Salvaging School Accountability

Thomas Toch & Douglas Harris, via a kind reader’s email:

George W. Bush rode to the White House pledging high standards for all students. He’ll leave Washington with the nation’s public education system focused on teaching basic skills to disadvantaged student populations, with the United States lagging in international comparisons of educational attainment, and with his signature education law plagued by so many problems and mired in so much controversy that it has put at serious risk two decades of work to improve public schooling by making educators accountable for their students’ success.
The most important thing Barack Obama or John McCain could do quickly to salvage the accountability movement is change the way that the federal No Child Left Behind Act judges schools. Not by abandoning NCLB’s focus on students’ meeting standards, a move that would be unwise on both policy and political grounds, but by making the law a more legitimate report card of school performance, one that provides a fair and accurate gauge of educators’ contribution to their students’ achievement. Since its inception, NCLB has instead held schools responsible for factors they can’t control and perversely encouraged states to set standards low.
It’s critical in any accountability system that the metrics used to judge performance reflect accurately the contributions of those being judged. In education, that means measuring how much progress a school’s students make during the school year, a “value added” approach that accounts for the disadvantages (or advantages) students may bring to school because of the quality of prior instruction or their family backgrounds. It’s a strategy that pressures schools working with disadvantaged students to work hard in their students’ behalf without penalizing educators for taking on tough assignments. And it’s a strategy that doesn’t reward rich schools merely for having privileged students.

Clusty Search Thomas Toch and Douglas Harris.

Parents cool to short-term solutions for overcrowding at Leopold

Kurt Gutknecht, via a kind reader’s email:

A temporary solution to concerns about Leopold Elementary School will be announced by June 2009, according to Daniel Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Nerad, members of the school board and other officials held what Nerad called “an engagement session” at Leopold on Oct. 20. About 100 parents attended the session, part of what Nerad called an effort to find “a short-term solution to find a long-term solution.”
But a show of hands after the meeting indicated most of those attending the session opposed the proposed short-term solution, which would involve transferring fifth graders to Cherokee and Wright middle schools.
“I’m confident it (the short-term solution) would work for two years,” Nerad said.
Nerad conceded that the short-term plan would address crowding but not another concern of parents- the high proportion (68 percent) of low-income students at Leopold. The long-term plan would tackle that issue, he said.

Much more on Leopold here.

Maryland Urged to Require Graduation Exams

Liz Bowie:

Maryland’s state school board made a final decision yesterday to hold firm and require this year’s high school seniors to pass four subject tests to graduate in June, although it left open the possibility of exemptions for special education students and those learning English.
The decision leaves 9,059 students across the state – or about 17 percent of the Class of 2009 – at risk of not getting a diploma, according to data released yesterday.
Only 70 percent of African-Americans statewide and 50 percent of special education students have met the requirements. But the group most likely to be barred from graduation are immigrants who are learning English. Many have not yet taken all the tests, and only 15 percent have met the requirements.

No Dropouts Left Behind: New Rules on Graduation Rates

Kathleen Kingsbury:

It’s a staggering statistic: one in four American teenagers drops out of school before graduation, a rate that rises to one in three among black and Hispanic students. But there’s no federal system keeping track of the more than 7,000 American teenagers who drop out of school each day.
That appears to be changing. On Oct. 28, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings issued new rules that will force states to adopt a common system to monitor dropouts. Critics of No Child Left Behind have long accused the federal legislation not only of leading more schools to teach to the test, but of letting — or perhaps even encouraging — struggling students to drop out before they can lower average test scores. But Spellings is trying to address this problem with new regulations that will set a uniform graduation rate so that a high school’s annual progress will now be measured both by how students perform on standardized tests and by how many of them graduate within four years.
Schools that do not improve their graduation rates will face consequences, such as having to pay for tutoring or replace principals. “For too long, we’ve allowed this crisis to be hidden and obscured,” Spellings said in her announcement, made nearly seven years after No Child Left Behind was signed into law. “Where graduation rates are low, we must take aggressive action.”

Protests over Italian Education Cuts


Hundreds of thousands of teachers, students and parents took to the streets of Rome and other Italian cities on Thursday, to protest conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s multi-billion-euro education cuts.
Organisers said up to one million people marched in the capital while nine in ten schools across the country were closed.
The Senate on Wednesday approved cuts of more than nine billion euros (11.6 billion dollars) in education spending for the loss of 130,000 jobs in primary schools.
The reforms include a return to the practice of having only one teacher per primary school class and cutting the amount of teaching time starting in the 2009-10 academic year.
Universities, which also face budget cuts, plan a general strike on November 14.

School taxes lower than expected

The Madison Metropolitan School District has announced that the school portion of the local property tax will be lower than anticipated in 2008-09.
The drop in the rate translates to an anticipated savings of $67.50 in 2008-09 for a home assessed at $250,000.
“What this means is that property tax rates will be lower because the overall district property values have increased more than we originally expected, while building the 2008-09 budget estimates,” according to Superintendent Dan Nerad.
“The referendum on November 4, 2008 is still necessary to avoid $8.1 million of reductions to direct programs to students within the classroom for the 2009-10 school year,” according to Nerad. “This positive news simply reduces the school portion of individual property tax bills beginning in the 2008 tax year. The Madison School District would still need permission to go above state imposed revenue limits on property tax increases to meet increasing annual expenditures such as utilities, transportation, and employee compensation increases guided by state law.”
With a successful passage of a referendum on November 4, 2008 the Madison School District is committed to creating efficiencies or reducing services by $3.1 million in the 2009-10 school year. This will be accomplished by planned cost saving measures and further financial strategies that will have the least impact on learning in the classroom.
Under the current funding formula in Wisconsin, the property tax levy is set by a state law referred to as the revenue limit formula. The total levy for the 2008-09 school year was approved to increase by $6,039,802 or 2.74% over the prior year. Due to property values increasing at a higher rate than expected, residents within the school district boundaries will see a direct benefit as the property tax bill into the future. With a successful referendum passage for a home valued at $250,000 in 2007-08 the total property tax bill is projected to increase $22 by the 2011-12 school year.
This chart shows the estimated tax impact to owners of a $250,000 in 2007 from 2007-08 through 2011-12.
Estimated school tax rate 2007-08 to 2011-12
Year Tax Rate Tax Bill
2007-08 $10.08 $2,520.00
2008-09 $ 9.81 $2,452.50
2009-10 $ 9.92* $2,480.00*
2010-11 $ 9.70* $2,522.00*
2011-12 $ 9.40* $2,542.00*
*These amounts are estimates
Original estimate of property value increase in 2008 for Madison area property values was 4%
Actual increase in property value in 2008 for Madison area property values was 5.60% (SOURCE: WI Department of Revenue)

The Election Choice: Education Obama says schools need more money, McCain wants more accountability

Joseph Rago:

Though education has not figured prominently in the campaign, John McCain and Barack Obama have their proposals. Each falls squarely within their respective party’s established political framework: Boiled down, Mr. Obama believes that schools require more resources and federal support, while Mr. McCain wants to introduce to the education system more choice and accountability.
School choice. Mr. McCain would pursue education reforms that institute equality of choice in the K-12 system. He would allow parents whose kids are locked into failing public schools to opt out, whether in favor of another public school, a charter school or through voucher or scholarship programs for private options. Parents, he believes, ought to have more control over their education dollars. Teachers’ unions and school administrators find none of this amenable.
Mr. McCain supports merit pay for teachers and would establish a bonus program for high-performing educators, as well as devote more funds toward attracting successful college graduates into the field. He would also give principals more control over their schools, including spending decisions, instead of district school boards.

Playing the Market, These Kids Are Losing a Lot of Play Money

Jennifer Levitz:

Michael Ashworth slumped by his computer, weary from another rough day in the stock market. All his favorite picks — Domino’s Pizza Inc., Hershey Co. and Gap Inc. — were down.
I’ll be honest with you,” he confided. “Before all this, I asked my mom to get me stocks for Christmas,” but then “I told her not to do it. I asked for a parakeet instead.”
Michael, a 13-year-old at Wilmington’s Skyline Middle School, is one of 700,000 players in the “Stock Market Game,” a scholastic contest in which students from grades four through 12 get a hypothetical $100,000 to invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds.
The game is run by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Wall Street’s biggest trade group. Schools pay about $16 a team for a curriculum that includes access to a computer system that executes the simulated trades and ranks teams by states and age group. At the end, the teams in each state with the best returns take home bull-and-bear trophies, gift certificates or other prizes.

Beautiful Math


NARRATOR: You can find it in the rain forest, on the frontiers of medical research, in the movies, and it’s all over the world of wireless communications. One of nature’s biggest design secrets has finally been revealed.
GEOFFREY WEST (Santa Fe Institute): My god, of course. It’s obvious.
NARRATOR: It’s an odd-looking shape you may never have heard of, but it’s everywhere around you: the jagged repeating form called a fractal.
JAMES BROWN (University of New Mexico): They’re all over in biology. They’re solutions that natural selection has come up with over and over and over again.
NARRATOR: Fractals are in our lungs, kidneys and blood vessels.
KEITH DEVLIN (Stanford University): Flowers, plants, weather systems, the rhythms of the heart, the very essences of life.
NARRATOR: But it took a maverick mathematician to figure out how they work.
BENOIT MANDELBROT (Yale University): I don’t play with formulas, I play with pictures. And that is what I’ve been doing all my life.

John Tierney has more.

Monona School Board looks at closing Maywood Elementary

Karyn Saemann:

Just two months after opening a $25 million new middle school, the Monona Grove School Board is considering closing an elementary school and busing students between Monona and Cottage Grove.
Any of those moves could plunge the district into another tense struggle like the one in 2006 that ultimately led to voters approving the new middle school.
On Nov. 12, the board will consider forming a committee to study whether to close Maywood Elementary in Monona and whether to move Monona sixth-graders to Glacial Drumlin Middle School in Cottage Grove.
Glacial Drumlin opened in September for fifth- through eighth-graders from Cottage Grove, and seventh- and eighth-graders from Monona.
The board may also ask the committee to study changes in Cottage Grove, where Taylor Prairie Elementary is at its enrollment capacity and Cottage Grove Elementary is about 35 students over. Potential moves range from building a $2 million to $3 million addition at Cottage Grove Elementary to using portable classrooms to busing fourth-graders to Monona, where classroom space is abundant. With its price tag, a Cottage Grove Elementary building addition would require a referendum.

On the Minneapolis Spending & Governance Referendum

Tom Weber:

Anyone keeping tabs of next week’s election in the Minneapolis School District is likely aware of a $60 million levy that would raise property taxes to garner more funding for schools. But there’s also a second question on the ballot that’s not getting much attention.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The first question would raise property taxes on a $250,000 house by about $200 a year.
Supporters, like Superintendent Bill Green, say the extra money is needed because the state hasn’t kept pace with education funding, and the district will have to make deep budget cuts without the extra money.
When we ran the previous referendum, it was based on an assumption that the state and federal government would continue the allocation formula they had set out,” Green said. “That we would be able to anticipate that they would keep pace with the cost of living and other factors.
“They didn’t, and so we feel we can’t make the same assumptions (now).”
There is no formal campaign opposing the levy, but voters have expressed opposition.

Protests over Italy school reform


School pupils, university students and teachers have staged demonstrations across Italy against a school reform law just passed by parliament.
In Rome’s Piazza Navona, a popular tourist spot, several people were lightly injured in a clash between left- and right-wing students.
The reform package is expected to cut the education budget.
In primary schools there will be just one all-purpose teacher per class and a grade system for pupils’ behaviour.
The package will reinstate a 10-point system for grading pupils’ conduct, aimed at curbing bullying.

Kids Focus on School Safety

John-John Williams IV:

A student from an Anne Arundel County high school said she’s seen guns on campus. A Howard County girl said squabbles that start as Internet exchanges lead to fights at school. And a senior at a Baltimore school told of fights that are part of gang initiations.
One of the main messages from students across Maryland who gathered yesterday at a summit on school violence is that the issue cannot be ignored.
“We have so many problems in our school system that we don’t think about,” said Josh Maley, 16, a junior at Howard High in Ellicott City. “We overlook so much. This summit is good because it lets [adults] hear their stories.”
The event drew more than 250 students from middle and high schools to Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt to talk about school safety. Every jurisdiction in the state was represented, and organizers said they hope to use the students’ observations and ideas to craft plans to stem violence.

Advocating for the November, 2008 Madison School District Referendum

Paul Soglin:

On next Tuesday’s ballot there is a referendum for Madison Metropolitan School District residents to vote on supporting public education.
As one Wisconsin business leader put it when discussing the challenges of global competition which includes everything from taxation to environmental regulation, “What I need is an intelligent workforce.”
We invest every day. Some investments turn out better than others.
There is really no wiser and prudent investment than the education of our children.
An educated child makes more money and pays taxes. An uneducated child is in need of public support for housing, healthcare, and food. An educated child is less likely to go to prison and more likely to support charities. An uneducated child is more likely to become a parent at a young age and is likely to have greater health problems.

Much more on the referendum here.
Related: Don Severson & Vicki McKenna discuss the referendum (25mb mp3 audio).

Fight at Madison Memorial shows difficulty of keeping school hallways safe

Jessica VanEgeren:

If art really does imitate life, then a peek into the interracial dynamics of high school life in Madison can be found every morning inside Room 272 at West High School. There, the students, hand-picked because of their ethnicity, respond to bullying, gang-related activities, body awareness issues and racial stereotyping by creating skits that mimic common situations students experience in school.
Lounging on pillows and passing around a bag of suckers at 9 a.m., the students, from varying backgrounds including Hmong, Chinese, African-American, Albanian and Laotian, are at ease with one another. This is not a dynamic reflected by every student in every school.
Sometimes an inspiration for a skit can be found right outside the classroom door, as junior Louisa Kornblatt found out on a recent morning when a student yelled, “Watch where your tall white ass is going, bitch,” during a break between classes. Although Kornblatt returned to the classroom with a flushed face, asking if anyone else had heard the comment, most of the students reacted to it nonchalantly.
“That’s just part of a day,” said senior John Reynolds, one of the students in the Multico theater group, which performs in schools all over the district. “You learn to ignore it. West is a culturally diverse place, and you’ll hear those kinds of statements in the hallways. You just need to learn to focus on the good, not the bad.”

Related: Police calls near Madison High Schools 1996-2006.

Online Learning Policy & Practice; A Survey of the States

The Center for Digital Education, 1.5MB PDF Report:

In 2008, the Center for Digital Education conducted a review of state policy and programs to determine the status of online learning policy and practice across the United States. This report is underwritten by Blackboard and Pearson Education and produced with the advice and consultation of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL).
The Center for Digital Education (CDE) interviewed state education officials across the nation to evaluate the overall landscape of online learning. The rankings reflect the vision, policies, programs and strategies that states have deployed around online learning in an effort to transform their academic environment to meet the needs of students. Certain characteristics deemed to have a greater impact on statewide leadership and education (such as states with state-led online programs and/or significant policy directives) played a more significant role in the rankings than others.
The national rankings are as follows: (Florida is #1, Minnesota 9, Illinois 13, Iowa 20, Wiscnsin 37)

Wisconsin SAGE program’s 15-student limit is often exceeded, report says

Amy Hetzner:

About half of the classrooms participating in the state’s school class-size reduction program in 2006-’07 exceeded its 15-student limit at least part of the school day, according to a recent report.
Dwindling resources and enrollment fluctuations were the main reasons given for the variation, according to the report by the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Although the report raises concerns about such practices, including that some school administrators seemed unaware of the program’s 15-student maximum, it concludes, “There are multiple ways to implement reduced class size well.”
The report is part of the state Department of Public Instruction’s regular monitoring of the $111 million SAGE program – Student Achievement Guarantee in Education – that aims to reduce class sizes for kindergarten through third grade in more than 470 Wisconsin schools. The center has another study in the works looking at long-term quantitative results from the program.

California education leaders told to brace for big budget cuts

Evan Halper:

Educators say Arnold Schwarzenegger told them to prepare for immediate cuts of $2 billion to $4 billion. They say the governor also plans to keep pushing for a sales tax hike.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told education leaders this morning that he will push for a tax hike and deep cuts to schools to help close the state’s yawning budget gap, according to several participants in the meeting.
The news, delivered in a conference room outside the governor’s office, came as a shock to the educators, who were told to prepare for immediate cuts in the range of $2 billion to $4 billion.
“There is just no way we would be able to cut that much,” said Scott Plotkin, executive director of the California School Boards Assn., who was at the meeting. “For virtually every district I know of, this would be catastrophic.”
Administration officials confirmed that the meeting took place but refused to discuss details.


Facing a $3,000,000,000 deficit, it is hard to see how significant increases in redistributed state tax dollars will find their way to K-12 school districts over the next few years.

Will Blewett be the last Milwaukee Public Schools board president?

Michael Mathias:

If there is a case to be made for dissolving the Milwaukee Public Schools board, several of its members, but particularly its president, Peter Blewett, seemed hell bent on making it during last week’s budget meetings.
That the end result of those meetings–a double digit increase in the district’s property tax levy–was the only responsible option the board could have chosen, won’t do anything to assuage the board’s growing number of critics or even improve its standing among its supporters.
Blewett has had a long time (a year, in fact, since the last budget fiasco) to persuade the public and other elected officials that the board and Superintendent William Andrekopoulos have the ability to manage the district’s complicated finances. And while the scores of people who showed up to support an increase in the tax levy made an impressive display, their presence seemed more in support of an idea and not an endorsement of those behind it. It’s notable that, as far as I know, not one elected official spoke out in support of the board’s actions despite the fact that everyone is aware of the poor hand MPS is dealt when it comes to state funding.

Busy roads, bicyclists make for uneasy mix at Cottage Grove school

Gena Kittner:

The confines of school are shed the instant scores of students at Glacial Drumlin School hop on their bicycles and whiz — many helmetless and some riding two to a bike — down the hill and across the busy streets of this fast-growing village.
Some cruise down the middle of the nearby residential streets, heedless of cars and buses. Others take more care, stopping at stop signs and looking both ways — but not enough.
“A lot of kids just bike right across the intersection,” said Stephanie Carney, who lives in a subdivision near the school. “The kids don’t seem to look either way,” she said.

Low-Cost Multi-point Interactive Whiteboards Using the Wiimote

Johnny Chung Lee:

Since the Wiimote can track sources of infrared (IR) light, you can track pens that have an IR led in the tip. By pointing a wiimote at a projection screen or LCD display, you can create very low-cost interactive whiteboards or tablet displays. Since the Wiimote can track upto 4 points, up to 4 pens can be used. It also works great with rear-projected displays.

Science Evolves in Classrooms

Daniel de Vise:

In the past six years, science has slipped as a priority in public schools while reading and mathematics have grown dominant.
But in coming years, experts say, the same federal law that elevated reading and math could spark a resurgence of science in the classroom.
The 2002 No Child Left Behind law required states to test students in science starting in the 2007-08 year, on top of reading and math assessments mandated from the start. Virginia has given science tests since 1998, but the exams are new for Maryland and the District. (Separately, Maryland tests high school students in biology as a graduation requirement.)
Unlike the reading and math test results, science scores won’t be used to grade schools for accountability. But education leaders predict that the scores will matter when disseminated to the public.

Local elected leaders: Vote ‘yes’ Nov. 4 for Madison schools

The Capital Times — 10/27/2008 4:31 am
Dear Editor:
As elected officials, we work hard to make Madison and Fitchburg the best places in the country.
The foundation of our vibrant community is our public schools. Our kids and schools need our support this fall. We urge you to vote for the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4.
Talented professionals, the people who start and build new businesses, don’t do it in a vacuum. They choose communities with the resources for a good life, as well as a good business. First among those resources is quality schools.
Schools in Madison and across Wisconsin are suffering from state-imposed cuts in funding. Some public schools are literally on the verge of bankruptcy. Madison schools have cut programs and services by over $60 million since 1993, when the restrictions began. Every year it’s harder and harder to provide our children the education they need and deserve.
The long-term solution lies with the Wisconsin Legislature. But until there’s a majority working toward a solution, we have to protect our kids.
The Nov. 4 proposal will increase taxes by about $28 on a $250,000 home in 2009, $43 in 2010, and $21 in 2011. The school district’s Web site has details:
For that investment, we’ll maintain smaller class sizes, keep first rate teachers, help our special needs kids, keep up with basic maintenance — and much more. This referendum is very reasonable. The increase in taxes is modest. The commitment to our kids is enormous.
In America, every child deserves a chance to succeed — not just the rich. Public schools make the American dream a reality.
Join us by voting YES on the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4!
Madison School Board: Arlene Silveira, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman, Johnny Winston Jr.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
Madison Alders: Brenda Konkel, Mike Verveer, Robbie Webber, Marsha Rummel, Eli Judge, Brian Solomon, Tim Gruber, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Julia Kerr, Tim Bruer, Larry Palm, Judy Compton, Joe Clausius, Mark Clear
Fitchburg Alders: Roger Tesch, Bill Horns, Steve Arnold
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk
Dane County Supervisors: Scott McDonell, Barbara Vedder, Brett Hulsey, Wyndham Manning, John Hendrick, Matt Veldran, Carousel Andrea Bayrd, Dianne Hesselbein, Paul Rusk, Chuck Erickson, Melanie Hampton, Dave de Felice, Tom Stoebig, Dorothy Wheeler, Sheila Stubbs, Kyle Richmond

State Senators:
Mark Miller, Fred Risser, Jon Erpenbach
Assembly Representatives: Sondy Pope-Roberts, Joe Parisi, Mark Pocan, Spencer Black, Terese Berceau

Final Budget With Lower Taxes

From the Wisconsin State Journal (similar article in Cap Times). Counter-intuitive but true.

Madison School Board OKs tax rate cut

Wisconsin State Journal
The Madison School Board approved lowering taxes on the average Madison home by $67.50, or 2.70 percent, at its meeting Monday night.
The tax rate will be $9.81 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from $10.08 for the 2007-2008 school year, a decrease of 2.7 percent. The owner of a $250,000 home in Madison will pay $2,452.50 in school taxes for 2008, according to the district. Last year, school taxes on a $250,000 home were $2,520.
Of the total budget, $226 million will come from the local property tax levy, an increase of $6 million, or 2.74 percent, according to district figures. The vote was 7-0.
A preliminary budget was approved in the spring. The board makes adjustments in October after enrollment and state aid figures are in for the school year.
A referendum appearing on voters’ ballots next week would increase property taxes for schools by $13 million over three years. If passed, the referendum would add about $28 to the property tax bill of a home assessed at $250,000.

Best Los Angeles Area High Schools; 2008

Los Angeles Magazine:

So how did we choose the best high schools on this honor roll? The Academic Performance Index (API) scores range from 200 to 1000 and are calculated from the results for each school’s students on statewide tests. Public schools in Los Angeles County were considered for this analysis if their 2006-7 API score was at least 800, the median of a basic score (725) and a proficient one (875) and the state’s performance goal for all schools. In addition, schools had to meet minimum standards: an enrollment of 200 students for all schools, a graduating class of 50 students for public schools, and a graduating class of 65 students for private schools. Schools were excluded if they declined to participate or if data were not available. Our index is based on a weighted average of scores assigned to five variables: API score, student-teacher ratio, percentage of students going to college, dropout rate, and advanced placement ratio (this ratio represents the number of AP sections offered, divided by the number of graduates). Private schools had to meet similar standards to avoid exclusion; their index is based on a weighted average of scores assigned to a slightly different set of variables, including the average SAT score for students enrolled at the school. The SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800 in each of three sections–writing, mathematics, and critical reading–allowing for a total possible score of 2400. SAT scores were used in evaluating private schools but not public schools. Scores for API testing (taken by public school students only) are considered a more accurate form of measuring students’ academic abilities. If a school was missing only its SAT result, the number was projected through a technique known as imputation.

Parallel Universe

Progressive educators often argue that a focus on standards, testing and accountability prevents teachers from exercising their creativity and imagination on the job. As an experiment in imagination, I offer the following suggested parallel universe.
In this universe, there is an Edupundit who gives 200 lectures a year to athletic directors and administrators in the schools (at $5,000 each) on the subjects of competition, standards, testing, and accountability (keeping score) in athletics.
He points out that exercise is a bad idea, that physical fitness is harmful, and that sports destroy a sense of community in education. He argues that rewarding coaches for good performance by their teams and individual athletes is “odious,” and about merit pay for such work, he says, “If you jump through hoops, we’ll give you a doggie biscuit in the form of money.”
He reveals that poor athletes often fail to succeed in sports and that this constitutes “what could be described as” athletic “ethnic cleansing.” He says that the number of games and matches student athletes take part in is “mind-boggling.”
Keeping score in games and matches, he says, is “not just meaningless. It’s worrisome.” And concludes that “Standards,” scoring, “and Other Follies” (like competition) have no place in the athletic program in the schools. He has written popular books calling for an end to discipline, rewards, and competition in sports.
This may be all very well in that universe, but how would it play in ours? When it comes to athletics, I doubt very much if anyone advocating such views would be invited to speak by a high school athletic director anywhere in the country. And I assume that books making those arguments would have no sales at all.
However, in our own space-time situation, we do have Alfie Kohn, whose books include: The Homework Myth; What Does it Mean to be Well-Educated?, and More Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies; Punished by Rewards; No Contest: The Case Against Competition; The Case Against Standardized Testing; Beyond Discipline, etc.
It has been reported that he does indeed give 200 speeches a year, mostly to administrators and educators, at $5,000 each, and that in them he fights against academic work, standards, testing, discipline, competition, and accountability just as his imaginary counterpart opposes all those things for athletics in that other universe.
But Alfie Kohn’s books do sell here, he gets invited to share these ideas of his, and large audiences of our educators come to be told that if they do their jobs very well, and receive financial rewards, they are good dogs and are being given doggie biscuits for jumping through hoops.
It is not clear whether he regards his own lecture fees as doggie biscuits, but he does claim that when students do poorly in school, the remedy is not more and better homework, because he has already made the case against homework. And rather than calling for higher academic standards, and more student diligence in school, he thinks what we need is an end to “educational ethnic cleansing” instead.
The damage done by such an Edupundit to the effort to achieve educational reform through higher academic standards and better accountability is not easy to gauge. Perhaps some who attend his 200 lectures think he is funny, somewhat like those progressive educators who are so intent on “hands-on learning,” “field trips,” and “social activism” on the part of students that one can almost imagine them saying to students, in effect, “Step away from that book and no one gets hurt!”
Surely Mister Kohn is one of a kind, but we would not have achieved the high and world-renowned levels of mediocrity in our nation’s schools if there were not thousands of educational workers who think as he does, and dedicate themselves each day to keeping academic standards low, preventing students from being challenged academically, and fighting hard against any information which might come from tests which could hold them accountable for the ignorance and academic incompetence of their (our) students.
We need to find educators for our schools who have succeeded academically themselves and as a result are not trying to block the academic achievement of their students. Steve Jobs of Apple Computer used to say that “A people hire A people, and B people hire C people.” We need more ‘A’ people looking for their peers to help them raise academic standards for our students. Educators who have done poorly in school may like Mr. Kohn’s arguments. Most of those who have done well would not.
[Mr. Kohn’s quotes are from a story by Lisa Schnecker in The Salt Lake Tribune from 17 October 2008]
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
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978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Endangered languages

The Economist:

The electronic age drives some languages out of existence, but can help save others
THINK of the solitude felt by Marie Smith before she died earlier this year in her native Alaska, at 89. She was the last person who knew the language of the Eyak people as a mother-tongue. Or imagine Ned Mandrell, who died in 1974–he was the last native speaker of Manx, similar to Irish and Scots Gaelic. Both these people had the comfort of being surrounded, some of the time, by enthusiasts who knew something precious was vanishing and tried to record and learn whatever they could of a vanishing tongue. In remote parts of the world, dozens more people are on the point of taking to their graves a system of communication that will never be recorded or reconstructed.
Does it matter? Plenty of languages–among them Akkadian, Etruscan, Tangut and Chibcha–have gone the way of the dodo, without causing much trouble to posterity. Should anyone lose sleep over the fact that many tongues–from Manchu (spoken in China) to Hua (Botswana) and Gwich’in (Alaska)–are in danger of suffering a similar fate?

East German history continues to arouse controversy

The Economist:

EVERY German schoolchild learns to revile Hitler, but what about Erich Honecker, boss of communist East Germany? He was not a dictator, or so most teenagers from eastern Germany seem to think. And the dreaded Stasi, which jailed and tortured citizens who stepped out of line? Just an intelligence service, say young easterners. These findings, from a survey of 5,200 schoolchildren by Berlin’s Free University, dismayed those who think national identity and democratic values rest on shared judgments about the traumatic past.
The ignorance is unevenly spread. Young western Germans know more of East Germany’s history. In Bavaria just 39% of schoolchildren had “little or very little” knowledge; in Brandenburg 72% were ill-informed. A third of eastern German students thought that Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, two western giants, actually governed the east. The same proportion judge West Germany’s political system to have been the better; two-thirds of westerners do. Such differences persist even among children of western and eastern parents who attend the same Berlin schools.

High Schools Add Electives to Cultivate Interests

Winnie Hu:

The students in the jewelry and metalsmithing class at Pelham Memorial High School painstakingly coiled copper and brass wires into necklaces the other morning, while across the hall, the history of rock ‘n’ roll class pondered the meaning of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
These are two of the 17 electives added this year to the curriculum in this affluent Westchester County suburb, redefining traditional notions of a college-preparatory education and allowing students to pursue specialized interests that once were relegated to after-school clubs and weekend hobbies. Now, budding musicians take guitar lessons, amateur war historians re-enact military battles, and future engineers build solar-powered cars — all during school hours, and for credit.
“It’s letting people learn about what they love rather than dictating what they should be learning,” said Morgan McDaniel, a senior who added the rock ‘n’ roll class to her roster of Advanced Placement classes in calculus, biology, European history and studio art.

Edgewood students study St. Croix River

Pamela Cotant:

Edgewood High School students presented their research findings last week at the St. Croix River Research Rendezvous — concrete evidence of their days of wading knee deep, navigating through dense brush and searching forests for mushrooms.
Eleven students in Edgewood’s advanced environmental field education class spent two weeks this summer studying mussel, rusty crayfish, mushroom, beaver and frog populations in Minnesota’s enormous St. Croix State Park. A first for the school, seven of the students will present their research at the Rendezvous at the Warner Nature Center at Marine on St. Croix, Minn.
The National Park Service at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which is in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, will include the students’ research in data it is compiling.
“It was hard — messy. You’re out there every day … all hours,” said Arial Shogren, a senior this year who studied crayfish. “Our work does get used and that’s exciting.”

Katherine Kersten: New Minnesota charter schools heading into a legal minefield

Katherine Kersten:

The Minnesota Department of Education has received applications for three new taxpayer-funded charter schools.
They include Howard and Mattie Smith Academy, a K-3, 9-12 school proposed for Minneapolis, named for two legendary preachers at Shiloh Temple Church. Another is The Academy, a 10-12 Minneapolis school, and the third is a 7-12 school, St. Paul Rising Sun.
A new charitable organization, Minnesota Education Trust (MET), has applied to sponsor all three schools, and at one point sought to assume sponsorship of a fourth — the Academy for Food Sciences and Agriculture, whose name evokes Minnesota’s heartland. “Minnesota Education Trust” sounds pretty generic, but the name seems to convey a clear sense of the organization’s mission.
Or does it?
MET’s “principal goals” are set forth in its articles of incorporation, filed with the secretary of state in May 2007. The first goal listed is “to promote the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims and promote understanding between them.” Other goals include building a virtuous society and providing education to children and adults. The final goal is to “support schools, community centers, mosques and other organizations that serve the above goals.”

Michelle Rhee & The “Educational Insurgency”

Jay Matthews:

To understand D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the educational insurgency she is part of, you have to know what happened when she taught at Baltimore’s Harlem Park Elementary School in the early 1990s.
The Teach for America program threw well-educated young people such as Rhee — bachelor’s degree from Cornell, master’s from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government — into classrooms full of impoverished children after only a summer of training. “It was a zoo, every day,” she recalled. Thirty-six children, all poor, suffered under a novice who had no idea what to do.
But within months, for Rhee and other influential educators in her age group, the situation changed. She vowed not “to let 8-year-olds run me out of town.” She discovered learning improved when everyone sat in a big U-pattern with her in the middle and she made quick marks on the blackboard for good and bad behavior without ever stopping the lesson. She spent an entire summer making lesson plans and teaching materials, with the help of indulgent aunts visiting from Korea. She found unconventional but effective ways to teach reading and math. She set written goals for each child and enlisted parents in her plans.

Palin Promises School Choice for Disabled Students

Kate Zernike:

In her first policy speech of the presidential campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin vowed Friday that a McCain administration would allow all special-needs students the choice of attending private schools at public expense, a controversial and potentially costly proposal likely to be welcomed by many parents and bitterly opposed by many school districts.
Ms. Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, also promised that she and Senator John McCain would finally provide public schools the federal money that was promised when the law covering students with special needs was passed in 1975. Her pledge was intended to address the top concern of many school districts, and is one that has been made by many other politicians but never fulfilled.
The policy speech was a departure for Ms. Palin, whose métier is the kind of foot-stomping pep rally she headlined the night before, at a stop north of Pittsburgh, where she recalled an anecdote about “Joe the quarterback” — as in Namath, a local native — to “guarantee” that she and Mr. McCain would come from behind to win.
In a hotel meeting room before about 150 parents and children with special needs, Ms. Palin was more subdued, and departed slightly from her prepared remarks to speak of her fears when she learned that the baby she was carrying earlier this year would have Down syndrome.

The Madison School District spent $70,582,539 on Special Education, according to the 2007/2008 Amended Budget (,a href=””>460K PDF). Total budget was $365,248,476 according to the same document.

November 2008 Madison Schools’ Referendum Roundup

Dave Blaska:

The prevailing wisdom is that the referendum will pass. The prevailing wisdom is probably correct. There has been no organized effort to fight it, unlike three years ago. And the surge of Obama voters, the scent of victory in their flaring nostrils, will carry along the schools in that high tide that lifts all boats. The Wisconsin State Journal has yet to do any serious journalism on the issue. It’s been lost in the shuffle.
On the other hand, the stock market is in the toilet and with it, people’s retirement plans. Home values are falling. Layoffs are accelerating. Energy prices are moderating but still expensive. And in the near future: a recession of unknown duration. So, maybe it doesn’t pass.
The referendum was recommended 7-0 August 26 by the overly harmonious school board, including Lucy Mathiak, who once teamed with Ruth Robarts and Laurie Kobza. Those two, however, are no longer serving.
I give Ed Hughes credit for reaching out to this irascible blogger. The schools have not done enough of that in the past. I am thinking now of former TV-3 news anchor Beth Zurbuchen, who infamously dissed of opponents of the referendum three years ago for being “selfish.”
Two of the three spending referenda were defeated that year, in no small part to such arrogance. I made that point with Ed Hughes. For arrogance this year, we have Marge Passman of Progressive Dane. You can hear Mitch Henck sputtering with amazement on his WIBA radio program Outside the Box as Passman makes the most ridiculous comments.


One Madison voter with a ballot discrepancy said that she’s now questioning whether these mistakes are really mistakes, WISC-TV reported.
When Carole McGuire received her absentee ballot, she said something didn’t look right. “The ballot came, and I thought, ‘That’s odd,'” said McGuire.
She said that noticed that among all the races, the Madison Metropolitan School District referendum was nowhere to be found.
“Here is where the school district referendum would be, and it’s not there,” said McGuire, who then called the city clerk.
“I said, ‘This isn’t the correct ballot,'” said McGuire. “She said, ‘Oh well, tear it up and we’ll give you a new one.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to tear it up at the moment, I’ll come back.’

Paul Caron on declines in state income, sales tax and fee revenues:

States are beginning to report revenue collections for the July-September 2008 quarter, and the new figures raise the likelihood that large, additional budget shortfalls are developing. Of 15 mostly large and mid-sized states that have published complete data for this period, the majority collected less total tax revenue in July-September 2008 than was collected in the same period in 2007. … After adjustment for inflation, total revenue collections are below 2007 levels in 14 of the 15 states.

Greg Mankiw on proposed federal income tax changes:

Shelly Banjo compares McCain & Obama’s tax plans.
Much more on the November 4, 2008 Madison referendum here.

Advocating Mayoral Takeover of the Milwaukee Public Schools

Charlie Sykes:

In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.–Mark Twain
The “goody bags” may have been the tipping point.
In August, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation highlighted massive waste and failure in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS): after spending more than a $100 million on neighborhood schools, the paper reported, many of the new buildings were unused and the classrooms empty. “With a few exceptions” the paper reported, “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.”
But it was the bags that caught the public’s attention.
A week after the series on the failed building project, columnist Dan Bice reported that Milwaukee School Board member Charlene Hardin, accompanied by a high school data-processing secretary, had junketed at taxpayer expense to Philadelphia in mid-July, ostensibly to attend a conference on school safety. But organizers of the conference said that Hardin never showed up for any of the conference itself.

Long Battle Expected on DC Plan to Fire Teachers

Bill Turque:

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the Washington Teachers’ Union — aided by its national parent organization — are digging in for what could be a protracted struggle over Rhee’s plan to fire instructors deemed to be ineffective.
School officials have posted job openings for an unspecified number of “helping teachers” to counsel instructors who have received notice to improve or face termination. Principals have been asked to identify teachers who can be placed on the so-called 90-day plan, which gives teachers 90 school days — or about five months — to upgrade their performance. The helping teachers will also document all assistance given to instructors and report to central office administrators, according to the job description posted on the D.C. schools Web site.

Students Learning from Financial Crisis

Julian Guthrie:

Alex Gould paced the stage of an auditorium at Stanford University last week, imploring students to think about why the U.S. Treasury bought preferred stock rather than common stock in nine major banks, and how the nation’s economic meltdown began with home mortgages.
Gould, who teaches a course at Stanford on money, banking and the financial markets, searched the faces of his 100 students, many of whom are preparing to graduate in the spring. Students asked questions about their midterm exam, but many grappled with a bigger question: What does a destabilized economy mean for their future?
Related story: A case of balance as credit card rules change.
Educators across the Bay Area are using the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression to teach everything from behavioral finance and social justice to the recasting of capitalism.
“What’s happening now affects every one of us,” Gould said. “It provides an unparalleled laboratory of real-world applications upon which to test theories.”

Colleges Continue Irrational Policies on IB Program

Jay Matthews:

American education has a tattered reputation in many respects, except for our colleges and universities. They are world leaders in quality and accessibility. The desire to provide our children the best in higher education unites Americans in a unique way.
So it dismays me to report that on one issue, the leaders of nearly every four-year college in the country have shown appalling ignorance and hypocrisy. They say they want high schools to provide challenging courses for students thinking of college, but at the same time they discriminate against the most demanding college-level program in high school: International Baccalaureate.
College officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District have proven especially dense on this subject. In February, I wrote about their refusal to give credit to students who did well on final exams in one-year IB courses while giving credit to students who did well in final exams for similar (but in many cases less-demanding) one-year Advanced Placement courses. The culprit seemed to be an old committee report that had wormed its way into university regulations without any data behind it. IB students can generally get college credit only after taking two-year IB courses.

Milwaukee School board OKs 14.6% levy increase

Alan Borsuk:

After acting to protect their travel budget and to keep their right to receive a $150-a-year car allowance and $3 for each time they go somewhere in the city on official business, Milwaukee School Board members early Friday approved a budget for this year that will raise the amount to be collected in property taxes for schools by 14.6%.
The approval came on a 6-3 vote at 1:46 a.m., seven minutes after the board voted down an otherwise-identical proposal that would have taken away the car allowance and tightened up travel spending.
The mini-drama over the board members’ travel budget came at the same meeting the board approved a much tighter set of rules for out-of-town trips for members, a reaction to Journal Sentinel stories about travel by board member Charlene Hardin, including a trip to a conference she reportedly did not actually attend.
The budget vote means Milwaukee Public Schools is returning to spending the maximum amount allowed by state law, a practice that had been followed in every recent year except for a year ago, when the tax levy increase was held to 9% although state law permitted an increase of more than 16%.
Because of provisions in the state school funding formula, holding down spending cost MPS more than $5 million in state aid this year, which was one of the arguments for returning to spending at the maximum level.

Solution for the Education Maelstrom

CNET Story on OLPC — a comment
In the comments to a CNET article discussing One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO computer, the commentator below perhaps hit a key point.
by tudza October 24, 2008 5:55 PM PDT
Let’s not forget that almost all the K12 classes in the U.S. get are getting a bad reputation for not teaching those students well. Switching technologies from new to old doesn’t necessarily get you any better results.
The true solution is to buy everyone Korean parents.
Korean parents for sale
You say you’re not all
That you want to be
You say you got a bad environment
Your work at school’s not going well
Korean parents for sale
You say you need a little discipline
Someone to whip you into shape
They’ll be strict but they’ll be fair
Look at the numbers
That’s all I ask
Who’s at the head of every class?
You really think
They’re smarter than you are
They just work their ***** off
Their parents make them do it

Schools Open, and First Test Is Iraqi Safety

Sam Dagher in Baghdad via a Dexter Filkins email:

On the first day of school, 10-year-old Basma Osama looked uneasy standing in formation under an already stifling morning sun. She and dozens of schoolmates listened to a teacher’s pep talk — probably a necessary one, given the barren and garbage-strewn playground.
“Security has returned to Baghdad, city of peace and land of pan-Arabism,” the teacher told the students, many as young as 5, who were loaded down with bright backpacks.
Basma’s mother, Hind Majid, who had just returned with her two daughters after a year in Egypt waiting out Iraq’s uncertainties, was not yet convinced about the security part.
“I am still fearful of the situation,” she said. “I have taken a gamble with my return to Iraq.”
It was certainly not the gamble it would have been a year ago, as calm has settled over ever-larger areas of Iraq. But still there are many reasons for worry: Only a few hours after Basma arrived, the school was evacuated when Iraqi commandos stormed in and warned that two women were planning suicide bombing attacks on schools in the area.
The first day of school feels like a fresh start everywhere, and Iraq’s six million schoolchildren returned to much more hope and far less violence this year.

Filkins covered Iraq for a number of years and has recently written an excellent book: “The Forever War“.

The New WEAC

George Lightbourn:

This is an especially timely discussion as control of the Wisconsin Legislature hangs in the balance with the upcoming fall election. While it is widely believed that the state Senate will remain in Democratic hands, the Assembly is altogether another matter. With a mere five vote majority and a nation anxious to blame Republicans for both the war in Iraq as well as the weak economy, Republican retention of an Assembly majority is definitely in play. If the Assembly were to tumble into Democratic hands, Democrats would control all of state government. At long last, the thinking goes, WEAC will rise up and ensure its minions in the Capitol do what they have promised; expunge the QEO from state law books.
But is that the case? Maybe not. That picture might have been clear a few years ago, but it is less clear today.
The QEO Through Time
To understand the roots of the popular caricature of WEAC, a short history lesson is in order. As we close in on a generation under the QEO, it is easy to forget what life was like before Tommy Thompson signed the QEO into law. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s a statewide furrowing of the brow and wringing of hands occurred every Christmas season when local governments slid property tax bills into our mailboxes. In 1989 school taxes rose 9% followed by a 9.4% increase in 1990 and a 10% jump in 1991. The last straw came in 1993 when schools added 12.3% to the property tax bill. Of course every year the school tax was layered on top of the tax bill from cities, villages and town so property taxes were routinely increasing at double-digit rates.
While property taxes might not have stirred the public psyche as much as say the Vietnam War had, it was close. Every state budget discussion started and ended with property taxes. It was the third rail of Wisconsin politics. The property tax discussion drove a wedge between Democrats and Republicans; it caused short fuses between state and local governments and between general governments and schools. And everyone understood who was operating the jack that kept ratcheting up property taxes: it was teachers.
No, it wasn’t just teachers, it was WEAC. What generations of teachers had known as a helpful service organization, overnight had assumed the pale of a hard-line labor union. It was as though WEAC had undergone its own version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The side of the organization that provided teacher services was taken over by the union side. Overnight it became clear that nothing mattered to the staff at WEAC if it didn’t entail: raising teacher pay, protecting jobs, or improving working conditions. This was the familiar mantra of every labor union from the autoworkers to air traffic controllers.

A look at Madison Memorial’s Small Learning Communities

Andy Hall:

In 2000, Memorial became the first Madison school to land one of the U.S. Department of Education grants. It was awarded $438,000 to create its neighborhood social structure. West High School became the second, winning a $500,000 grant in 2002 and reorganizing its ninth and 10th grades around core courses.
In August, district officials were thrilled to learn the district was awarded $5.5 million over five years for its four major high schools — Memorial, West, La Follette and East — to build stronger connections among students and faculty by creating so-called “small learning communities” that divide each high school population into smaller populations.
Officials cite research showing that schools with 500 to 900 students tend to be the most effective, and recent findings suggest that students at schools with small learning communities are more likely to complete ninth grade, less likely to become involved in violence and more likely to attend college after graduation. However, the latest federal study failed to find a clear link between small learning communities and higher academic achievement.
Each Madison high school will develop its own plan for how to spend the grant money. Their common goals: Make school feel like a smaller, friendlier place where all students feel included. Shrink the racial achievement gap, raise graduation rates, expand the courses available and improve planning for further education and careers.
The high schools, with enrollments ranging from 1,600 to 2,000 students, are being redesigned as their overall scores on state 10th grade reading and math tests are worrisome, having declined slightly the past two years.

In Support of the November, 2008 Madison Schools’ Referendum

In just a few days we have the opportunity and the responsibility to show our continuing support for Madison Public Schools by voting yes for the school district referendum. Please remember to vote for the referendum as you do your balloting and please talk with friends and family and urge their support for the referendum also.
In case you didn?t see the Wisconsin State Journal endorsement of the referendum, please click on the following link. For the Cap Times endorsement, click on this link. Then, read my guest column which appeared in the State Journal on October 10 and the Cap Times on October 22; here is the link to that letter. Cumulatively, these three pieces help explain the educational importance of the district initiative and the responsibility of Madison residents to support it.
If Madison residents need help understanding the property tax implications of the referendum, the following paragraphs may help some.
Passage of the referendum will permanently increase the revenue cap for operating costs by $5 million in 2009-2010, and by $4 million in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 for a total request of $13 million over the three-year period.
The average Madison homeowner would see their tax bill increase by $27.50 in 2009; $43.10 in 2010; and $20.90 in 2011. However, in 2008, school property taxes on the average home will decrease about $40. Therefore, in 2011, average homeowners will pay $51.50 more in school taxes than they paid in 2007. That means many of us will still pay less school tax in 2011 than we paid in 1994. Unbelievable, but true.
In 1993-94 Madison’s mil rate for its schools was 19.15; in 2007 it was 10.08, almost half of what it was. Unless your home assessment has doubled in that period of time (which it may have), your school property tax has gone down. If your home assessment doubled, your school property tax would be about the same now as it was in 1993-94. Again, even with passage of the referendum, many Madison taxpayers will be paying less in school taxes in 2011 than they did in 1994.
Thank you for your continued support of Madison Schools and Madison kids. Together we make the community a stronger, more vibrant place for all of us to live.
Barbara Arnold, member of GRUMPS (Grandparents United For Madison Public Schools) Steering Committee and a former President of the Madison Board of Education

America’s Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor’s Degree

Marty Nemko:

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I’d be the first one in my family to do it. But it’s been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go.”
I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!
Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it’s not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you’re likely to meet workers who spent years and their family’s life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.

Rice on US Education

Steve Gorman:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that failing public schools pose her greatest national security concern, one she warned could undermine the United States’ ability to lead and to compete in a global economy.
Equal access to educational opportunities, she said, also lies at the heart of one of the nation’s most important core values — the belief in the United States as a true meritocracy.
Rice, a Stanford University professor before joining the Bush administration, spoke at a conference of women organized by former TV journalist Maria Shriver, the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As an educator, Rice said it broke her heart to see “kids who might be the next Nobel Prize winner … trapped in some public school that’s just basically warehousing them.”

THE REAL WEALTH OF THE NATION; Green Charter School Conference – Madison 11/7 – 11/8

Tia Nelson:

Wisconsin has long been an incubator for prescient ideas about the connection between human society and the natural environment.
John Muir’s boyhood in the backwoods near Portage, Wis., provided a foundation for his early leadership in a dawning environmental protection movement.
A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold’s description of the area around his Sauk County, Wis., home, has inspired natural stewardship throughout the world and is required reading for anyone with an interest in conservation.
My father, the late U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, launched the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, as an annual day of observance and nationwide teach-in about environmental issues because he recognized the significance of educating children and young adults about the natural world.
Today, as we reap the effects of pernicious economic activity, a failing energy policy and atmospheric warming, I find my father’s words both foreboding and reassuring:
“Forging and maintaining a sustainable society is The Challenge for this and all generations to come. At this point in history, no nation has managed to evolve into a sustainable society. We are all pursuing a self-destructive course of fueling our economies by drawing down our natural capital–that is to say, by degrading and depleting our resource base–and counting it on the income side of the ledger. … [T]he real wealth of a nation is its air, water, soil, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity.”
Papa often talked about the importance of raising the next generation with environmental ethics so they make informed decisions about the use of our natural resources, which are the authentic foundation of a healthy economy. Imagine a robust and equitable economy with clean and abundant energy resources, sustainably managed farms and forests, where innovation and green jobs give us healthy choices that can lead us to a better future.


For ’09 Grads, Job Prospects Take a Dive

Cari Tuna:

College seniors may have more trouble landing a job next spring than recent graduates, as employers trim their hiring outlooks in response to the slowing economy and financial-sector turmoil.
Employers plan to hire just 1.3% more graduates in 2009 than they hired this year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
That’s the weakest outlook in six years and reflects a sharp recent downturn. Just two months ago, a survey by the same group projected a 6.1% increase in hiring. The August survey included 219 employers, 146 of whom responded to the new survey, conducted earlier this month. The big drop in hiring projections is “extremely unusual,” says Edwin Koc, the association’s director of strategic research.
The results continue a pattern of diminishing job prospects for college graduates. A year ago, employers told the association they would increase hiring for the class of 2008 by 16%. By this spring, though, the projected increase had fallen to 8%. The association doesn’t report how actual hiring compares with its projections.

DC Schools’ Chancellor Michelle Rhee: “The Lightning Rod”

Clay Risen, via a kind reader’s email:

Since her arrival, in the summer of 2007, Rhee, just 38 years old, has become the most controversial figure in American public education and the standard-bearer for a new type of schools leader nationwide. She and her cohort often seek to bypass the traditional forces of education schools and unions, instead embracing nontraditional reform mechanisms like charter schools, vouchers, and the No Child Left Behind Act. “They tend to be younger, and many didn’t come through the traditional route,” says Margaret Sullivan, a former education analyst at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. And that often means going head-to-head with the people who did.
Rhee, responsible not to a school board but only to the mayor, went on a spree almost as soon as she arrived. She gained the right to fire central-office employees and then axed 98 of them. She canned 24 principals, 22 assistant principals, and, at the beginning of this summer, 250 teachers and 500 teaching aides. She announced plans to close 23 underused schools and set about restructuring 26 other schools (together, about a third of the system). And she began negotiating a radical performance-based compensation contract with the teachers union that could revolutionize the way teachers get paid.
Her quick action has brought Rhee laudatory profiles everywhere from Newsweek to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, and appearances on Charlie Rose and at Allen & Company’s annual Sun Valley conference. Washington is now ground zero for education reformers. “People are coming from across the country to work for her,” says Andrew Rotherham, the co-director of Education Sector, a Washington think tank. “It’s the thing to do.” Rhee had Stanford and Harvard business-school students on her intern staff this summer, and she has received blank checks from reform-minded philanthropists at the Gates and Broad foundations to fund experimental programs. Businesses have flooded her with offers to help–providing supplies, mentoring, or just giving cash.

Clusty search: Michelle Rhee.

Business – School Partnerships

Susan Gvozdas:

Two years ago, Marilyn Wilhelm of Annapolis faced a difficult decision. Her husband had lost his job, and the family of six couldn’t make it on the single income of a school day-care worker. Her sister suggested she look into a computer networking career, so she enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy at Anne Arundel Community College.
After two semesters of working part time and living off savings, Wilhelm became a Cisco-certified network associate. The entry-level certification ensures technicians know how to connect and manage the wiring and switches to link computers and provide Internet access. The college held a career fair last year with companies that had partnerships with California-based Cisco Systems Inc.
Her training and enthusiasm landed her a summer internship and later a job at Chesapeake Netcraftsmen, a networking company in Arnold. This year, she began teaching the basic networking courses she took at the college and started studying for higher-level certification through her company.

Wisconsin Forum on Special Education 11/17/2008 in Madison

Via a kind reader’s email:

The State Superintendent’ s Council on Special Education will be holding a public forum to gather input on matters related to special education in Wisconsin. Information obtained will be used by the Council in advising the Department of Public Instruction on matters affecting the education of Wisconsin ‘s children and youth with disabilities.
This public forum will be held Monday evening, November 17, 2008 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at the Madison Marriott West, Salon D (1313 John Q. Hammons Drive Middleton, Wisconsin; 608/831-2000).
Should you have any questions related to this public forum, do not hesitate to contact Chair Myrah at or (262) 268-6079.

Just What Exactly is a Charter School?

Open Education:

One of the more consistent, ongoing suggestions for improving America’s educational system centers upon the creation of greater competition amongst public schools. The reason for the steady drumbeat centers upon a belief that a change to the free market system would be one of the best methods for creating better educational opportunities for children.
In direct response to the push for greater competition, forty states across America have now initiated legislation to allow the construction of new public schools called charter schools. Minnesota was the first state to pass laws regarding charter schools, doing so in 1991.
The concept is definitely catching on. Today, according to, there are nearly 4,000 charter schools across our country educating more than 1.1 million children. The state of California, the second to enact such legislation, has more than 600 such schools educating about one-fifth of all charter school students.
While the number of schools continues to grow, large numbers of Americans, many even within the field of education, simply do not know what a charter school really consists of or how this new school concept differs from traditional public schools. Today at, we provide our readers the fundamentals of the charter school concept.

Can Interdistrict Choice Boost Student Achievement?
The Case of Connecticut’s Interdistrict Magnet School Program

Robert Bifulco, Casey Cobb & Courtney Bell [320K PDF]:

In response to a landmark civil rights ruling, the state of Connecticut has adopted models of choice-based interdistrict desegregation that appear to satisfy current legal constraints. In this paper, we focus on Connecticut’s interdistrict magnet schools, and estimate the effects these schools have had on student achievement. We use longitudinal data on individual student test performance and information from admissions lotteries to implement quasi-experimental, regression-based, and propensity score estimators. Preliminary analyses show that lottery based methods, propensity score methods, and regression analysis provide similar estimates of achievement effects of for the small set of schools for which all three methods can be implemented. We then proceed to use the latter two methods to estimate effects for all of the interdistrict magnet high schools and middle schools that serve students from Hartford, Waterbury and New Haven. Results indicate that, on average, interdistrict magnet high schools have positive effects on both math and reading achievement, and interdistrict magnet middle schools have positive effects on reading achievement. Extensions of our analysis indicate that interdistrict magnet high schools have positive effects particularly on the achievement of students in Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury and do so regardless of how much attending an interdistrict magnet high school reduces racial isolation. The positive effects of magnet middle schools appear to be limited to suburban students, except in those schools that are able to achieve substantial reductions in racial isolation for their central city students.

On School Start Times

Tania Lopez:

One main proposal reverses the start times for high school and elementary students. High-schoolers now start at 7:30 a.m. and elementary students begin at 8:45 a.m.
School officials cited a University of Minnesota study that found high school students benefit from later start times. Westfield teachers say older students have problems concentrating and often fall asleep in class. Elementary school students don’t have that problem until after lunchtime when they reportedly “tend to tire and lose concentration.”
Traffic problems, bus and bus driver availability and a new elementary school set to open next year also are factors in the need for change.
The five proposals will be posted to the district’s Web site on Monday, and parents will get a chance to weigh in via an online survey.

Milwaukee Looks for Feedback on its Planned Sex Education Curriculum

Erin Richards:

After overhauling its K-12 sex education curriculum this summer with the help of community partners and health experts, Milwaukee Public School district officials have released the first draft of lessons to be taught to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The problem: Despite calls to every elementary school principal for help in reaching parents, and a link to the proposed human growth and development curriculum on the MPS home website, only a handful of people have offered feedback.
“I’d like to hear from anyone in the community, but I really need parents,” said Brett Fuller, curriculum specialist for health, wellness and safe and drug-free schools.
Responses to the new curriculum can be directed to this online survey.
Expedient feedback is important to the district for several reasons. For one, sex education can be a touchy subject and the more people who see the proposed changes, the better chance there is of everyone feeling comfortable with what’s being taught.

Related: Sex Education for Primary Schools:

Primary school children are to be given compulsory lessons in sex education and the dangers of drugs, the Government confirmed.
The shake-up of lessons is aimed at cutting Britain’s high teenage pregnancy rate and steering youngsters away from drug and alcohol misuse.
It will mean primary school children will learn about puberty and the facts of life from the age of seven. From the age of five, pupils will be taught about topics such as the parts of the body, relationships and the effects of drugs on the body.
As pupils progress through school they will be given detailed information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections as well as the risks of drug and alcohol misuse.

Students Show a Growing Appreciation for Classical Music

Lindsay Christians:

Zou Zou Robidoux loves classical music and is not ashamed to talk about it.
“I’m a geek about it,” said the 16-year-old Robidoux, who began playing in fourth grade. “It’s 90 percent of the music I listen to.”
As for the cello, she added, “I can’t even describe how much I love it and how much it fits me.”
Robidoux may seem like an anomaly among teens, most of whom are more interested in listening to Lil Wayne or Panic! at the Disco. But in Madison, that’s not exactly true.
Robidoux is one of hundreds of local young people with a growing interest in classical music. And while the majority of the Overture Center’s audiences for symphony, chamber orchestra and opera may be over 50, that’s not an indication that classical music is dying. Interest in the classics is part of a national trend that runs counter to conventional wisdom.

Counting on the Future: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for American School Districts

Dr. Gary W. Phillips & John A. Dossey [2.5MB PDF Report]:

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.
The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.
“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)
If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.
This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.
This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.
After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.
At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).
At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).
Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.

Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.
Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.
“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”
Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

Math Forum audio & video.

Pint-Size Politicians Channel McCain, Obama in School Elections

Ellen Gamerman:

‘Change’ Factors Big in Tykes’ Talking Points; A Third-Grader’s Economic Platform
In his recent stump speech, Thomas Fleming took a stand against nuclear power, violence, weapons and war. He told voters there was no greater honor than serving them and requested their support. “I ask nothing in return except a better America,” he said.
Then the 8-year-old candidate, dressed in his Cub Scout uniform, sang a song from “The Simpsons,” waved his fists over his head and rejoined his fellow third-graders in the cafeteria at Altruria Elementary School in Bartlett, Tenn. Thomas, who won the election, serves as the student council sergeant-at-arms when he isn’t busy practicing piano or dancing like a robot.

Advocating a Yes Vote for the November, 2008 Madison Referendum

A Capital Times Editorial:

Even with approval of the referendum, district administrations would have to run a tight ship. They are not asking taxpayers to bridge all the gaps created by the anticipated deficits. They are prepared to trim budgets and delay the initiation of programs until economic circumstances improve or, ideally, the state accepts more of its deferred responsibilities.
Weighing the big-picture educational challenges that we face as a community, a state and a nation, as well as the hometown reality of strong schools facing genuine threats, this referendum does not pose a difficult choice.
The only vote that makes sense is “yes.”
It is essential for everyone who is heading to the polls on Nov. 4 to decide the presidential race between two men who say education is a priority — as well as every voter who casts an early ballot — and to make the extra effort to find the referendum question and mark that “yes” box.

Much more on the referendum here. Related: “Formal opposition begins to form“.

Teachers take test scores to the bank as bonuses

Greg Toppo:

cross the USA, a small but growing number of school districts are experimenting with teacher-pay packages that front-load higher salaries and offer bonuses — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars’ worth — if student test scores improve or if teachers work in hard-to-staff schools.
At least eight states are moving away from a traditional pay model, which increases salaries based on seniority and advanced degrees. Many of the pay packages are funded by private foundations. In dozens of districts, test scores already have earned teachers more money. A few examples:

  • In Chicago, teachers at a handful of schools can earn up to $8,000 in annual bonuses for improved scores, while mentor teachers and “lead teachers” can earn an extra $7,000 or $15,000, respectively.
  • In Nashville, middle-school math teachers can earn up to $15,000 based on student performance.

Do such plans work? A research center launched at Vanderbilt University to study performance pay has found mostly promising, if limited, results.

Updates on Madison’s Leopold Elementary School Enrollment / Capacity Discussions

Tamira Madsen:

The school district has made a number of efforts to handle Leopold’s enrollment over the years, with mixed results. Eight classrooms were added in 2003, but a $14.5 million referendum to make upgrades to the existing school and build a second school on the site failed in 2005. In 2006, the cafeteria and several areas of the campus were remodeled. In addition, attendance boundaries were adjusted on two occasions, and third-graders were transported to other schools for two years.
To handle overcrowding this year, the district approved transfers of 31 students both within and outside the district. An additional classroom was also added by moving the computer lab to the library.
Meanwhile, Nerad urged the community to be patient as the planning process continues to unfold. The district’s ultimate goals are to cap enrollment at 650 students and to implement a better balance of students according to family income. Sixty-eight percent of students at Leopold come from low-income families.
“We really want to make sure that we have dotted all of our I’s and crossed our T’s and looked at a variety of options,” Nerad said. “And I can assure you relative to the long-term solution that we have not taken anything off the table. It’s just a matter in these tough (economic) times of assuring our community that we have done that due diligence.

Much more on Leopold here.

Governance Conflict: German Chancellor Angela Merkel Looks for Ways to Improve Schools

The Economist:

AMID her other distractions Angela Merkel’s attention will on October 22nd shift to a new issue: the poor state of German education. She is gathering the premiers from all of Germany’s 16 states for an “education summit” in Dresden. Its vaunted aim is to transform Germany from a mediocre performer into a dazzling “education republic”. Yet the chancellor’s powers to achieve this goal are limited.
Nobody thinks that Germany can afford mediocrity. If its performance on international tests improved from average to excellent, growth would rise by 0.5-0.8 percentage points in the long run, says Ludger Wössmann, an economist at Ifo, a research institute in Munich. But the real stakes are higher still. Almost half the children in some cities come from immigrant families; many speak mainly their mother tongue. In Germany parents’ social status plays a bigger role in children’s fates than in most other rich countries. As many as 8% of 15-17-year-olds are school dropouts; unemployment among them is three times higher than among university graduates. Yet, with Germany’s population ageing, “who will pay our pensions, if not the migrants?” asks Jörg Dräger, head of education at the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Chris Bryant has more:

Although the chancellor’s public relations offensive helped put education in the political spotlight it also raised expectations for the summit – some say to too high a level.
This was a risky strategy given the profound suspicion among Germany’s 16 states – responsible for most aspects of education policy – of federal government interference in these issues.
“Education is unequivocally for the Länder [states] to decide,” Wolfgang Böhmer, Christian Democrat premier of Sachsen-Anhalt told a German newspaper before the event.
Such is the tension between Berlin and the regions, and between the CDU and coalition partner the Social Democrats, that many of the most pressing issues never made it onto the agenda.

Plans to reform the Italian school system run into criticism

The Economist:

TALY may be facing recession, but for Siggi, a textile firm near Vicenza in the north-east of the country, 2009 offers the promise of unprecedented growth. Siggi is the biggest producer of grembiuli, or school smocks. Once universal in Italian primary schools, they were becoming as outdated as ink-wells. But in July the education minister, Mariastella Gelmini, backed the reintroduction of grembiuli to combat brand- and class-consciousness among schoolchildren. Siggi’s output this year has almost sold out and its chairman, Gino Marta, says that “next year could see an out-and-out boom.”
The decision on whether pupils should wear the grembiule has been left to head teachers. It does not figure in either of the two education bills that have been introduced by Ms Gelmini. But it has become a symbol of her efforts to shake up Italian education. Her critics argue that these are a vain attempt to turn back the clock; her supporters see them as a necessary first step to a more equitable, efficient system.
On October 30th the opposition she has aroused will culminate in a one-day teachers’ strike. The union’s main complaint is a programme of cuts aimed at saving almost €8 billion ($11 billion). It includes the loss by natural wastage of 87,000 teachers’ jobs over the three academic years to 2012 and the return to a system in which just one teacher is allotted to each year of elementary school.

Doggie Biscuit for Kohn: Author rips testing, other sacred classroom concepts

By Lisa Schencker:

Rising test scores are no reason to celebrate, author Alfie Kohn told teachers at the Utah Education Association (UEA) convention on Friday.
Schools that improve test scores do so at the expense of other subjects and ideas, he said.
When the scores go up, it’s not just meaningless. It’s worrisome,” Kohn told hundreds of educators on the last day of the convention. “What did you sacrifice from my child’s education to raise scores on the test?”
Kohn, who’s written 11 books on human behavior, parenting and schools, spent nearly two hours Friday morning ripping into both established and relatively new education concepts. He slammed merit pay for teachers, competition in schools, Advanced Placement classes, curriculum standards and testing–including Utah’s standards and testing system — drawing mixed reactions from his audience.
“Considering what we hear a lot, it was pure blasphemy,” said Richard Heath, a teacher at Central Davis Junior High School in Layton.
Kohn called merit pay–forms of which many Utah school districts are implementing this year–an “odious” type of control imposed on teachers.
If you jump through hoops, we’ll give you a doggie biscuit in the form of money,” Kohn said.


The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work

Ron Alsop:

With Wall Street in turmoil and a financial system in crisis mode, companies are facing another major challenge: figuring out how to manage a new crop of young people in the work force — the millennial generation. Born between 1980 and 2001, the millennials were coddled by their parents and nurtured with a strong sense of entitlement. In this adaptation from “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace,” Ron Alsop, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, describes the workplace attitudes of the millennials and employers’ efforts to manage these demanding rookies.
When Gretchen Neels, a Boston-based consultant, was coaching a group of college students for job interviews, she asked them how they believe employers view them. She gave them a clue, telling them that the word she was looking for begins with the letter “e.” One young man shouted out, “excellent.” Other students chimed in with “enthusiastic” and “energetic.” Not even close. The correct answer, she said, is “entitled.” “Huh?” the students responded, surprised and even hurt to think that managers are offended by their highfalutin opinions of themselves.
If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it’s that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation’s desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

Madison November 2008 Referendum Updates


In Oregon, if the referendum passes, it’ll mean $10 more a year for property tax payers.
In Madison though, the bill is higher, over the three years of the referendum the average cost to taxpayers is about $65.
Some parents told WISC-TV if it means more money out of their pocket, then they’re saying no to a referendum.
But most Madison parents WISC-TV spoke with facing those tough cuts say they’ll support it.
There are other issues on ballots in the area including, the MMDS asking to exceed revenue limits by $13 million.

Andy Hall & Chris Rickert:

A clerical mistake in the Madison city clerk’s office means about 20 voters within the Madison School District got absentee ballots that do not have the district’s $13 million referendum question on it, city and district officials said Tuesday.
Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said six of those voters have come forward, and she urged other district residents who aren’t sure if they voted on the question to call her office so her staff can destroy their old ballots and issue new ones.
Witzel-Behl said the mistake occurred because one of her employees created mailing labels for the absentee ballots’ envelopes that did not identify the voter as a resident of the School District.
“My best guess is we’re looking at less than 20 ballots total,” she said.


There was plenty of food and equally as much information at the Goodman Community center.
The Tenny Lapham Neighborhood Association held a spaghetti dinner to help community members understand the madison school districts recurring referendum on the November ballot.
“The school referendum us a complicated issue especially in the times that we are in– people are concerned about something that is going to increase their tax bill,” says association member Carole Trone.
Here’s how the referendum works.
The referendum asks to exceed the revenue limit by $5 five million next school year.

Much more on the November, 2008 Madison referendum here.

Kids’ Cereals Saltier, Report Says

Julie Jargon & Aaron Patrick:

Cereal makers that reduce the amount of sugar in kids’ cereals tend to ratchet up the salt content to improve flavor, says a report expected to be released Tuesday by Consumers International.
Cereal makers have been under pressure from consumer groups to reduce the sugar content of their kids’ cereals, and Consumers International, in its report, “Cereal Offenses,” says “manufacturers are likely to add salt to boost the flavor of the product, and may use salt to maintain customer appeal when sugar levels are reduced.”
The London-based organization, an umbrella group representing 220 consumer groups globally, focused on products made by two of the world’s largest makers of cereal for children, Nestlé SA of Vevey, Switzerland, and Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich. The group defined children’s cereals as those that feature cartoon characters on the packaging, are endorsed by celebrities popular with kids and are advertised on kids’ television programming.

One Goal: Extending the School Day

Mariam Brillantes:

Jennifer Davis is on an educational mission to extend the school day. She’s president and CEO of the National Center on Time and Learning, an organization that describes itself as “dedicated to expanding learning time to improve student achievement and enable a well-rounded education for all children.” Ms. Davis’s says under her organization’s scenario, children would be happier because they have more time to learn, teachers would be able to devote more time for enrichment programs that go beyond standardized tests, and parents-especially those from lower-income families-would be reassured their children are safe in a learning environment. Below are excerpts from an interview with Ms. Davis:
I think it’s safe to say that most schoolchildren would probably hate the thought of an extended school day. How can a longer day help them?
The initiative we are promoting involves the redesign of the school day to include more enrichment opportunities like music and art and apprenticeship. It includes significant recess and lunch time. And it also includes a lot of project-based learning and one-on-one time with teachers — and all those things, students like. If you interviewed students in the schools we’re working with… the students are enjoying the schedule in part because it gives them lots of opportunities. What’s happening all over the country is that classes like physical education, arts and even recess and lunch time have been shortened or eliminated because of the pressures of testing and classes that are tested like math and English.

School Choices: What to Look For?

Jennifer Merritt:

Tomorrow morning my husband and I are going on our very first public school tour. Our son is only 3, but he’ll be attending universal pre-kindergarten next year and we hope to make use of the good public schools in our area. We’ve also been encouraged to attend tours at two other elementary schools in our district and to make use of a kindergarten fair held at a nearby YWHA next week. It seems awfully soon to think about kindergarten for a kid who enters in fall of 2010. But as other parents have pointed out to me, there’s a lottery system in place in New York City and knowing which schools you are most interested in is important.
After I got over the surprise of school tours taking place a full four months before applications were even available, I realized something. I don’t really know what to look for in a school. Outside of a desire for smaller class size, caring teachers and a decent reputation in the community, I’m not really sure what these tours and fairs are supposed to teach me.

Inside New Orleans High

National Geographic Video:

NGC roams the halls with students as they tell their unvarnished accounts of high school life. Through student video diaries and personal accounts, NGC offers an exclusive glimpse into this gritty young world.

Milwaukee May Trim School Budget

Dani McClain:

New budget constraints could prevent Milwaukee Public Schools from paying for all 11th-graders to take the ACT and from expanding its driver education program.
Those were among the improvements the School Board added to Superintendent William Andrekopoulos’ preliminary budget over the summer, but the latest state aid figures, received last week, have forced the district to trim almost all those additions from its spending plan, officials said Monday.
The district’s proposed budget would require a 13.6% increase in the property tax levy, based on numbers the state Department of Public Instruction provided last week, showing a $15.8 million drop in total state aid to MPS.
There are two major reasons for the drop. Under the current funding formula, the more a district spends, the more state money it can subsequently expect, and the board decided last year not to spend to the limit allowed under state law.

NAEP Writing Assessment 2011

An Interview with Will Fitzhugh: About Assessing Writing Houston, Texas, 24 January 2007
Michael F. Shaughnessy Senior Columnist

1) I understand that you have just finished a stint on the ACT/NAGB Steering Committee for the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Writing Assessment. What was that like? (And what does NAGB stand for?)
WF: NAGB is the National Assessment Governing Board, which runs the NAEP, “America’s Report Card,” as they say. I was glad that Diane Ravitch recommended me for the Steering Committee for the new national writing assessment scheduled for 2011. I was very impressed with the intelligence and competence of Mary Crovo, representing NAEP, and Rosanne Cook, who is running the project for American College Testing. Many people on the Committee were from the National Council of Teachers of English and the College Composition world, which have little interest in having students read history books or write history research papers. In fact that world favors, or has favored in the past, personal and creative writing and the five-paragraph essay, which do a terrible job of preparing high school students for the nonfiction books and the academic term papers most will be asked to cope with in college.
2) Given the paucity of writing that goes on in the high schools of America, is it really fair to ask high school students to engage in a robust writing assessment?
WF: It would not be fair to ask high school students to play in a football game if they hadn’t had an opportunity for lots of practice, and it is very hard to ask high school students to do the sort of academic expository writing they should be doing if they have never done it in all their years in school. But we need to start somewhere. Every high school student does not need to be able to play football, but they all need to be able to read nonfiction books and write serious term papers.
3) On the other hand, since so much of the college experience is writing, are high school teachers doing students a disservice by NOT requiring more writing?
WF: High school teachers would make terrible football coaches and their teams would lose most if not all of their games, if the teacher/coaches did not have time to practice their teams. We take football seriously, and we take band seriously, so ample time and money are made available to produce the best teams and the best bands the high school can manage. We allow really no time for a public high school teacher to work with students on heavy-duty term papers. We don’t make time for them, because we don’t think they are that important. Not as important as drama practice, yearbook, chorus, debate or a host of other activities. As a result our high school students are, once again, ill-prepared for college reading and writing. AP courses in history do not require, in most cases, that students read a complete nonfiction book, and most of the AP teachers say they don’t have time to ask the student to write a research paper, because they “have to get students ready for the AP Exam.”


McCain: Education’s Disruptor-in-Chief?
The Republican took an early lead over Obama in supporting disruptive innovation in education that can revamp how today’s classrooms are run

Clayton M. Christensen and Michael B. Horn:

For a candidate who’s been criticized as being out of touch on technology, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been refreshingly ahead of the curve when it comes to disruptive innovation in education.
While Republican Presidential candidate McCain and the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), both see the benefits of using technology in revamping how classrooms run, McCain’s campaign early on embraced the benefits of nontraditional online education in some key ways.
Whichever candidate prevails on Nov. 4,, the most successful educational policies will be those that approach education challenges from an innovation perspective.
One of the core reasons schools struggle is because their structure compels standardization in the way they teach and test. This standardized, monolithic experience would be fine if all students learned in the same way. But as we know from our own experience, we all learn in different ways. Different things motivate different people, we each have different intelligence strengths and learning styles, and people learn at different paces. Standardization in schools therefore will not do the trick. We need customization.

Much more on Clayton Christensen here.

Brightstorm Raises $6 Million For Online High School Video Tutorials

Erick Schonfeld:

If high-school education is failing in the U.S., maybe Web video can help. Founded last April, Brightstorm is a Web video site that brings bright, talented teachers together with students who need some extra help. Backed by Korea’s KTB Ventures, which invested the entire $6 million in the startup’s A round, Brightstorm is launching today to the public.
There are about 20 teachers on the site offering video courses in subjects such as Geometry, the SAT, and A.P. U.S. History. Each course is broken up into episodes that are about 10 to 20 minutes each. Each course is $50, which is split between Brightstorm and the teachers. Students can watch a free promotional video to decide if they like the teacher and want to purchase the course. These tend to be overproduced with cheesy video graphics (stop with the jump cuts already), but they do the job of getting across each teacher’s personality and teaching style.
The videos are supplemented with interactive challenges, pop-up quizzes, and other bonus material. You can certainly see the appeal. If you were a high school student who needed a tutor, wouldn’t you rather watch videos on your computer for ten minutes a day than endure a live tutorial for an hour or more? Now, whether you are actually going to learn more is still debatable.
But there are plenty of startups trying. Here in the U.S., there is PrepMe, ePrep, Teach The People, and Grockit. In Asia, there is iKnow in Japan and perhaps the biggest success to date is Korea’s Megastudy.

Related: Credit for non-Madison School District courses.

On Washington, DC’s Special Education Governance

Bill Turque:

The District’s top special education official testified in federal court yesterday that some school personnel ignore scheduled meetings with parents, contributing to the city’s failure to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities or behavioral challenges.
Richard Nyankori, acting deputy chancellor for special education, said the backlog of D.C. children awaiting special education services is lengthy in part because school staff don’t show up for meetings, leaving cases unresolved and parents in the lurch.
“Sometimes it is willful on the part of some staff not to make it to meetings,” Nyankori said under questioning from U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman.
Friedman called the hearing to quiz officials about the District’s lack of progress in complying with a 2006 consent decree that settled a class action brought by parents of children with learning problems. The District’s public and public charter schools have nearly 11,000 special education students. About 20 percent attend private schools, at a cost to taxpayers of about $200 million, because D.C. cannot meet their needs.

Referendum Climate: Fiscal Policy Report on the Nation’s Governors

Chris Edwards:

evenue poured into state governments as the U.S. economy expanded between 2003 and 2007, prompting the nation’s governors to expand state budgets and offer the occasional tax cut. But now that the economy has slowed and revenue growth is down, governors are taking various actions to close rising budget deficits.
This ninth biennial fiscal report card examines the tax and spending decisions made by the governors since 2003. It uses statistical data to grade the governors on their taxing and spending records – governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades, while those who have increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades.
Three governors were awarded an “A” in this report card – Charlie Crist of Florida, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Eight governors were awarded an “F” – Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Bob Riley of Alabama, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, and C. L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho.

Wisconsin’s Governor Doyle received a “D”:

When running for governor, James Doyle pledged not to raise taxes. He mostly kept that promise his first few years, and even provided a smattering of tax cuts. His fiscal policies then took a turn for the worse. In 2007 he proposed an array of large tax increases totaling about $900 million, including higher cigarette taxes, hospital taxes, oil company taxes, and increased real estate transfer taxes. Doyle has also refused to go along with the legislature in providing property tax relief, and he is fond of using increased debt to finance spending. But Doyle’s spending record is better than his tax record, and this year he is insisting on budget restraint to eliminate a deficit.

Much more on Madison’s November, 2008 referendum here.

The High School Dropout’s Economic Ripple Effect

Gary Fields:

Mayors Go Door to Door, Personally Encouraging Students to Stay in the Game for Their Own Good — and for the Sake of the City
As the financial meltdown and economic slump hold the national spotlight, another potential crisis is on the horizon: a persistently high dropout rate that educators and mayors across the country say increases the threat to the country’s strength and prosperity.
According to one study, only half of the high school students in the nation’s 50 largest cities are graduating in four years, with a figure as low as 25% in Detroit. And while concern over dropouts isn’t new, the problem now has officials outside of public education worried enough to get directly involved.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors [PDF Report] is focusing its education efforts on dropouts. Mayors in Houston and other Texas cities go door to door to the homes of dropouts, encouraging them to return to school. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin meets on weekends with students and helps them with life planning. Other cities, like Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo., have dropout prevention programs.
Some new studies show far fewer students completing high school with diplomas than long believed. “Whereas the conventional wisdom had long placed the graduation rate around 85%, a growing consensus has emerged that only about seven in 10 students are actually successfully finishing high school” in four years, said a study by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, a nonprofit group based in Bethesda, Md. It was released this year by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonpartisan advocacy group for youth. In the nation’s 50 largest cities, the graduation rate was 52%.

Reaching an Autistic Teenager

Melissa Fay Greene:

On a typical Monday morning at an atypical high school, teenage boys yanked open the glass doors to the First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga. Half-awake, iPod wires curling from their ears, their backpacks unbuckled and their jeans baggy, the guys headed for the elevator. Arriving at Morning Meeting in the third-floor conference room, Stephen, his face hidden under long black bangs, dropped into a chair, sprawled across the table and went back to sleep. The Community School, or T.C.S., is a small private school for teenage boys with autism or related disorders. Sleep disturbances are common in this student body of 10, so a boy’s staggering need for sleep is respected. Nick Boswell, a tall fellow with thick sideburns, arrived and began his usual pacing along the windows that overlook the church parking lot and baseball diamond. Edwick, with spiky brown hair and a few black whiskers, tumbled backward with a splat into a beanbag chair on the floor.
“O.K., guys, let’s talk about your spring schedules,” said Dave Nelson, the 45-year-old founding director. He wore a green polo shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers and had a buzz haircut and an open, suntanned face. After his son Graham, 19, was given a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (A.S.D.) as a young child, Nelson left the business world and went into teaching and clinical and counseling work. On that Monday, he was instantly interrupted.
“I had a very bad night!” Edwick yelled from the floor. “Nightmares all night!”

On Milwaukee’s School Budget

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial:

Milwaukee Public Schools is crippled by a broken state funding system that needs to be changed, or the district will be destitute within a decade, if not sooner.
In one sense, the financial crisis at MPS is similar to that of the banks: MPS essentially is asking the Legislature for a rescue plan.
MPS officials say the state funding formula needs to change so that it can sustain itself and perform its core mission of educating some of the state’s poorest students. Like most urban districts, MPS is dealing with low test scores, high dropout rates and violence in addition to money problems.
We back MPS in its push, and we urge the Legislature to do two things: Change the overall formula that places MPS in such a tough situation, and correct a specific problem with the way Milwaukee’s voucher schools are funded that places undue burden on Milwaukee property owners.
First, let’s consider the state’s overall funding formula. Its goal is to try to equalize funding between rich and poor districts so that students in property-poor districts are not penalized because of where they live. The idea is that a taxpayer in a property-poor district should not have to pay much higher taxes to achieve the same per-student funding.

Buttons: The Sequel

Stanley Fish:

Last week’s column about the propriety or impropriety of teachers wearing campaign buttons in class provoked many questions, and today I would like to respond to those that were asked most often.
Some of the questions concerned the psychology of students. Several respondents scoffed at the likelihood of students being influenced by their teachers at all: “Prof. Fish’s belief in the power of faculty to influence students’ political choices is touching, but not borne out by research” (David Taylor).
But whatever the research disclosed would be irrelevant to the professional issue: is it a part of an instructor’s job to let students (susceptible or not) know what his or her political preferences are? What pedagogical purpose does such self-revelation serve?
Jason D’Cruz has an answer to that question. He believes that “when students know exactly what their professor’s political commitments are, they are in a better position to evaluate the points of view from which their teacher’s ideas arrive.”

Content Knowledge Requirements Proposed for Illinois Teachers

Carlos Sadovia:

As many as 5,000 middle school teachers in Chicago could be required to go back to school for additional training to continue teaching under a plan expected to be approved by the Board of Education this week.
Under the proposal, 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade teachers would be asked to gain an “endorsement” noting they are qualified for specific subjects at those grade levels, said Xavier Botana, head of elementary education for the Chicago Public Schools.
While teachers must be state-certified to teach in the district, currently neither the district nor the state requires teachers to gain the additional credential for classes such as math, English and science. Chicago is following many other districts in toughening requirements, officials said.
Botana said that while potentially 5,000 middle school teachers are affected, many already may have the necessary credits.
“Going forward, all of our kids in 6th through 8th grades will be taught by somebody who has a deeper level of content area knowledge than what is currently required,” he said. “We need to aim higher.”
Mary McClure, a Chicago Teachers Union official, said the union supports the move and has been working with the district to make sure teachers have enough time to take the classes.

Milwaukee School Board’s Budget Dilemna

Alan Borsuk:

Here’s a tough decision: The Milwaukee School Board must decide whether to increase property taxes for schools this year by a double-digit percentage or make cuts in the budget, or maybe both.
Here’s a group that seems to be having a hard time making tough decisions: the Milwaukee School Board.
The board — and the Milwaukee Public Schools system as a whole — face one of the most demanding points in memory.
Specifically, this is the point when the budget has to be finalized for this year, along with the property tax level. Superintendent William Andrekopoulos is expected to propose something in the vicinity of a 14% one-year increase in property tax collections to support schools (school spending accounts for roughly a third of the total tax bill).
It is also the point when decisions loom about what schools to merge or move for next year because decision-making on enrollment starts soon and administrators say they need to reduce the number of school buildings to save money in the long run. That is also expected to come to a head this week.

Unusual Senior Photos

Erin Richards:

t 8:30 a.m. on a recent Saturday in an industrial section of Bay View, railroad tracks and weeds became just one backdrop of one student’s formal senior portrait
Seth Haugh, a shy, 6-foot-2-inch 17-year-old, gradually got into the session, staring coolly at the camera in a cowboy hat, and standing beside his 2004 Chevy Silverado.
Like many portraits of high school seniors in the past few years, Haugh’s photos turned out looking like advertisements for Abercrombie or American Apparel: outdoor and edgy, with intentional poses that appear accidental. The hyper-realistic print appears digitally manipulated.
Area photographers say the increased demand for highly personalized and on-location senior photos, generally taken between June and October, has primarily been driven by young women who want to be transformed into rock stars or fashionistas, Harry Potter characters or swimsuit models.

21st Century Schools – Pedagogy Must Give Way to Andragogy

Open Education:

One of the more interesting discussions taking place among technology experts is the need for teachers to move from a pedagogical focus to one that features an andragogical approach. The shift comes in direct response to the greater push to implement technology in today’s classrooms.
To get a clear indication of the two concepts, pedagogy and androgogy, we turn to Wikpedia. Accordingly, we find the following definition and explanation of the term pedagogy.
“Pedagogy or paedagogy is the art or science of being a teacher. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction.

Detroit School Board to Discuss Fatal Shooting

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

The fatal shooting of one Henry Ford High student and the wounding of three other teens is expected to be discussed at a special Detroit Board of Education meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Spain Elementary-Middle School, 3700 Beaubien.
The agenda includes a 2008-’09 “Checklist for Preventing and Responding to School Violence” the district has submitted to the Michigan Department of Education for Ford, Mumford, Central and Crosman high schools.

Fly Your Ideas Contest

Airbus Fly Your Ideas:

Welcome to the Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge, a global competition designed to encourage innovative thinkers to develop ideas that can shape the future of aviation and deliver a further reduction in the industry’s impact on the environment.
The competition is open to college and university students from around the world, studying a degree, Masters or PHD in any academic discipline, from engineering to marketing, business to science and philosophy to design.
Airbus is offering €30,000 for the team whose idea demonstrates the greatest short or long term potential to reduce the impact of our industry on the environment, as well as a range of other prizes available throughout the competition (see Prizes for more information).

At Pinnacle, Stepping Away From Basketball

NEWARK, Del. — Students kept filing into the tiny hideaway gym at the University of Delaware, but most seemed interested in swimming and the fitness center, not volleyball. Only 150 or so fans attended Wednesday’s match, 200 tops, family and friends tucked into a small set of bleachers.
Elena Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 middle hitter, took her position near the net and played the way a novice does, dominating at some moments, uncertain at others. She spiked the ball ferociously to end the suspense in a three-set victory over Villanova, but it remained jarring even for her father to see her in the tights and kneepads of volleyball instead of the flowing shorts of basketball.
“If Tom Brady was your son, you would really enjoy that he was a darn good Ping-Pong player, but you’d feel like, Why’s he playing Ping-Pong?” Ernie Delle Donne, a real estate developer, said, referring to the New England quarterback.
Only months ago, Elena Delle Donne was the nation’s top female high school basketball recruit, a signee with the University of Connecticut, an expected central figure in what many predict will be the Huskies’ sixth national title season in 2008-9. After two days of classes last June, though, Delle Donne acknowledged what few athletes of her visibility have ever acknowledged publicly — she was burned out on basketball at 18

The End of French Math Supremacy?

The Economist:

The purity of mathematics loses its prestige
FRANCE may think of itself as a literary society, but real prestige is reserved for mathematics. Excellence in maths determines access to the elite, via ultra-selective grandes écoles such as the École Nationale d’Administration or the Polytechnique. More French mathematicians have won the Fields Medal, a top international prize, than those from any other European country. Top maths graduates working in French banks have pioneered some of the market’s most complex equity derivatives. So there has been some head-scratching at the idea that Xavier Darcos, the education minister, is now considering an end to the pre-eminence of maths in the baccalauréat school-leaving exam.

Universal preschool hasn’t delivered results

Shikha Dalmia & Lisa Snell:

Early education advocates want you to believe that the case for universal preschool is so airtight that raising any questions about it is an act of heresy. But there is a strong and growing body of literature showing that preschool produces virtually no lasting benefits for the majority of kids.
Proponents of universal preschool claim that when kids attend quality preschools, they grow up to be smarter, richer and more law-abiding. But this is a fairy tale not based on research.
More kids who attend preschool enter kindergarten knowing their ABCs and counting their numbers than their stay-at-home peers, it is true. But these gains fade, as study after study has shown.
Consider Oklahoma and Georgia, two states that have spent billions implementing universal preschool. Georgia’s fourth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading score in 1992, when it embraced universal preschool, was 212 – three points below the national average. Last year, after years of universal preschool, it was 219 – still one point below the national average. Its math score was three points below the average in 1992. Last year, it was 235 – four points below the national average.

UK Minister outlines vision for Local School Governance

David Turner & Alex Barker:

A vision of greater state school independence has been set out by the new academies minister, with a prediction that “self-governing schools” will become the “dominant” model for secondary education.
Jim Knight’s comments, in an interview with the Financial Times, suggest Labour is determined to avoid being outflanked by the Conservatives as both parties vie to outbid each other in giving schools greater autonomy – a policy attractive to many families.
Mr Knight was schools minister but has now added academies to his responsibilities after Andrew Adonis’s move to transport in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
His first interview about academies since taking on the portfolio will soothe fears of sponsors and education officials over the departure of Lord Adonis, who conceived and ran the academies programme.
Sponsors are concerned that Ed Balls, the schools secretary, wants to give a bigger role to local authorities and is less enthusiastic about faith and independent schools becoming academies. Officials also say that without Lord Adonis’s “obsessive” commitment to establishing new academies, the programme will lose drive.

Hierarchy of Needs

The Economist:

The hierarchy of needs is an idea associated with one man, Abraham Maslow (see article), the most influential anthropologist ever to have worked in industry. It is a theory about the way in which people are motivated. First presented in a paper (“A Theory of Human Motivation”) published in the Psychological Review in 1943, it postulated that human needs fall into five different categories. Needs in the lower categories have to be satisfied before needs in the higher ones can act as motivators. Thus a violinist who is starving cannot be motivated to play Mozart, and a shop worker without a lunch break is less productive in the afternoon than one who has had a break.
The theory arose out of a sense that classic economics was not giving managers much help because it failed to take into account the complexity of human motivation. Maslow divided needs into five:

The “Value of Ignorance“.

In wake of turmoil, Madison Memorial students seek solutions

Mark Pitsch:

More parental involvement. Peer-to-peer mentoring. Community programs.
Those are some of the ideas students, parents and others offered in the wake of a fight at Memorial High School last week between black and Latino students and early closure of the school Friday amid rumors of a gun at the school.
Tim Maymon, whose two teenagers attend Memorial and who had another graduate this year, said he believes the school is safe, that his children aren’t in danger and that the racial tension is limited to small groups of students.
But he also said some students — including those involved in the altercation last week — aren’t getting proper parental guidance.
“The two groups need more parental control,” Maymon said. “There’s a lot of people promoting their kids to fight and be stupid. Any smart parent would want to see their kids be safe and egging them on to fight is not safe.”

Madison 2008 Referendum: Vote ‘yes’ and expect more

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

It’s a difficult time for Madison schools to be asking property taxpayers for more money.
But it also is a very tough time for Madison schools to be reducing services for students — a large and growing percentage of whom need extra or tailored help to succeed.
That’s why Madison should vote “yes” on its school referendum Nov. 4 — with one big demand in return. Moving forward, school leaders and, especially, the teachers union need to commit to more innovation and evaluation of existing school programs.
That means more charter and specialty schools to excite parents and to give struggling students concrete evidence of a successful career path after graduation

Much more on the November, 2008 Madison referendum here.

Math mistake sees hundreds of Dallas teachers laid off


“Today is a day of tremendous sadness throughout the district,” Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a written statement.
“These teachers and counselors are people who devoted themselves to helping Dallas students, and we will do everything within our power to help them find new jobs.”
The district laid off 375 teachers and 40 counselors and assistant principals Thursday, and transferred 460 teachers to other schools within the district.
The deficit was caused by a massive miscalculation in the budget, CNN affiliate WFAA-TV reported.