An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria

Thanks much for taking the time from your busy schedule to respond to our letter below.  I am delighted to note your serious interest in the topic of how to obtain middle school teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics to the MMSD’s students so that all might succeed.  We are all in agreement with the District’s laudable goal of having all students complete algebra I/geometry or integrated algebra I/geometry by the end of 10th grade.  One essential component necessary for achieving this goal is having teachers who are highly competent to teach 6th- through 8th-grade mathematics to our students so they will be well prepared for high school-level mathematics when they arrive in high school.
The primary point on which we seem to disagree is how best to obtain such highly qualified middle school math teachers.  It is my strong belief that the MMSD will never succeed in fully staffing all of our middle schools with excellent math teachers, especially in a timely manner, if the primary mechanism for doing so is to provide additional, voluntary math ed opportunities to the District’s K-8 generalists who are currently teaching mathematics in our middle schools.  The District currently has a small number of math-certified middle school teachers.  It undoubtedly has some additional K-8 generalists who already are or could readily become terrific middle school math teachers with a couple of hundred hours of additional math ed training.  However, I sincerely doubt we could ever train dozens of additional K-8 generalists to the level of content knowledge necessary to be outstanding middle school math teachers so that ALL of our middle school students could be taught mathematics by such teachers.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher.  As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject.  Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college.  Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers?  Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math?  What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual?  What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools.   Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the  subject to teach it.  Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don’t yet know how to teach it to others.  For example, see
If Madison continues to wait, we will miss out on this opportunity and yet another generation of middle schoolers will be struggling to success in high school.
The MMSD has a long history of taking many, many year to resolve most issues.  For example, the issue of students receiving high school credit for non-MMSD courses has been waiting 8 years and counting!  It has taken multiple years for the District’s math task force to be formed, meet, write its report, and have its recommendations discussed.  For the sake of the District’s students, we need many more math-qualified middle school teachers NOW.  Please act ASAP, giving serious consideration to our proposal below.  Thanks.

Students surging out of Madison School District

Gayle Worland
Wisconsin State Journal

More than 600 students living in the Madison School District have applied to leave their hometown schools through open enrollment next fall — more than any previous year.
While district officials say it’s likely only about half will actually leave, the district wants to know why so many want to go.
The net number of students who left the Madison district through open enrollment jumped from 156 in 2007-08 to 288 this school year.
One explanation for the jump, district officials say, is that since 2008, the district no longer considers the effect of open enrollment on its racial balance. The district suspended that practice in February 2008, eight months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cast doubt on the enforceability of a state law the district cited in denying transfer requests.
Still, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad said the increasing numbers are a concern.
“There’s all kinds of reasons that people make this choice,” he said, “but it’s not a dissimilar pattern than you’ll find in other quality urban districts surrounded by quality suburban districts.”

‘Object’ of my affection
My father’s StB file reveals as much about the secret police as it does about him

Sarah Borufka:

Those who don’t know their past are bound to repeat it,” reads the billboard in the entry hall of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. When I first came here, it was for an interview with two institute researchers who co-authored the book Victims of the Occupation about the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion.
After the interview, I asked one of the researchers, Milan Bárta, to find my parents’ old communist secret police (StB) file. I wanted to see if there were any pictures of their wedding Jan. 13, 1979, just days before they emigrated to West Germany. My family has no pictures of that day, but my father had always joked that the StB had taken some.
A month later, I was invited to the institute to take a look at my parents’ documents.

Note: Email Newsletter visitors: This article was incorrectly link to a headline on outbound open enrollment from the Madison School Districts.

Bursting the Higher Ed Bubble

David Frum:

“Will Higher Education be the Next Bubble to Burst?” So asks a recent op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The question is powerful. Data points:

  • Over the past quarter-century, the average cost of higher education has risen at a rate four times faster than inflation–twice as fast as the cost of health care.
  • Tuition, room, and board at private colleges can cost $50,000 per year or more.
  • The market crash of 2008 inflicted terrible damage on college endowments. The Commonfund Institute reports that endowments dropped by an average of 23 percent in the five months ending Nov. 30, 2008.

Authors Joseph Cronin and Howard Horton (respectively a past Massachusetts secretary of Education and the president of the New England College of Business and Finance) comment:

Computer Orchestration Tips and Tricks

Stephen Bennett:

his book is aimed at those with little or not understanding of music notation. It gives the reader a basic understanding or the principles of orchestration and offers tips and techniques to help get the best simulated orchestral performance out of their equipment.

  • Create realistic sounding orchestras on your computer
  • Little or no musical notation knowledge needed
  • Create scores for real players to read
  • Tips and tricks to get the best out of your software
  • All you need to orchestrate on computer

Using modern technology, composers no longer need to wait until an orchestra plays their score to hear what their music will actually sound like. Using a computer and suitable software, it’s possible for anyone to produce high-quality results that can be used for music CDs, film and TV scores – or even as a basis of a recording session using orchestral players.

I reading saw an early 20’s student reading a book on Logic Pro. I asked about his plans and he responsded that he intended to make “some great music”.


Feeding America:

One in six young children live on the brink of hunger in 26 states in the U.S., according to a new report issued today by Feeding America. The rate of food insecurity in young children is 33 percent higher than in U.S. adults, where one in eight live at risk of hunger
Child Food Insecurity in the United States: 2005 — 2007 states that 3.5 million children, ages five and under, are food insecure.
The analysis includes the first ever state-by-state analysis of early childhood hunger, using data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Which Colleges Leave Students With the Most Debt?

Kim Clark:

Seniors at for-profit colleges are more than twice as likely to have accumulated dangerous amounts of education loans as seniors at other kinds of four-year colleges, according to a new report.
Almost 30 percent of seniors at for-profit universities in 2008 owed at least $40,000 in college loans, an amount that could be excessive, according to a new analysis of the latest federal data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and For comparison, only about 11 percent of seniors at private nonprofit colleges–many of which charge higher sticker prices than typical for-profits–graduate with excessive debt, Kantrowitz found. And excessive debt was a problem for only about 6 percent of seniors at public universities, which are typically comparatively lower priced. That means new graduates of for-profit schools are about five times as likely to have borrowed heavily as new graduates of public universities.
The levels of excessive debt are already overwhelming hundreds of thousands of new graduates. In March, the federal government released a preliminary report showing that almost 200,000 borrowers whose federal student loans came due in 2007 were already in default. The schools with the highest share of defaulters–11.3 percent–were the for-profit colleges. Only 6.8 percent of public university students had defaulted within two years. And just 3.9 percent of students who’d left private, nonprofit schools in 2007 had defaulted on their federal loans.

Recession Threatens U.S. Progress in Child Wellbeing

Julie Steenhuysen:

Decades worth of gains in health, safety and education for children in the United States are in danger as the country’s economic crisis continues, according to an annual report sponsored by the Foundation for Child Development that measures economic, health, safety and social factors affecting children and teens. Based on current estimates, the report projects that the current recession will pare median annual family incomes back to $55,700 by 2010, down from $59,200 in 2007. While households run by single women will see their annual incomes fall to $23,000 in 2010, down from $24,950 in 2007, the steepest drop will be among single households headed by men, where median annual family income is expected to drop to $33,300 in 2010, from $38,100 in 2007.

The Music is Secondary…. But Still Beautiful

Pete Selkowe:

“Character first, ability second.”
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
The creator of the Suzuki method of teaching music, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, would have been proud Wednesday afternoon, as some 90 violin and viola students presented a three-school concert.
The youngsters — just the tiniest portion of the estimated 250,000 Suzuki students worldwide — entertained parents and each other in the theatre of the 21st Century Preparatory School. The budding violinists and cellists were from 21st Century Prep, Jefferson Lighthouse and Bull Fine Arts, directed by Teresa Hill of 21st Century and Charlene Melzer from Jefferson and Fine Arts.

Teachers to Tech Support-We are Not the Enemy

Sara Martin:

In my role at my tiny school district in the central valley of California I find myself in a rather unique position. I wear the hats of classroom teacher (computer lit) and tech support and coordinator. I am also an Adobe Education Leader and in that role I have the opportunity to travel throughout the United States as a trainer and presenter. Whenever I am out of my district training I am often engaged in a discussion about one of the most basic frustrations teachers have around the country (these are teachers trying like mad to integrate technology into their curriculum.) Their frustration source-none other than their own district and school technology administrators and tech support personnel!
Why is it that we have become enemies? Teachers all over the United States tell me that they are constantly locked out and filtered out from most, or all, of the fantastic new free web 2.0 tools that are currently available. Not only are the newest and greatest unavailable, they are frustrated because they can’t even install a simple Flash or Java upgrade themselves. In their efforts to regulate and “keep safe” their networks, administrators have made decisions that often ignore many of the very reasons their networks exist-to facilitate learning and prepare our students for their future. Today’s digital natives are already exploring and using Web 2.0 tools outside schools. Isolating them from these tools at school not only sends them the message that we are outdated and irrelevant, it give them further excuses to tune out, or as they tell me often, to power down, when they enter a traditional classroom.

Shake-up in Seattle schools coming soon

Danny Westneat:

Maybe it was brought on by lean times. Or maybe long-simmering angst about the state of Seattle schools is finally boiling over on its own.
But the decision this month to lay off 165 of Seattle schools’ newest teachers in a “last hired, first fired” manner has got some of liberal Seattle suddenly sounding more like a conservative red state.
More than 600 school parents have signed an online petition, at, that calls out the teachers union for causing “great distress and upheaval” in the schools. At issue is the policy of choosing who gets laid off solely by seniority.
“Wake up and see how union refusal to consider merit is damaging the profession and our kids,” wrote one parent.
“We want the best teachers, not the oldest, teaching our kids,” wrote another.
“Teacher unions are an anachronism,” said another.
The organizers of the petition are a group of parents called Community and Parents for Public Schools. They agree what they’re doing is very un-Seattle.

What Have They Got that I Haven’t Got?

Suzanna Logan:

For those of you who don’t know (i.e. those of you less geeky than I am), last night was the Scripps National Spelling Bee. It’s the Super Bowl of the super smart. Middle-schoolers from across the country compete for the prestige of knowing how to spell words that are completely unusable in conversation, unless of course the conversation is with Noah Webster’s ghost. For instance, laodicean, which apparently means lukewarm or indifferent to religion or politics, was the final word that scored the 13-year-old winner $37,500.
Because I was watching King James tear it up on the court last night, I missed the Bee, but I did watch the semi-finals on ESPN, and noticed these kids have something else that I haven’t got:
Mad-crazy-hard-to-spell names. Kavya Shivashankar (winner), Anamika Veeramani, Neetu Chandak, Sidharth Chand … the list goes on. In fact, I think it stretches all the way to India. Reminds me of the yo’ momma jokes of my youth. You know: “Yo momma’s so fat name is so long the phone book has to list her in two area codes.”**

Dallas council approves daytime curfew for youth

Dave Levinthal & Rudolph Bush:

The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to enact a daytime curfew that prohibits children 16 and younger from walking city streets between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on school days.
Coupled with an existing nighttime curfew, the new restrictions will prohibit children from traveling unsupervised for more than half the day on weekdays.
Supporters of the daytime curfew, which passed on a 12-2 vote, hailed it as a critical tool in combating a rash of daytime property crimes that police attribute in part to kids skipping school, particularly in southern Dallas.
“To do nothing is to turn our back on the problem,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said in support of the ordinance. “Kids are running rampant at this very moment. I have a problem, and my problem is that kids are not taking advantage of getting their education. … Some are running the risk of ruining their lives.”

Report: Homeschooling more widespread

Greg Toppo:

Parents who homeschool their children are increasingly white, wealthy and well-educated — and their numbers have nearly doubled in less than a decade, according to findings out today from the federal government.
What else has nearly doubled? The percentage of girls who homeschool. They now outnumber male homeschoolers by a wide — and growing — margin.
As of the spring of 2007, an estimated 1.5 million, or 2.9% of all school-age children in the USA, were homeschooled, up from 850,000 (or 1.7%) in 1999.
Of the 1.5 million, just under 1.3 million are homeschooled “entirely,” not attending public or private school classes of any type.
The new figures come compliments of the latest Condition of Education, a massive compilation of statistics being released today in Washington by the U.S. Education Department.

Chad Alderman has more.

Web Site Lets Parents Track Data on Students

Javier Hernandez:

After several months of delays, a Web site that offers an interactive portfolio of public school students’ test scores, grades and attendance rates will be available for all parents by the end of June, the Department of Education said on Thursday.
The announcement came at a critical moment for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg: lawmakers in Albany are weighing whether to renew the law giving the mayor control over city schools, which expires June 30, and chief among their concerns has been the way the mayor and his schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, have treated parents.
Critics have said Chancellor Klein in particular has consistently turned a deaf ear to voices from the outside, including parents’ complaints that the pressures to prepare for tests have supplanted quality instruction in schools.
On Thursday, Mr. Klein sought to show a sweeter side of his accountability efforts with a colorful, sometimes whimsical Web site that was created for the city school system, under a city contract. It features cartoon characters explaining the difference, for instance, between performance levels 3 and 4 on state math tests.

Detroit schools’ moment? Union and school leaders rally teachers to embrace change

Amber Arellano:

You could almost feel the hunger to hope.
Thousands of teachers poured into Detroit’s Cobo Center Tuesday morning, waving homemade school flags and buzzing with excitement. They were so geared up, they seemed as if they were the ones who are supposed to graduate from school this spring.
The 6,000-plus crowd came to an unprecedented rally to discuss major reforms to their teacher union contract, a move that is necessary to radically overhaul Detroit schools for the sake of the city’s children.
This could not have happened even a few months ago. But things are moving forward swiftly — and positively — in Detroit public education for the first time in decades.

Wisconsin State Budget Includes Millions in Earmarks

Patrick Marley & Stacy Forster:

Facing a record $6.6 billion deficit, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Friday passed a budget crafted late at night and largely behind closed doors that included tax increases, trims in state aid and millions of dollars in pork-barrel projects in Democratic districts.
Working overnight Thursday until 5:30 a.m. Friday, lawmakers included provisions that would impose a tax on oil companies, increase the cigarette tax, release prison inmates early and reduce funding for local governments and school districts.
The committee wrapped up its work after a 12-hour session with a 12-4, party-line vote to close the shortfall over two years.
Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, are expected to pass the package of tax and fee increases and spending cuts, with few changes. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle praised the deal, suggesting he would use his vast veto powers sparingly.
The Assembly will take up the budget as early as June 9; it will then go to the Senate and governor, who plans to sign it before the July 1 start of the new budget year.

Teens Bring Economic Stress To School


The students at Montclair High School in Southern California are learning the three Rs, but many of them are living the lessons of a fourth R: Recession.
“Hi, my name is Brenda and what the recession means to me is stop wanting what I want and start wanting what I need,” said one student in school project where students videotaped themselves.
“Hi, my name is Dulce and what the recession means to me is wearing $10 shoes,” another said.
More than 80 percent of the nearly 34 million teenagers nationwide say they are concerned about the economy, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.
“Hi, I’m Kristen Beltran,” said Kristen, shooting herself at home. “And what the recession means to me is not being able to afford the things that I really need.”
Kristen’s dad, a welder, has a quarter of the work he had this time last summer. The mortgage is three months behind. Fifteen-year-old Kristen wishes her parents would let her get a job.
“Are we going to have enough money for groceries? Are my parents going to be able to pay the bills?” Kristen asked.

Calorie Counts Could Crowd Fast-Food Menus

Mike Hughlett:

Public health advocates and the fast-food industry are preparing to go head-to-head over proposed federal legislation that would require restaurants to post calorie counts alongside prices. A patchwork of such laws at the state level have been enacted in recent years, and the restaurant industry has countered with proposing federal legislation on the issue – but public health advocates say the industry’s proposed solution is too weak.

The Proposed Madison School District Strategic Plan; School Board Discussion on June 15, 2009

Madison Metropolitan School District, via an Ann Wilson email.

Attached to this e-mail is the Proposed Strategic Plan and a cover memorandum to the Board of Education. We invite all of you to the June 15 Special Board of Education meeting at 6:00 p.m. The Plan, along with a way to respond, is on the district’s website ( on the home page, under Hot Topics. This is the direct link:
Thanks to all of you for your hard work and willingness to participate.

Dan Nerad’s memorandum to the Madison School Board [PDF] and the most recent revision of the Strategic Plan [PDF].
Much more on the Madison School District’s Strategic Planning Process here.

New Push Seeks to End Need for Pre-College Remedial Classes

Sam Dillon via a kind reader’s email:

After Bethany Martin graduated from high school here last June, she was surprised when the local community college told her that she had to retake classes like basic composition, for no college credit. Each remedial course costs her $350, more than a week’s pay from her job at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
Ms. Martin blames chaotic high school classes. “The kids just took over,” she recalls. But her college instructors say that even well-run high school courses often fail to teach what students need to know in college. They say that Ms. Martin’s senior English class, for instance, focused on literature, but little on writing.
Like Ms. Martin, more than a million college freshmen across the nation must take remedial courses each year, and many drop out before getting a degree. Poorly run public schools are a part of the problem, but so is a disconnect between high schools and colleges.
“We need to better align what we expect somebody to be able to do to graduate high school with what we expect them to do in college,” said Billie A. Unger, the dean at Ms. Martin’s school, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, who oversees “developmental” classes, a nice word for remedial. “If I’m to be a pro football player, and you teach me basketball all through school, I’ll end up in developmental sports,” she said.

How to Miss School Even When You’re in School

Jay Matthews:

My colleague Dan de Vise’s wonderful piece Tuesday about the Darnestown, Md., student who never missed a day of school has had a terrific reaction. Like me, readers appreciated Dan’s tribute to old-fashioned values, such as dependability and persistence, which some of us thought had died out in the younger generations.
The research shows that absenteeism is a major educational problem, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods. The fewer days a student spends in school, the lower their level of achievement. But there is a related problem that is more difficult to measure in a way that would allow us to celebrate those students who overcome it. What do we do about students who are forced to miss school when they are in school?
Many people assume that if the kid shows up before the first bell and stays until the final bell, he has gotten a good education that day. If only that were so. Here are some bad habits of modern school administration that, when added up, significantly reduce learning time:

Meet the Bee Finalists

Dan Steinberg:

ABC will do a fine job tonight introducing you to the 11 remaining Spelling Bee finalists (and yes, you will watch the Bee instead of, or at worst in addition to, the Cavs-Magic game. There are more than a dozen NBA conference final games most years, but only one Spelling Bee. You know it’s true.)
Anyhow, ABC will do a fine job tonight introducing you to the 11 remaining finalists, but still, I wanted to make a few points.
* All day I’ve been referring to Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger as Bee Goes Punk, and she sort of was ok with that description.
“I’m kind of adventurous with what I like to wear,” the 13-year old from West Palm Beach told me. “I’ll wear pretty much anything.”
She’s particularly fond of bandanas, was sporting some sparkled-out Chuck Taylors, and had four shades of nail polish on (black and white alternating on her right hand, and silver and pink on her left). So, punk?
“You probably could say that,” she said. “That’s probably how a lot of people look at me.”

New CEO: Gates Foundation learns from experiments

Donna Gordon Blankinship:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent billions of dollars exploring the idea that smaller high schools might result in higher graduation rates and better test scores. Instead, it found that the key to better education is not necessarily smaller schools but more effective teachers.
Some people might cringe while recounting how much money the foundation spent figuring this out. But the foundation’s new CEO, Jeff Raikes, smiles and uses it as an example to explain that the charity has the money to try things that might fail.
“Almost by definition, good philanthropy means we’re going to have to do some risky things, some speculative things to try and see what works and what doesn’t,” Raikes said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press.
The foundation’s new “learner-in-chief” has spent the nine months since he was named CEO studying the operation, traveling around the world and figuring out how to balance the pressures of the economic downturn with the growing needs of people in developing nations.
The former Microsoft Corp. executive, who turns 51 on Friday, joined the foundation as its second CEO after Patty Stonesifer, another former Microsoft executive, announced her retirement and his friends Bill and Melinda Gates talked Raikes out of retiring.

Related: English 10 and Small Learning Communities.

WEAC on the QEO

Christian Schneider:

For a decade and a half, the state’s teachers union has been hammering away at Republican state lawmakers for failing to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer law (QEO), which essentially allowed school districts to grant a 3.8% increase in salary and benefits to teachers without going to arbitration.
In the state budget he submitted in February, Governor Jim Doyle proposed repealing the QEO. Since Democrats hold both houses of the Legislature, it seemed to be a sure thing that they would go along with Doyle’s suggestion.
But then yesterday, a funny thing happened. WEAC, the state’s largest teachers’ union, offered up a “compromise” plan to the Legislature instead of simply doing away with the QEO.
Your first question is probably obvious: “Exactly with whom are they compromising?” They own the Wisconsin Legislature. They can get whatever they want – why would they feel the need to “compromise” with anyone, seeing as the thing they have hated most for 15 years is a couple of votes from being history? And who exactly represents the taxpayers in this “compromise?”
The “compromise” they offered essentially delays repeal of the QEO for one year. So they’ve been ripping on Republicans for years for not eliminating the QEO, but then when it comes time to actually do it, they want to push it off for a year – when they have the votes to eliminate it immediately.
What they’ve done is put into writing what most others have realized over the years – the QEO is actually a pretty good deal, especially in a bad economy. They have recognized that if you pull away the QEO now, they could end up with a lot less than a 3.8% pay and benefits increase. In tough economic times, it’s a floor rather than a ceiling – ask any of the 128,000 private sector workers who have lost their jobs in Wisconsin in the past year if they’d settle for a guaranteed 3.8% increase.

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Response to “Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District”

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad via email:

Dr. Mertz-
Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this critical issue in our middle schools. We will continue to follow the conversation and legislative process regarding hiring Teach for America and Math for America candidates. We have similar concerns to those laid out by UW Professors Hewson and Knuth ( In particular they stated, “Although subject-matter knowledge is essential to good teaching, the knowledge required for teaching is significantly different from that used by math and science professionals.” This may mean that this will not be a cost effective or efficient solution to a more complex problem than many believe it to be. These candidates very well may need the same professional learning opportunities that we are working with the UW to create for our current staff. The leading researchers on this topic are Ball, Bass and Hill from the University of Michigan. More information on their work can be found at ( We are committed to improving the experience our students have in our mathematics class and will strive to hire the most qualified teachers and continue to strengthen our existing staff.
Dan Nerad

19 Madison Area Students Earn National Merit Scholarships

Wisconsin State Journal:

Nineteen area high school seniors are among the 2,800 winners of 2009 National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities. This first wave of the annual awards, valued from $500 to $2,000 for up to four years, will be followed by another group announced in July.
Madison scholarship winners include: Amy Callear (Univ. of Pittsburgh scholarship), Molly Farry-Thorn (Carleton College) and Yang He (UW-Madison) of West High School; Hannah Conley (Univ. of Minnesota) and George Otto (Univ. of Minnesota) of East High School; and Rachel Underwood (UW-Madison) of Edgewood High School.
Stelios Fourakis (Univ. of Chicago) and Annie Steiner (Carleton College) of Middleton High School also are recipients, along with Jennifer Anderson (Univ. of Oklahoma) of Sun Prairie High School, and Amanda Spencer (Washington University in St. Louis) of Verona Area High School.
Other area winners are: Kendall Schneider (Univ. of Minnesota) of DeForest Area High School; Samuel Cahill (Arizona State University) and Megan Wasley (Univ. of Minnesota) of Dodgeville High School; Barry Badeau (Univ. of Minnesota) of Evansville High School; Leah Laux (Washington University in St. Louis) of Kettle Moraine High School; Ewain Gwynne (Northwestern University) of Lodi High School; and Jonathan Means (St. Olaf College) of Watertown High School.
Nita Kopan (Case Western Reserve), of Middleton, who attends Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., and James Foster (Univ. of Chicago), of Verona, who attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., also were awarded.

Congratulations all around.

High-School Senior: I Took the SAT Again After 41 Years

Sue Shellenbarger:

To the 1.5 million teenagers who will fret, cram and agonize over taking the most widely used college-entrance exam, the SAT, over the next 12 months, I have something to say: I’m right there with you.
On a challenge from my teenage son, I took the SAT earlier this month to see how a 57-year-old mom would do. My son says today’s teens have to be smarter, faster and more competitive to succeed. I suspect he’s right; I haven’t been able to help my kids with their math homework since eighth grade. Moreover, in the 41 years since I took the SAT, our culture and the expectations surrounding the exam have changed drastically. To see how I’d measure up, I swallowed my fears, crammed for six weeks and took the test May 2.
Life for teens is indeed harder, my experiment taught me, but not in the way I expected. Aging took a toll on my mental abilities, to be sure, but I was able to erase most of the losses by studying. What surprised me more were the psychological hurdles. Coping with the ramped-up expectations and competitiveness that infuse the SAT process — a reflection of our entire culture — sent me into a tailspin of adolescent regression, procrastination and sloppy study habits, all the behaviors I’ve taught my children to avoid. What I learned will make me a more tolerant parent.
Some reflections from a diary I kept:

C-O-I-N-C-I-D-E-N-C-E? Spellers united by dreams

Joseph White:

The reigning national spelling champion is a 14-year-old kid whose one-liners kept everyone laughing a year ago. His parents moved to the United States from central India, and he wants to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up.
Last year’s runner-up _ and one of this year’s favorites at the Scripps National Spelling Bee _ is an all-business 13-year-old Indian-American boy from Michigan. He’s also set his sights on neurosurgery.
Another favorite expected to be onstage for Thursday night’s nationally televised finals is a 13-year-old Kansas girl with a sweet smile and a last name that’s a spelling challenge unto itself. You guessed it: Her family comes from India, and she wants to be a neurosurgeon.

New Jersey seeks laid-off traders to teach math

Claudia Parsons:

When Scott Brooks got laid off by American Express in February he decided to turn his back on finance and revive a dream he gave up on many years ago — to become a math teacher.
He happens to live in New Jersey, where state education authorities have long worried about a dearth of math teachers.
Last week he heard about a new program called “Traders to Teachers” being set up at Montclair State University to retrain people in the finance industry who have been laid off in the deepest crisis to hit Wall Street since the Great Depression.
“You get really comfortable with your career, and I was making six figures, and it was nice,” Brooks said shortly after an interview at the university to determine his eligibility for the program, which starts classes in September.
“Sometimes the house has to be on fire before you leave its comfort and start on your journey. The credit card business and Wall Street overall is like that house on fire,” he said.

Off-Track Profs

Scott Jaschik:

Like the rest of higher education, elite universities have grown increasingly reliant on non-tenure-track faculty members. Leaders of those institutions are frequently unaware of the role played by adjuncts or how they have come to make up a larger share of the teaching force. The causes for this shift — while related to money — go far beyond the savings from hiring off the tenure track, and the blame may need to be shared by senior professors and graduate student unions. At the most celebrated institutions of higher education in the United States, the teaching quality of the adjuncts is many times better than that of those on the tenure tack.
These are among the conclusions of Off-Track Profs: Nontenured Teachers in Higher Education, being released this week by the MIT Press. Amid the growing literature of research about adjuncts, this book is different in some key ways that are likely to make some of it controversial, and may also make it influential. The focus of the book is on elite research universities, ten of which gave data and access to senior administrators so that the authors (themselves administrators) could examine the issues.
While the book is consistent with many of the recent studies of adjuncts in documenting their growing use and many cases of abuse, the tone is notably different, as are some conclusions. While the book sees the treatment of adjuncts as a real issue both for the adjuncts and their institutions, it suggests that there is much blame to share — and that this situation did not arise from the actions of administrators looking to cut costs. And while much of the research about adjuncts has come from unions or groups sympathetic to unions, this book is decidedly not.

Providence Mayor Wants to Tax College Students


Mayor David Cicilline wants the state to allow cities to assess private colleges $150 per student.
Under his unusual proposal, it would be up to the colleges to decide whether to pay the fee or pass it on to their students.
Cicilline originally suggested cities be allowed to levy a $150-per-semester tax on full-time students at private colleges, but he amended his proposal Wednesday.
The measure is included in legislation that state lawmakers plan to consider.

Budget Woes Prompt Some Wisconsin School Districts To Consider Consolidation


The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday night is debating the allocation of state money for schools.
With cuts in state school aid and caps on how much schools may raise taxes both on the agenda, some schools are preparing for the worst and considering drastic measures such as consolidation.
The cuts come at a time when many schools have been begging for school funding formula changes. Now they’re looking at possible cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Two rural school districts in Marquette County said that giving students a quality education is becoming increasingly difficult in tough budget times.
“We have been making some significant cuts over a period of time. I’ve been in this district for five years and during that time we’ve been reducing our budget by about $250,000 a year on average, and that’s a significant amount of money,” said Westfield District Administrator Roger Schmidt.
Westfield schools have cut back on staff, among other changes.

WEAC’s QEO Proposal & Wisconsin K-12 School Spending


he WEAC memo urges JFC members to support the governor’s original recommendation to repeal the QEO. But in lieu of that, the memo offers the alternative of keeping the QEO in place until July 1, 2010, and provide a one-year “hiatus” on interest arbitration proceedings for resolving contract issues.
Administrators still have concerns that changes to arbitration proposed by the governor will lead to unmanageable compensation increases. Doyle’s proposals would de-emphasize school district revenues in arbitration with employees.
The WEAC memo urges the committee members to keep these modifications intact.
WEAC lobbyist Dan Burkhalter said the alternative was offered as districts deal with a tough economic climate.
It would keep management from being able to impose arbitration in the first year without a union’s consent, Burkhalter said.. If a contract would go to arbitration in the first year, the contract would be settled under the new arbitration rules under the compromise offered by WEAC.
Burkhalter said the reaction of lawmakers was positive to the compromise, but he didn’t know what the committee would ultimately put forward.
See the memo here.

School data: School Performance Reports

The School Performance Report is the annual “report card” that is required under Wisconsin law (Wi.Stat.115.38) to be compiled and published for each public school and public school district. DPI’s recent announcement (noted here) that selected School Performance Report information will now be available online at the DPI web site is a step in the right direction, but this important tool for school accountability and information for parents and the public has yet to reach its full potential, due to inconsistent compliance with the requirements of the reporting law.
The School Performance Report has been required since 1991. The items that are to be included in each report are (emphases added):

(a) Indicators of academic achievement, including the performance of pupils on the tests administered under s. 121.02 (1) (r) and the performance of pupils, by subject area, on the statewide assessment examinations administered under s. 118.30.
(b) 1. Other indicators of school and school district performance, including dropout, attendance, retention in grade and graduation rates; percentage of habitual truants, as defined in s. 118.16 (1) (a); percentage of pupils participating in extracurricular and community activities and advanced placement courses; percentage of graduates enrolled in postsecondary educational programs; and percentage of graduates entering the workforce.
2. The numbers of suspensions and expulsions; the reasons for which pupils are suspended or expelled, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; the length of time for which pupils are expelled, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; whether pupils return to school after their expulsion; the educational programs and services, if any, provided to pupils during their expulsions, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; the schools attended by pupils who are suspended or expelled; and the grade, sex and ethnicity of pupils who are suspended or expelled and whether the pupils are children with disabilities, as defined in s. 115.76 (5).
(c) Staffing and financial data information, as determined by the state superintendent, not to exceed 10 items. The state superintendent may not request a school board to provide information solely for the purpose of including the information in the report under this paragraph.
(d) The number and percentage of resident pupils attending a course in a nonresident school district under s. 118.52, the number of nonresident pupils attending a course in the school district under s. 118.52, and the courses taken by those pupils.
(e) The method of reading instruction used in the school district and the textbook series used to teach reading in the school district.

It should be noted (and is acknowledged by DPI) that the School Performance Report information on the DPI site does not cover all of these items.
In 2005, the statute was amended to require that parents be alerted to the existence and availability of the report and given the opportunity to request a copy, and to require that each school district with a web site post the report on its web site (amended language italicized below):

Annually by January 1, each school board shall notify the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district of the right to request a school and school district performance report under this subsection. Annually by May [amended from January] 1, each school board shall, upon request, distribute to the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district, including pupils enrolled in charter schools located in the school district, or give to each pupil to bring home to his or her parent or guardian, a school and school district performance report that includes the information specified by the state superintendent under sub. (1). The report shall also include a comparison of the school district’s performance under sub. (1) (a) and (b) with the performance of other school districts in the same athletic conference under sub. (1) (a) and (b). If the school district maintains an Internet site, the report shall be made available to the public at that site.

This information, if fully compiled and made available as intended by the statute, could be a valuable resource to parents and the public (answering, perhaps, some of the questions in this discussion). There may be parents who are unaware that this “report card” exists, and would benefit from receiving the notice that the statute requires. For parents without access to the Internet, the right to request a hard copy of the report may be their only access to this information.
Districts who do not post their School Performance Reports on their web sites may do well to follow the example of the Kenosha School District, which does a good job of highlighting its School Performance Reports (including drop-down menus by school) on the home page of its web site.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: China Expresses Concern over US Money Printing Strategy

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: “Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature.”

“I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

His recent trip to the Far East appears to have been a stark reminder that Asia’s “Confucian” culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons.

Mr Fisher, the Fed’s leading hawk, was a fierce opponent of the original decision to buy Treasury debt, fearing that it would lead to a blurring of the line between fiscal and monetary policy – and could all too easily degenerate into Argentine-style financing of uncontrolled spending.

However, he agreed that the Fed was forced to take emergency action after the financial system “literally fell apart”.

Nor, he added was there much risk of inflation taking off yet. The Dallas Fed uses a “trim mean” method based on 180 prices that excludes extreme moves and is widely admired for accuracy.

Better to support economic and tax base growth rather than try to raise tax rates, which rarely work, and mostly end up soaking the middle class. Willem Buiter has more. More here. The Financial Times: Exploding Debt Threatens the US.

Wisconsin School District Performance Report

Wisconsin DPI:

School districts often find it challenging to provide their School District Performance Reports (SDPRs) to the public at their websites, as is legally required (under s.115.38, Wis. Stats.).
The job is easier now that the DPI has created an on-line version of (most of) the SDPR. By simply linking to this page, districts can fulfill almost all of their Internet-based data reporting obligations under the statute.
The Web report covers those SDPR categories which are reported by athletic conference, including achievement, Advanced Placement participation, graduation rates, post-secondary plans, extra-/co-curricular activities, staffing, and financial information. Districts still hold the responsibility for reporting suspension and expulsion data, which are not yet available on the SDPR webpage. The DPI is planning to add that data to the on-line report in the future.

At-Risk Need a Mix of Good Teachers, Social Service Help

Jay Matthews:

Karen Kaldenbach, an 18-year-old high school senior in Arlington County, remembers vividly what life was like when she was 11: “I saw Social Services almost as much as I saw my mother, who was always drunk. Her best friends, alcohol and money, were always there for her. She spent so much time with them, she couldn’t raise my little sister and me. Social Services always came to talk to me at school. They asked questions about my family. My response? A lie, always.”
Such stories are not uncommon in the Washington area. They often end unhappily. Yet these days, Kaldenbach is thriving, with a supportive adoptive mother, plus awards, scholarships and an acceptance letter from George Mason University.
We are in the midst of a national debate, its outcome uncertain, over what should be the emphasis of efforts to fix public schools. Some say the focus should be on improving teaching. Only in the classroom, they say, is there a chance to give students — particularly those in poverty — the tools they need to succeed. Others say teachers cannot reach those children until their family lives, shaken by parental joblessness or mental or physical illness, are straightened out by government action.

Texting May Be Taking a Toll

Katie Hafner:

They do it late at night when their parents are asleep. They do it in restaurants and while crossing busy streets. They do it in the classroom with their hands behind their back. They do it so much their thumbs hurt.
Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.
The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.
Dr. Martin Joffe, a pediatrician in Greenbrae, Calif., recently surveyed students at two local high schools and said he found that many were routinely sending hundreds of texts every day.

For Spellers: Dorky is the New Cool

Joseph White:

Lauren Kirk had a hamburger in hand, a new friend by her side. On Monday afternoon, she was one of the cool kids.
The 14-year-old from Bloomington, Ind., with the lime-green headband and wild shoelaces wasn’t about to skip the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee barbecue to pore over lists of obscure words for the weeklong spell-off.
While a few did choose to hang out at the hotel to study _ with the hope they’ll be crowned champion Thursday on prime-time network television _ the rest were in their element at a park in the Virginia suburbs, romping around, playing volleyball, trading autographs and singing karaoke. (ABBA seemed to be a favorite this year).
“It’s a lot more social than I thought it would be,” said Lauren said, who had a peace sign painted on her temple and yellow-and-black bee on her leg. “It’s really nice to be among people who actually get your jokes.”

Statewide test for Wisconsin school children needs better grade

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Wisconsin’s statewide test given to hundreds of thousands of students each year deserves a poor grade for its own performance.
The test has some of the weakest standards in the nation.
The test takes far too long to process.
The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination also fails to compare student proficiency at the beginning of a school year with proficiency at the end of the same academic year.
All of that needs to change, as recommended last week in reports by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative study group in Hartland.

Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever

Laura Miller:

As tragedies go, not getting what you want is the straightforward kind, and getting it can be the ironic variety. But there is also the existential tragedy of not knowing what you want to begin with. That’s the species of catastrophe recounted in Walter Kirn’s memoir, “Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever,” the witty, self- castigating story of the author’s single-minded quest to succeed at a series of tests and competitions that took him from one of the lowest-ranked high schools in Minnesota to Princeton. As Kirn, a noted critic and novelist, tells it, in childhood he leapt onto a hamster wheel baited with “prizes, plaques, citations, stars,” and kept rattling away at it until his junior year in the Ivy League, when he suffered a breakdown that left him nearly speechless.

Onalaska Students Transform Lunch Program

Wisconsin DPI:

After channeling their complaints about school lunch into an effort to make a real difference, students at Onalaska High School are enjoying healthier, better tasting choices–not to mention some national attention for the improvements they’ve made.
In 2007-08, Amy Yin, then a junior at Onalaska and the student representative to the local school board, was hearing grumbling from students about the elimination of favorite food choices. According to the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life, it was Principal Peter Woerpel who first planted the idea of starting a Student Nutrition Advisory Committee. Yin, a high-achieving Presidential Scholar semifinalist who got a perfect score on the ACT exam, ran with the concept, and it took off. The committee was a devoted group–meeting multiple hours every week, including on weekends.
Although some of the lost favorites didn’t return–the chocolate chip muffins, for example, no longer met nutrition standards–the students were able to make an important impact. As they learned more about nutrition and the school lunch program, they were able to work with the school to provide choices that were both healthier and more appealing to the student body. These days, Onalaska High School serves fresh fruit instead of just canned, and offers a salad bar that became especially popular after the addition of ingredients in three different colors. Lunch participation and consumption in general is up, too.

Green School News

Learn at National Conference How to Create a Green Charter School
Developing Environmentally Literate Kids
Energy Fair Sparks Charter School Students (UT)
Environmental Extravaganza at Four Rivers Charter School (MA)
Education with Aloha at Kua O Ka La Charter School (HI)
Environmental and Place-Based Education at Proposed Discovery Charter School (IN) Learn Green. Live Green
Easy Being Green at Westlake Academy (TX)
Green Thinking at New Roots Charter School (NY)
US House Approves $6.4 Billion for Green Schools
Building students’ skills in complex scientific reasoning with BioKids program at Academy of the Americas (MI)
Stars Aligned for Charter Schools
Proposed Green School (AZ) Focused on Green Jobs
It’s Easy Being Green at Environmental Charter High School (CA)
The Urban Environment and Common Ground High School (CT — NY Times Story)
Relying on Nature to Teach Lessons at Green Woods Charter School (PA)
Eco-Education Links
Children and Nature Network
Earth Day Network’s Green Schools Campaign
NAAEE ( Environmental Education )
NEXT – Art+Design+Environment
Center for Ecoliteracy
Join the Green Charter Schools Network in supporting the development of schools with environment-focused educational programs and practices. “The Real Wealth of the Nation” by Tia Nelson, daughter of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, describes the Network’s beginnings and mission. Please complete and return the GCSNet membership form.
Thank You !
Senn Brown, Executive Director *
Green Charter Schools Network
5426 Greening Lane, Madison, WI 53705
Tel: 608-238-7491 Email:
* Founding Executive Secretary (2000 – 2007), Wisconsin Charter Schools Association

Principals Younger and Freer, but Raise Doubts in the Schools

Elissa Gootman & Robert Gebeloff:

They are younger than their predecessors, have less experience in the classroom and are, most often, responsible for far fewer students. But their salaries are higher and they have greater freedom over hiring and budgets, handling a host of responsibilities formerly shouldered by their supervisors.
Among the most striking transformations of New York’s public school system since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took charge in 2002 is that of the role of principal, once the province of middle-aged teachers promoted through the ranks, now often filled by young graduates of top colleges.
“I wanted to change the old system,” Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said in an interview. “New leadership is a powerful way to do that.”
One of Mr. Klein’s proudest achievements is luring promising candidates to the toughest schools by providing more autonomy in exchange for accountability through test scores and other data.
But an analysis by The New York Times of the city’s signature report-card system shows that schools run by graduates of the celebrated New York City Leadership Academy — which the mayor created and helped raise more than $80 million for — have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes.

That Freshman Course Won’t Be Quite the Same

N. Gregory Mankiw:

MY day job is teaching introductory economics to about 700 Harvard undergraduates a year. Lately, when people hear that, they often ask how the economic crisis is changing what’s offered in a freshman course.
They’re usually disappointed with my first answer: not as much as you might think. Events have been changing so quickly that we teachers are having trouble keeping up. Syllabuses are often planned months in advance, and textbooks are revised only every few years.
But there is another, more fundamental reason: Despite the enormity of recent events, the principles of economics are largely unchanged. Students still need to learn about the gains from trade, supply and demand, the efficiency properties of market outcomes, and so on. These topics will remain the bread-and-butter of introductory courses.

MathTime: Hinsdale kids design math app for iPhone

Mick Swasko:

You might think of flash cards and work sheets when you think of grade-school math. But now, thanks to two young brothers from Hinsdale, there’s an app for that.
Eleven-year-old Owen Voorhees’ iPhone application, MathTime, debuted in the iTunes App Store last week. The simple program, which displays random addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems and their solutions, has been a work in progress for nearly nine months.
“I hope it helps people practice their facts,” Owen said, explaining that the application is intended for students a bit younger than himself, such as brother Finn, 9.

Horace Mann High School

Imagine that somewhere in the United States there is a Horace Mann (American educator)“>Horace Mann High School, with a student who is a first-rate softball pitcher. Let us further imagine that although she set a new record for strikeouts for the school and the district, she was never written up in the local paper. Let us suppose that even when she broke the state record for batters retired she received no recognition from the major newspapers or other media in the state.
Imagine a high school boy who had broken the high jump record for his school, district, and state, who also never saw his picture or any story about his achievement in the media. He also would not hear from any college track coaches with a desire to interest him in becoming part of their programs.
In this improbable scenario, we could suppose that the coaches of these and other fine athletes at the high school level would never hear anything from their college counterparts, and would not be able to motivate their charges with the possibility of college scholarships if they did particularly well in their respective sports.
These fine athletes could still apply to colleges and, if their academic records, test scores, personal essays, grades, and applications were sufficiently impressive, they might be accepted at the college of their choice, but, of course they would receive no special welcome as a result of their outstanding performance on the high school athletic fields.
This is all fiction, of course, in our country at present. Outstanding athletes do receive letters from interested colleges, and even visits from coaches if they are good enough, and it is then up to the athlete to decide which college sports program they will “commit to” or “sign with,” as the process is actually described in the media. Full scholarships are often available to the best high school athletes, so that they may contribute to their college teams without worrying about paying for tuition or accumulating student debt.
In turn, high school coaches with very good athletes in fact do receive attention from college coaches, who keep in touch to find out the statistics on their most promising athletes, and to get recommendations for which ones are most worth pursuing and most worth offering scholarships to.
These high school coaches are an important agent in helping their promising athletes decide who to “commit to” or who to “sign with” when they are making their higher education plans.
On the other hand, if high school teachers have outstanding students of history, there are no scholarships available for them, no media recognition, and certainly no interest from college professors of history. For their work in identifying and nurturing the most diligent, the brightest, and the highest-achieving students of history, these academic coaches (teachers) are essentially ignored.
Those high school students of history, no matter whether they write first-class 15,000-word history research papers, like Colin Rhys Hill of Atlanta, Georgia (published in the Fall 2008 issue of The Concord Review), or a first-class 13,000-word history research paper, like Amalia Skilton of Tempe, Arizona (published in the Spring 2009 issue of The Concord Review), they will hear from no one offering them a full college scholarship for their outstanding high school academic work in history.
College professors of history will not write or call them, and they will not visit their homes to try to persuade them to “commit to” or “sign with” a particular college or university. The local media will ignore their academic achievements, because they limit their high school coverage to the athletes.
To anyone who believes the primary mission of the high schools is academic, and who pays their taxes mainly to promote that mission, this bizarre imbalance in the mechanics of recognition and support may seem strange, if they stop to think about it. But this is our culture when it comes to promoting academic achievement at the high school level. If we would like to see higher levels of academic achievement by our high school students, just as we like to see higher levels of athletic achievement by our students at the high school level, perhaps we might give some thought to changing this culture (soon).
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

School Reform, Through the Eyes of New York City Chancellor Joel Klein

Michael Alison Chandler:

Before D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) took over the city’s public schools two years ago, he paid a visit here to learn about a school system at the center of urban education reform.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) had taken charge of the 1.1 million-student system in 2002, naming a litigator with little professional education experience to turn it around.
In seven years as schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein has emphasized accountability and school choice. He has granted principals more autonomy and money in exchange for results, piloted a performance-based teacher compensation plan and raised millions of dollars in private funds to support his initiatives, including $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create smaller, more personalized high schools.

A Look At Maryland’s High School Assessment Test

Nelson Hernandez:

When Maryland’s high school class of 2009 graduates next month, it will become the first in the state to prove it can solve an equation such as 12x + 84 =252. (Answer: 14.)
But state officials still don’t know the value of another variable: the number of students who won’t pass exams in algebra, English, biology and government for a new graduation requirement. As of March, about 4,000 of 58,000 seniors statewide hadn’t passed the High School Assessments or met an alternative academic standard. This is the first year that seniors have been required to meet the testing standard.
State and local officials predict that graduation rates will remain roughly the same and that only a handful of seniors will be denied a diploma based on the HSA requirement.

Virtual school shift concerns few

Amy Hetzner:

One of the state’s oldest and largest virtual charter schools is scheduled to make big changes this year affecting hundreds of students.
Yet there have been no noticeable protests and no parental complaints as students from throughout Wisconsin prepare to attend a different school this fall without changing facilities, principal or staff.
Starting July 1, Wisconsin Virtual Academy and Honors High Online, the two online schools for students in grade school and high school now housed at the Northern Ozaukee School District, will move to the McFarland School District with mostly new employees. The schools will be run by the same company that now operates them – K12 Inc. – as one school: Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).

School newspaper archives go online, embarrassing student writing and shenanigans become permanent record

Cory Doctorow:

Here’s the latest privacy rupture: old school newspaper archives are showing up online, getting indexed, and becoming part of the permanent googlable record for the people who wrote for them and the people who appeared in them. This is the latest installment in an ongoing story — for example, when DejaNews (now Google Groups) put Usenet’s archives online, the material we thought we’d written in a no-archive medium became part of our googlable past. Soon, face-recognition will put names on every photo on the web, and then, look out!

Elvehjem Elementary parents lead push to upgrade classroom technology

Gayle Worland:

When the Elvehjem Elementary School parents who raised $200,000 for a playground outside the school last year started looking for a new fundraising project, they thought of the teacher on the itty-bitty chair.
She’s someone like Julie Fitzpatrick, a first-grade teacher at Elvehjem who uses a nearly decade-old classroom computer to track attendance, fill out report cards and answer parents’ e-mails. The bulky monitor and sluggish hard drive sit on a desk sized for the 6- and 7-year-olds who also use the terminal, one of two PCs in Fitzpatrick’s room.
Even if the teacher wanted to bring more modern equipment from home, like a laptop, she couldn’t access the Internet with it. There’s no wireless connection.
“I go in to take my son to his first day of school, and I see these two ancient-looking computers with floppy disc drives,” said Brian Johnson, vice-president of operations for a Madison high-tech firm and a parent in the group LVM Dreams Big Technology, which hopes to raise $20,000 this summer to buy the school some of the latest classroom tools: document cameras that can project computer and other images on a screen, an interactive “whiteboard” called a Smart Board, and a message board with an LCD screen at the school entrance to announce the day’s activities. They hope to come up with another $5,000 for grants aimed at teachers wanting to try new technologies.

Children Full of Life

On Youtube:
In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates.
The stories: Compassion, empathy. (1 of 5), Taking responsibility: bullying. (2 of 5),
Rafting, a challenge to the teacher, learning. (3 of 5), Just hang in there (4 of 5), One last letter (5 of 5)

Colleges Consider 3-Year Degrees To Save Undergrads Time, Money

Valerie Strauss:

In an era when college students commonly take longer than four years to get a bachelor’s degree, some U.S. schools are looking anew at an old idea: slicing a year off their undergraduate programs to save families time and money.
Advocates of a three-year undergraduate degree say it would work well for ambitious students who know what they want to study. Such a program could provide the course requirements for a major and some general courses that have long been the hallmark of American education.
The four-year bachelor’s degree has been the model in the United States since the first universities began operating before the American Revolution. Four-year degrees were designed in large part to provide a broad-based education that teaches young people to analyze and think critically, considered vital preparation to participate in the civic life of American democracy.
The three-year degree is the common model at the University of Cambridge and Oxford University in England, and some U.S. schools have begun experimenting with the idea. To cram four years of study into three, some will require summer work, others will shave course lengths and some might cut the number of credit hours required.

An Intriguing Alternative to No Child Left Behind

Jay Matthews:

If the No Child Left Behind law, focused on raising test scores, proves to be a dead end, what do we do next? I rarely read or hear intelligent discussion of this question. The Pentagon has battle plans from A to Z. Why do those of us who care about schools keep bickering over the current system, rather than expand the debate to realistic alternatives?
Thankfully, one of the most thoughtful and imaginative education scholars, Richard Rothstein, has come to the rescue. As usual, I am getting to his new book, “Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right,” a few months later than I should have, making it the latest selection of my Better Late Than Never Book Club. It is a must-read for anyone who wonders, as I often have, how we might replace or augment standardized testing with measures of what is happening in the classroom beyond just the few days in spring when our kids take the state tests.
Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a former national education columnist for the New York Times. He spent much of his career as an analyst of school district spending. No one knows more than he does about the strange ways we use our education dollars. In the past few years he has become an articulate national spokesman for the view that our urban public schools cannot succeed unless health, social and employment issues are addressed in those communities with the same passion and persistence that the teachers I write about put toward classroom learning issues.

Ten Things to Know About Public High Schools and ‘Dropout Factories’

Linda Kulman:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes we have what amounts to a “once-in-a-couple-of-generations opportunity” to “push a very, very strong reform agenda” for the nation’s schools. His view is based, in part, on the Obama administration’s intention to spend billions of additional dollars on public education, though Duncan acknowledges that money alone is not the answer. He also says the country has arrived at a moment when we have the necessary political will to make tough changes.
Not least of the problems that must be addressed can be found in America’s high schools, where, Duncan said in a speech last week, “Our expectations for our teenagers in this country are far too low.”
In fact, change has never come easily to America’s approximately 23,800 public high schools. Since the alarming report A Nation at Risk was published in 1983, we have had “wave after wave of reform”- and little progress, according to Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

John Mauldin:

As of this week, total US debt is $11.3 trillion and rising rapidly. The Obama
Administration projects that to rise another $1.85 trillion in 2009 (13% of
GDP) and yet another $1.4 trillion in 2010. The Congressional Budget Office
projects almost $10 trillion in additional debt from 2010 through 2019. Just
last January the 2009 deficit was estimated at “only” $1.2 trillion. Things
have gone downhill fast.
But there is reason to be concerned about those estimates, too. The CBO assumes a
rather robust recovery in 2010, with growth springing back to 3.8% and then up
to 4.5% in 2011. Interestingly, they project unemployment of 8.8% for this year
(we are already at 8.9% and rising every month) and that it will rise to 9%
next year. It will be a strange recovery indeed where the economy is roaring along
at 4% and unemployment isn’t falling. (You can see their spreadsheets and all
the details if you take your blood pressure medicine first, at
Just a few quick thoughts. This year the proposed administration plan is to borrow 50% of every dollar spent. The CBO projects than nominal GDP will grow by about 50% over the next 10 years (which is historically reasonable), but also that revenues will double, which suggests massive tax increases in relation to GDP. Interestingly, the International Monetary Fund says growth next year will be tepid at best (more below). The deficit in 2010 is almost 10% of GDP. The average proposed deficit is almost a $1 trillion average for the next ten years. Ten years from now, the deficit is projected to be $1.2 trillion. And that is if government costs do not go up and inflation only averages 1.1% for the next six years.

Hiring Math Teachers…… Former Bear Stearns Trader is Now Teaching High School Math on Long Island, NY

Peter Robison pens an interesting look at the current opportunity to hire teachers with a strong math background, advocated locally by Janet Mertz & Gabi Meyer:

After Irace got his termination papers in June from JPMorgan Chase, he called “Brother K.”
Brother Kenneth Hoagland, the principal at Kellenberg, a private Catholic institution, taught Irace at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York.
Hoagland called Irace in for an interview in August, when he needed a replacement for a math instructor on leave. A month later, the former trader was teaching quadratic equations and factoring to freshmen in five 40-minute periods of algebra a day. He enrolled in refresher math classes at Nassau Community College, sometimes learning subjects a day or two ahead of the kids. This semester, he’s teaching sixth-graders measurements and percentages.
Conditioning Drills
Seated at wooden desks, 21 to 39 in each class, they get excited when he flashes the animated math adventures of a robot named Moby onto a classroom projector. After school, Irace, now 198 pounds (90 kilograms), puts a whistle on a yellow cord around his neck and runs girls through conditioning drills as an assistant coach for the lacrosse team. The extra coaching stipend runs $1,000 to $2,000 for the season.

Colo. promotes associate’s degrees in high school

Colleen Slevin:

Colorado is making it easier for schools to offer teens a chance to earn an associate’s degree while still in high school, a move backers say could help lower the dropout rate and help the state win millions in extra federal stimulus money.
Gov. Bill Ritter signed House Bill 1319 into law along with eight other education bills on Thursday at a high school called the Middle College of Denver.
It’s one of a half dozen high schools around the state where students take career classes and earn college credit at nearby community colleges.
Ritter urged the students, packed into the school cafeteria along with lawmakers and education officials, to tell their siblings and friends about the program, which he said would help keep more students in school.
State education officials believe it’s the first statewide program of its kind in the nation.
“None of this is really about us. This is about you,” Ritter said before sitting down to sign the bills.

The New Math: Teachers Share Recession’s Pain

Winnie Hu:

Bankers, lawyers and journalists have taken pay cuts and gone without raises to stay employed in a tough economy. Now similar givebacks are spreading to education, an industry once deemed to be recession-proof.
All 95 teachers and five administrators in the Tuckahoe school district in Westchester County agreed to give $1,000 each to next year’s school budget to keep the area’s tax increase below 3 percent. In the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow district, 80 percent of the 500 school employees — including teachers, clerks, custodians and bus drivers — have pledged more than $150,000 from their own pockets to help close a $300,000 budget gap.
And on Long Island, the 733 teachers in the William Floyd district in Mastic Beach decided to collectively give up $1 million in salary increases next year to help restore 19 teaching positions that were to be eliminated.

Wanted: environmentally conscious students prepared to dive into the vortex

Amy Nip:

Local students can compete for a place on the world’s first expedition testing how to clean up a floating patch of plastic waste more than 1,000 times bigger than Hong Kong.
The estimated 4 million tonnes of plastic waste floating on the Pacific Ocean was discovered in 1997 by boat captain Charles Moore. He caught sight of the trash while on his way home after finishing a Los Angeles-Hawaii sailing race.
Called the Plastic Vortex, the trash inspired Project Kaisei, an America-based environmental organisation that studies marine pollution, to plan an expedition in July and August – and it will look for volunteers in Asian universities.
“This is one of the top 10 man-made disasters ever, but no one knows about it,” said Doug Wood- ring, ocean and conservation expert from the Hong Kong team. “It’s in the ocean and no one sees it.”
Project Kaisei’s pilot mission aims to test technologies and evaluate the problem before a full-scale cleanup in 18 months.

Wisconsin bill to boost math and science teachers risky for students

Peter Hewson & Eric Knuth:

While this legislation is well-intentioned, it will ultimately do more harm than good — and it is the children in the most troubled schools who will pay the price.
Here’s why: SB 175 is intended to attract math and science professionals (engineers and scientists) into teaching, based on the belief that they have the necessary subject-matter knowledge. The bill would allow them to get teaching licenses almost entirely on the basis of written tests (a math test, for example), as long as they receive some loosely specified form of mentoring during their first year on the job.
There’s nothing wrong with using written tests, and mentoring new teachers is a great idea. But neither is sufficient to protect children from dangerously under-prepared teachers.
Although subject-matter knowledge is essential to good teaching, the knowledge required for teaching is significantly different from that used by math and science professionals. A well-constructed certification program gives beginning teachers a crucial knowledge base (of math or science as well as about teaching) and helps them develop the skills and practices that bring this knowledge to life.
There’s a reason that so many certification programs immerse new teachers in classroom tasks gradually: It gives them a chance to make their mistakes and sharpen their skills in more controlled, lower-stakes contexts before handing them primary responsibility for a classroom of students.

On Relocating and the Madison Public Schools

Penelope Trunk:

Three years ago, I made a decision to move from New York City to Madison, WI based purely on research. I put economic development research together with positive psychology research. Then I combed the Internet for city statistics, and I moved. (If you want to read the research I used, I linked to it all in this post.)

I had never been to Madison in my life, and you know what? It was a good decision. Except for one thing: I ignored the data about schools. I didn’t believe that a city known for progressive social programs and university filled with genius faculty could have poorly performing public schools. But it ended up being true, and all economic development research says do not move to a place with crap schools—it’s a sign that lots of things in the city are not right.

Fairfax, Virginia School Board Passes a Flat Budget, With Larger Class Sizes

Michael Alison Chandler:

Fairfax County students can expect larger classes, new bell schedules and higher parking fees next year, all part of a $2.2 billion budget the School Board unanimously approved last night. The plan also freezes salaries for teachers and staff.

The spending plan for the region’s largest school system accounts for 5,000 more students but is $18 million and 800 positions lighter than this year’s budget.

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors froze funding for the 169,000-student system, but an infusion of $50 million in federal stimulus money helped stave off deeper cuts. More than half of that will be spent on special education or high-poverty schools.

Still, school officials said the spending plan increases burdens on teachers and reduces the quality of education that families expect from a world-class system.

“We are at a tipping point,” said School Board budget chairman Phillip A. Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence). “If we are not careful we will pass it and realize we have done some permanent damage.”

Chris Woodhead on schools Still raging

The Economist:

The scourge of teachers surveys the desolation of learning
“SACK the useless teachers!” ran the headline above an interview with Chris Woodhead in 1994. And the newly appointed chief inspector of schools grew no more emollient on the job. Naming and shaming bad schools and teachers would raise standards (“I personally respond to threats”); educational research was “an irrelevance and a distraction”; schools didn’t need more money, but to jettison progressive teaching methods. After becoming prime minister, Tony Blair kept the Conservative appointee on as part of the attempt to persuade middle England that New Labour was not in hock to the unions. When Mr Woodhead finally resigned in 2000, after clashing repeatedly with David Blunkett, the education secretary of the day, many schools threw staffroom parties.
Now the scourge of trendy teachers is back, and as intemperate as ever. In “A Desolation of Learning“, a book published on May 22nd, Mr Woodhead surveys state schools in England and sees a wasteland. The national curriculum intended to ensure that all children learned the basics has become a “solipsistic daydream”. The inspectorate he used to lead is no longer an impartial arbiter but a partisan thought-police, “arguably the most lethal part” of the system. Government oversees “bloated bureaucracies and frenzied initiatives”, and the opposition Tories can be as “sanctimoniously utopian” as New Labour.

Detroit tries to turnaround failing school system

Corey Williams:

Just like the auto companies that fuel this city, struggling Detroit schools are undergoing a painful restructuring to avoid complete failure and bankruptcy.
Next fall, 29 public schools will close, another 40 will be restructured, 900 teachers and staff will be pink-slipped and 33 principals fired. A former FBI agent also has been brought in to ferret out corruption and fraud. And a request has been made to declare the district a “special presidential emergency.”
The changes were ordered by Robert Bobb, who was appointed emergency financial manager of the district in January by the governor. He has one year to correct a $300 million budget deficit, improve test scores and address a graduation rate that’s among the nation’s lowest.
Without his intervention, Bobb said, the district “would have gone into the abyss and the biggest losers would have been students and their parents.”

Schools Using Dangerous Discipline Methods

Talk of the Nation:

Handcuffs, tape and isolation are tools used on children with behavioral disorders in some classrooms. Restraint and isolation techniques are sometimes necessary to prevent students from harming themselves and others. But some educators argue for emphasizing prevention.

New computer curriculum targets middle schoolers

Deb Hooker:

Poudre School District middle school students will benefit from a new computer curriculum next school year, giving them the most up-to-date technology skills to prepare them for the future.
“We are making a huge paradigm shift in what we are teaching middle school students in technology,” said Kathy Hanson, PSD career education coordinator. “Previously, we were teaching a few commonly-used applications. This expands considerably on that base.”
The new curriculum, developed by PSD and Colorado State University’s Information Science and Technology Center, includes courses for sixth- and seventh-graders that will give them skills for a lifetime.
PSD middle school teachers and school technology coordinators recently completed two of five days of training for the new curriculum.
Timing for the implementation coincides with PSD’s grade-level changes to institute middle schools.

Teacher Professional Development Programs

In MA, teachers have state-mandated professional development points or (PDPs) that they must compile every year. Naturally, the Massachusetts Teacher’s Association (MTA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, is also a big professional development provider. Below, is a listing of their professional development workshop offerings (link included). [From Jamie Gass, Pioneer Institute]
Top 10 Best Teacher Union Professional Development offerings:
Effective Advocacy: Grievance Processing (PDP)
This workshop will focus on how to use the grievance procedure as an orderly process for resolving contract disputes. Participants will be actively engaged in a comprehensive review of the grievance process, from the “what” and “why” to the “how” and “when.” They will leave the session with an understanding of how to write and process grievances in the steps prior to arbitration. The three-hour morning session will focus on procedural and substantive concerns relative to the grievance process and will introduce the filing process. In the one-and-one-halfhour afternoon session, participants will investigate, write up and present grievances.
Lessons through Balloon Twisting (PDP)
There are life lessons to be learned when making a balloon animal, and there may be several academic ones as well. Participants in this workshop will learn to make at least two animals and learn some lessons together.
Union Response to Advanced Placement Grants (PDP)
Has your district applied for an Advanced Placement grant? Will it do so in the future? Did you know that the grants include payments for test scores? This session will provide straight talk about what the AP grants require and strategies on how to best enforce your contract rights.
Easy Tie-Dye (PDP)
Travel back in time to the 1960s and 1970s while creating a groovy tie-dyed T-shirt to awe your friends and family. Mood rings optional. Easy tie-dye methods will be tried, a lesson plan will be provided and student examples will be shared. Bring your T-shirts, socks, vests and shorts, and we will tie-dye up a storm!
Two Teacher Unions – One Cause
Two Teacher Unions – One Cause This workshop will focus on the MTA and AFT Massachusetts collaboratively working together to improve conditions for our students and our members. Come and find out what we have done so far, some issues of the day and where we will go from here to make things better. Participants are asked to bring their curiosity and a sense of humor.
Use Your Noodle (PDP & PTP)
Get inspired and learn fun new teaching approaches to motivate students to think outside the box. Participants will experience hands-on improvisational theater skills and games for the classroom, explore how the dynamic Use Your Noodle “design challenge” curriculum gets K-8 students thinking critically and take home the curriculum for free!
MTA’s Lens on Beacon Hill (PDP)
MTA lobbyists will provide an update on the impact of the economic crisis on the association’s legislative agenda. The presenters will discuss strategies that locals can implement to advance an agenda concerning state revenues, Chapter 70 preK-12 funding, public higher education funding and the retiree COL A. They also will talk about how to fight cuts in local aid and attacks on collective bargaining, which are affecting every constituency within the MTA as this tsunami-like budget crisis continues to unfold.
Native American Bead Weaving (PDP)
In this workshop, participants will learn something about the tradition of Native American beading. They will use math concepts to graph several designs, make simple and inexpensive wood looms suitable for classroom use and learn how to use the loom and the graphed designs to “sew” seed beads to create wristbands.
The Power of Embracing Diversity (PDP)
What is the power of embracing diversity? How does it affect professional and personal growth? The Sun Poem, with its powerful diversity message, has been introduced in schools across Massachusetts since 1987. Now it has been introduced at colleges and universities in 40 states. This interactive workshop – through a DVD presentation of the story of The Sun Poem, interactive dialogue and exercises – will empower participants with a deeper understanding of diversity.
Performance Evaluation: How the Union Can Effectively Help the Teacher in Trouble (PDP)
This workshop is geared to union officers, grievance representatives and building representatives who may find themselves working with a teacher whose performance is found wanting by a supervisor. Your job as the union representative is to be an advocate for the teacher and to protect the integrity of the evaluation procedure. You will leave this workshop with powerful tools to ensure that the negotiated evaluation system is being used fairly and that any improvement plan is constructed so that both the teacher and the evaluator are held accountable.
Online Registration.

Students, teachers oust Calif. town’s school board

Terence Chea:

Residents of a rural community near Yosemite National Park have overwhelmingly voted to recall all five members of the local school board after a group of high school students launched a campaign to unseat them, election officials said Wednesday
Unofficial results show the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District school board was recalled by more than a 2-to-1 margin, and a slate of new candidates was elected to replace them, the Tuolumne County Elections Department said.
The department had not finished counting ballots Wednesday, but it’s unlikely the election results would change, an elections official said.
“It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. Our school district can finally get back on track,” said Elise Vallotton, 18, a senior at Tioga High School who helped lead the recall effort. “We knew we needed to get people in there who could make the right decisions.”
The recall of an entire school board is uncommon and possibly unprecedented in California, said Brittany McKannay, a spokeswoman for California School Boards Association.

An Islamic College in Berkeley?

Elizabeth Redden:

The proposed Zaytuna College would be a first: a four-year, accredited, Islamic college in the United States.
“Part of the process of indigenizing Islam in America is for the community to begin to develop its own leadership from inside the country, develop its own scholars,” said Hatem Bazian, chair of the management board for Zaytuna College and a senior lecturer of Near Eastern studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
“There is a growing need in the Muslim community to provide a variety of trained specialists to fulfill a growing and diverse community infrastructure and institutional framework,” Bazian said — to work as imams, as chaplains, or within the growing network of Islamic non-profit organizations. Currently, Bazian said, American students who seek a high-level Islamic education must study in the Muslim world.
The proposed college would be built out of an existing institute with significant influence in the Islamic community. The Zaytuna Institute and Academy, an Islamic educational institute founded in 1996, is transitioning into Zaytuna College; the Berkeley-based institute already offers classes, but not for university credit.
Those behind the transition from institute to college plan to seek accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – a daunting and multi-year process, they realize. “We know what is required. We know how difficult it is in terms of maintaining solvency and making sure that the management structure is strong. Those are things that WASC is looking for – making sure that the caliber of the education is at the level it should be, making sure that the organization is solvent and will continue to be around years from now,” said Farid Senzai, a member of Zaytuna’s management board, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and an assistant professor of political science at Santa Clara University.

Survey: Parents put kids’ education over nest egg

Southern Florida Business Journal:

For the first time in three years, more parents are putting their children’s education ahead of their own retirement, according to a new survey by Country Financial.
The survey of 1,241 Americans found 61 percent of parents are not letting the recession change their plans for their children’s college education. Forty-seven percent said college plans are a higher priority than retirement savings.
Last year, 47 percent of parents favored building their nest eggs over paying.
Men are more likely to put their children’s education (50 percent) ahead of their retirement than women (38 percent) .

Report Prompts Call for Rules on Restraining Students

Maria Glod:

Citing “disturbing” reports of schoolchildren harmed when teachers physically restrained them, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called on state school chiefs yesterday to develop plans this summer to ensure that restraints are used safely and sparingly.
Virginia and Maryland have policies that call on teachers to use other means to calm students and to turn to physical restraint only when a student is in danger of hurting himself or others. D.C. law provides no guidance on the issue for public schools but restricts public money from going to private schools if they restrain students in ways that are physically dangerous.
Duncan’s announcement came a day after federal investigators revealed word of hundreds of allegations that youngsters were improperly held, bound or isolated in schools over the past two decades. Investigators with the Government Accountability Office highlighted a 2002 case in Texas that involved a teacher who now works in Loudoun County. Teacher Dawn Marie Hamilton lay on a 14-year-old boy who refused to stay in his seat, and the boy died, according to the report.

Chicago Public Schools Sex Education

Rosalind Rossi:

Although sex education is optional statewide, Chicago public schools have been teaching abstinence, contraception and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases for at least three years.
Chicago School Board members approved an “age-appropriate” and “comprehensive” sexual health education policy for grades six through 12 in 2006, and last year mandated that such classes start in fifth grade.
At the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, physical education director Ken Bringe said sex education is covered freshmen year.
“Right off the bat, they get this,” Bringe said. Why? “To prevent pregnancy.”
Bringe believes the class, which uses the Family Health and Sexuality curriculum by Health Teachers, is one reason why the school at 3857 W. 111th St. has only had about two teen pregnancies in seven years.


News from The Concord Review:

We are looking for the best history research papers we can find by secondary students from anywhere in the English-speaking world. Papers may be on any historical topic, ancient or modern, domestic or foreign, and should be 4,000-6,000 words or more [one of our Emerson Prize winners this year had 15,292 words on the Soviet-Afghan War by Colin Rhys Hill of Atlanta, Georgia…see our website], and with Chicago-style (Turabian) endnotes and bibliography. Authors should send a printed copy to the address below, and may include a Macintosh disk with the paper in Microsoft Word.
We have published 857 exemplary history papers by high school students from 44 states and 35 other countries since 1987. There is a submission form on our website and 60 examples of papers we have published. The submission fee is $40, to The Concord Review, and the author receives the next four issues of the journal. We publish about 7% of the papers we receive.
John Silber of Boston University wrote that: “The Concord Review is one of the most imaginative, creative, and supportive initiatives in public education. It is a wonderful incentive to high school students to take scholarship and writing seriously.” Denis Doyle wrote that: “One of the most remarkable publications in American education sails proudly on though it is virtually unsung and almost unnoticed except among a small coterie of cognoscenti: The Concord Review. It is time once again to sing its praises and bring it to the attention of the larger audience it so richly deserves.”

SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores – Barely

John Hechinger:

Families can spend thousands of dollars on coaching to help college-bound students boost their SAT scores. But a new report finds that these test-preparation courses aren’t as beneficial as consumers are led to believe.

The report, to be released Wednesday by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, criticizes common test-prep-industry marketing practices, including promises of big score gains with no hard data to back up such claims. The report also finds fault with the frequent use of mock SAT tests because they can be devised to inflate score gains when students take the actual SAT. The association represents 11,000 college admissions officers, high-school guidance counselors and private advisors.

“It breaks my heart to see families who can’t afford it spending money they desperately need on test prep when no evidence would indicate that this is money well-spent,” says William Fitzsimmons, Harvard University’s dean of undergraduate admissions, who led a group at the college admissions association that prompted the report.

The Usefulness of Failure

Diana Senechal:

Today I will start out with one of my favorite topics, failure, which was treated recently in a brilliant parody by Gently Hew Stone.
With the recent release of ELA test scores in New York City, we hear, yet again, that Bloomberg and Klein regard their reforms as a great success. Beyond questioning the test scores themselves, I wonder just how helpful it is to go around proclaiming success in the first place. Is success an unequivocal good? Is it an end in itself?
With failure you learn your limits. You may or may not be able to stretch them, but you find out what they are. Failure is like the molding of a sculpture. The bronze must pour into something. If it spills all over the place in an endless gush of success, it takes no shape at all.
There are too many kinds of failure to enumerate, but here are a few of the common varieties:

A New Approach to Gang Violence Includes a Multiple-Choice Test

Nicholas Casey:

In more than 40 years of studying this city’s street gangs as a social psychologist, Malcolm Klein says his home was burglarized nine times. Now, the retired University of Southern California professor is offering the city what he hopes one day will help stem crime: A test that he says could predict if a child is destined to join a gang.
The multiple-choice screening, some 70 questions long, shows how closely Los Angeles has begun to examine the work of social scientists to tackle complex policy issues like gang violence. Last year, city officials turned to Dr. Klein and his colleagues at USC to design a test that they hope will empirically identify which children are headed toward a life on the street. This year, the test will help decide the direction of the millions of dollars the city spends annually on gang-prevention efforts.
Los Angeles is relying more on data to stop youths from joining gangs.
The screening, intended for children between 10 and 15 years old, asks a range of questions on issues ranging from past relationships to drug use to attitudes toward violence. One question asks test takers if they recently had a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend; another asks test takers if they are kind to younger children.
In order to avoid stigmatizing children with the label of potential criminal, Dr. Klein says test takers aren’t told that the questions are intended to screen for future gang involvement.

Ranking the States: Federal Education Stimulus Money and the Prospects for Reform

Marguerite Roza:

Modeling the effect of education stimulus funds on state education spending
This brief presents projections of changes in state K-12 education spending, amidst both state revenue gaps and the addition of ARRA funds. The idea is to rank order states according to how much budget gaps and stimulus funds are likely to affect state education spending.
This analysis relies on the most current state projections of budget shortfalls (as reported by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities), ARRA allocations for education by state, and 2009 state education budgets. The analysis does not take into account any of the decisions that state lawmakers are making on their budgets. Rather, it projects spending as if revenue gaps are first applied proportionately to education during 2008-09 and 2009-10, and then as if 70% of all education ARRA funds are applied to K-12 education during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years.
The numbers don’t reflect ongoing changes made in states, but rather their vulnerability to cuts as a result of these 2 changes (revenue gaps and stimulus funds).

End Is Near in a Fight on Teaching of English

Tamar Lewin:

When Miriam Flores was in third grade at Coronado Elementary School, her mother, also named Miriam, was surprised to learn that she was getting in trouble.
“Her teacher said she was talking in class,” said Mrs. Flores, who speaks limited English. “She had always been a quiet child, but she said she had to ask other students what the teacher was saying because she didn’t understand.”
At the time, the state provided only $150 extra for each non-English-speaking student like Miriam. Few teachers were trained to help English language learners, and many students in this small, largely Hispanic border town were floundering. So Mrs. Flores and other parents sued under a federal civil rights law, charging that non-English-speaking children were being denied equal educational opportunity.
Much has changed since then: Miriam is now a 23-year-old college student. Under a new Arizona law, Coronado Elementary provides four hours a day of intensive English, in small classes, for students struggling with the language. These days, the Nogales schools spend 10 times as much on their English language learners.
Next month, after 17 years of litigation, the United States Supreme Court will rule on the Flores case, deciding whether Arizona is complying with federal laws requiring public schools to teach children to speak English.

Food for Thought: Building a High-Quality School Choice Market

Erin Dillon:

The neighborhoods of Southeast Washington, D.C., are among the poorest in the city. There, the grocery stores, banks, restaurants, and other institutions that suburbanites take for granted have long been in short supply. In recent years, however, government and nonprofit agencies have begun turning things for the better. A brand new, government-subsidized shopping center recently opened on Alabama Avenue, providing one of the few full-service grocery stores in the area, along with a new sit-down restaurant and mainstream bank branch.
But reformers are finding that such initiatives won’t fix decades of market dysfunction overnight. Not far from the new Super Giant grocery store and Wachovia Bank are older businesses that continue to draw a steady stream of customers–corner stores that sell little fresh food, fast-food outlets that serve meals low in nutritional value, and tax preparation firms and check-cashing outlets that charge high fees. Markets are complicated, and improving them requires more than just creating incentives for new providers to set up shop.

The disinformation campaign about U.S. schools

Walt Gardner:

Repetition doesn’t make something true. The latest reminder was a piece by Financial Times columnist Clive Crook, in which he warns that America’s long-term economic prospects are bleak because of a “calamitous” failure of schools to produce a high-quality workforce. This alarmist view is not limited to Crook. It has been echoed by Bill Gates and philanthropist Eli Broad, and by a host of organizations, such as the Business Roundtable.
Should job creation favor men? 05.19.09
Now is the time for right-to-repair law 05.18.09
Open forum: Journalism students lead way 05.16.09
More Open Forum »
It’s easy to understand why people take at face value what reformers with impressive credentials say about education. They can be intimidating. But that’s no excuse. As a wag quipped: In God we trust, all others bring evidence.
So let’s look at the evidence.
In October 2007, B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University and Hal Salzman of the Urban Institute concluded that the United States has a problem on the demand side of the equation – not on the supply side. This crucial distinction is lost in the heated debate, resulting in widespread misunderstanding.

Restraint can dispirit and hurt special-ed students

Greg Toppo:

Toni Price was at work that afternoon in 2002 when she got the call from her foster son Cedric’s eighth-grade teacher: Paramedics were at his middle school in Killeen, Texas. Cedric wasn’t breathing.
When Price arrived at school, there he was, lying on the floor. “I’m thinking he’s just laying there because he didn’t want to get in trouble,” she says, fighting back tears.
Actually, Cedric was dead.
A 14-year-old special-education student who’d arrived at the school with a history of abuse and neglect, Cedric had been taken from his home five years earlier with his siblings.
He’d just been smothered by his teacher, police said, after she placed him in a “therapeutic floor hold” to keep him from struggling during a disagreement over lunch.

Tracking and Inequality: New Directions for Research and Practice Presentation by UW School of Education Professor Adam Gamoran

via a kind reader’s email:

Good afternoon. We’d like to invite you to Memorial High tomorrow afternoon for a discussion hosted by our Equity Team. Professor Adam Gamoran, Interim Dean of the UW School of Education, will be presenting paper titled Tracking and Inequality: New Directions for Research and Practice. His article is attached. We will begin at 4:15pm and should end around:15pm, and we’ll meet in the Wisconsin Neighborhood Center, which is in the Southwest corner of the building. Please park on the Mineral Point Rd. side of the building, and enter through the doors closest to Gammon Rd. There will signs to direct you from there. Have a good week, and we hope to see you tomorrow afternoon…Jay

Jay Affeldt
James Madison Memorial High School
Professional Development School Coordinator
Project REAL SLC Grant Coordinator
201 South Gammon Road
Madison, WI 53717
608-442-2203 fax
608-663-6182 office

The Next Step Toward School Integration: Duncan Chooses the Suburbs

Dana Goldstein via a kind reader’s email:

“Upper caucasia” is not the nicest name for one of Washington, D.C.’s “nicest” areas. Situated west of Rock Creek Park and just south of tony Bethesda, Maryland, are a number of neighborhoods — Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, Tenleytown — that offer suburban- style living with an urban address. In a city that is 55 percent black and 17 percent poor, the residents here are, for the most part, white and wealthy.

Most children in this area attend private school, despite the presence of several well-regarded public options. So it was hardly a surprise last November when self-segregated Upper Caucasia erupted into turf wars as the Obamas toured elite preparatory academies, seeking a school appropriate for the first daughters. They settled, predictably, on Sidwell Friends, Chelsea Clinton’s alma mater.

But a month later, another prominent family’s search for a school went largely unnoticed. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan moved with his family from Chicago, where he had been chief executive officer of the city’s public schools, to Arlington, Virginia. High-quality suburban public schools were “why we chose” to live in Arlington, Duncan told Science magazine in March. “It was the determining factor.”

Senioritis Is One Symptom Of Creative Deficit in Class

Jay Matthews:

Last year, I wrote a defense of high school senioritis as a useful break from academic drudgery. This made me, briefly, a hero to teenagers across the country. Then I returned to my usual theme that classes leading up to that last semester of the senior year should still be tougher, not easier, with less time for play, not more.
I was stuck on the fact that teenagers spend on average two hours a day watching television, compared with less than an hour a day doing homework. When Washington area parents or students complained about school stress, I acknowledged that many of them had a point in this affluent region full of kids who dream of the Ivy League. But elsewhere, the majority of high school students were not studying much at all. As a consequence, reading and math scores for 17-year-olds had seen little improvement in a generation.
Yet it is spring again, a good time to ponder the balance of hard work and fun throughout high school. In last year’s piece, I wrote: “High-octane students play it safe. Textbook pages are still memorized. Old exams are mastered. Anything less than a perfect score is cause for concern. Such students need to discover that that is not the way creative and productive work is done in college, or in life. The important part of the learning process is not pounding in the material but thinking it over, talking about it, coming up with new and intriguing ways of connecting it to the rest of the world.”

Slow the Pre-K Bandwagon

Chester Finn:

President Obama has pledged to spend $10 billion more a year on “zero to five” education, and his 2010 budget makes a $2 billion “down payment” on that commitment. (Billions more are already in the “stimulus” package.) Any number of congressional leaders want more preschool, as do dozens of governors. Not to mention the National Education Association and the megabucks Pew Charitable Trusts, which is underwriting national and state-level advocacy campaigns on behalf of universal pre-kindergarten. At least three states are already on board.
Underlying all this activity and interest is the proposition that government — state and federal — should pay for at least a year of preschool for every American 4-year-old. One rationale is to boost overall educational achievement. Another is to close school-readiness gaps between the haves and have-nots.
Almost nobody is against it. Yet everybody should pause before embracing it.

Joanne has more.

Children’s Use Of Psychiatric Drugs Begins To Decelerate

David Armstrong:

The growth in antipsychotic-drug prescriptions for children is slowing as state Medicaid agencies heighten their scrutiny of usage and doctors grow more wary of the powerful medications.
The softening in sales for children is the first sign that litigation, reaction to improper marketing tactics, and concern about side effects may be affecting what had been a fast-growing children’s drug segment.
The six so-called atypical antipsychotics that dominate the market have limited approval from the FDA to treat patients under 18 years of age. Only one is cleared for children under age 10 — risperidone, branded by Johnson & Johnson as Risperdal — to treat irritability associated with autism.

Montgomery Co. Touts ‘Seven Keys to College Readiness’ as an Academic Pathway

Daniel de Vise:

In a region where college preparation often begins at birth, some glossy new public school brochures offer a tantalizing formula for parents who crave assurance that their children are on track: a seven-step pathway to higher education that starts as early as kindergarten.
Montgomery County educators are blitzing parents and students with information on what they call “Seven Keys to College Readiness.” The initiative, also promoted on the Web (, spells out in detail the courses and tests that officials say point toward academic prosperity.
Measuring students early and often against lofty goals is part of school culture in the Washington area. School systems in Fairfax, Prince William and Calvert counties, among others, set annual targets in such areas as college entrance testing and accelerated math.

Underdog tale sheds light on pushy parenting

Lucy Kellaway:

The son of an acquaintance of mine has recently landed a good job on a national newspaper. For the past few months I’ve been reading the articles written by this boy – let’s call him Derek – and thinking how delightfully original they were. Last week I ran into Derek’s mother and told her that her son was brilliant and that she must be proud of him. She rolled her eyes and said he hadn’t always been a star. He had been expelled from his state comprehensive school at 15, failed dismally academically and had spent his teenage years off the rails. So how, I asked, did he land this most sought after of jobs, one that Oxbridge graduates kill for?
She said that Derek had decided in his early 20s that he wanted to be a journalist and simply refused to take no for an answer. He more or less took up residence outside the newspaper of his choice, bombarding it with e-mails, until eventually he was allowed in as an unpaid intern. He financed his journalism by working night shifts as a hospital porter, until eventually he was offered a job.
We all love an underdog story, and this one vastly cheered me up. All the more so because it seems to belie the conviction of every pushy parent that if a child puts one foot wrong academically they have blown it for life. Both in London and New York there is this feverish notion that the journey to success starts at around three years old. It is vital to get a child into the right nursery school that will get them into Harvard or Cambridge or wherever. And if the child does not land up with straight A grades then clearly their chances of success in life are very low indeed.
This tiresome hysteria has got worse in one generation. When I was at school and at university there was a lot of opportunity for screwing up, and most of us availed ourselves of it at one point or another. In fact, if you cruised effortlessly from one academic triumph to another you were regarded as rather dull. As a schoolgirl, not only did I fail to get straight As, I didn’t get any As at all – though I did get an F and even a U (for unclassified).

Mandated K-12 Testing in Wisconsin: A System in Need of Reform

Mark C. Schug, Ph.D., M. Scott Niederjohn, Ph.D.:

By law public schools in Wisconsin must administer a rigid, comprehensive set of tests. In the fall of every school year students are tested in reading, math, language, science and social studies. Test results from each district and each school are posted on the Internet, passed along to the federal government to comply with No Child Left Behind requirements and are made available to parents. In an era where measurable student performance is essential, it is expected that Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing will tell us how Wisconsin students are performing. Unfortunately the testing required by Wisconsin state law is not very good.

The purpose of state standards and state-mandated testing is to increase academic achievement. Does Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing advance this goal? From every quarter the answer is a clear no. That is the consensus of independent, third-party evaluators. Wisconsin’s massive testing program has come under fire from the U.S. Department of Education which said that Wisconsin testing failed to adequately evaluate the content laid out in the state’s own standards. Further, a joint report issued by the independent Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association performed a detailed evaluation of testing in every state and ranked Wisconsin 42nd in the nation. The Fordham Institute gave Wisconsin’s testing a grade of “D-minus.”

Perhaps even more troublesome is that many Wisconsin school districts find the testing system inadequate. Over 68% of Wisconsin school districts that responded to a survey said they purchase additional testing to do what the state testing is supposed to do. These districts are well ahead of the state in understanding the importance of timely, rigorous testing.

This report lays out the thirty-year history of testing in Wisconsin and the criticism of the current testing requirement. It is the first of two reports to be issued regarding Wisconsin’s testing program. The second report will show how a new approach to testing will not only meet the standards that parents, teachers and the public expect, but will also allow teachers and policy makers to use testing to actually increase the achievement of Wisconsin’s children.

Alan Borsuk has more:

But perhaps as early as the 2010-’11 school year, things will be different:

  • Changes are expected in the state standards for what students are supposed to learn in various grades and subjects. The primary goal of the WKCE is to measure how well students overall are doing in meeting those standards. But Mike Thompson, executive assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction, said new standards for English language arts and math should be ready by the end of this year.

    As the policy institute studies note, the existing standards have been criticized in several national studies for being among the weakest in the U.S.

  • The tests themselves will be altered in keeping with the new standards. Just how is not known, and one key component won’t be clear until perhaps sometime in 2010, the No Child Left Behind Act could be revised. What goes into the new education law will have a big impact on testing in every state.
  • The way tests are given will change. There is wide agreement that the wave of the future is to do tests online, which would greatly speed up the process of scoring tests and making the results known. The lag of five months or more now before WKCE scores are released aggravates all involved.

    The policy institute studies called for online testing, and the DPI’s Thompson agrees it is coming. Delays have largely been due to practical questions of how to give that many tests on computers in Wisconsin schools and the whole matter of dealing with the data involved.

  • Also changing will be the way performance is judged.

Now, Wisconsin and most states measure which category of proficiency each student falls into, based on their answers. Reaching the level labeled “proficient” is the central goal.

Much more on the WKCE here.

Small school district innovates quietly

Carol Cain:

Ernando Minghine would have enjoyed having time to listen to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk about the U.S. school system and Detroit Public Schools during a stop last week.
But Minghine, superintendent of Westwood Community Schools, was swamped with a to-do list that included:

  • Hiring a high school principal.
  • Finishing months of work in pursuit of a New Tech high school.
  • Hiring another instructor from China to add to the three he has already teaching Mandarin in grade and middle schools.
  • Expanding the district’s Cyber High School — which started in February and has been such a hit that the school with 180 students is growing to 500 this fall.

As Duncan made stops at a school in Detroit and Cobo Center, conversing with new Mayor Dave Bing, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and others and sharing his thoughts about the state of Detroit Public Schools, Minghine wished he could have listened in and talked with the education secretary about his district.

Smart, particularly the Mandarin offering in grade and middle schools along with the cyber options.

Mr. Know-It-All

Chris Collison:

Here’s the final offering from Elvis, entitled Mister Know-it-All:

I’ve eaten all the fruit from the tree of knowledge
I know what’s what, I know who’s who
I know my onions, I know the ropes
I know a thing or two
I know the way to Amarillo
I know the way to San Jose
I know who let the dogs out
I know the time of day
I know what happened to The Likely Lads
I know what happened to Baby Jane
I know what’s eating Gilbert Grape

Va. Family Faces Hurdles In Choosing A College

All Things Considered:

In January, Catherine Johnson, a senior at Fairfax High School in Northern Virginia, was trying to decide between her dream school — Hampton University — and a university half as expensive and just down the street — Old Dominion.
Rebecca Roberts catches up with Catherine and her mother, Pearl Johnson, about which path she decided to take, and how the daughter and mother talked through the decision.

Gingrich, Sharpton Finally Teammates: Close Education Gap

Brigid Schulte:

Politics often produces strange bedfellows. But yesterday, on the 55th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that integrated the nation’s schools, when former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich shared the stage at a boisterous rally in front of the White House with the Rev. Al Sharpton, even Gingrich called the two the “Original Odd Couple.”
What unites the conservative Gingrich and the liberal Sharpton, Gingrich said, is the urgent mission to close the persistent achievement gap that divides students along racial and socioeconomic lines and to make educational equality the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
“I know it’s possible to educate every child from every background,” Gingrich said to loud applause from the largely African American crowd that had come to Washington in 70 buses from 22 cities. “We’re not telling you what the answer is. But we’re telling you to keep changing until you find a solution.”

Georgia strives to race to top in education

Kathy Cox:

eorgia is in a race to the top and, in many respects, we’re leading the way.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced recently that $5 billion in grants are being made available to states that — in his words — adopt “college and career-ready internationally benchmarked standards” and “state of the art data collection systems, assessments and curricula to meet these higher standards.”
To me, it sounds like Secretary Duncan was reading straight from our Strategic Plan. For six years, Georgia has been focused on implementing a world-class curriculum, raising expectations and using quality data to make decisions. We have received high marks for the policies and standards we’ve put in place from groups across the nation.
But the journey to “the top” is not always smooth and raising standards is not easy. The truth is that the material that Georgia students are learning today is more rigorous than it has ever been and, consequently, the assessments they are taking are more difficult.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the pass rates on our state tests — like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and End of Course Tests — drop in the first year we’ve implemented our new curriculum and given the new state exams. This is to be expected: Whenever you raise the bar, there’s going to be a temporary drop in the number of people that can reach that bar. That’s true in any situation.

More work needed to reach out to ‘invisible parents’ who feel excluded from schools

Elaine Yau:

As the founding president of the Federation of Parent-Teacher Associations of Yuen Long District, I have always paid close attention to the development of the relationship between schools and parents.
The relationship has come a long way since 1999 when both sides viewed each other with hostility and scepticism. There are a lot of troubled or single-parent families in Tin Shui Wai. Many parents are deemed “invisible parents”. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, mostly from the mainland, they lack self-confidence and always fear people will ridicule them for their accents and unsophisticated remarks.
Afraid of suffering embarrasment, children also don’t want their parents to attend school functions. So such parents seldom have connections with schools and when they do attend certain functions such as parents’ day, they take umbrage easily at what teachers say.
For example, when teachers find fault with their children’s performance, such “invisible parents” will think that they are making veiled criticisms of their parenting skills.