Erica Green & Mary Wisniewski:
Parents at a Humboldt Park back-to-school festival Saturday said “no thanks” to the Rev. James Meeks’ planned student boycott of the Chicago Public Schools’ opening day of class Tuesday.
“The boycott is not good,” said Maybeline Juarez, who makes sure her 13-year-old daughter always attends school. “My daughter is in special education classes, and she needs all the help she can get. Colleges look at that.”
Angelo Valentin, who has five children in Chicago Public Schools, agreed that a boycott isn’t the answer to the schools’ money problems.
“The schools should get their money, but it shouldn’t be in the lap of the children,” said Valentin. “You can’t use them as pawns.”
Meeks, a state senator and pastor of the South Side Salem Baptist megachurch, wants to bus 2,000 students to wealthy Winnetka to protest school-funding inequities in Illinois. The children will try to register at New Trier High School’s Northfield Campus.
Cory Booker, John Doerr and Ted Mitchell:
In the summer of 1918, as tuberculosis, bubonic plague and a flu pandemic threatened America’s newly crowded cities, the chemist Charles Holmes Herty took a walk through New York City with his colleague J.R. Bailey. Herty posed a question: Suppose Bailey discovered an exceptionally powerful medicine. What institution would allow him to take his breakthrough from lab experiment to widespread cure?
Bailey replied, “I don’t know.”
That alarming answer moved Herty to propose a visionary solution — an institution that would encourage research and development throughout the country. It would find its value, Herty said, “in the stimulus which it gives” to research, thought and discovery by practitioners in the field.
Nearly a century later, that vision stands as the National Institutes of Health. Its record, from deciphering and mapping the human genome to finding the source of AIDS, leaves no doubt about the NIH’s ability to stimulate innovation.
Today, the shame of our cities isn’t bubonic plague; it’s ignorance. In our urban areas, only one child in five is proficient in reading. On international tests, we rank behind the Czech Republic and Latvia; our high school graduation rate barely makes the top 20 worldwide. As columnist David Brooks has noted, educational progress has been so slow that “America’s lead over its economic rivals has been entirely forfeited.” Under-education may not end lives the way infectious diseases do, but it just as surely wastes them. For all the hard work of our good teachers, our system is failing to keep pace with the demands of a new century.
Total police calls to Madison’s four main high schools declined 38 percent from the fall semester of 2006 to last spring. But those figures tell only a partial story, and not a very meaningful one.
That’s because the numbers include all police calls, including ones for 911 disconnects, parking lot crashes and stranded baby ducks. (It happened at La Follette last May.)
The State Journal then looked at police calls in eight categories closely related to safety — aggravated batteries, batteries, weapons offenses, fights, bomb threats, disturbances, robberies and sexual assaults. Those calls are down 46 percent from fall 2006 to spring 2008.
The schools varied little last spring in the eight categories. Memorial and West each had 13 such calls, La Follette 14 and East 16.
School officials are relieved by the downward trend but careful not to read too much into the figures.
“We know there’s almost a cyclical nature to crime statistics and even to individual behavior,” said Luis Yudice, who is beginning his third year as district security coordinator.
Art Camosy, a veteran science teacher at Memorial, said he thinks the climate is improving at his school. Yet he views the police figures skeptically, in part because the numbers are “blips in time” but also because he wonders if the district’s central office is behind the drop.
“Are our building administrators being pressured not to call police as often?” he asks.
John Matthews, the longtime executive director of Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), the district’s teachers union, contends that the district’s leadership has indeed done this from time to time, directing building administrators to hold off on calling police so often.
Yudice, a former Madison police captain, said there was a time years ago when the district was extremely sensitive about appearing to have a large police presence at its schools. He rejects that notion now.
“It’s just the opposite,” he said. “We are more openly acknowledging that we have issues that need to be dealt with by the police. Since I’ve been working here, there has never been a directive to me or the school principals to minimize the involvement of police.”
All four Madison high schools feature an open campus. It appears that Erickson only reviewed calls to the High Schools, not those nearby. 1996-2006 police calls near Madison High Schools is worth a look along with the Gangs & School violence forum.
Finally, I hope that the Madison Police Department will begin publishing all police calls online, daily, so that the public can review and evaluate the information.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee School Board agree on this much: The community needs an accurate reading on the district’s finances.
Unfortunately, that may be the only thing they agree on.
Both are moving separately on plans to get the numbers. The School Board wants to spend $50,000 of taxpayers’ money to perform an audit to see where the Milwaukee Public Schools can be more efficient. Barrett is seeking funding from local foundations for an assessment of the struggling district’s financial and operational situation — a study that also could take the next step and recommend restructuring and how to best direct resources to the classroom where they can most help educate Milwaukee’s kids.
On paper, we believe Barrett’s plan goes beyond that of the School Board, because it will home in on a half-dozen or so top priorities that, when funded adequately, will improve MPS performance and increase the district’s credibility among parents, taxpayers and decision-makers in Madison.
For Barrett’s plan to have bite, he needs the support of foundations to retain a firm expert in urban school system finance and operations. Then the mayor needs to pressure the board and administration to get to work.
As we head into the Labor Day weekend, it is only fitting that we consider what may be the country’s most significant contract negotiation, which happens to be going on right here in Washington between the teachers union and the District’s dynamic and determined new schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.
Negotiations are stalled over Rhee’s proposal to give teachers the option of earning up to $131,000 during the 10-month school year in exchange for giving up absolute job security and a personnel-and-pay system based almost exclusively on years served.
If Rhee succeeds in ending tenure and seniority as we know them while introducing merit pay into one of the country’s most expensive and underperforming school systems, it would be a watershed event in U.S. labor history, on a par with President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981. It would trigger a national debate on why public employees continue to enjoy what amounts to ironclad job security without accountability while the taxpayers who fund their salaries have long since been forced to accept the realities of a performance-based global economy.
Union leaders from around the country, concerned about the attention the Rhee proposal has received and the precedent it could set, have been pressing the Washington local to resist. But Rhee clearly has the upper hand. The chancellor has the solid support of the mayor and city council, and should it come to a showdown, there is little doubt that the voters would stand behind her in a battle with a union already badly tarnished by an embezzlement scandal and deeply implicated in the school system’s chronic failure.
There are signs that things may be a bit different in Madison today, compared to past practices.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
The Department of Public Instruction has awarded consolidation feasibility study grants for six consortiums (a total of 14 school districts). The grants, $10,000 to each consortium, are intended to provide funding for the identification of issues, data analysis, and the development of reports to inform the communities on the possibility of consolidation.
The grants went to consortiums consisting of: Chetek and Weyerhaeuser, Glidden and Park Falls, Bruce and Ladysmith-Hawkins; Benton, Cuba City, Southwestern, and Shullsburg; Montello and Westfield; and Prairie Du Chien and Wauzeka-Steuben.
On June 19, Rainwater told the Wisconsin State Journal that the district wouldn’t appeal Flaten’s decision, saying, “The standard to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling is just really, really high.”
“It is,” Bob Nadler, the district’s executive director of human resources, agreed in an interview Friday.
The district, Nadler said, filed the suit because Friday was the deadline for filing a challenge to Flaten’s decision, and the district needed to preserve that option in case ongoing talks break down.
The district and union will continue to negotiate, outside of court and the WERC, to seek a settlement, Nadler said. The next session is Tuesday.
Nadler said the suit shouldn’t be viewed as a signal that Daniel Nerad, who succeeded Rainwater as superintendent on July 1, is taking a harder line with the union.
“I think this is just a very specific case that we feel we may have to challenge in the future,” Nadler said.
But John Matthews, executive director of the teachers union, called the filing of the suit “a stupid waste of money because there’s absolutely no way that they can succeed.
Certainly a change from past practices.
Karen Grigsby Gates @ NPR:
Many seniors at L.A.’s West Adams Preparatory High School are actually looking forward to returning to school. The brand new institution is based on a mission to help students realize their dreams in a multicultural world. This is far from common in Southern California.
Robert Reich @ Marketplace:
Commentator Robert Reich says Democrats have acknowledged the obstacles racial minorities face in hiring and education for a long time. Now, he says, they ought to look at the economically disadvantaged, too.
There is an old story about a worker, at one of the South African diamond mines, who would leave work once a week or so pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand. The guard would stop him and search the sand thoroughly, looking for any smuggled diamonds. When he found none, he would wave the worker through. This happened month after month, and finally the guard said, “Look, I know you are smuggling something, and I know it isn’t diamonds. If you tell me what it is, I won’t say anything, but I really want to know. The worker smiled, and said, “wheelbarrows.”
I think of this story when teachers find excuses for not letting their students see the exemplary history essays written by their high school peers for The Concord Review. Often they feel they cannot give their students copies unless they can “teach” the contents. Or they already teach the topic of one of the essays they see in the issue. Or they don’t know anything about one of the topics. Or they don’t have time to teach one of the topics they see, or they don’t think students have time to read one or more of the essays, or they worry about plagiarism, or something else. There are many reasons to keep this unique journal away from secondary students.
They are, to my mind, “searching the sand.” The most important reason to show their high school students the journal is to let them see the wheelbarrow itself, that is, to show them that there exists in the world a professional journal that takes the history research papers of high school students seriously enough to have published them on a quarterly basis for the last 21 years. Whether the students read all the essays, or one of them, or none of them, they will see that for some of their peers academic work is treated with respect. And that is a message worth letting through the guard post, whatever anyone may think about, or want to do something with, the diamonds inside.
The Concord Review
And of course some teachers are eager to show their students the work of their peers….
The Concord Review — Varsity Academics®
I am happy to send along this letter describing both “logistical” and pedagogical dimensions of how I have used The Concord Review in class since employing the first class sets in the 1988-1989 academic year. You know from the fact that we have expanded our class subscription “coverage” from all U.S. History classes to all U.S. History and World History since 1500 classes that we have been very satisfied with the Review. In fact, I am glad to say that, due to an expanding school enrollment, our class set for this year will number about 80 subscriptions.
Continue reading Wheelbarrow →
The average SAT scores for Wisconsin and the neighboring states are summarized below. The higher the percentage of students who take the test, the lower
the average score is likely to be.
||% Taking Test
|The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Press Release [255K PDF] only compared Wisconsin to the National Average, below.
College Board 2008 SAT information.
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
The house of cards known as the state budget is predictably collapsing.
A Dane County judge heard arguments this week on the legality of a $200 million raid state leaders made on a special fund that’s supposed to cover large medical malpractice awards.
Doctors pay into the fund to hold down their insurance rates. So the Wisconsin Medical Society, which represents about 60 percent of doctors, sued the state last year after the governor and Legislature raiding the fund to patch a state budget hole.
The state raid was just the latest in a series of poor financial moves that voters should remember when voting for legislative candidates this fall.
Voters should favor those candidates willing to scrutinize spending and resist expensive new programs. The accounting tricks and money raids need to stop. And the longer Wisconsin waits to get its financial house in order, the harder and more painful it will be to fix.
Wisconsin State Representative Brett Davis (R-Oregon):
As families across Wisconsin get ready to send their kids back to school, it is important to focus on how we are going to continue to improve student achievement for all our children. As chairman of the state Assembly Education Committee and having my son Will entering the ranks of pre-school, I understand the need to constantly look to improve our education system in Wisconsin so our kids and grandkids can compete in a competitive global economy and be productive citizens.
To increase student achievement in Wisconsin, I recently announced a comprehensive K-12 education improvement plan that I believe will reduce property taxes, make our school finance system more sensible, modernize student assessments, and direct more resources to classroom instruction. First, however, it is necessary to point out the current financial commitment to K-12 education in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has 426 school districts educating approximately 868,000 students. The current state budget will spend more than $12.3 billion during the next two years on K-12 education, the most amount of money ever spent on education in our state’s history. This amount represents 44 percent of our state’s general purpose revenue (our tax dollars) and appropriately is our number one state financial commitment. In 2008-09 it is estimated local school districts, primarily through property taxes, will spend another $5 billion. When all funding is combined, including the $600 million we receive from the federal government, we spend about $12,600 per student. In 2005-2006, our state spending level ranked Wisconsin 14th nationwide, according the US Census Bureau.
Related: Local, state, federal and global education spending charts.
Mary Bell, President of WEAC:
When I began my teaching career at Rhinelander High School 31 years ago, I started the school year by making resolutions the same way many of us do in early January. When you work in public education, you don’t just resolve to exercise more often or cut down on your caffeine, you resolve to monitor the cleanliness of your students’ desks (before it is too late), to not let your lesson plans cut into recess and lunch periods, to assign less (or more) homework, or to finish your master’s degree.
I made these resolutions at the start of every school year, long after I had gone from a first-year English teacher in Rhinelander to a veteran library media specialist in Wisconsin Rapids. Most educators I know make new school year resolutions, because every school year starts with a clean slate and a sense of unlimited possibility.
Great schools benefit everyone, and throughout Wisconsin it is not just educators but whole communities taking pride in the public schools they have created and sustained. This sense of ownership and investment has paid big dividends, as Wisconsin’s schools are the envy of the nation. We have one of the highest high school graduation rates. On the ACT college entrance exam, our high school seniors have ranked in the nation’s top three for 19 years in a row.
Related: Local, state, federal and global education spending charts.
Richard Kahlenberg via a kind reader’s email:
Sen. James Meeks’ (D-Chicago) proposed student boycott of Chicago public schools next month has sparked furious controversy. Should students miss their first day of class for the worthy goal of promoting equity in public school spending? Leaders such as Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan are worried about the disruption involved as Meeks seeks to enroll Chicago students at New Trier High School in Winnetka.
Missing from the discussion is a bigger point: The main reason New Trier’s students achieve and graduate at much higher levels isn’t per-pupil expenditure; it’s differences in the socioeconomic status of the student bodies in Chicago and New Trier.
Decades of research have found that the biggest determinant of academic achievement is the socioeconomic status of the family a child comes from and the second biggest determinant is the socioeconomic status of the school she attends. The main problem with Chicago schools isn’t that too little is spent on students but that the school district has overwhelming concentrations of poverty.
In the 2005-06 school year, Chicago public schools spent $10,409 per pupil, much less than New Trier ($16,856), but slightly more than several high-performing suburban school districts, including ones in Naperville ($9,881) and Geneva ($9,807). The key difference is that while 84.9 percent of Chicago students come from low-income homes, New Trier has a low-income population of 1.9 percent, Naperville has 5 percent and Geneva 2.4percent.
Mitch Henck discusses Monday evening’s Madison School Board 7-0 vote to proceed with a recurring referendum this November. 19 minutes into this 15mb mp3. Topics include: property taxes, uncontested elections, health care costs, concessions before negotiations and local control. Via a kind reader’s email.
Cheryl Jackson via a kind reader’s email:
his week, in a lawsuit brought against the State of Illinois and the State Board of Education, the Chicago Urban League and Quad County Urban League called on the courts to end the discriminatory and unconstitutional way public school education is funded in Illinois. This is not just an educational issue, but a civil rights issue, too, for thousands of African-American and Latino students whose social and economic future is being shortchanged by a flawed state policy.
After more than a decade of legislative gridlock on education funding reform, set against a bleak backdrop of crumbling schoolhouses, moldy books and shamefully low graduation rates–the time has come to dismantle the current property-based system of school financing.
That system is discriminatory in its impact, sustaining huge funding gaps between black and white schools.
It makes quality education nearly impossible for thousands of students of color. It confounds the best efforts of well-meaning parents, teachers and administrators. And it puts children on a pathway to lifelong poverty and social pathologies that squander their potential and exact enormous social costs.
Community and Schools Together:
We have a referendum!
Community and Schools Together (CAST) has been working to educate the public on the need to change the state finance system and support referendums that preserve and expand the good our schools do. We are eager to continue this work and help pass the referendum the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education approved on Monday, August 25, 2008.
“The support and interest from everyone has been great,” said Franklin and Wright parent and CAST member Thomas J. Mertz. “We’ve got a strong organization, lots of enthusiasm, and we’re ready to do everything we can to pass this referendum and move our schools beyond the painful annual cuts. Our community values education. It’s a good referendum and we are confident the community will support it.”
Community and Schools Together (CAST) strongly supports the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education’s decision to place a three-year recurring referendum on the November 4, 2008 ballot. This is the best way for the district to address the legislated structural deficit we will face over the next few years.
Much more on the November, 2008 Referendum here.
Continue reading In Support of the November, 2008 Madison School District Referendum →
For the second consecutive year, SAT scores for the most recent high school graduating class remained at the lowest level in nearly a decade, according to results released Tuesday.
But the College Board, which owns the exam, attributes the lower averages of late to a more positive development: a broader array of students are taking the test, from more first-generation college students to a record number of students — nearly one in seven — whose family income qualifies them to take the test for free.
“More than ever, the SAT reflects the face of education in this country,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, which owns the test and released the results.
The class of 2008 scored an average of 515 out of a possible 800 points on the math section of the college entrance exam, a performance identical to graduating seniors in the previous year. (See SAT stats.)
Scores in the critical reading component among last spring’s high-school seniors also held steady at 502, but the decline over time has been more dramatic: The past two years represent the lowest reading average since 1994, when graduating seniors scored 499.
The College Board:
The SAT’s writing section has proven to be the most predictive section of the test for determining first-year college performance, as evidenced by recent studies by the College Board and independent studies by the University of California and the University of Georgia. The College Board analysis, which evaluated data from about 150,000 students at 110 four-year colleges and universities, also found the writing section to be the most predictive for all students and therefore across all racial/ethnic minority groups.
Of all three sections of the SAT, the writing section is the most predictive of students’ freshman year college performance for all students, demonstrating that writing is a critical skill and an excellent indicator of academic success in college.
The writing section is also the most predictive section for all racial/ethnic minority groups, which demonstrates that the SAT is a fair and valid test for all students.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
Wisconsin’s 2008 graduates posted an average score of 604 points in mathematics on the SAT college admissions test, an increase of six points from last year and 89 points above the national mean score of 515. Along with solid SAT results, preliminary data on the College Board’s Advanced Placement program showed continued growth of the program in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin had 3,522 public and private school graduates who took the SAT during high school. They represent about 5 percent of the state’s graduates. Their critical reading score averaged 587, the same as last year; mathematics was 604, up six points from last year; and writing was 577, up two points. Nationally, 1.5 million graduates, about 45 percent of all graduates, took the SAT. The national overall mean scores were the same as in 2007: critical reading, 502; mathematics, 515; and writing, 494. On the ACT college admissions tests, more popular in Midwestern states, 67 percent of Wisconsin’s 2008 graduates took the exams. Their scores also were well above national averages.
Steve Barr & Kai Ryssdal @ Marketplace:
KAI RYSSDAL: The Democrats have gathered in Denver. They’ll be partying and schmoozing and, yes, talking policy for the rest of the week. While the convention’s in session, we’ve asked some prominent Democratic policy types to complain. That is, tell us where they think the party has gone astray on key issues. Today, commentator and education reformer Steve Barr says Democrats are behind the curve on education.
STEVE BARR: Check out any national poll on issues important to Americans, and they’ll tell you the same thing: On education, voters trust Democrats more than they do Republicans. And it’s been that way for decades.
But my fellow Democrats haven’t done much in recent years to earn that trust. Party leaders aren’t addressing education in a real way. And when they do, it’s usually to condemn No Child Left Behind or to make a vague appeal for better schools. Rarely do Democratic party leaders offer a clear vision for what a 21st century education should look like.
Now, the Dems don’t have it easy. There are two warring tribes in their ranks — teachers unions and school-reform advocates who are wary of teachers unions.
So, let me offer a new progressive vision to my beloved party, so it can challenge these tribes to come together: Community-based, decentralized school districts composed of small schools.
Study after study shows that a smaller school gives a kid the best chance to succeed. A decentralized district would streamline money to school sites, where each school would control its own budget. School leaders, including teachers, would make the hires.
Clusty Search: Steve Barr. Green Dot Public Schools
Stephen Carroll & Ethan Scherer [328K PDF]:
This briefing synthesizes the empirical research on the effects of educational quality on the community. First, please note the word “empirical.” RAND reviewed empirical studies — studies in which some evidence was offered in support of the arguments. In the course of the literature review, we ran across books and articles in which the authors put forth logical arguments about the relationship between educational quality and the community, but did not offer any empirical evidence in support of those arguments. We do not suggest that these arguments are wrong, but we did not include them in this review because no evidence was offered in support of them.
This briefing focuses on results reported in the literature that apply to K-12 education, public and private. In our review, we generally did not consider studies that examined the effects of educational quality in either post-secondary education or early childhood education on the community.
We excluded studies that we considered of low quality, either because the methodology or the data were inadequate and which, therefore, reported findings that we thought were not well supported by empirical evidence. We also excluded studies that reported findings not adequately supported by the analysis, even if the study used accepted methodologies and substantial data.
Also, our review did not include research on how to improve quality or the cost of doing so. We looked at how educational quality affected the community, but not at what might be done to improve quality, or what that might cost.
Members of the Madison School Board will ask city taxpayers to help finance the Madison Metropolitan School District budget, voting Monday night to move forward with a school referendum.
The referendum will be on the ballot on Election Day, Nov. 4.
Superintendent Dan Nerad outlined a recommendation last week for the board to approve a recurring referendum asking to exceed revenue limits by $5 million during the 2009-10 school year, $4 million for 2010-11 and $4 million for 2011-12. With a recurring referendum, the authority afforded by the community continues permanently, as opposed to other referendums that conclude after a period of time.
Accounting initiatives that would soften the impact on taxpayers were also approved Monday.
One part of the initiative would return $2 million to taxpayers from the Community Services Fund, which is used for afterschool programs. The second part of the initiative would spread the costs of facility maintenance projects over a longer period.
Madison School District voters on Nov. 4 will be asked to approve permanent tax increases in the district to head off projected multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls.
In a pair of 7-0 votes, the Madison School Board on Monday night approved a proposal from Superintendent Daniel Nerad to hold a referendum and to adopt a series of accounting measures to reduce their effect on taxpayers.
Nerad said the district would work “day and night” to meet with residents and make information available about the need for the additional money to avert what school officials say would be devastating cuts in programs and services beginning in 2009-10, when the projected budget shortfall is $8.1 million.
“I understand this goes to the community to see if this is something they support. We’re going to do our best to provide good information,” said Nerad.
Some citizens who spoke at Monday’s meeting echoed the sentiments of board members and school officials.
“Our schools are already underfunded,” said one man.
However, others spoke against the plan. “This is virtually a blank check from taxpayers.
Superintendent Dan Nerad had to act quickly to put the plan together, facing the $8 million shortfall in his first few days on the job.
“I will never hesitate to look for where we can become more efficient and where we can make reductions,” said Nerad. “But I think we can say $8 million in program cuts, if it were only done that way, would have a significant impact on our kids.”
The plan was highly praised by most board members, but not by everyone who attended the meeting.
“This virtually gives the board a blank check from all of Madison’s taxpayers’ checkbooks,” said Madison resident David Glomp. “It may very well allow the school board members to never have to do the heavy lifting of developing a real long-term cost saving.”
“We need to respect the views of those who disagree with us and that doesn’t mean they’re anti-school or anti-kids,” says board member Ed Hughes.
Board members stressed, the additional money would not be used to create new programs, like 4-year-old kindergarten.
“What’s a miracle is that our schools are continuing to function and I think that’s the conversation happening around Wisconsin, now, says board vice president Lucy Mathiak. “How much longer can we do this?”
The referendum question will appear on the November 4th general election ballot.
The board will discuss its educational campaign at its September 8th meeting.
Much more on the planned November, 2008 referendum here.
TJ Mertz on the “blank check“.
Clark County Superintendent Walt Ruffles:
As a former chief financial officer in both public and private organizations, I recognize the gravity of Nevada’s current financial condition and the need to cut costs where possible. But, as your current superintendent, I also recognize the disservice being done to Nevada’s next generation of adults.
Make no mistake about it, education in Nevada is hurting. Clark County receives the lowest per-pupil funding in the state, and the state funds its students at one of the lowest rates in the nation. That puts the Clark County School District near the bottom of the nation in per-pupil funding. Cuts of the magnitude we are experiencing are making a bad situation worse.
Collin Hitt via a kind reader’s email:
In protest of Chicago’s failing school system, Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) is staging a field trip of sorts. He’s urging kids from his legislative district to skip the first day of school, board buses, travel to Winnetka, and attempt to enroll in New Trier High School.
One can understand why Meeks would want better educational options for Chicago kids. But on his way to Winnetka, the senator might want to take a look out the window where there are already many Chicago public schools–charter schools–that are performing on par with top-notch suburban and downstate schools. One such school, Chicago International Charter School, graduates its students 86 percent of the time–comparing quite favorably with public schools Downstate and suburban Chicago, which have an average graduation rate of 84 percent. Overall, charter public schools in Chicago graduate 77 percent of their students, compared with a citywide average of 51 percent.
Why aren’t there more charter schools in Chicago? Because state law caps the number of charters in the city at 30. Today, approximately 13,000 Chicago public school children are on a waiting list to get into charters–schools that have offered a proven formula for success. To give inner-city kids the opportunities they deserve, the charter-school cap should be lifted.
Variations of this question are often asked: “Are we spending too much, too little or just the right amount on education?” I thought it might be useful to have a look at some local, state, federal and global information. Click to view the charts in detail:
Madison School District Enrollment: 1994-2007 (the demographics have changed during this time)
Madison School District Budgets: 1995-2009
Percentage of Wisconsin General Purpose State Tax Revenue Spent on K-12 School Districts: 1972-2007
Wisconsin State Tax Dollars Spent on K-12 School Districts: 1972-2007
US Government Tax Revenue, by Source: 1965-2005
Composition of US Government Spending: 1965-2005
Total US Governement Debt, as a percentage of GDP
Wisconsin General Purpose Revenue Tax Receipts by Category: 1971-2007
Global Distribution of public expenditure on Education: ages 5 to 25
Data via the Madison School District (various budget documents and statistics), The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, I.O.U.S.A: One Nation, Under Stress, in Debt and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics Database.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Price Index. $1000 in 1995 requires $1443.33 according to their inflation calculator, while $1000 in 1972 requires $5,262.30 in 2008.
November Madison School District Planned November, 2008 Referendum notes & links. Tax climate notes & links: When is a Tax Cut Really a Tax Hike by Gene Epstein, 20 Reasons to Kill Corporate Taxes by James Pethokoukis, I.O.U.S.A the Movie, the Economist: Inflation’s Last Hurrah and Dave Blaska on the proposed referendum.
Tests measure what students know. Like a Polaroid, they give a snapshot of knowledge frozen at one moment in time. But what if you could measure how much a child learns over the course of a school year? What if you could gauge what a school actually adds to a child’s learning experience?
In Ohio, you can. This year’s district and school report cards, which will be released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Education, for the first time will include a measurement known as value-added. The revolutionary formula, designed more than two decades ago by a homespun statistical guru from the rolling hills of eastern Tennessee, has rocked the education world. Put simply, value-added tracks whether a year’s worth of learning is actually happening in the course of a school year — regardless of whether a child passes a test at the end of that year.
Milwaukee’s children are the city’s future, and their education is a profound concern to all of us. Milwaukee Public Schools is responsible for ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to be capable workers and good citizens.
Like other urban school districts in the country, MPS struggles against mighty odds to fulfill this mission. There are major successes and many problems. Trying to overcome these problems is crucial, and there is room for all sectors of the city and region to share in the work.
A new initiative to audit or otherwise examine MPS could be very helpful if the analysis addresses all the fundamental issues at play, including the following:
• The households MPS students come from are in increasing economic distress, and almost one in five students come to the classroom with special needs — emotional, physical and cognitive — that require additional personnel and resources.
Karen Royster is executive director of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future; Jack Norman is the institute’s research director. The institute is funded by national foundations and does not receive money from state or local teachers unions.
In a world of increased occasions for forms of social control, the university is extending its reach. In an AP story today we learn that universities are broadening the scope of their campus behavior codes to apply to student conduct off campus, in an effort to cultivate humanity, to borrow from Martha Nussbaum. One purpose is to make students better citizens within the community. From the article:
We have a responsibility to educate our students about being responsible citizens,” said Elizabeth A. Higgins, Washington’s director of community standards and student conduct, whose office has ‘educated’ 19 students since the extended code of conduct took effect in January.
The scope of these codes can be quite broad, as the article reports that the University of Colorado code “regulates any conduct that ”affects the health, safety or security of any member of the university community or the mission of the university.” The article further reports that Seattle University “has put its students on notice that cyber-patrolling will continue this year.”
Tangentially, this is one of the issues worth looking into around local high schools: given the open campus, how much undesirable activity occurs near those facilities, and who has jurisdiction? This data: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:
Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett must act to bring radical change to the city school district. Everything must be on the table this time — even dissolution.
For years, the Journal Sentinel has chided, prodded and coaxed the administrators and the School Board of Milwaukee Public Schools. We’ve backed plan after plan to “fix” MPS. Time after time, we’ve been disappointed.
Now Journal Sentinel reporters have laid bare the mind-numbing incompetence of those who implemented the Neighborhood Schools Initiative. This $102 million building plan was forced on the city’s parents and taxpayers, and then many of those millions were thrown to the gentle wind, even after it was clear that the plan was failing.
For the sake of the thousands of kids MPS is leaving behind, fundamental change is a necessity. It might even be time to dissolve MPS and start over.
Large organizations (public or private) rarely make significant changes.
Related: Starting from scratch in the New Orleans public schools.
One of the biggest differences between Nerad and Rainwater, according to School Board members, is that Nerad provides the board with more information about what’s happening in the district. Silveira said Nerad’s weekly memos help board members feel engaged, and she’s hopeful that after the current financial questions are settled, the board can turn its focus to improving student achievement.
Mathiak said she was thrilled last week after hearing Nerad’s plan. “I think there is a honeymoon period and I think we’re still in it.”
Winston said after watching Nerad at work, “I’m convinced we made the right choice. I think he’s here for the long haul, too.”
Notes and links on Dan Nerad, the planned November, 2008 referendum and Active Citizens for Education Memo: Taxpayers should NOT be asked to give the Madison School Board a blank check!.
Active Citizens for Education (ACE) calls for the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to delay making specific decisions for the presentation of a recurring referendum to the taxpayers for a vote on the November election ballot.
Passage of a recurring referendum on the November 2008 ballot would allow the board and school administration to permanently exceed the state mandated revenue spending caps. Such a move to fix a so-called current “budget gap” would allow the board and administration to exceed annual spending caps permanently, every year into the future. This would virtually give the board a “blank check” from district taxpayers to plug future budget gaps or shortfalls. It could prevent the board and administration from having to carefully and thoughtfully budget, like every taxpayer must do when their household budget faces tough economic times and shortfalls.
The plans and communications presented in recent weeks by the board and administration provide greater hope for more effective decision-making now and in the future. The recommendations for changes in policy and accountability options in community services, transportation, lease contracts, fund balances and capital expansion (maintenance) will have positive impacts on reducing the so-called “budget gap.”
The Board must earn the trust of the taxpayers by clearly showing that they can be “good stewards” of taxpayer dollars. Past experience has not earned that trust! If a referendum is ultimately required to fix upcoming budgets, it should be a non-recurring referendum, thereby preventing ‘mortgaging’ the future with year-after-year, permanent increases in spending authority.
The Board and administration must correct the absence of specific processes and strategies for analysis and evaluation of business and educational services, programs, practices and policies. Urgent and substantial investments of time and work are critical for these processes to evolve into hard evidence. This evidence is absolutely necessary to show the public that serious steps are under way to provide clear, concrete data and options for identifying the most effective and efficient results-oriented management of the financial resources of the district. It must be shown that the resources will be directly applied to improvements in student learning and achievement.
Continue reading Taxpayers should NOT be asked to give the Madison School Board a blank check! →
On June 30, the board of education and the town council in Enfield, Conn., convened to hear the results of a citizen cost-cutting committee. Among its other recommendations, the 17 residents recommended replacing some public school teachers with low-cost college interns, restricting the use of school vehicles, and increasing employee contributions to benefit plans.
These may seem modest steps toward fiscal responsibility — but they are emblematic of a significant change in this very blue state: growing disenchantment with the price of government, especially of public education.
Over the past two and a half decades, the student population in Connecticut has increased only 10%. Yet the cost of schooling more than doubled — to $8.8 billion in 2006, up from $3.4 billion in 1981. Seventeen years ago, the state enacted an income tax with promises to cut other taxes. Instead, real-estate assessments soared, creating a massive income transfer from the private to the public sector, fueled in part by a state cost-sharing formula that uses taxes on residents in the suburbs to subsidize urban schools. Helping to soak up all that money were binding arbitration laws, skewed to give teacher unions an advantage in collective bargaining negotiations.
Non-Partisan Action for a Better Redding:
Redding is a fabulous place. And Connecticut is a great state. Our goal is to help make Redding even better!
Since about three-quarters of our budget supports our schools, we explored ways to get a bigger bang for the education buck while simultaneously improving the quality of education. So we developed The School Choice Plan. Not only does it save money for all taxpayers, it also empowers parents with choice and improves education. The Plan is summarized in our School Choice Plan brochure as is the School Grants Calculator we developed. Take a look at the brochure.
Shikha Dalmia & Lisa Snell:
Barack Obama says he believes in universal preschool and if he’s elected president he’ll pump “billions of dollars into early childhood education.” Universal preschool is now second only to universal health care on the liberal policy wish list. Democratic governors across the country — including in Illinois, Arizona, Massachusetts and Virginia — have made a major push to fund universal preschool in their states.
But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them? Not according to available evidence.
“Advocates and supporters of universal preschool often use existing research for purely political purposes,” says James Heckman, a University of Chicago Noble laureate in economics whose work Mr. Obama and preschool activists routinely cite. “But the solid evidence for the effectiveness of early interventions is limited to those conducted on disadvantaged populations.”
Mr. Obama asserted in the Las Vegas debate on Jan. 15 that every dollar spent on preschool will produce a 10-fold return by improving academic performance, which will supposedly lower juvenile delinquency and welfare use — and raise wages and tax contributions. Such claims are wildly exaggerated at best.
via a kind reader’s email. Matt Arado:
Illinois courts refused twice in the 1990s to enter the school-funding debate, saying the matter belonged with state lawmakers, not the judiciary.
The Chicago Urban League, which filed a new school-funding lawsuit against the state this week, believes it can make the courts rethink that position.
The lawsuit characterizes the school-funding question as a civil rights matter, alleging that the current system, which uses property taxes to fund schools, discriminates against low-income minority students, especially blacks and Hispanics.
Using civil rights law should ensure that the courts will hear the case this time around, Urban League Executive Vice President Sharon Jones said.
“Courts have been deciding racial discrimination cases for years,” she said, adding that the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 didn’t exist during earlier school-funding cases.
A day after a civil rights lawsuit called the state’s school funding system discriminatory, those who have been battling inequities in the Chicago Public Schools were optimistic, pointing to a historic win in New York.
“The New York suit was successful, and very similar, so we’re hoping that case will set precedent,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education.
As in Illinois, previous suits challenging New York State’s school funding system had failed. But in 1993, a coalition there filed suit alleging for the first time that the system had a “disparate racial impact” based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
After 10 years and several appeals, New York’s highest court ruled in 2003 in favor of the plaintiffs. Further appeals by New York’s governor ended with the Court of Appeals upholding the ruling in 2006 and ordering the state to meet a minimum funding figure. That new funding level was finally enacted in April 2007.
Those involved in two previous lawsuits in Illinois said that without the new “disparate impact” claim, the Chicago Urban League’s suit would face bleak prospects.
Notes and links on funding and education from Kansas City (where a judge ordered a massive spending increase during the early 1990’s and Texas.
V. Dion Haynes & Michael Birnbaum:
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced plans yesterday to boost dismal achievement at half the city’s middle schools by offering students an unusual incentive: cash.
For years, school officials have used detention, remedial classes, summer school and suspensions to turn around poorly behaved, underachieving middle school students, with little results. Now they are introducing a program that will pay students up to $100 per month for displaying good behavior.
Beginning in October, 3,000 students at 14 middle schools will be eligible to earn up to 50 points per month and be paid $2 per point for attending class regularly and on time, turning in homework, displaying manners and earning high marks. A maximum of $2.7 million has been set aside for the program, and the money students earn will be deposited every two weeks into bank accounts the system plans to open for them.
The system has 28 middle-grade schools. Rhee will select the schools to participate in the pilot program.
“We believe this is the time for radical intervention,” Rhee said at a news conference outside Hardy Middle School in Northwest Washington. “We’re very excited about this particular program.”
Not a promising trend.
Since the release of “A Nation at Risk” 25 years ago, we have seen the introduction of top-down standards (including the No Child Behind Act), the spread of a bottom-up school-choice movement (including vouchers and charter schools), and the advent of entrepreneurial programs, like Teach for America, that combine a market-oriented approach with a focus on academic results.
Meanwhile, record numbers of students aspire to higher education, not least because the economic returns to a college degree are, despite a recent leveling off, indisputable. Thus all sorts of people are busy trying to make sure that more high-school grads get a shot not only at enrolling in college but at finishing it.
None of this much impresses Charles Murray. In “Real Education,” he suggests that teachers, students and reformers are all suffering from a case of false consciousness. “The education system,” he says, “is living a lie.”
The problem with American education, according to Mr. Murray, is not what President Bush termed the “soft bigotry of low expectations” but rather the opposite: Far too many young people with inherent intellectual limitations are being pushed to advance academically when, Mr. Murray says, they are “just not smart enough” to improve much at all. It is “a triumph of hope over experience,” he says, to believe that school reform can make meaningful improvements in the academic performance of below-average students. (He might have noted, but doesn’t, that such students are disproportionately black and Hispanic.)
Real Education by Charles Murray.
Dave Umhoefer & Dani McClain:
He downplayed his previously stated interest in mayoral control of the district, but said all options for control of the district should be explored.
“I’m not interested in a power grab,” Barrett said. “I’m interested in MPS performance. But confidence is not high right now.”
Barrett made his comments after a Journal Sentinel investigation this week of the district’s neighborhood schools plan. Despite spending $102 million to expand schools, MPS failed to reduce busing as hoped or attract more students to local schools, leaving a trail of empty or severely underused building additions. Many of the schools that got new classrooms and other improvements also have seen a decline in student test scores.
Two School Board leaders, reacting to the mayor Thursday night, said a study would merely duplicate one soon to get under way.
The mayor said that in recent months, he has stepped up his behind-the-scenes efforts regarding the “very stressed” district. He said he has been talking with a firm that specializes in financial and operational reviews of urban school systems
Related Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial:
And now, thanks to the in-depth reporting this week by the Journal Sentinel’s Alan J. Borsuk and Dave Umhoefer, we know that the district has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on the failed Neighborhood Schools Initiative.
What isn’t known precisely is how bad things are.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Thursday he wants to hire a consultant to do an audit of the district. The audit would be paid for, he hopes, by local foundations. Previously, the School Board had ordered a “long-term stability” audit to be performed by Robert W. Baird & Co., the district told reporters.
Nerad is earnest, diplomatic and clear spoken. It’s a good bet that most anybody who hears him talk will find something they like in his message. Whether that adds up to support for a coherent educational program remains to be seen.
He faces huge challenges: not just closing the achievement gap while maintaining programs that attract middle-class families, but doing it while state fiscal controls continually squeeze his budget.
Equally hard will be overcoming the district’s own organizational stasis — it’s tendency to stick with the status quo. For all of Madison’s reputation as a progressive community, Madison schools are conservatively run and seriously resistant to change.
Authoritarian, top-down management grew under Nerad’s predecessor, Art Rainwater. Innovations like charter schools are still viewed skeptically, including by Nerad. Four-year-old kindergarten, which could be key to narrowing the achievement gap, is still seen as a problem. The middle school redesign project of a few years ago has been judged by insiders as pretty much a non-event. The high school redesign effort that Nerad inherited seems intent on embracing a program that is still unproven at West and Memorial.
Much more on Dan Nerad here, including his January, 2008 public appearance video.
Wisconsin Taxpayer’s Alliance [156K PDF Report]:
Wisconsin high school seniors have the second-highest average ACT scores in the U.S. However, ACT finds that only 29% of those tested have a 50% chance of earning a B or a 75% chance of earning a C in each of four college freshman courses: English composition, algebra, social sciences, and biology. Among African-American students, that chance is 4%.
In studying 2007 high school graduates, ACT found that only 29% (boxed in table below) of 46,430 Wisconsin students tested met college-readiness benchmarks in four core subject areas; the national percentage was even lower (23%). In its report “College Readiness: Rigor at Risk,” the ACT testing service concluded that “our high school graduates are in danger of entering college or the workforce without sufficient academic preparation.”
The ACT testing service has urged high schools to offer–and students to pursue–core curricula of sufficient depth and rigor to ensure college success. The minimum core (detailed in the table above, col. 1) includes four years of English and three years each of social studies, math, and science. Unfortunately, ACT has found that the current “quality and intensity–inother words rigor–of the high school curriculum” is not adequate to prepare students for college unless they take courses beyond the core. Calling that “neither realistic nor justifiable,” ACT says it is “essential” that we “improve the quality of core courses that really matter in preparing students for college and work.”
The testing firm goes onto observe that much of the loss in momentum toward college readiness “appears to be occurring during the last two years of high school.” Data in the table support ACT’s concern. The first four columns show the “core” curriculum, as well as a maximal course load (“core plus”) that includes math through calculus. The final two show the percentages of Wisconsin-tested students who met the readiness benchmarks, having pursued one of the two curricula. The need for rigor in all high school courses is reflected in the “collegeready” percentages of Wisconsin students taking four or more years of classes in all areas (“core +”).
via the City of Madison Assessor’s office: “The 2008 Property Tax Base of the City of Madison (52K PDF)”. The City’s tax base continues to expand. There are 71,939 parcels in Madison, up from 40,069 in 1990. The Total 2008 assessed value is 21,496,000,000, up from $13,791,000,000 in 2002. Such growth provides great latidude in easing mill rates. Of course, as valuations flatten or decline, the mill rate may dramatically increase, depending on the magnitude of government/school spending increases.
William G. Howell, Martin R. West and Paul E. Peterson:
Americans clearly have had their fill of a sluggish economy and an unpopular war. Their frustration now may also extend to public education. In this, the second annual national survey of U.S. adults conducted under the auspices of Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University, we observe a public that takes an increasingly critical view both of public schools as they exist today and, perhaps ironically, of many prominent reforms designed to improve them.
Local public schools receive lower marks than they did a year ago. More significantly, perhaps, survey respondents claim that their local post offices and police forces outperform their local schools. Meanwhile, support for the most far-reaching federal effort to reform public schools–the No Child Left Behind Act–has slipped. A considerable portion of the public remains undecided about charter schools. And the poll found no enthusiasm for the use of income rather than race as a basis for assigning students to schools.
This does not mean that Americans are unwilling to explore alternate ways of educating young people. A large majority of Americans would let their child take some high school courses for credit over the Internet. An equally large majority favor the education of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities in separate classrooms rather than “mainstreaming” them, as is common practice. A plurality support giving parents the option of sending their child to an all-boys or all-girls public school. And a rising number of Americans know someone who is home schooling a child.
These and other findings appear in the 2008 Education Next -PEPG survey, which once again examines the views of U.S. adults taken as a whole, as well as those of white, African American, and Hispanic subgroups. In addition to the opinions of respondents from different ethnic backgrounds, we
take a special look at those of public school teachers. Responses for the public as a whole and for the subgroups are reported at the bottom of each of the pages that follow. We have also posted responses to additional questions not discussed in this essay.
NY Times Editorial:
Congress has several concerns as it moves toward reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Whatever else they do, lawmakers need to strengthen the requirement that states document student performance in yearly tests in exchange for federal aid.
The states have made a mockery of that provision, using weak tests, setting passing scores low or rewriting tests from year to year, making it impossible to compare progress — or its absence — over time.
The country will have difficulty moving ahead educationally until that changes.
Most states that report strong performances on their own tests do poorly on the more rigorous and respected National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is often referred to as NAEP and is also known as the nation’s report card. That test is periodically given to a sample of students in designated grades in both public and private schools. States are resisting the idea of replacing their own tests with the NAEP, arguing that the national test is not aligned to state standards. But the problem is that state standards are generally weak, especially in math and science.
Letters, in response to this editorial:
In discussing how some states game their student test results, you state, “The federal government could actually embarrass the laggard states by naming the ones that cling to weak tests.” The evidence on these states has been available for some time.
In 2005, Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math and found 87 percent of students performed at or above the proficiency level, while the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, test indicated only 21 percent of Tennessee’s eighth graders proficient in math.
In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficiency on the state reading test, while only 18 percent demonstrated proficiency on the federal test. In Alabama, 83 percent of fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient on the state’s reading test, while only 22 percent were proficient on the NAEP test.
Other states were also found guilty in their determinations of proficient when compared with the federal NAEP test.
The No Child Left Behind Act will never be able to realize its potential as long as entire states are left behind because of the duplicitous efforts of their state officials. If Congress adopted national standards with a corresponding set of national exams in its reauthorization of the law, it could effectively minimize or eliminate these individual state shenanigans.
Marshfield, Mass., Aug.
Locally, the Madison School District’s Value Added Assessment Program is based on the State Department of Instruction’s Standards.
As students prepare to return to school here Monday, teachers and parents criticized the relaxation of the district’s grading policies in a state that helped trigger national testing requirements.
The Dallas Independent School District’s new policies give students who do poorly more chances to improve their grades. Among the changes: High-school students who fail major tests can retake them within five school days, and only the higher scores count.
School officials say the changes are designed to reduce one of the highest dropout rates in the state. According to the Texas Education Agency, 25.8% of students in the Dallas district who enrolled as ninth-graders in 2003 dropped out before their class’s scheduled 2007 graduation.
But the policies have sparked criticism since the Dallas Morning News reported them last week, with angry parents and teachers contending that the district is watering down educational standards for its more than 160,000 students.
Locally, the ongoing implementation of a one size fits all curriculum has been rather controversial.
Links: Center on Reinventing Public Education.
Alan Borsuk & Dave Umhoefer:
The $102 million spent on reviving the concept of the neighborhood school in Milwaukee hasn’t improved academic success at most of the schools where the money was used, a Journal Sentinel investigation found.
With a few exceptions, student achievement has shown little improvement – and in some cases it has fallen dramatically – at 22 schools that were among the largest beneficiaries of the district’s school construction program.
The district’s Neighborhood Schools Initiative was conceived as a way to get children off buses and into their local schools – which MPS officials hoped to improve with new classrooms, before-school and after-school services, and such things as state-of-the-art science labs and libraries.
But bricks and mortar have not raised student performance, testing data shows.
In 16 of the 22 schools, the percentage of fourth-graders rated as proficient or better in reading was lower last year than it was in 2002 – the year the school building initiative hit high gear. Nine schools saw their math scores drop.
Overall, combined fourth-grade reading and math scores have declined sharply at a half dozen of the22 schools where more than $1 million was spent on improvements. Only five schools have had major increases in their combined reading and math performance.
Would-be reformers are trying to beat the high cost — and, they say, the dumbing down — of college materials by writing or promoting open-source, no-cost online texts.
The annual college textbook rush starts this month, a time of reckoning for many students who will struggle to cover eye-popping costs of $128, $156, even $198 a volume.
Caltech economics professor R. Preston McAfee finds it annoying that students and faculty haven’t looked harder for alternatives to the exorbitant prices. McAfee wrote a well-regarded open-source economics textbook and gave it away — online. But although the text, released in 2007, has been adopted at several prestigious colleges, including Harvard and Claremont-McKenna, it has yet to make a dent in the wider textbook market.
“I was disappointed in the uptake,” McAfee said recently at an outdoor campus cafe. “But I couldn’t continue assigning idiotic books that are starting to break $200.”
McAfee is one of a band of would-be reformers who are trying to beat the high cost — and, they say, the dumbing down — of college textbooks by writing or promoting open-source, no-cost digital texts.
Yian Mui & Susan Kinzie:
The rising cost of college textbooks has driven Congress and nearly three dozen states — including Maryland and Virginia — to attempt to curtail prices and controversial publishing practices through legislation. But as the fall semester begins, students are unlikely to see much relief.
Estimates of how much students spend on textbooks range from $700 to $1,100 annually, and the market for new books is estimated at $3.6 billion this year. Between 1986 and 2004, the price of textbooks nearly tripled, rising an average of 6 percent a year while inflation rose 3 percent, according to a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office. In California, the state auditor reported last week that prices have skyrocketed 30 percent in four years.
“It’s really hard just paying for tuition alone,” said Annaiis Wilkinson, 19 and a student at Trinity Washington University who spends about $500 a semester on books. “It really sets people back.
Well worth looking into, including in the K-12 world.
I have appreciated having the opportunity to talk about our schools with you and value your insights, so I wanted to let you know where matters stand on the possibility of a school spending referendum on the November ballot.
As you probably know, Superintendent Dan Nerad submitted his recommendations to the Board at a School Board meeting Monday night (1MB PDF, 3 year financial forecast PDF). In summary, the structural deficit the school funding law imposes on districts as well as increased fixed costs result in a projected budget deficit of $8.1 million for the 2009-2010 school year, $4.4 million for the 2010-2011 school year, and $4.3 million for the 2011-2012 school year, calculated on a same-service basis.
To meet these gaps, the superintendent recommends that the Board approve a referendum asking the voters to authorize the district to exceed our spending limits by $5 million next year, and $4 million in each of the following two years. This would be a recurring referendum, meaning that the authorization for the increased spending in the specified amounts would continue indefinitely.
The amount of extra spending authority we would seek is less than the projected budget gaps. The idea is that this a shared-sacrifice sort of proposal – we would be asking the community to permit us to erase some of the gap through additional taxes while we pledge to address the remainder through seeking out savings and efficiencies that will not have a detrimental impact on classroom learning. As is probably apparent, the referendum is not designed to allow us to restore in a significant way any of the painful cuts we have made in previous years.
Continue reading (Madison) School Referendum News →
Last month, I wrote about the potential for the Madison school district’s new superintendent, Dr. Daniel Nerad, to make Madison schools more receptive to students’ voices (“Daniel Nerad, Stop Shutting Out Student Input,” 7/24/08).
When the piece was published in Isthmus, I was traveling in central Mexico. The day after it appeared, I sat down in front of a computer at an Internet cafe in Mexico City, half expecting a barrage of messages criticizing my naiveté and idealism.
After all, how many people would take seriously a high school student who suggests not only “holding a series of listening sessions [for students] at several of the district’s middle and high schools,” but also “advancing students [on school advisory boards and task forces] from the confines of tokenism to a position of shared power”?
When I opened an email from my mom relating that Dr. Nerad had called our home shortly after my column was printed, I almost thought she was joking. He wants to meet with you, she wrote, to hear more about your ideas on student engagement.
She wasn’t kidding — and neither is Nerad, whom I met with recently at the Doyle Building, the school district’s administrative headquarters. As he told me, “When I read your article, this first thing I wanted to know was, ‘What’s her phone number?”
It appears that Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad has taken a much different approach to community engagement than previous administrations. As always, the proof is in the pudding (or was it “Trust but Verify”); we’ll see how these interactions play out in terms of rigorous curriculum, discipline policy, budget transparency, program effectiveness, expanded educational options and ultimately, growing enrollment after decades of stagnant numbers.
Dalia Zabala, Dr. Angela Minnici, Jennifer McMurrer, Liza Briggs:
This report examines the new developments in the implementation of state high school exit exams in the 26 states that currently implement or plan to implement these tests. The report specifically focuses on the states’ move away from minimum-competency and comprehensive exams toward end-of-course exams.
Via Howard Blume.
Download or listen to this 15MB mp3 audio file.