Bill Gates on Ed in ’08 & School Reform Impediments

Erik Robelen quotes Bill Gates:

“We have not found a way to do it. We have not been very successful at it…the problem we tend to run into is that the most influential and well-educated people either have their kids in private schools, or they have their kids in an enclave inside the high school that are called honor’s courses, where the teaching is pretty decent and so, if we go to a school and say, let’s change things here, they say, no way, you’re going to mess our little enclave up. All the kids go through the same front door, but really it’s a separate school inside there that’s allowing us not to be part of that insanity, and so don’t mess with the thing that works well for us. And I do think, if you want to stand up to some of the practices that are not focused on the needs of the students, you need a broad set of parents. I think we’re very weak on this point.
During the presidential election, we had two advocacy efforts. One about global development, and one about education. And we didn’t end up spending the amount of money that we had available for the advocacy because most of what we were causing people to do was to mouth platitudes. … On global development, which I thought was the harder of the two, we actually succeeded because people never even talked about it at all, and we actually got them to talk about it.”

India’s Colleges Battle a Thicket of Red Tape

Geeta Anand:

Under the labyrinthine regulations that govern technical colleges nationwide, the Principal K.M. Kundnani College of Pharmacy must provide 168 square feet of building space for each student. The rule is intended to ensure students have enough space to learn. But it effectively caps enrollment at 300, even though students are spread so thinly in the eight-story building that the top floor remains unused, its lecture halls padlocked.
The rules also stipulate the exact size for libraries and administrative offices, the ratio of professors to assistant professors and lecturers, quotas for student enrollment and the number of computer terminals, books and journals that must be on site.
“I am not free to run this school as I wish,” Ms. D’Mello, 51 years old, says. “I am at the whim of unrealistic demands.”

On College-Entrance Exam Day, All of South Korea Is Put to the Test

Sungha Park:

One foggy morning last November, officer Kang Jin-jin heard the distress call on his police radio: An 18-year-old girl about to take the national college-entrance exam had left her admission ticket at home.
Mr. Kang dashed off to the girl’s apartment, got the ticket from her father, and raced across town on his motorcycle, arriving at the school just in time for the test.
“I had to ignore traffic signs and turn on the siren,” he said. “It was a bit risky, but I tried my best.”
Mr. Kang’s heroic effort is hardly an isolated one. On the day each November that high-school seniors take the college-entrance test — Nov. 13, this year — South Korea is a changed country.
Many offices and the stock market open at 10 a.m., an hour later than usual, to keep the roads free for students on their way to the test. All other students get the day off to keep schools quiet for the test takers. And while students are taking the listening portions of the tests, planes can’t land or take off at the nation’s airports. Aircraft arriving from other countries are ordered to circle at altitudes above 10,000 feet.

Will Fitzhugh in Madison 11/19 @ 7:00p.m.

Madison meeting details here
The Boston Globe reported recently that Michelle Wie, the 16-year-old Korean-American golfing phenomenon, not only speaks Korean and English, but has also taken four years of Japanese, and is beginning to study Mandarin. She is planning to apply early to Stanford University. I would be willing to bet, however, that in high school her academic writing has been limited to the five-paragraph essay, and it is very likely that she has not been assigned a complete nonfiction book.
For the last two years, and especially since the National Endowment for the Arts unveiled the findings of its large ($300,000) study of reading of fiction in the United States, I have been seeking funding for a much smaller study of the assignment of complete nonfiction books in U.S. public high schools. This proposed study, which education historian Diane Ravitch has called “timely and relevant,” has met with little interest, having so far been turned down by the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as a number of foundations and institutes both large and small.
Still, I have a fair amount of anecdotal evidence some of it from people who would be quite shocked to hear that high school English departments were no longer assigning any complete novels that the non-assignment of nonfiction books on subjects like history is unremarkable and, in fact, accepted.
A partner in a law firm in Boston, for instance, told me there was no point in such a study, because everyone knows history books aren’t assigned in schools. This was the case, he said, even decades ago at his own alma mater, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he was assigned only selections, readings, and the like, never a complete book. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said when I lamented that I couldn’t find anyone who agrees that high school students should read at least one nonfiction book, “The only hope is parents introducing their kids to reading, and that’s a mighty slim hope.”

Continue reading BIBLIOPHOBIA
Will Fitzhugh in Madison 11/19 @ 7:00p.m.

Page Per Year Plan

Diane Ravitch recently pointed out that, “the campaign against homework goes on. Its success will guarantee a steady decline in the very activities that matter most in education: independent reading; thoughtful writing; research projects.”
It is clearer and clearer that most high school students, when they do read a book, read fiction. The College Board’s Reading List of 101 Books for the College-Bound Student includes only four works of nonfiction: Walden, Emerson’s Essays, Night, and The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Nothing by David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, or any other great contemporary (or past) historian is suggested for the “College-Bound Student.”
The SAT, ACT, and NAEP writing assessments, and most state writing standards, require no prior knowledge and challenge students to write their opinions and personal stories in 25 minutes. Unless college history professors start assigning term papers by saying: “‘History repeats itself.’ See what you can write about that in 25 minutes and turn it in six weeks from now,” our high school graduates will continue to find that they have been sadly misled about the demands for academic writing they will face.
A national study done for The Concord Review in 2002, of the assignment of high school history term papers, found that 81% of public high school history teachers never assign a 20-page paper, and 62% never assign a 12-page paper any more, even to high school seniors. The Boston Latin School, a famous exam school, no longer assigns the “traditional history term paper.”
One reason for this, I believe, is that teachers find that by the time their students are Juniors and Seniors in high school, they have done so little academic expository writing that they simply could not manage a serious history research paper, if they were asked to do one.

Continue reading Page Per Year Plan

How Much Homework is Too Much?

Linda Thomas, via email:

Q: My son is in elementary school and has already gotten far more homework than last year, going from fourth to fifth grade. The work isn’t difficult, but there’s a lot of it. Keeping him on task is a nightly struggle at our house. I’ve talked with his teacher and she says no one else has complained. How much is too much homework?
A: I hate homework. Do I lose my mom sash and crown for admitting that?
I understand the importance of homework: It gives students a chance to review what they’re learning in class; it is feedback for teachers so they’ll know whether students understand the subjects covered in school; it’s a way to extend learning by having students discover new information about a subject; it’s practice; it gives parents an opportunity to be involved in their kids’ education. That’s all positive. But some nights, the homework routine in our house makes me feel like a crinkled, crumpled sheet of notebook paper.
Seattle Public Schools requires its teachers to assign homework. The district’s homework policy was adopted way back in 1983 and hasn’t been modified since. Here are the district’s guidelines for the minimum/maximum amount of homework a student should receive:
Grades K-2: Five to 10 minutes per day or 20 to 40 minutes each week
Grades 3-4: 10 to 20 minutes per day, 40-80 minutes each week
Grades 5-6: 20 to 40 minutes per day, 80-160 minutes a week
Middle School: One to two hours per night, five to 10 hours per week
High School: Two hours per night, 10 hours each week

Obama Is Expected to Put Education Overhaul on Back Burner

Robert Tomsho & John Hechinger:

With the federal government under pressure to rescue banks, auto makers and homeowners, as well as a federal budget deficit that could double to $1 trillion this fiscal year, many observers question whether Mr. Obama will undertake education measures that require significant spending.
Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, said he expects Mr. Obama to sidestep most major issues involving public schools and instead focus on small, symbolic initiatives in the mold of former President Bill Clinton’s promotion of school uniforms as a way to instill discipline in classrooms.
Economically, the new president faces a “tough, tough balancing act,” said Arne Duncan, chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools and an education adviser to Mr. Obama. Even so, Mr. Duncan said education has been pivotal to Mr. Obama’s personal story, and he predicted “a very strong, aggressive and comprehensive strategy” on the issue. “This is something that is hugely important to him,” said Mr. Duncan, who has been mentioned as a possible secretary of education in the Obama administration.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, said stimulating the economy and getting people back to work will be the new administration’s top priority. But he added that the president-elect sees the financial crisis as an opportunity to make changes in energy policy, health care and education. “Those issues that are usually referred to as long-term are immediate,” he said.

An Interview with Madison’s Glendale Elementary Principal Mickey Buhl

Melanie Conklin:

Mickey Buhl, 40, became principal at Glendale in 2005, taking the helm of a Madison school with significant challenges: the highest rate of low-income students at 80 percent, annual student turnover rate around 40 percent and a majority of students in either special education or English as a Second Language classes. He’s passionate about the good things happening at Glendale and working with staff members to beat those statistical odds. He’s also clearly obsessed with baseball.
MC: Is it true you worked in the Congressional Budget Office?
MB: It was my first job working for anyone other than my father. I started at the CBO after I got my master’s degree in public policy. They would send a bill and I’d estimate the cost of it. The Family and Medical Leave Act came through and I got that. The politics of Washington permeated every aspect of life, and there was enough nastiness to it that I just decided I didn’t want to make a life of it.
MC: How did you end up as a principal?

Obese kids have arteries of 45-year-old

John Fauber:

Neck arteries of obese children as young as 10 resembled those of a typical 45-year-old, a new study has found.
The research is more evidence that the process of artery disease can begin early in life, increasing the risk of premature heart disease in adulthood.
“These findings confirm some of our big picture concerns about childhood obesity,” said Aaron Carrel, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It is a very direct link with disease.”
Carrel, who was not a part of the research, said artery disease in obese children was something that doctors had long suspected, but the level of disease found in the study was higher than anticipated.
UW doctors also have been finding abnormally high levels of cholesterol in obese kids ages 5 to 18, Carrel said.

Chinese Language Part Of Day At School

David Steinkraus:

The melody was familiar – “Frere Jacques,” the nursery rhyme sung by generations of schoolchildren – but the words weren’t.
“Xia zhou jian, Xia zhou jian,” intoned Xu Chen to the final notes of the song. Gathered around her, the children attending the first day of the first Panda Academy at the Racine Montessori School followed along even if they didn’t know what they were saying. Roughly translated it meant “See you next week,” and it was the phrase which students would be expected to repeat as they left the room following their first lesson in the Chinese language.
The academy, which began Sept. 27, grew out of a desire to teach adopted Asian children about their heritage, to offer the language of a nation important to modern commerce, and to eliminate long drives for parents.
“I think every community has a burgeoning Asian population and not necessarily by adoption. The percentage of Asians in the country is very small, but it’s the fastest-growing,” said Kelly Gallaher, one of the people who organized the academy.

Washington, DC School Chief Takes on Teacher Tenure, and Stirs a Fight

Sam Dillon:

Michelle Rhee, the hard-charging chancellor of the Washington public schools, thinks teacher tenure may be great for adults, those who go into teaching to get summer vacations and great health insurance, for instance. But it hurts children, she says, by making incompetent instructors harder to fire.
So Ms. Rhee has proposed spectacular raises of as much as $40,000, financed by private foundations, for teachers willing to give up tenure.
Policy makers and educators nationwide are watching to see what happens to Ms. Rhee’s bold proposal. The 4,000-member Washington Teachers’ Union has divided over whether to embrace it, with many union members calling tenure a crucial protection against arbitrary firing.
“If Michelle Rhee were to get what she is demanding,” said Allan R. Odden, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies teacher compensation, “it would raise eyebrows everywhere, because that would be a gargantuan change.”
Last month, Ms. Rhee said she could no longer wait for a union response to her proposal, first outlined last summer, and announced an effort to identify and fire ineffective teachers, including those with tenure. The union is mobilizing to protect members, and the nation’s capital is bracing for what could be a wrenching labor struggle.

ACT or SAT? More Students Answering ‘All Of the Above’

Daniel de Vise:

For students in the Washington region, picking a college entrance test has become a multiple-choice question.
The SAT has long dominated the bustling college-prep market in the District and its suburbs. But the rival ACT is making inroads, buoyed by a shift in conventional wisdom, which now holds that the tests are of about equal value and that a student would be wise to take both. Colleges are driving the trend because admission officers are spreading the word that it doesn’t matter which test students take.
The ascendance of the ACT has brought Hertz-Avis style competition to the test-obsessed D.C. region. It’s a boon to students, who find they have more ways than ever to impress colleges. The SAT tests how students think. The ACT measures what they have learned. Each is a better fit for some students than others.

A Look Back at the November, 2008 Madison School District’s “Easy Referendum” Win

Tamira Madsen:

In the aftermath of the successful Madison Metropolitan School District referendum, many critics and supporters agree on one thing: They were surprised with district voters’ overwhelming approval of the operating referendum.
Nearly 68 percent of voters favored the referendum, which will allow the district to exceed its tax limits by $5 million during the 2009-10 school year, then by an additional $4 million in each of the following two years. The total increase of $13 million will be permanent for every year after that.
The referendum won a majority in almost every ward in the district, but Superintendent Dan Nerad admitted afterward that he wasn’t sure that the initiative would pass due to the tumultuous economy. District officials say the referendum will increase taxes for the owner of an average Madison home by $27.50 the first year, then $43 more the second year and an additional $21 in the third.

Much more on the recent referendum here.

Charters lead California’s traditional schools in achievement for poor children, survey finds

Mitchell Landsberg:

Four Southern California charters and one L.A. Unified campus are among the top 15 serving students living in poverty.
The burgeoning charter school movement in California has largely made its mark as an alternative to low-performing inner-city schools. An analysis being issued today suggests that, at their best, charters are doing that job well, outperforming most traditional public schools that serve children in poverty.
Using the Academic Performance Index as a measuring tool, the California Charter Schools Assn. found that 12 of the top 15 public schools in California that cater primarily to poor children are charters.
“These results show that charter schools are opening doors of opportunity for California’s most underserved students, and effectively advancing them on the path to academic success,” said Peter Thorp, interim head of the association. He urged traditional public schools to study the charters to replicate their success.
The association, which is an advocate for charter schools, focused on schools where at least 70% of the children qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Of more than 3,000 public schools statewide that fit that description, the highest API score — 967 — was earned by American Indian Public Charter, a middle school in Oakland whose students are primarily Asian, black and Latino, and have a poverty rate of 98%. It was followed by its sibling, American Indian Public High School, with a score of 958.

On Class Size & Adversity

Malcolm Gladwell:

The man who boasts of walking seven miles to school, barefoot, every morning, happily drives his own grandchildren ten blocks in an S.U.V. We have become convinced that the surest path to success for our children involves providing them with a carefully optimized educational experience: the “best” schools, the most highly educated teachers, the smallest classrooms, the shiniest facilities, the greatest variety of colors in the art-room paint box. But one need only look at countries where schoolchildren outperform their American counterparts–despite larger classes, shabbier schools, and smaller budgets–to wonder if our wholesale embrace of the advantages of advantages isn’t as simplistic as Carnegie’s wholesale embrace of the advantages of disadvantages.
In E. J. Kahn’s Profile, he tells the story of a C.E.O. retreat that Weinberg attended, organized by Averell Harriman. It was at Sun Valley, Harriman’s ski resort, where, Kahn writes, it emerged that Weinberg had never skied before:

A School District Asks: Where Are the Parents?

Winnie Hu:

Then teachers and administrators noticed something else: Jericho High School’s 90-member orchestra had become 70 percent Asian-American (the student body over all is about 30 percent Asian-American), but it still played for a mostly white audience at concerts with many empty seats.
The Chinese and Korean families that flocked to Jericho for its stellar schools shared their Jewish and Italian predecessors’ priorities on excellent education. But the new diversity of the district has revealed a cultural chasm over the meaning of parental involvement. Many of the Asian-Americans whose children now make up a third of the district’s enrollment grew up in places where parents showed up on campus only when their children were in trouble.
“They think, ‘My kids are doing well — why should I come?’ ” said Sophia Bae, 38, a Korean immigrant who shied away from P.T.A. meetings when she first moved here from Queens four years ago. Now a member of the organization, she invites other Koreans to her home and encourages them to participate in pretzel sales. “They don’t realize it’s necessary to come and join the school to understand their kids’ lives.”
Parental involvement is a perennial struggle in poor urban neighborhoods, where many innovative school leaders have run parent academies and strongly encouraged school visits or committee membership in hopes of mimicking the success of the suburbs. Now Jericho is taking a page from that handbook, trying to lure Asian parents into the schools with free English classes and a multicultural advisory committee that, among other things, taught one Chinese mother what to wear and what to bring to a bar mitzvah. The P.T.A. has been trying to recruit more minority members and groom them for leadership roles.

School Spending Climate: State & Federal Deficits

Greg Bump:

He said all agencies are going to have to tighten their belts.
“The new increase is a flat line,” he said.
Doyle said one of his priorities will be to protect K-12 education and the university system from major cuts, but said the state “may have to save some money on school aids” and the UW System is “definitely going to have to participate in this.”
“The bottom line of this,” Doyle said, “is I’m willing to make very deep cuts.”
Doyle added, “But I don’t want to see schools go into total crisis mode.”

Jason Stein:

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said he would not rule out a general income or sales tax increase but would see it as a “last resort.”
“I think the priority needs to stay on job creation,” Miller said of the budget. He said new jobs would help the state begin to climb out of its budget hole.
Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said he would want to know more about how the budget shortfall was calculated, including more about the size of agencies’ requested spending increases, before he could truly say how serious it was. That’s because governors have an incentive to play up the size of the budget shortfall to emphasize the challenge they face, he said.

Randall Forsyth:

WHAT ONCE WAS UNTHINKABLE has come to pass this year: massive bailouts by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, with the extension of billions of the taxpayers’ and the central bank’s credit in so many new and untested schemes that you can’t tell your acronyms or abbreviations without a scorecard.
Even more unbelievable is that some of the recipients of staggering sums are coming back for a second round. Or that the queue of petitioners grows by the day.
But what happens if the requests begin to strain the credit line of the world’s most creditworthy borrower, the U.S. government itself? Unthinkable?

Patrick Marley:

The $5 billion shortfall includes up to $500 million in the current budget, which runs through June 30. Doyle stressed that the deficit may continue to balloon as the scope of the national economic crisis becomes clear. Less than a month ago, Doyle estimated the deficit at more than $3 billion.
Sen. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said the deficit was mostly caused by matters out of the control of lawmakers, but that it was significantly worsened by bad budgeting practices in the past.
“This is a monster problem,” he said.
Projections change
When lawmakers approved a budget-repair bill in May, state officials believed revenue would increase by a modest 1.5% through next June. Now, they say, revenue will instead drop 2.5% because declining jobs and fewer sales translate into lower tax collections.
Revenue will drop further in the first year of the next budget, Doyle said.
Doyle said his No. 1 priority is funding education. He said he also wants to protect state health care programs, as well as key economic development programs that fund biotechnology and renewable energy programs.

Madison school cafeterias have “impressive” safety records

Melanie Conklin:

While there’s no controlling what happens once kids get their hands on the food, some of the safest public places to buy meals are Madison school cafeterias.
A review of Madison-Dane County Health Department records of Madison school cafeteria inspections showed that school scores were far better than the average restaurant score. Out of 164 Madison cafeteria inspections, 49 resulted in a perfect score of zero and 115 found no critical violations.
To put that in perspective, the average score for restaurants hovers around 20, and anything above 50 is viewed as troublesome. Madison school cafeterias averaged 3.3 over the past four years. The worst school score — Spring Harbor Middle School with a score of 22 in 2005 — was on par with restaurants. And the next two years Spring Harbor scored a perfect zero.

Sun Prairie parents turn up heat on school boundaries, and board responds

Karyn Seamann:

Eight months after the Sun Prairie School Board capped a hugely divisive debate over elementary boundaries by deciding to bus town of Bristol children to Westside school, Bristol parents are demanding further review.
After the March decision some School Board members said they wanted to form a committee to look long-term at elementary boundaries and related issues such as socio-economic and racial balance between buildings.
The committee never materialized.

DeForest High To Reopen After Threat Closed School Tuesday


DeForest Area High School was closed Tuesday after school officials found a threatening note, but officials said the school will reopen on Wednesday.
Officials said that the note, which was found on Monday afternoon in the school, said that there would be a bomb in a boys’ restroom.
School officials, along with the DeForest Police Department, were unable to determine whether the threat had merit. As a precaution, officials made the decision to cancel all classes, events and after-school activities Tuesday at the high school.
On Tuesday, the DeForest police, along with school administrators and a canine unit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, searched the entire high school and grounds, and did not find any signs of explosive devices. Based on the search and the status of the investigation, school officials and law enforcement personnel said they feel confident that they can reopen the school Wednesday.

Gates Foundation releases new giving plans for education & Plans “National Standards”

Linda Shaw:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today unveiled new directions for its education giving, which include working to double the number of students who complete some kind of postsecondary degree.
Efforts also would be made to identify and reward good teaching, help average teachers get better, devise better tests and create a national set of learning standards for high schools.
Bill and Melinda Gates announced these and other plans today to a group of about 100 guests in Seattle that included many big names in U.S. education.
The leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions were there, as well as superintendents of some of the biggest districts in the country, including New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Advisers to president-elect Barack Obama also were present, as were several people who are rumored to be in the running to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

More here.

Are Schools Really to Blame for Poor Eating?

Tara Parker-Pope
Schools have been vilified for giving kids access to soda in vending machines. But new data suggests that school soft drink sales may not be an important factor in how much soda kids drink.
In the current issue of The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers compared soda consumption among nearly 500 students in Maine who attended seven schools over two school years. Four of the schools cut back on soft drink availability at the schools, while three of the schools made no changes.
Notably, all the students were drinking less soda by the end of the study period, but there were no meaningful differences in overall soft drink consumption among the different schools. The data suggest that curbing soft drink availability at school doesn’t result in meaningful changes in beverage consumption patterns. While there were no changes in overall soda consumption, there was a notable shift in diet soda drinking among girls. If the school cut back on soda availability, girls were less likely to drink diet soda, compared to girls in schools that made no changes.
The data are the latest to suggest that schools may not play as big of a role in kids’ poor eating habits as widely believed. Last year, The American Journal of Public Health published a provocative study showing that childhood weight problems often get worse in the summer, when kids are out of school.
Data from kindergarteners and first graders found that body mass index increased two to three times as fast in summer as during the regular school year. Minority children were especially vulnerable, as were children who were already overweight.

Madison Business Employees Help Tutor Students; Local Reading Scores


Years after graduation, he’s hearing the ring of the school bell at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side.
“I’ve had an effect on a number of the kids’ math scores,” said Schmidt, 44, whose background is in computer software design. “I know they’re doing better because they tell me they’re doing better.”
He said that he isn’t happy to take the credit, which is something that almost has to be pulled out of him. But the five students who he tutors weekly in math as part of the “Schools of Hope” tutoring program sing his praises when he’s out of the room.
“Monty’s awesome,” said seventh-grader Henrietta Allison.
“They know that when he comes in on Monday, he’s going to be asking, ‘Did you do your homework? What are you missing?'” said teacher Chrissy Mitlyng. “They expect that, and I think that’s a really good relationship to have.”
Teachers report that students who work with the tutors are more confident after their sessions, and are more likely to speak up in class and participate in group work. While classroom confidence might be the most notable impact, it trickles down to fill the racial achievement gap the program was designed to help close, WISC-TV reported.
In 1995, 28.5 percent of black students in the Madison Metropolitan School District tested below the minimal standard on the third grade reading test, along with 9.7 percent of Latino students, 24.2 percent of Asian students and 4.1 percent of white students.

Related: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
What the superintendent is saying is that MMSD has closed the achievement gap associated with race now that roughly the same percentage of students in each subgroup score at the minimal level (limited achievement in reading, major misconceptions or gaps in knowledge and skills of reading). That’s far from the original goal of the board. We committed to helping all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level as demonstrated by all students in all subgroups scoring at proficient or advanced reading levels on the WRCT.

More here and here.

Faulkner or Chaucer? AP Teachers Make the Call

Valerie Strauss:

At Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, teacher Jeanine Hurley’s English class finished “The Canterbury Tales” and just started “Hamlet.” Senior Raphael Nguyen says he doesn’t spend a lot of time on homework because Hurley doesn’t give much.
At Langley High School in Fairfax County, teacher Kevin Howard’s English class is studying “Othello” after reading William Faulkner’s “Light in August.” Senior Ryan Ainsworth, 17, said he does an average of 75 minutes reading and writing each night because Howard can pour it on.
Although students in these classes don’t read the same works, they are taking the same course: Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition. And their teachers have the same goal: for students to learn how to connect text to meaning through skills assessed on the AP exam in May.

Should Kids Be Able to Graduate After 10th Grade?

Kathleen Kingsbury:

High school sophomores should be ready for college by age 16. That’s the message from New Hampshire education officials, who announced plans Oct. 30 for a new rigorous state board of exams to be given to 10th graders. Students who pass will be prepared to move on to the state’s community or technical colleges, skipping the last two years of high school. (See pictures of teens and how they would vote.)
Once implemented, the new battery of tests is expected to guarantee higher competency in core school subjects, lower dropout rates and free up millions of education dollars. Students may take the exams — which are modeled on existing AP or International Baccalaureate tests — as many times as they need to pass. Or those who want to go to a prestigious university may stay and finish the final two years, taking a second, more difficult set of exams senior year. “We want students who are ready to be able to move on to their higher education,” says Lyonel Tracy, New Hampshire’s Commissioner for Education. “And then we can focus even more attention on those kids who need more help to get there.”

Joanne has more.

LA Private Schools Feel The Pinch

Carla Rivera:

At the private New Roads School in Santa Monica, 20 families decided not to re-enroll in the fall because of financial nervousness.
At Loyola High School near downtown, 40 families have come forward since the beginning of the school year seeking financial aid to help cover tuition costs, even as the school’s endowment — heavily invested in equities — has taken a battering in the financial market.
Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood is creating flexible payment schedules for some families and is tightening its own belt with an eye toward more tough times ahead.
The economic meltdown that has ravaged many banks and homeowners is also affecting private schools in Los Angeles and nationwide, forcing educators to revise budgets, plan extra fundraising appeals and brace for possible lower enrollments next year. The distress comes at a time when some independent schools already have seen potential students gravitate to public charter schools, which are free and offer some of the same advantages of private campuses.

School Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

Patricia Leigh Brown:

Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.
The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of these standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience.

Navigating 9th Grade

Jenna Johnson:

Teacher Rebecca Cline was walking her ninth-grade class through the intricacies of scientific notation when, in the back of the room, a student rested his head on his desk. Another instructor quickly stepped in to get him back on task, which was no surprise. Classes at the newly opened Fairlead Academy in St. Mary’s County match two teachers with about 10 kids.
The 60 students enrolled at the public school this year were quiet underachievers in middle school. Although they didn’t warrant placement in special education programs, they tended to score consistently lower than their peers on standardized tests. Their teachers worried that they might fall behind as freshmen and eventually drop out of school.

The Obamas: Public or Private School?

Jay Matthews:

This is a tricky subject. School choice is very personal. The president-elect’s fifth-grade daughter, Malia, and second-grade daughter, Sasha, have been attending the first-rate, private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. I bet they transfer to Georgetown Day School, a good fit because of its similarity to their current school, its historic role as the city’s first racially integrated school and the presence of Obama senior legal adviser Eric H. Holder Jr. on its board of trustees. It would be a sensible decision by two smart, caring people.
But it wouldn’t hurt to look around first. Georgetown Day, like other private schools, would charge them nearly $56,000 a year for two kids. Why not see what their tax dollars are paying for? One educational gem happens to be the closest public school to their new home. Strong John Thomson Elementary School is at 1200 L St. NW, three-fifths of a mile from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Go north on 15th, turn right on L and three blocks farther it’s on the right.

Greg Toppo has more along with the AP.

Charter School Fights for Funding


Advocates of a new charter school in this city’s Potowomut neighborhood are fighting for state help after winning a $750,000 federal grant.
Backers of the proposed Nathanael Greene/Potowomut Academy of Technology and Humanities said they were disappointed with budget cuts the state Board of Regents budget made to charter schools.
The group is vowing to pressure lawmakers to include funding for the school in the state budget.

Paterson Says NY Schools and Medicaid Will Face Cuts

Danny Hakim:

Gov. David A. Paterson said in an interview on Sunday that he would almost certainly seek billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, as well as midyear reductions in school aid, to address New York’s worsening fiscal condition.
He also said he expected to urge labor unions to reopen the contracts they have struck on behalf of public employees as a way to avoid or decrease layoffs.
Such a step is reminiscent of measures taken by New York City in the financial crisis of the 1970s or moves made more recently by the Big Three domestic automakers to reduce their labor costs after years of granting steady raises and comprehensive health and pension benefits.
Those same types of wage and benefit concessions have long weighed on New York, though the catalyst for the state’s current predicament has been the collapse in tax revenue from Wall Street.

Needed: fresh ideas for school lunches


Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the lesson being taught every day in school cafeterias across Long Island. According to a series of Newsday reports, school lunches are high in fat and sodium, and low on fresh ingredients. Lunch programs, which are expected to pay their own way without help from the school budget, rely on chip and cookie sales – not to mention sugary soda machines – to amp up their profits.
We are sending kids all the wrong messages by placing these bad-habit-forming temptations in their paths. For a few cents more per meal, children could be eating healthfully and learning by example about good nutrition.
Sure, the few cents add up. But aren’t we already paying a price? New Yorkers spend $242 million a year to treat obesity-related illness in children, and $6.1 billion a year on adults. Studies show that overweight children often carry the weight into adulthood.

20,000 Milwaukee Students Now Use Vouchers

Alan Borsuk:

The number of Milwaukee children attending private schools using publicly funded vouchers has crossed 20,000 for the first time, according to data released by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
At the same time, the number of students in the main roster of Milwaukee Public Schools elementary, middle and high schools has fallen below 80,000 for the first time in well over a decade and declined for at least the 10th year in a row.
Amid a host of other factors shaping the school landscape in Milwaukee, those two trends point to some of the key stresses and looming issues for both MPS, which remains one of the nation’s larger school systems, and the voucher program, the largest, oldest and arguably most significant urban school voucher program in the United States.
For MPS, declining enrollment means greater financial pressure, a need to close school buildings and a continual search for ways to attract students and raise overall levels of achievement.
For the voucher program, the increase means the state-imposed cap on its size is coming into view, and issues related to the property-tax impact of the funding program are becoming more urgent. In addition, with Democrats having gained control of the state Legislature, efforts to impose more regulations on schools with voucher students are likely to become much more serious.
Nationwide, the momentum behind support for voucher programs such as the one in Milwaukee has been limited, and most likely has lost further steam with the election of Sen. Barack Obama to be president. Although Obama favors charter schools – generally, independent publicly funded schools that have more public accountability than private schools – he has not favored vouchers, and the Congress, controlled firmly by Democrats, is not going to support such plans either.

Somewhat related: A Madison School District enrollment analysis discloses an increase in outbound open enrollment.

Athletes Choose Colleges
They’re good to go For some top high school athletes, decision on college comes this week

Brendan Hall:

Her dazzling fastball and sizzling bat have been on the radar of college coaches for quite a while. As a junior at Ashland High School, Nicole D’Argento was named the state’s softball player of the year.
Letters from colleges started arriving for D’Argento, a senior this year, in the summer of 2005, before her freshman year. Now, that stack of letters sits in her living room and “looks at least a foot tall,” she said recently with a laugh.
Softball has long been a year-round commitment for D’Argento. Her older brother, Russ, played baseball at Old Dominion and the University of Connecticut after helping propel Ashland High to the Division 3 state title in 2000.
Last spring, Nicole hurled the Clocker softball team to a perfect 28-0 season, and the Division 2 state title. She has a career earned-run average hovering under 0.50 and she will enter her senior season just 16 strikeouts shy of the exclusive 500 mark for her high school career.
With so many colleges lining up for her services, D’Argento made her decision early.
Last fall, she made a nonbinding verbal agreement to attend Boston College, which nosed out the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Virginia.

Continue reading Athletes Choose Colleges
They’re good to go For some top high school athletes, decision on college comes this week

Quality Education

YP Gupta writes from India:

Free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6-14 has become a fundamental right under the Constitution. Its objective is to improve the socio-economic status of the backward communities.
But it is not an easy task to enforce this because a majority of the children in this age group continue to remain half-fed and educationally backward. The goal of education for all seems a distant reality because states have been lagging behind in implementing Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and owing to poverty there has been severe discrimination against girls in having access to schooling. The World Education Forum has urged removal of gender disparity for equal enrolment of girls and boys to achieve education for all.
At the same time, the need for quality education should not be overlooked. The backward communities must have access to quality education to uplift them to improve their living standards. It is proposed that some seats be reserved for children of poor families in the affluent private schools to provide them with quality education. But it is argued that this step may be detrimental to their interests as the children from a poor background may develop an inferiority complex while interacting with children from a higher status; this could be embarrassing to their respective families

Milwaukee Gives Used Computers to Students

Dani McClain:

Georgia Jordan walked into the North Division High School building Friday afternoon holding her mother’s hand and stating her mission.
“I’m going to get my laptop, I’m going to get my laptop,” the 2-year-old sang.
On Friday, Milwaukee Public Schools gave away 42 computers – a mix of iMacs and PCs and all of them desktops, despite Georgia’s wish for a laptop – to the families of students at African-American Immersion High School.
Georgia’s 17-year-old brother is a student there, so the family received a computer, a modem, free Internet access and a password that will allow Delisa Scott to check her children’s grades, attendance and, in some cases, homework through the Parent Assistant link on the MPS homepage.
The district’s Digital Inclusion Program, new this school year, is expected to distribute about 8,000 out-of-warranty computers to families whose children qualify for a free- or reduced-price lunch. The computers will be given to families throughout the year. Applications are available at district schools, said Trinette Harmon-Patterson, MPS’ coordinator of learning technologies.

Stoughton teacher hopes to get kids stuck on fruits, veggies

Pamela Cotant:

Physical education teacher John Ames wants to teach kids about the importance of healthy eating habits while they’re young.
So for the last couple of months Ames has been spending his lunch hour in the Kegonsa Elementary School cafeteria handing out stickers to kids who eat a fruit or vegetable in their lunch. The students have been excitedly showing him empty grape vines, apple cores and banana peels — evidence that they are eating fruit.
The students placed the stickers on the large wall poster that reads, “We Go Bananas for Physical Education.” The students filled up one letter and then moved on to the next on the poster in the cafeteria, which also is the school’s gym.
Ames calls the effort Project Banana.
“I wanted to get the kids excited about physical education class and add a health component to it,” said Ames, who was wearing a yellow “Banana Man” T-shirt he found on the Internet. “Diet and exercise are the main staples to a healthy life.”

Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

It’s not just Madison…
Patricia Leigh Brown
Tommy Cornelius and the other members of the Piedmont High School boys water polo team never expected to find themselves running through school in their Speedos to promote a bake sale across the street. But times have been tough since the school banned homemade brownies and cupcakes.
The old-fashioned school bake sale, once as American as apple pie, is fast becoming obsolete in California, a result of strict new state nutrition standards for public schools that regulate the types of food that can be sold to students. The guidelines were passed by lawmakers in 2005 and took effect in July 2007. They require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
The Piedmont High water polo team falls woefully short of these standards, selling cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars off campus in a flagrant act of nutritional disobedience.

Education Issues for the Republicans in the Obama Era

Lance Izumi:

Decentralization must be accompanied by transparency so the public easily understands how tax dollars are being used or misused. One way to make education financing more transparent is to simplify the way Washington doles out money. Federal dollars could be attached to the individual child — so-called backpacking — and that money would be portable, meaning it would follow the child to whichever school he or she attends.
Dan Lips, an education analyst at the Heritage Foundation, notes that federal Title I dollars, which are supposed to go to disadvantaged students but because of complicated financing formulas result in wide per-student funding differences from school to school, “could be delivered through a simple formula based on the number of low-income students in a state” and “states could be allowed to use Title I funds in ways that make it follow the child.” The result would be a “simple and transparent system of school funding.”
Furthermore, Republicans should advocate for widespread state-based parental empowerment, specifically through school-choice options, to ensure that the state and local affiliates of Mr. Obama’s friends at the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers do not hijack decision-making power. Only if all children, not just those who are poor or have special needs, have an exit ticket out of the public school system through, say, a voucher or a tuition tax credit will state and local officials have the incentive to use their greater powers for the benefit of students rather than special interests.

The Most Promising Schools in America

Jay Matthews:

My publisher and I had a fight over the subtitle of my upcoming book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” about the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Okay, it wasn’t a fight exactly. My editor at Algonquin Books, Amy Gash, is too polite and professional for that. It was a spirited discussion. Gash said the Algonquin view was that my subtitle, “How Two Inspired Teachers Created America’s Best Schools” was off-putting and hyperbolic. Who was I to say what was best and what wasn’t?
I defended the loaded adjective because I thought it was accurate and would inspire useful arguments about how to make schools better. Nonetheless, Algonquin seemed more interested in selling books than encouraging my pugnacious tendencies, and I saw their point. We considered more than 100 alternatives before settling on “How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America.” That seems like a trivial change, but it’s not. A new research assessment by Columbia University scholar Jeffrey R. Henig suggests it is the right way to think about these intriguing but still developing schools, and about other new approaches to schooling that may bloom in the future.
The 66 KIPP schools in 19 states and the District feed off the work of KIPP co-founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, who started teaching impoverished children in Houston when they were just out of college in 1992. The first KIPP class began in 1994. It had a longer school day, required summer school, required homework, frequent contact with parents, consistent methods of discipline, imaginative and energetic teaching and lots of singing and fun. It has become the best known and most researched network of independent public charter schools in the country.

Parents expect way too much from their kids.

Alan Kazdin:

Because parents love their children and want the best for them, they worry about them a lot, and one of the things that parents worry about most is whether their children are hitting age-appropriate targets for behavior. Shouldn’t a child be toilet trained by the age of 4? Should a 10-year-old to be able to sit down and do an hour of homework? One reason why such questions produce so much conflict and woe in the home is that parents’ expectations for their children’s behavior tend to be too high. I’m not talking about permissiveness or strictness here; I’m talking about accurately estimating children’s actual abilities. A reliable body of research shows that we expect our children to do things they’re not yet able to do and that we judge and punish them according to that expectation.

Green Charter School Conference

Anita Weier:

“No child will be left inside.”
That’s the theme of the Green Charter Schools Network, an organization headquartered in Madison that links environmental charter schools around the nation. It was also the theme of a conference Saturday at the Pyle Center that drew 200 people from around Wisconsin and more than 10 other states.
“We hope to make this a national movement,” said Jim McGrath, president of the new Green Charter Schools Network. “We have identified 135 green charter schools around the country, and we believe there are another 150.”
That includes 18 in Wisconsin, in locations as far flung as Green Lake, Merrimac, Rhinelander, Oshkosh and Stevens Point.
Charter schools are innovative public schools that provide educational choices for families and school-site accountability for results. Forty states allow charter schools, and they are formed in Wisconsin when a contract is signed between a charter school and its school district or school board. The arrangement gives the school more autonomy, more on-site decision-making, but also considerable responsibility for results.

Fairfax County Schools to Address Tough Grading Policy

Michael Alison Chandler and Michael Birnbaum:

Deputy Superintendent Richard Moniuszko said he will direct principals to prepare a grade distribution chart for this year’s seniors to show, for example, how many students earned 4.0 or 3.0 grade-point averages at a given school. The form, meant to accompany college applications, also will be sent as an addendum to thousands of early applications that have been filed by students in the region’s largest school system.
The action was prompted by parents who are lobbying to change the county’s grading scale, which requires 94 percent for an A and gives no extra credit for honors courses. They say the policy is punitive compared with the 90 percent standard used in many other places, including Montgomery County, and puts their children at a disadvantage in applying for colleges and scholarships. Fairfax County gives half a point for Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes, less than what many other school systems give.

Beauty Contests & High School Diplomas in Vietnam

Da Nang, Vietnam

James Hookway:

Vietnam’s new penchant for beauty pageants took an ugly turn after government inspectors found that the new Miss Vietnam didn’t live up to their exacting standards.
Like many up-and-coming nations, Vietnam has been using beauty contests to quickly make its mark on the world. In July, Vietnam played host to the Miss Universe pageant, which was presided over by Jerry Springer and former Spice Girl Melanie Brown (the one known as “Scary Spice”).
For many ordinary Vietnamese, the event was more compelling evidence that the country has arrived than joining the World Trade Organization was the year before. Newspapers and TV channels repeatedly pointed out that this was the first time Miss Universe has been held in a Communist country.
But that pride crumbled after government investigators found that the new Miss Vietnam, crowned on Aug. 31, hadn’t finished high school.

Singing Our Song

6 November 2008
Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,
My name is Lindsay Brown, and I am the chair of the history department at St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. I have been thinking about the role of academics and athletics in college placement for some time, and being at a boarding school I wear many hats and so see multiple sides of this issue. I do a great deal of work with athletes that I coach in the sport of rowing, helping them to be recruits for college coaches. I began talking to people and commenting about how I had never done any recruiting for our top history students, and that there was a significant contrast between athletic and academic interest in the admission process for colleges.
With these vague thoughts, I decided to write something, possibly to send to some publication(?) or maybe just to do some therapeutic venting on my keyboard. I sent a draft of my thoughts to several of my colleagues, including our librarian who is a relentless researcher. In response to my short essay, she sent me your article on the “History Scholar” on very similar ideas–I guess I wasn’t as original as I thought! But I wanted to send you my thoughts, ask if you had a moment to give me any feedback, and then also ask if you think it was acceptable for me to potentially send my essay out–where exactly I’m not sure.
In any case, I was impressed with your work and your information on this topic.
Many thanks,
Lindsay Brown
St. Andrew’s School
My essay is copied below and attached:
The headlines are meant to grab our attention and alert us to a crisis in education: “High school graduates are not ready for college” or some variation on this idea that college freshmen can’t do the work their professors demand of them. Colleges and professors lament this situation, and, in a related vein, often complain that athletics and athletic recruiting are running out of control to the detriment of the academic mission of their institutions. And not just the big schools that compete for national championships in football or basketball are sounding this alarm; even top tier, highly selective colleges and universities sing a similar melody. What should happen to correct this situation?
Ironically, I would like to suggest that colleges look to their athletic departments for inspiration and a possible way to improve the academic strength of their student body.

Continue reading Singing Our Song

Wisconsin School Finance Climate: $3,000,000,000 Budget Hole

Steven Walters & Patrick Marley:

The 2009-’10 budget that Doyle must recommend early next year will be his hardest, for several reasons. It’s the last budget before he is expected to seek a third term in 2010. The current budget had $750 million in tax and fee increases, which raised taxes on cigarettes and license plate renewals. Accounting tricks used by both parties over the past eight years are no longer available. Long-term debt has risen dramatically, raising questions about how much more debt the state can handle.
“This is going to be a very difficult time,” Doyle said.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) said Democrats would quickly pass bills to increase job training, boost spending on green energy, require businesses to more publicly disclose their tax liabilities and bar the state from contracting with companies that ship jobs overseas.
“Our number one thing we want to do is get in there and work on the economy and jobs and the cost of living,” Pocan said. “And when working on the (state) budget, we’re going to do it with working families and the middle class first and foremost in mind, and not the special interests.”
Republican Sen. Ted Kanavas of Brookfield said Thursday that Republicans know they won’t be able to pass anything in the next legislative session, but they can be advocates for taxpayers.
“We can’t lead, but we can point out” problems in the choices Democrats make, Kanavas said.

Much more on Wisconsin state finances & school spending here.

Civic Spirit Shines in School Vote

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

It also says something about Madison that, despite a troubled economy, people still felt they could afford to pay more. No other school referendum across the state passed with such a big majority — and many failed.
By more than a 2-1 margin, voters gave Madison schools permission to spend millions more than the state would otherwise allow.
The public seemed to recognize the difficult predicament the district is in. And good vibes from the historic election of Barack Obama framed every question on Tuesday’s ballot with a theme of hope.
Another factor in the school district’s favor was the vote of the many residents who don’t directly pay property taxes because they’re in college or rent apartments.

Racine Promise: City officials explore college funding for Racine graduates

Dustin Block:

A group of city officials are exploring a program that would pay for Racine high school graduates to attend college.
The idea is based on the Kalamazoo Promise, a program started three years ago in Kalamazoo, Mich. to attract families to the city. The program is simple: If a child graduates from a Kalamazoo High School, their tuition is paid to any Michigan university or tech school. That could amount to $36,000 for a student attending the University of Michigan. The only requirement is that a student maintains a 2.0 GPA and makes continual progress toward their high school diploma.
Aldermen Aron Wisneski and Greg Helding, and City Administrator Ben Hughes, are seeking two $8,000 grants to study creating a similar program here. The City Council is expected to grant permission to pursue the grant on Wednesday.

Bullying, Brawling and Bringing Weapons; Maryland Students Discuss Realities of School Life

Nelson Hernandez:

As about 200 students from across Maryland took their seats at a summit to discuss the problem of school violence, the stereo played an instrumental version of a song familiar, questionable and yet somehow appropriate: “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Coolio’s elegy to gang violence (sample lyric: “You better watch how you talking, and where you walking/Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk”) perhaps didn’t speak to the experience of the students from rural Garrett County in western Maryland, but the causes and tragic outcomes of school violence haven’t changed much since the hit song was released in 1995.
Gossip, rumors, dirty looks exchanged in the hallway. Neighborhood beefs or quarrels over a girlfriend or boyfriend. The temptation to bully somebody defenseless or different. All could kick off a fight back then, and to listen to the students who spoke at the summit last week in Greenbelt, they still do.
A girl from Parkville High School in Baltimore County rattled off a list of the things she sees at her school: “Gang violence. Student-teacher violence. Sexual harassment. Bullying.”

Are We Pushing Our Young Athletes Too Hard?

Scott Shafer:

When Lori Molitor’s 9-year-old daughter, Madison, participates in gymnastics, she wears a heel cushion. After her training session she ices. And before she goes to bed she stretches. All of this is done in hopes of keeping her injury-free as she continues her progression as a budding gymnast.
The Verona mother’s cautious approach with her daughter was borne partially from observing her eldest daughter deal with injuries while competing in sports, but many parents remain in the dark about the dangers of overtraining.
To address that problem, Harbor Athletic Club will host a presentation on the topic on Tuesday, Nov. 11. Guest speakers include Dr. David Bernhardt, a pediatric physician at UW Sports Medicine, and Kierstin Kloeckner, a personal trainer at the Middleton club.
Their message: Young athletes may think they’re indestructible, but they must be treated with care.

So You think the Milwaukee Public Schools Have Financial Troubles?

Rob Henken:

Those who think there couldn’t possibly be another major urban school district under greater fiscal stress than Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) need look no further than across Lake Michigan. Articles in Saturday’s and today’s Detroit News report how Detroit Public Schools (DPS) was required either to accept a consent decree issued by a state review team examining its fiscal situation, or have a state-appointed manager take control of its finances. The school board opted to accept the decree, which requires it to submit a deficit elimination plan within four weeks and abide by a host of stringent reporting requirements.
How did the Detroit school district get into this predicament? To start, there is the district’s perennial budget deficit (at least $10 million per year since 2000), which at one point earlier this year was estimated at $400 million in a $1.1 billion annual budget. Then there was the district’s inability to meet payroll obligations during two separate months last summer, necessitating a $103 million advance in state aid payments, and its continued heavy reliance on borrowing to address cash flow needs.
DPS also faces steep declining enrollment, with a reduction of 67,000 students since 2000 to the current estimate of 98,000 students. In a recent article in Education Week, an official with the Council of the Great City Schools attributed this decline both to the flight of Detroit residents with school-age children out of the city and to competition from charter schools.

Indiana’s New School Superintendent

John Tuohy:

The state’s new superintendent of public instruction said he would begin his tenure by taking a long look at the Indiana Department of Education as an organization to make sure it is run as efficiently as possible.
“I want to make this a customer service resource that school districts can depend on,” Republican Tony Bennett said.
He defeated Democrat Richard D. Wood, who had been superintendent of Tippecanoe County Schools, on Tuesday.
Bennett, superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, said another priority will be to reduce regulations from the state Department of Education so districts can work on improving student achievement.
“We need to see some deregulation,” he said. “Regulation handcuffs the schools from pursuing their agendas. I intend on spending the first 60 to 90 days going through each state regulation and deciding which are restrictive and which are not.”


Sanitsuda Ekachai:

The issue is not about the quality of education for the children who can afford it. It is about a serious lack of access for those who cannot.
One of our national problems that has been swept under the carpet because of the preoccupation with the current political crisis is our education system.
With a high youth literacy rate and a primary school attendance ratio at 98 per cent, you might feel there is nothing to worry about. But sighing with relief will be our big mistake.
Although the constitution ensures every child’s right to a free 12-year education, many are still falling through the cracks. And that starts early; only 88 per cent of primary school pupils make it to lower secondary and a mere 69 per cent to higher secondary. It is the same pattern when the pupils move up the education pyramid.
The issue here is not about the quality of education for the children who can afford it. It is about a serious lack of access for those who cannot – even though compulsory education is supposed to be free.
According to a recent study by Thai Education Watch Network, more than 1.3 million children still do not have access to compulsory education. They are primarily poor children from ethnic minorities along the borders as well as those in the restive deep South, and immigrant children. Other vulnerable groups include street children, slum children and those who live in very remote villages.

Minneapolis Voters Approve School Board Geographic Districts

Suzanee Ziegler:

The school board now has seven members, all elected at large from the entire district. The new plan board will expand from six to nine members, with six of those members to be elected from districts that correspond with the current Minneapolis park board districts. The remaining three board members would be at large. That measure passed 104,283 to 54,042.
Supporters argued that it would guarantee representation from every part of the city and give parents just one point person to contact. Opponents said it would balkanize the board into factions with local, rather than citywide, concerns, could lead to political deal-making on budgets and school closings, and might diminish minority representation. Voters rejected a similar proposal in 1987.

Madison should move to geographic representation, which would significantly reduce the cost of running, and hopefully attract more candidates.

Politics holds new role in high school classrooms

Greg Toppo:

Tuesday’s historic election of Barack Obama was, to most onlookers, a watershed event — a political game-changer, a passing of the generational torch and a defining moment in American race relations.
To the students in Gil Stange’s second-period AP Economics class at Towson High School, it was a chance to test a theory: What if the Republican candidate had been the African American and the Democrat the 72-year-old white guy?
“Is it really overcoming race?” asked Allison Rich, 17, dressed in a bright-red University of New Hampshire sweatshirt. “Or is it just a party issue?”
As the results of the election sank in Wednesday, teachers in high school classrooms across the USA found themselves debriefing a group of young people who are, by all accounts, more informed and civic-minded than any in recent memory. They came of age after 9/11, after all.

Start-Up Teaches Math to Americans, Indian-Style

Claire Cain Miller
The New York Times recently reported on a study that found, once again, that the United States is failing to develop the math skills of its students, particularly girls, especially compared to other countries where math education is more highly valued.
Indian Math Online is a start-up that aims to take on that disparity by teaching math to American kids using techniques from Indian schools.
Bob Compton, an Indianapolis-based venture capitalist and entrepreneur who co-founded Indian Math Online, hatched the idea when he was producing Two Million Minutes, a documentary comparing high school education in India, China and the United States. He realized that Indian teenagers who were the same age as his daughters were three years ahead of them in math.
“If you don’t get mathematics to the highest level you possibly can in high school, your career options shrink dramatically in the 21st century,” Mr. Compton said. “Our society basically tells girls they’re not good at math. I was determined that was not going to happen to my daughters.”

Virtual School Chalks Up Gains

Veronica Dagher:

Students at Wyoming Virtual School don’t have to worry about what to wear on the first day of school. They just stay home, log on to personal computers lent by K12 Inc., and start the day.
The Herndon, Va., technology-based education company provides specialized curriculum and educational services to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It launched its first offering seven years ago for 900 students in two states. Since then, it has seen enrollment climb. K12 now enrolls about 40,800 students in 21 states and the District of Columbia.
K12 says virtual schools are a viable alternative for students in a range of different circumstances. For instance, it might help students who are gifted, have special needs, are unhappy with the education in the local schools, or are located in rural areas. The services also can alleviate overcrowding in urban schools, the company says.
One of K12’s founders was William J. Bennett, the former U.S. education secretary, although he subsequently resigned as chairman. The company’s stock went public in December.
K12’s growth may be challenged, however, by education budget cuts on the local, state and federal levels, mounting competition and opposition coming from proponents of traditional education.

Madison School District’s November 2008 Referendum Passes, 68% in favor

Preliminary voter results. Tamira Madsen:

The tumultuous state of the economy was a nagging concern for supporters of the $13 million Madison Metropolitan School District referendum, but it passed Tuesday night with a surprisingly large 68 percent of the vote.
A handful of wards were still uncounted after midnight, but the totals then were 84,084 in favor and 39,116 opposed to the measure that will allow the school district to raise its taxing limits.
Voters approved an operating referendum to maintain current services, which district officials say shows that the community places a high value on quality education.
“We also knew this was not an easy time for people and that was not lost on us,” Superintendent Dan Nerad said late Tuesday night. “We are heartened by this response, and what this will allow us to do is to maintain our existing programs as we move into a new discussion about what should our priorities be going forward, and involving the community in that discussion in regard to the strategic planning.”
The referendum allows the district to exceed its tax limits by $5 million during the 2009-10 school year, then by an additional $4 million in each of the following two years. The referendum will add $27.50 onto the taxes of a $250,000 home in the first year, district officials say, and add an extra $43 to that tax bill in 2010-11 and an additional $21 to the bill in 2011-12.
The recurring referendum will increase the current tax limit by $13 million in 2011-12 and in every year after that.

Andy Hall:

The measure, a “recurring referendum,” gives the district permission to build on the previous year’s revenue limit increase by additional amounts of $4 million in 2010-11 and another $4 million in 2011-12. The measure permits a total increase of $13 million — a change that will be permanent, unlike the impact of some other referendums that end after a specified period.
By comparison, the district’s total budget for the current school year is $368 million.
Referendum backers hoped voters would set aside concerns about the economy to help the district avert multimillion-dollar budget cuts that would lead to larger class sizes and other changes in school operations.
The measure faced no organized opposition.

Arlene Silveira:

A big thanks to those who voted in support of the school referendum. Your support is appreciated.
To those who chose not to support the referendum, please let us know why. This feedback is very important to us.
So…what are the next steps? As we have been saying throughout the referendum campaign, the referendum is really only one piece of a bigger picture. A couple of things about the bigger picture. On November 10 we continue our discussions on board-superintendent governance models. How can we best work together to strengthen our focus on student achievement?

My sense of these local questions after observing them for a number of years is that:

  • 33 to 40% of the voters will always vote yes on school related issues, and
  • 30 to 35% will always vote no, or anti-incumbent and,
  • elections are won or lost based on the remaining 25 to 35% who will vote “independently”.

Food allergies on rise in children

Erin Richards:

One M&M, swallowed whole, and little Noelle’s skin turned as red as a Cortland apple.
A month later, after eating soy ice cream, the 2-year-old turned colors again and started drooling, prompting her mother to inject a syringe full of epinephrine into the child’s leg.
Karen Tylicki of Mukwonago has no idea why her daughter’s body treats certain foods as if they were poison. Tylicki, like parents of a growing number of food-allergic kids in Milwaukee and elsewhere around the country, is familiar with the fear, uncertainty, grief and sorrow that frequently accompany the condition.
Add hope to that list. Thanks to a La Crosse clinic that’s gaining attention for its work desensitizing patients with food allergies, Noelle, now 6, can ingest almost 2 ounces of milk without a reaction.
The spike in the number of kids with food allergies – an 18% increase nationwide over the past decade, according to a newly released study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – has prompted many schools and day-care facilities to develop new safety measures.

Toyota Eyes India Market, Builds School to Get Edge

John Murphy:

To get ahead in India’s increasingly competitive auto market, Toyota Motor Corp. is building a new plant and freshening its lineup. It has also made an unusual investment: It opened a school.
Built on a rugged hillside in southern India that is populated by wildcats and monkeys, Toyota’s sprawling technical training school, which opened last year, gives about 180 junior-high-school graduates an education in everything from dismantling transmissions to Japanese group exercises.
Toyota wants to turn students like Satish Lakshman, the son of a poor farmer, into a skilled employee who can boost the auto maker’s fortunes in this key emerging market. “We are learning discipline, confidence and continuous improvement,” says Mr. Lakshman, an energetic 18-year-old.
Competition for entrance to Toyota’s school is tough. The institute received 5,000 applications for 64 slots when it opened last year. The draw for these young men, all from poor families, is a free education and a job if they do well. The first class will graduate from the three-year program in 2010, when Toyota plans to open the plant to make its new small car.

Discouraging political trashtalk in kids

Katie Allison Granju:

As a parent, I am very bothered when I hear other parents teach their children that it’s acceptable or useful to mock or insult candidates or the President in ways that aren’t directly related to issues. I hate hearing children spout nasty, ad hominem stuff like “Bush is stupid.” When I hear that from a child or teenager, I challenge him or her to clearly articulate at least three substantive policy issues on which they disagree with Bush. If they can’t, I point out that calling him “stupid” only draws attention to their own ignorance on the issues. And frankly, in my anecdotal experience (your mileage may vary), it’s more likely to be progressive/liberal parents who encourage this sort of political trashtalk from their children, some too young to even understand what the president even does.

Personal finance urged for Oregon schools

Kimgerly Melton:

Since she started working at the mall six months ago, Joy Stout has come close to draining her bank account to buy clothes and eat out with friends.
The Cleveland High School senior hoped to save about half the cash from her weekend job at Jamba Juice in the Lloyd Center but found she was going paycheck to paycheck.
She’s getting better — her parents encouraged her to open a bank account and keep track of where her money went. And this fall, only a couple of months into her first personal finance class, she’s learning lessons about spending and saving that can take years to master.
“When you are trying to figure out whether to buy something, you got to ask yourself if you want this or if you need it,” says Stout, 18. “If you only want it, is it worth spending on if you could save money for later? I want to save money to have a car.”

Teen arrested in threats at Middleton High School that forced relocation of polling places

Wisconsin State Journal:

Middleton police have arrested a 16-year-old male Middleton High School student in connection with a bomb threat at the high school that forced the evacuation of the school Tuesday and caused election officials to move the polling place from the school to the new Middleton fire station at 7600 University Ave.
Lt. Charles Foulke of the Middleton Police Department said in a release that the student used the school’s computer lab to access an Internet relay Web site which translated a typed threat into a verbal message which he then sent to a school official.
Foulke said the student would be charged with making a bomb threat at the Dane County Juvenile Reception Center, and that Middleton police would consult with state and federal officials about the disruption of the voting process.

Sun Prairie Family Adopts 10 Children, Advocates For Adoption


November is National Adoption Month, and in the United States, about 51,000 children were adopted in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With this in mind, one local family shared their adoption experience they said in hopes of encouraging others to do so, WISC-TV reported.
Ten years ago, Reed and Sharon Leonard adopted their daughter from China.
“On the plane ride home, my wife said, ‘Well, we have our daughter, we’re done.’ I said, ‘No, I think we’ll be back,'” said Reed Leonard.
“I said no way,” laughed Sharon Leonard.

No middle school report cards??!!

I received a newsletter in the mail yesterday from Toki Middle School, where my son is now a sixth-grader. The principal’s letter says:
“With the introduction of standards-based middle school report cards, we decided to send first quarter progress reports only to students currently not meeting grade level standards in curricular areas.”
So, assuming my child meets the standards, he just doesn’t matter? He’s not worth the time to figure out how to fill out the new report cards? The teachers are taking an extra half day today (early release: 11:30) to work more on dealing with these new report cards – and they’ve already taken at least one or two other days – but it’s still too hard to give my child a report card?
What if I want to know how well my child is doing? What if I want to know if he’s EXCEEDING the standards? Oh, wait…. I forgot. MMSD doesn’t care if he exceeds them. They just want to know if he MEETS them. God forbid I learn how MUCH he’s exceeding them by, or if he’s just skating and is merely meeting the standards. Or if he excels in one subject but is simply OK in another. We went through this in elementary school, so I suppose it should be no surprise that it’s happening in middle school.
I know there’s a teacher conference coming up, but if they’re not giving us report cards, then I’m thinking 15 minutes isn’t enough time to really lay out my child’s strengths and weaknesses in several different subjects. It’s not enough time for the teacher to give me a thorough assessment of my child’s progress. Oh, wait….I forgot. MMSD doesn’t care about giving me a thorough assessment. Judging from our experience in elementary school, the teachers just want you in and out of there as quickly as possible. They don’t want to answer my questions about how we can help him at home so he can do better in any subjects. (“Your son is a joy to have in class. He’s doing well in all subjects. He talks a little too much, but we’re working on that. Thanks for coming!”)
They DID send home a note asking if I needed to meet with any of his Unified Arts teachers (in addition to just his homeroom teacher) – but I checked no, because I assumed we’d be getting report cards with information from all his teachers! Nice of MMSD to wait until AFTER those papers had been turned in to let us know we wouldn’t be GETTING report cards. (Yes, I’ll be emailing the principal to let her know I’ve changed my mind.)
Oh, and I CAN sign in to Infinite Campus to see what’s going on with my child’s record (which hopefully is updated more often that the Toki Web site, which we were told would be updated every three or four weeks, but hasn’t been updated since before the beginning of school). But to do this, I have to **go into the school during school hours** with a photo ID. I can’t just use social security numbers or anything else to access this online. Could they be more clear in the message that they’d rather you not use Infinite Campus?
Isn’t it bad enough that MMSD doesn’t do thorough third-quarter report cards, because they believe not enough time has elapsed between the second and third quarters to make any discernible improvement? If my child isn’t making any improvement, if my child’s work isn’t worthy of a report card, then WHAT’S HE DOING IN SCHOOL?
We moved here four years ago, so looking forward to the “great” Madison schools. We couldn’t have been more wrong. My bright children are lagging. My sixth-grade son who tested as gifted before we moved to Madison is no longer (witness his dropping test scores – oh, wait…they’re still average or above, so MMSD doesn’t care).
I’ve brought up my concerns repeatedly. I’ve offered constructive suggestions. I’ve offered to help, at school and at home. I did two years as a PTO president in the elementary school and struggled unsuccessfully to get improvements. I might as well have thrown myself in front of a semi truck for all the good it’s done and for how beaten down I feel by this school system. The minute this housing market turns around, I’m investigating the nearby schooling options with an eye toward getting the heck out of here. I’m SO FED UP with MMSD and it’s reverse-discrimination against children who are average and above.
Class-action lawsuit, anyone?

Boston’s Single Sex Academies hit a Snag

James Vaznis:

One of the most eye-catching elements of Boston School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson’s reorganization plan – the creation of two single-gender academies – seems to have just one problem: They appear to be illegal in Massachusetts.
Public schools cannot deny a student admission based on gender under state law, which could prevent Boston from trying a strategy that has been gaining momentum in other cities nationwide and that advocates say leads to much higher rates of learning.
The problem could lead to one of several possible changes to the reorganization plan, which Johnson is scheduled to revisit with the School Committee tonight after passionate objections were raised by many parents, students, and teachers who do not want their schools to close.
The School Committee requested more details on the plan to close about a dozen schools, which would leave five buildings empty while the others would be used to house new schools or expand popular ones.

November 2008 Madison School District Referendum Watch List Report Card

Active Citizens for Education presents this “Watch List Report Card” as a means of reporting relevant information, facts and analyses on topics appropriate for consideration by taxpayers in voting on the Madison Metropolitan School District referendum question November 4, 2008. This document is dynamic in nature, thus it is updated on a regular basis with new information and data. Questions, analyses, clarifications and perspectives will be added to the entries as appropriate. Review Ratings will be applied to report the progress (or lack thereof) of the Board of Education and Administration in its plans, data, information, reports and communications related to the referendum.
Complete PDF Document. Madison School District Revenue Summary 2005-2011 PDF

Meet a ‘Mother on Fire’ for public school

Greg Toppo:

Last June, when Los Angeles performance artist and public radio commentator Sandra Tsing Loh helped lead a rally to the California Capitol for more school funding, perhaps no one was more surprised than Loh herself. Her transformation from popular author and comic to public schools activist began four years earlier, when her plans to get her older daughter into a good kindergarten went awry. She eventually started an organization called Burning Moms. Loh recounts the journey in Mother on Fire (Crown, $23). She talks with USA TODAY about her experience.
Q: It’s 2004. You, your musician husband and your two daughters live in Van Nuys. Your 4-year-old is in preschool and you begin searching for a kindergarten. What happens next?
A: We’re a middle-class family, which feels like we’re the last middle-class family in Los Angeles — the last one had packed up the Volvo wagon and gone to Portland a year earlier. When kids hit school age, people just start fleeing the city unexplained. So I didn’t have much real information. … I’d go on, look at the statistics, freak out and not even visit my local school, which is what many parents do.
Q: You began looking into private schools, but many had “nosebleed tuition.”
A: I found that the religious ones were more affordable — the more religious, the more affordable. Catholics were more expensive, Lutherans middle and Baptists were the only ones we could afford. The Quakers were off the charts, particularly if there’s the word “Friends” in the title — or if the kids were being taught in an old Quaker wooden schoolhouse with authentic Shaker furniture.

Much more on Sandra Tsing Loh here.

Open Yale Courses

Yale University:

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.
Open Yale Courses reflects the values of a liberal arts education. Yale’s philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. This approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer.

Fixing the Freshman Factor

Nelson Hernandez:

The ninth-grader slouched in the chair one fall day, avoiding the principal’s glare. He had the body of a boy, but he was deciding right there what kind of man he would be.
At the start of the school year, this child’s education was flying off the rails. Mark E. Fossett, principal of Suitland High School in Prince George’s County, called up the boy’s attendance record on a computer and rattled off a lengthy list of days missed and classes cut. Unless something changed, he would fail ninth grade.
As schools push to raise graduation rates, many educators are homing in on ninth grade as a moment of high academic risk. Call it the freshman factor.
Last week, Maryland reported that one of every six seniors statewide is at risk of not receiving a diploma in spring because they have not reached minimum scores on four basic tests in algebra, biology, government and English. At Suitland High and countywide in Prince George’s, more than a third of seniors are in jeopardy. But for many of those students, troubles began in their freshmen year. That’s often when the state algebra test is taken.

Study First to Link TV Sex To Real Teen Pregnancies

Rob Stein:

Teenagers who watch a lot of television featuring flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes are much more likely than their peers to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant, according to the first study to directly link steamy programming to teen pregnancy.
The study, which tracked more than 700 12-to-17-year-olds for three years, found that those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as those who saw the least.
“Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy,” said lead researcher Anita Chandra. “We found a strong association.” The study is being published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There is rising concern about teen pregnancy rates, which after decades of decline may have started inching up again, fueling an intense debate about what factors are to blame. Although TV viewing is unlikely to entirely explain the possible uptick in teen pregnancies, Chandra and others said, the study provides the first direct evidence that it could be playing a significant role.

Online Grading Systems Mean No More Changing D’s to B’s

Daniel de Vise:

Parents and students in a growing number of Washington area schools can track fluctuations in a grade-point average from the nearest computer in real time, a ritual that can become as addictive as watching political polls or a stock-market index.
The proliferation of online grading systems has transformed relations among teachers, parents and students and changed the rhythm of the school year. Internet-based programs including SchoolMAX and Edulink are pushing mid-term progress reports into obsolescence. Prospective failure is no longer a bombshell dropped in a parent-teacher conference. A bad grade on a test can’t be concealed by discarding the evidence. A student can log on at school, or a parent at work, to see the immediate impact of a missed assignment on the cumulative grade or to calculate what score on the next quiz might raise an 89.5 to a 90. Report cards hold little surprise.
“Half of the time, I know what grade my daughter got on something before she does,” said Susan Young, mother of an eighth-grader at Montgomery Village Middle School in Montgomery County.
Parents say the programs reconnect them to the academic lives of their children, a relationship that can decay as students move from elementary to middle and high school.

The Madison School District uses a system called “Infinite Campus“. A number of nearby districts use Powerschool, among others.

Cap on New Jersey school adminstrator buyouts challenged


A proposed cap on payouts for vacation and sick time for New Jersey school administrators is being challenged in federal court on Monday.
The Record of Bergen County reports that taxpayers are footing the bill for more than $36 million in sick pay and vacation time accrued by school administrators.
The newspaper reports that buyouts will reach $9 million in Bergen and Passaic counties alone, and that some school leaders are due to receive six-figure checks when they leave a district because of contracts that allow them to cash out on unused sick and vacation time.
The New Jersey Association of School Administrators has filed suit to preserve the payouts and challenge a new contract rule that caps accrued time payouts at $15,000.

Madison School District Enrollment Data Analysis

The Madison Metropolitan School District [724K PDF]:

The following document explores enrollment trends based on four different factors: intemal transfers, private school enrollments, inter-district Open Enrollment, and home based enrollments. The most current data is provided in each case. Not all data are from the current school year. Certain data are based on DPI reports and there are lags in the dates upon which reports are published.
Most internal transfers within the MMSD are a function of two factors: programs not offered at each home school (e.g., ESL centers) and students moving between attendance areas and wishing to remain in the school they had been attending prior to the move. Notable schools in regard to transfers include Shorewood Elementary which has both a very high transfer in rate and a very low transfer out rate, Marquette which has a high transfer in rate, and Emerson which has a high transfer out rate.
Based on data reported to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), private school enrollments within the MMSD attendance area have held fairly steady for the past several years, with a slight increase in the most recent two years. The District’s percentage of private school enrollment is roughly average among two separate benchmark cohort groups: the largest Wisconsin school districts and the Dane County school districts. Using data supplied annually to the MMSD by ten area private schools it appears that for the past three year period private school elementary enrollment is declining slightly, middle school enrollment is constant, and high school enrollment has been variable. Stephens, Midvale, Leopold, and Crestwood Elementary Schools, and Cherokee and Whitehorse Middle Schools have experienced declines in private school enrollment during this period. Hawthorne and Emerson Elementary Schools, Toki and (to a lesser extent) Sherman Middle Schools, and West and Memorial High Schools have experienced increases in private school enrollments. The East attendance area has very limited private school enrollment.
Home based education has remained very steady over the past six years based on data reported to the DPI. There is no discernible trend either upward or downward. Roughly 420 to 450 students residing within the MMSD area are reported as participating in home based instruction during this period. Like private school enrollment, the MMSD’s percentage of home based enrollment is roughly average among two separate benchmark cohort groups: the largest Wisconsin school districts and the Dane County school districts.
Open Enrollment, which allows for parents to apply to enroll their Children in districts other than their home district, is by far the largest contributor to enrollment shifts relative to this list of factors. In 2008-09, there are now over 450 students leaving the MMSD to attend other districts compared with just under 170 students entering the MMSD. Transition grades appear to be critical decision points for parents. Certain schools are particularly affected by Open Enrollment decisions and these tend to be schools near locations within close proximity to surrounding school districts. Virtual school options do not appear to be increasing in popularity relative to physical school altematives.

Wide Access To AP, IB Isn’t Hurting Anybody

Jay Matthews:

Jason Crocker, an educational consultant in Prince George’s County, is exasperated with me and my rating of high schools, called the Challenge Index, based on how many college-level Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests schools give. In response to one of my columns, Crocker vowed to refute anything nice I say about AP, particularly in his county.
He reflects the views of many in the Washington area. People wonder why kids are taking wearisome three-hour AP exams (or five-hour IB exams) in history, calculus or physics when their grades aren’t that good and their SAT scores are low. Crocker, who is African American, is particularly worried about what all this testing is doing to black students.
“Mr. Mathews, AP in Prince George’s County is about setting African American students up for failure to satisfy your Challenge Index,” he said. “The flip side of this is that most of these new students taking the exam are not adequately prepared for the exam and Prince George’s County cannot recruit enough teachers to teach the exam who are highly qualified.”

Related: Dane County, WI High School AP course offering comparison.

Healthier meals served at pricier Long Island private schools

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher:

Typical lunchtime fare includes quinoa, bean cakes, Swiss chard, fresh beets, tofu, tempeh, kimchee.
There are no sloppy joes. Hamburgers are served only three times a year during field days, and the beef is organic.
Private schools such as the Ross School in East Hampton don’t operate under the same cost constraints public schools face when attempting to serve healthy food, allowing them more freedom to go beyond traditional school cafeteria meals.
Ross’ food often is held up as a model for student dining.
A staff of 17 line chefs with impressive culinary backgrounds cook from scratch in a kitchen that rivals a five-star restaurant. And students actually like the healthy offerings, evidenced by the fact that they go through about 25 pounds of tofu per day.

A Letter to Jay Matthews

To Jay Matthews:
Let me suggest that Gerald Bracey is not an appropriate person to quote when dealing with mathematics education. First, it was TIMSS in 1995 rather than 1999 when students in the last year of high school were tested. Second, while some of our students who took the advanced math test had only had precalculus, all of them had studied geometry and we did worse in geometry than we did in calculus. Bracey never mentions this. Check the figures yourself to see the disastrous results in geometry.
We had 14% of our students take this test so the fact that some other countries did not test students in vocational tracts is irrelevant since they have a much larger fraction of their students in academic programs than 14%, as we do. About the ETS restudy, while they claim that the original sample was not comparable with other countries, their population was also not comparable with that of other countries. When you take the top say 7% of our students, judged by the courses they take which is not a perfect match but
not bad, and compare them with the top say 20% of the students in another country, that is not the same as comparing them with the top 7% in another country. ETS never mentions this in their press releases on this study.
Richard Askey

Incentives Can Make Or Break Students

Bill Turque:

The inducements range from prepaid cellphones to MP3 players to gift certificates. But most of them are cash: $10 for New York City seventh-graders who complete a periodic test; $50 for Chicago high school freshmen who ace their courses; as much as $110 to Baltimore students for improved scores on the Maryland High School Assessments.
Desperate for ways to ratchet up test scores and close the achievement gap separating white and minority students, school officials from Tucson to Boston are paying kids who put up good numbers.
The District joined the list this fall, launching a one-year study of 3,300 middle schoolers who can earn up to $100 every two weeks for good grades, behavior and attendance. On Oct. 17, the first payday for the Capital Gains program, students collected an average of $43.
The efforts vary widely in scope and objective. But nearly all trigger pa

On an Amazing Journey, and He’s Only 12

Lary Bloom:

A FEW weeks ago, the youngest of the 20,953 students at the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut went shopping for a calculator. Colin Carlson, who lives in nearby Coventry, took his mother along, as she had the driver’s license and the money. He also took a reputation well beyond his 12 years.
Another male student spotted him and said, “Hey, Colin, I hear you’re a babe magnet.” The boy smiled. But with a full course load and the usual schedule of public appearances ahead of him, he had yet to make finding a girlfriend a priority. So he suspected a bit of social manipulation afoot. The guys know that several female students have become friendly with Colin, and, in his view, they’re cozying up to him so that women will notice them.
Even at Colin’s tender age, his emergence at Storrs is no longer an oddity. He became a full-time student this fall, but has been a familiar face since he was 8, beginning with a course in French, and a year later in environmental physics and European history. This made him a local celebrity but also resulted in a view in some academic quarters that he is too small for his breeches.

School’s Success Gives Way to Doubt

Adam Nossiter:

MiShawna Moore has been a hero in the worn neighborhoods behind this city’s venerable mansions, a school principal who fed her underprivileged students, clothed them, found presents for them at Christmas and sometimes roused neglectful parents out of bed in the nearby housing projects.
As test scores rocketed at her school, Sanders-Clyde Elementary, the city held her up as a model. The United Way and the Rotary Club honored her, The Charleston Post and Courier called her a “miracle worker,” and the state singled out her school to compete for a national award. In Washington, the Department of Education gave the school $25,000 for its achievements.
Somehow, Ms. Moore had transformed one of Charleston’s worst schools into one of its best, a rare breakthrough in a city where the state has deemed more than half the schools unsatisfactory. It seemed almost too good to be true.
It may have been. The state has recently started a criminal investigation into test scores at Ms. Moore’s school, seeking to determine whether a high number of erasure marks on the tests indicates fraud.

Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs

Elissa Gootman & Robert Gegeloff:

The number of children entering New York City public school gifted programs dropped by half this year from last under a new policy intended to equalize access, with 28 schools lacking enough students to open planned gifted classes, and 13 others proceeding with fewer than a dozen children.
The policy, which based admission on a citywide cutoff score on two standardized tests, also failed to diversify the historically coveted classes, according to a New York Times analysis of new Education Department data.
In a school system in which 17 percent of kindergartners and first graders are white, 48 percent of this year’s new gifted students are white, compared with 33 percent of elementary students admitted to the programs under previous entrance policies. The percentage of Asians is also higher, while those of blacks and Hispanics are lower.
Parents, teachers and principals involved in the programs, already worried at reports this spring that the new system tilted programs for the gifted further toward rich neighborhoods, have complained since school began that they were wasteful and frustrating, with high-performing children in the smallest classes in a school system plagued by pockets of overcrowding.

O’Conner on the Crisis in K-12 Civics Education

Chloe White:

A survey shows more young people today can name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told a packed auditorium Friday at the University of Tennessee. Civic education has “really lost ground” in the United States, and “unless we do something to reverse that disturbing trend, the joke may be on us,” O’Connor said at the 1,000-seat Cox Auditorium at the UT Alumni Memorial Building.
O’Connor was at UT to celebrate the opening of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
“Only an educated citizen can ensure our nation’s commitment to liberty is upheld. If we fail to educate young people to be active and informed participants at all levels, our democracy will fail,” said O’Connor, the first woman on the nation’s high court.
She spoke about the need for civic education, citing three problems with what she calls “civic illiberty”: the lack of time schools spend teaching civics; a static approach to civic education; and the lack of modern teaching methods such as computer programs in teaching civics.
“Creating engaged and active citizens is too important a priority to shortchange in curriculum planning in schools,” she said.
O’Connor, 78, is co-chairwoman of the National Advisory Council of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a group with which the Baker Center works. The campaign promotes civic education and provides K-12 curriculum.

Graduate Opportunities 2009

The Economist:

The biggest winner from recession may be the teaching profession–particularly in maths and physics, where it has long struggled to compete for talent with banking and finance. Applications for teacher training in these subjects go up when the government offers golden hellos and other incentives, say Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of Buckingham University–but high graduate unemployment causes a surge too. It looks as if the pattern is set to repeat: the Training and Development Agency, which oversees teacher training, says its website has received a third more hits this year than last, and registrations of interest are also up. Hidden inside one crisis may be the solution to another.

Wisconsin School District’s Global Financial Gamble in “Synthetic Collaterilized Debt Obligations”

Charles Duhigg & Carter Dougherty:

On a snowy day two years ago, the school board in Whitefish Bay, Wis., gathered to discuss a looming problem: how to plug a gaping hole in the teachers’ retirement plan.
It turned to David W. Noack, a trusted local investment banker, who proposed that the district borrow from overseas and use the money for a complex investment that offered big profits.
“Every three months you’re going to get a payment,” he promised, according to a tape of the meeting. But would it be risky? “There would need to be 15 Enrons” for the district to lose money, he said.
The board and four other nearby districts ultimately invested $200 million in the deal, most of it borrowed from an Irish bank. Without realizing it, the schools were imitating hedge funds.
Half a continent away, New York subway officials were also being wooed by bankers. Officials were told that just as home buyers had embraced adjustable-rate loans, New York could save money by borrowing at lower interest rates that changed every day.

SIS Links. NPR covers the story here. Madison Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Erik Kass held the same position at the Waukesha School District, which was involved in this investment strategy.

Juvenile Crime During the School Year, 2000-2006

City of Jacksonville, NC:

The map was created at the request of the Jacksonville Police Department to show juvenile crime patterns over space and time. Using the city’s criminal geodatabase and ArcGIS, it was possible to query the system for arrests of people younger than 18 and arrests during school days. Organizing the crimes by hour clearly showed patterns in which the bulk of criminal activity occurred during school hours, with some after school, and the least number of crimes occurring in the evening.

What School Sports Taught These Political Contenders

Preston Williams:

For the 2008 presidential hopefuls, the road to the White House included an extended stay in the field house. No matter which ticket prevails Tuesday, a pair of former high school athletes will run the country come January.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was a reserve on the Punahou Academy basketball team that won the 1979 state title in Hawaii. He would be the first serious basketball player to occupy the Oval Office.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) competed in several sports at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, most notably wrestling.