be.”
Todd was referring to Louisville’s success in distributing black and white students, which it does more evenly than any district in the country with a comparable black student population; almost every school is between 15 and 50 percent African-American. The district’s combination of school choice, busing and magnet programs has brought general, if not uniform, acceptance — rather than white flight and disaffection, the legacy of desegregation in cities like Boston and Kansas City, Mo. The student population, which now numbers nearly 100,000, has held steady at about 35 percent black and 55 percent white, along with a small and growing number of Hispanics and Asians.

Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater was a principal and assistant Superintendent in Kansas City.

DC Union Chief Sets Meetings, Says Talks at ‘Very Critical Stage’

Bill Turque:

In an e-mail sent to union members Thursday night, Parker said contract talks will be shut down next week “to share detailed information with our members and provide clarity about key issues as they relate to seniority, tenure and compensation.”
Parker said the meetings, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at McKinley Technological High School in Northeast Washington, will also be attended by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. He said Rhee “will be available for Q and A at a designated time during each session.”
The negotiations, which began in December, have come to focus on Rhee’s efforts to win acceptance of an optional “pay-for-performance plan,” a system of compensation historically opposed by teachers unions.
Citing union sources, none of whom was Parker, The Washington Post reported July 3 that Rhee was proposing a two-tiered salary system in which teachers could earn substantially more if they relinquished some seniority rights and assumed some accountability for test scores. Teachers could choose to retain seniority and receive smaller raises.

Presidential Election Curricula for the Gifted

Carol Fertig:

As the excitement builds this fall with the upcoming election, teachers and parents will want to have good resources at hand to help gifted students understand the election process. Here are just a few resourses. If you have other good resources to share, please list them in the comments area of this blog entry.
Specific Curricula
Rutherford Public Schools in New Jersey has developed curricula for their gifted program, grades 7–8. The information is very general and includes objectives, course outline, curriculum content standards, assessments, resources, and activities.
One of the resources used in the Rutherford Public Schools curriculum is the Interact simulation The Presidential Election Process. Interact recommends this curriculum for grades 5–8. If you scroll down on this page, you will see that Interact materials were recommended in my June 28, 2008 blog entry.

Why are Public Schools So Bad at Hiring Good Instructors?

Ray Fisman:

PS 49 in Queens used to be an average school in New York City’s decidedly below-average school system. That was before Anthony Lombardi moved into the principal’s office. When Lombardi took charge in 1997, 37 percent of fourth graders read at grade level, compared with nearly 90 percent today; there have also been double-digit improvements in math scores. By 2002, PS 49 made the state’s list of most improved schools. If you ask Lombardi how it happened, he’ll launch into a well-practiced monologue on the many changes that he brought to PS 49 (an arts program, a new curriculum from Columbia’s Teachers College). But he keeps coming back to one highly controversial element of the school’s turnaround: getting rid of incompetent teachers.
Firing bad teachers may seem like a rather obvious solution, but it requires some gumption to take on a teachers union. And cleaning house isn’t necessarily the only answer. There are three basic ways to improve a school’s faculty: take greater care in selecting good teachers upfront, throw out the bad ones who are already teaching, and provide training to make current teachers better. In theory, the first two should have more or less the same effect, and it might seem preferable to focus on never hiring unpromising instructors—once entrenched, it’s nearly impossible in most places to remove teachers from their union-protected jobs. But that’s assuming we’re good at predicting who will teach well in the first place.

Michigan School Budget Agreement
Plan gives districts funds to create small-size high schools

Chris Christoff:

The $15 million for smaller high schools is less than half of the $32 million Gov. Jennifer Granholm had requested. The fund would give out $3 million in direct start-up grants to some districts with high dropout rates, rather than pay off bonds to build the revamped high schools.
Senate Republicans, who hold a majority, held fast against selling more state bonds for the school plan, which Granholm had proposed.
The basic grant to all schools would range from $56 to $112 per pupil, depending on how much each district now receives; lower spending districts would receive larger increases.
The increases are roughly half of what Granholm originally proposed because state revenues have come in less than expected since January.

The $20,000 Question: Why are these kids typing on unplugged computers?

Stephanie Banchero and Patricia Callahan:

The state is squandering taxpayer money on dubious after-school grants, including many that rewarded one lawmaker’s political supporters, a Tribune investigation found.
In a church on Chicago’s West Side, two homeless children fiddled aimlessly on unplugged computers, awaiting their “tutor.”
Another church sat darkened and padlocked during after-school hours even though it was presented as a tutoring center.
A woman used her grant for billboard ads that would encourage teens to attend community college, but she pocketed nearly half the money. The billboards have yet to appear.

Policing kids with autism is a new challenge on the beat

Shawn Doherty:

A barefoot girl in her nightgown is picked up wandering along a dark Dane County highway. Sheriff deputies have no idea how the little girl got there, who she is, what happened to her, or where to take her.
A young man walks out of a camp for adults with cognitive disabilities and into the woods. It takes thousands of searchers a week to find Keith Kennedy — naked, weak, covered with scratches and ticks, but alive.
A 7-year-old with blue eyes slips out of the basement of his house in Saratoga. On the fifth day of a massive search, rescue dogs find Benjamin Heil in a nearby pond, drowned.
These recent Wisconsin cases all involved individuals with autism, a devastating brain disorder that impairs judgment and communication. Over the past decade, the number of children diagnosed with this disorder has multiplied tenfold, and the national Centers for Disease Control now considers autism to be a public health crisis. Autism frequently wreaks havoc not just on a child’s entire family, but on law and safety enforcement in the streets. The problem is expected to get worse as this population grows up.

The End of White Flight

Conor Dougherty:

Decades of white flight transformed America’s cities. That era is drawing to a close.
In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta’s next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an “African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee” to help retain black residents.
“The city is experiencing growth, yet we’re losing African-American families disproportionately,” Mr. Newsom says. When that happens, “we lose part of our soul.”
For much of the 20th century, the proportion of whites shrank in most U.S. cities. In recent years the decline has slowed considerably — and in some significant cases has reversed. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases.
The changing racial mix is stirring up quarrels over class and culture. Beloved institutions in traditionally black communities — minority-owned restaurants, book stores — are losing the customers who supported them for decades. As neighborhoods grow more multicultural, conflicts over home prices, taxes and education are opening a new chapter in American race relations.

Related: a look at local K-12 enrollment changes.

Washington board weighs stiffer graduation standards

Dan Hansen:

At the urging of major employers and state officials, the Washington state Board of Education is about to adopt tough new high school graduation requirements.
But students might not notice a difference.
That’s because the so-called Core 24 requirements would not take effect until the Legislature comes up with money to pay for them. Educators say the state already falls about $1 billion short of meeting its mandate to finance basic education.
One exception: The board next week is expected to adopt a required third math credit starting with the class of 2013. And that class will have to be at the level of Algebra II or above.

Where’s Education, Part III

Megan Garber:

Yesterday, for the first time during the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain issued a set of specific policy proposals for improving the country’s failing education system. Speaking at the NAACP’s annual meeting in Cincinnati, the presumptive GOP nominee promoted vouchers for parochial, private, and charter schools; alternative certification programs that would lower the barriers to teaching; school-level funding of merit pay for teachers; the continuation of federal funding for tutoring services; and federal funding for virtual schools and online learning.
You’d think all this would be worth some attention. Not only has McCain been basically mum about his education platform since he declared his candidacy, but his 2008 plans mark a significant, move-to-the-middle departure from the relatively bold positions he advocated in 2000. But no. Many of the major print outlets’ write-ups of McCain’s speech were relegated to those outlets’ blogs. And the ones that gave column inches to the speech often focused either on the kind words McCain had for Obama at the outset of his speech (breaking: McCain said something nice about the competition!) or about the tepid reception that met McCain’s appearance at Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Center:

Meanwhile, ed in 08 is spending $60 (from the Gates Foundation, among others) running TV, radio and print ads….

Fairfax County Schools Consider Spending Freeze or Reductions

Michael Alison Chandler:

County departments have been asked to find potential spending cuts of 15 percent. Whether the school system, which with 165,700 students is the region’s largest, agrees to take the same approach is an open question.
Gerald E. Connolly (D) said the school system must share equally in the fiscal burdens faced by other sectors of government. School system spending reductions in past years, he said, have been “pretty anemic.”


Trendy teaching is back: Four out of five primary schools are introducing ‘creative learning’, with lessons about ‘groovy Greeks’. Should we worry?

Sian Griffiths:

Katie Harris, 11, is telling me that she recently spent a lesson making paper aeroplanes and measuring how far they flew. What did she learn? “It was really enjoyable. It wasn’t just about one subject like maths, there was science in there as well,” she replied.
Katie is a pupil at Bursted Wood primary in Bexley, southeast London, one of eight schools in the borough at the forefront of a stampede back to “creative learning” and progressive teaching methods that were popular more than a decade ago.
Despite the bad press such methods got back then, when they were blamed for turning out thousands of children who couldn’t read or write properly, a survey of 115 primary schools last week revealed that four out of five are returning to teaching based around “topics” such as chocolate.
At Bursted Wood, traditional secondary-school style classes in subjects such as history, geography and maths have been ditched for topics planned out on “creative learning wheels”.

Education panel begins search for long-term reforms

Dave Williams:

Schools must spend more on early childhood education, steer students as young as 16 into college and pay teachers six-figure salaries if Americans are to succeed in today’s international labor force, a national expert told Georgia education leaders Thursday.
Mark Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, outlined a report he wrote two years ago during the kickoff meeting of a “working group” appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to develop a long-term education reform strategy to make Georgia more competitive in the global economy.
In “Tough Choices or Tough Times,” Tucker wrote that the school systems of developing countries including China and India have begun producing young adults who are just as capable of filling highly skilled jobs as their U.S. counterparts but who are willing to do the work for significantly lower wages. At the same time, he said, more and more jobs are becoming automated. Tucker said the result is two enormous downward pressures on American wages.

Education Plays a Crucial Role in Economic Curriculum

Tammy Worth:

Bob Marcusse calls the link between education and economic development a virtuous circle — good educational programs attract new business, which leads to more financing for schools, which attract more people to an area to work at those companies.
“We and (educators) clearly understand the symbiotic relationship between education and economic development,” said Marcusse, CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.
Educational resources act as an economic driver in numerous ways. Schools are obviously responsible for producing the work force in any given area, but they also help recruit businesses and residents, foster research that can generate money and spawn new business, and directly funnel money back into the economy through building projects and tourism dollars.

Tax base expansion (as opposed to tax rate increases) is a good idea.
Related: Money Magazine Puts City on Notice:

Back in 1996, Money credited Madison schools for high test scores and parent satisfaction. But this week, Money cited Madison for below average test scores in math. Reading scores also fell behind cities on the list.
Madison ‘s property taxes weren ‘t mentioned as a problem back in 1996. But this week, Money listed them as $600 higher than the average city on its list.

Best Places to Live, 2008.

Are Children Creatures of the State?

David Kirkpatrick:

Most parents undoubtedly believe that their children are their responsibility. But a contrary view has a long history.
The point was made by Philadelphian Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Ten years later, in proposing a plan for education in Pennsylvania he wrote, “Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.”
His plan died but not the sentiment. It was in Pennsylvania nearly a half century later, in 1834, that the first plan for a common school system was adopted. Its prime sponsor and defender, Thaddeus Stevens, said that the sons of both the rich and the poor are all “deemed children of the same parent–the Commonwealth.”
That Stevens’ view was not shared by the general public was demonstrated when most of the Representatives who voted for that measure were defeated at the next election. Stevens himself was reelected and in one of the most influential speeches in American legislative history, he persuaded a majority in the new session to not repeal the new law, as they had been elected to do.
Fortunately the view that children belong to the state is not shared by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its unanimous Pierce decision in 1925, which still stands, the Court upheld parental rights to control their children’s education, declaring that “The child is not the mere creature of the state,” and “those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

I remember speaking with a former Madison School District administrator a few years ago. This person used the term “we have the children”.

San Diego Dropout Rate: 22.9%

Bruce Lieberman:

The county fared slightly better than the state, which posted a four-year dropout estimate of 24.2 percent – nearly one in four students.
The new statistics, based on the 2006-07 school year, painted a grim picture of a crisis that educators Wednesday said exacts an enormous cost on society.
“It represents a tremendous loss of potential,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.
The statistics were particularly alarming among Hispanic and black students statewide. An estimated 30.3 percent of Hispanic students drop out of school between ninth and 12th grade, while more 41.6 percent of black students will drop out over that period.

A School Where One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Jay Matthews:

“The model is inspired by the success of home-schoolers,” he said. Students will set their class schedules, enabling them to learn at their pace and in their styles. Teachers will act as advisers, not taskmasters.
As for homework, “the one-size-fits-all [model] mandated in today’s schools is largely counterproductive,” Shusterman says in a slide presentation he uses to sell his idea. School for Tomorrow will have a home reading requirement and “encourage and support individualized, student-initiated homework.”
Much of Shusterman’s plan is inspired by John Dewey, a 20th-century educational philosopher whose devotees have called for teachers to be “guides on the side, not sages on the stage.” Dewey led a movement called progressive education in which, he said, children learn best when pursuing individual projects that allow them to explore their world.
Many teachers, in both private and public schools, use project-based learning to a degree. But at School for Tomorrow, Shusterman said, every course and project will be linked to this question: What does a high school graduate need to know and need to be able to do to thrive in college, the workplace and life in the 21st century?

Patton Oswalt’s Brilliant, Politically Incorrect, Graduation Speech


The comedian then got the ball rolling, beginning with a story of a scholarship banquet when he was about to graduate and his being given some advice by a banker at his table. Oswalt’s frank acknowledgment of his own self-absorption and his description of the “myth of myself” is such a dead on descriptor of how our youth conduct themselves had to have the adults nodding in agreement.
He recites the man’s advice:

“And then this banker – clean-shaven, grey suit and vest – you’d never look twice at him on the street – he told me about The Five Environments.
“He leans forward, near the end of the dinner, and he says to me, There are Five Environments you can live in on this planet. There’s The City. The Desert. The Mountains. The Plains. And The Beach.
“You can live in combinations of them. Maybe a city in the desert, or in the mountains by the ocean. Or you could choose just one. Out in the plains somewhere, perhaps.
“But you need to get out there and travel, and figure out where you thrive.

Patton Oswalt

States eye cycle of retiring, rehiring

Dennis Cauchon:

States are cracking down on a controversial practice that lets government workers collect pension benefits while continuing to work for a salary.
The practice — called “double dipping” — lets tens of thousands of state and local workers retire, collect pension benefits and then keep working, often at the same job.
“What was going on was absolutely ludicrous,” says Kentucky state Rep. Mike Cherry, a Democrat. Kentucky’s Legislature last month ended a policy that let workers retire, get rehired and start a second pension in addition to the first.
Double-dipping is legal in nearly every state under existing pension and hiring rules. It is especially common among educators, police officers and others who retire young after 20 to 30 years on the job.

New Vision for Schools Proposes Broad Role

Sam Dillon:

Randi Weingarten, the New Yorker who is rising to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, says she wants to replace President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services.
Ms. Weingarten, 50, was elected Monday to the presidency of the national teachers union at the union’s annual convention. In a speech minutes later to the delegates gathered in Chicago, Ms. Weingarten criticized the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s signature domestic initiative, as “too badly broken to be fixed,” and outlined “a new vision of schools for the 21st century.”
“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?” Ms. Weingarten asked in the speech.

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Says Education Was a Primary Motivation for His Inventions

Jeffrey Young:

teve Wozniak helped kick off the personal-computer revolution decades ago when he and Steve Jobs started Apple Computer in a garage in Silicon Valley, and he says education was one of the key uses he saw for computers from the beginning. The eccentric engineer talked about his passion for education and told tales of the early days of Apple during a keynote speech yesterday at Blackboard Inc.’s user conference in Las Vegas.

Calm Down or Else

Benedict Carey:

The children return from school confused, scared and sometimes with bruises on their wrists, arms or face. Many won’t talk about what happened, or simply can’t, because they are unable to communicate easily, if at all.
“What Tim eventually said,” said John Miller, a podiatrist in Allegany, N.Y., about his son, then 12, “was that he didn’t want to go to school because he thought the school was trying to kill him.”
Dr. Miller learned that Tim, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was being unusually confrontational in class, and that more than once teachers had held him down on the floor to “calm him down,” according to logs teachers kept to track his behavior; on at least one occasion, adults held Tim prone for 20 minutes until he stopped struggling.
The Millers are suing the district, in part for costs of therapy for their son as a result of the restraints. The district did not dispute the logs but denied that teachers behaved improperly.

Student pours cold water on school reform


A student poured cold water on Chile’s unpopular education reform on Monday — literally.
The 14-year-old schoolgirl threw a pitcher of cold water in Education Minister Monica Jimenez’s face at an event to discuss reform of a sector that students and teachers complain is underfunded and neglects the poor.
“They could have thrown a pitcher, a glass pitcher and I could be in hospital now,” Jimenez told reporters. “I particularly blame the teachers union. … If they are inciting acts of violence, they should answer for what happened today.”

Back to school math prep

AZ Central:

We continue our special series this week on preparing your children for the new school year. This year high school students are required to take more math. School Solutions’ Kim Covington explains that’s no sweat for the students of a Tempe teacher.
A record number of students at Desert Vista High School in Tempe got perfect scores on their SAT. That’s 26 students, but another 40 just missed one.
Many of those students attended Desert Vista’s popular 4 hour summer math camp. The 5th-8th graders who take part breezed through Algebra in just a few weeks. Teacher Larry Strom started the math camp two years ago. The Math Department Chair says, “we tell them to take Algebra as early as they possibly can.”

Madison Schools TV is Changing

Via a Marcia Standiford email (note that this change is driven by a massive telco giveaway signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Doyle recently):

Dear Parents and Friends of MMSD-TV:
Have you enjoyed seeing your child on MMSD-TV? Do you appreciate having access to live coverage of school board meetings?
Channels 10 and 19, the cable TV service of the Madison Metropolitan School District, are moving. As a result of a recent law deregulating cable television, Charter Cable has decided to move our channels to digital channels 992 and 993 effective August 12, 2008.
What will this mean for you?
To continue seeing Madison Board of Education meetings, high school sporting events, fine arts, school news, newscasts from around the world or any of the other learning services offered by MMSD-TV, you will need a digital TV or digital video recorder (DVR) with a QAM tuner. If you do not have a digital TV, you will need to obtain a set-top digital converter box from Charter. Charter has agreed to provide the box at no charge for the first six months of service to customers UPON SPECIFIC REQUEST, after which Charter will add a monthly fee to your bill for rental of the box.
Be advised, however, that the Charter box is NOT the same box being advertised by broadcasters as a way of receiving digital over-the-air signals after the national conversion to digital which will take place in February, 2009.


Texas high school athletes could receive more credits for sports

Terrence Stutz:

Texas high school students who play football, basketball and others sports could receive twice as much as credit toward graduation under a proposed rule being considered by the State Board of Education.
The proposal — allowing four years of sports to count for credit instead of two — was brought to the board by a coach from Brenham High School, who said new graduation requirements that took effect with freshmen last year discriminate against student athletes by slicing the time available for participation in athletics.
Under the new state requirements — ordered by the Legislature — students need four years each of math, science, English and social studies — the so-called 4×4 core courses — along with their electives and a handful of other required classes such as two years of foreign language and 1 ½ years of physical education.
In all, the number of credits needed to get a diploma will increase from 24 to 26 for students graduating in 2011.