Team America Rocketry Challenge:
A team from Madison West High School in Madison, Wi., took first place at the Seventh Annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Saturday, taking on the title of national champion.
“Hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and custom electronics are the reasons our rocket performed well today,” said Ben Winokur, team member.
The team, one of three from Madison West High School, logged the winning score of 20.54. The team won an opportunity to fly against the champions of UKayRoC in the Second Annual Transatlantic Rocket Fly-Off.
Via a Barry Garelick email:
“The article describes my experience tutoring my daughter and her friend when they were in sixth grade, using Singapore Math in order to make up for the train wreck known as Everyday Math that she was getting in school. I doubt that the article will change the minds of the administrators who believe Everyday Math has merit, but it wasn’t written for that purpose. It was written for and dedicated to parents to let them know they are not alone, that they aren’t the only ones who have shouted at their children, that there are others who have experienced the tears and the confusion and the frustration. Lastly it offers some hope and guidance in how to go about teaching their kids what they are not learning at school.”
Michael Shoultz, writing in MMSD Today:
Inclusive schools are places where children and young adults of all abilities, races, and cultures share learning environments that build upon their strengths while supporting their diverse needs.
Utilizing inclusive practices, school staff create flexible goals, methods, materials, and assessments that accommodate the interests and needs of all of their learners. Inclusive schools also allow for the development of authentic relationships between students with and without identified differences.
The MMSD’s Dept. of Educational Services is committed to building the capacity of school district staff to provide inclusive educational practices. To address this departmental priority, school district staff have been provided with two unique opportunities to further develop their knowledge and skills in this area.
First of all, in honor of Inclusive Schools Week (December, 2008), the Department provided a year-long opportunity for schools to highlight the accomplishments of educators, families and communities in promoting inclusive schools.
Steven Walters, Erin Richards & Larry Sandler:
Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday that falling tax collections will force him to propose new cuts of up to 5% in state spending for public schools and aid to local governments.
Aid to public schools has been Doyle’s top priority during his 6 1/2 years as governor, and Friday was the first time he said it will have to be reduced.
“There are going to have to be cuts in school aids,” Doyle said when he signed a bill rewriting state unemployment compensation laws so that the state can capture federal stimulus funds.
Aid cuts like those envisioned by Doyle could cost Milwaukee Public Schools – the state’s largest district – more than $20 million. The cut would cost other districts anywhere from several thousand dollars to several million dollars.
At the same time, Doyle said his plan would include levy limits on districts, which would prevent them from recouping all of the cuts through higher property taxes.
This year, state aid for public schools totals $5.17 billion, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. A 5% cut would cost schools about $258 million, although they are getting federal stimulus money, Doyle noted.
However, the state pledge to provide two-thirds of schools revenues in 1996-97 changed the budget landscape. By 2006-07, state-tax support for the UW System had almost doubled during Ihe 25 years prior. However, inflation (CPI, up 115%). school aids/credits (320%). and overall slate GPR expenditures (222%) rose more.
Parents United for Responsible Education (Chicago):
The mythologizing of Arne Duncan is moving along at a pretty fast past. Bernie Noven alerted me to this adulatory article from the London Economist and urged me to respond using some of the recent data about Arne’s record here in Chicago, saying that people “out there” have no idea about the reaiity here in Chicago. Here’s what I sent.
“Golden Boy” Arne Duncan is a pleasant fellow who held the position of Chicago Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chicago Public Schools for seven years without losing his cool.
He’s so cool, in fact, that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
As a long-time Chicago public school parent advocate, I have had a front row seat at the Arne Duncan show. When Mayor Richard Daley appointed Mr. Duncan to replace Paul Vallas in 2001, there was a palpable sense of relief across the city. The new CEO’s Opie-from-Mayberry modesty was a soothing antidote to the previous six years spent with a CEO who could suck the oxygen out of a room.
We soon discovered, however, that Mr. Duncan simply provided a more complaisant and – more importantly – a more compliant cover for City Hall’s machinations.
The contracts of 33 principals will not be renewed, Detroit Public Schools officials announced this afternoon.The district also is reassigning more than two dozen school principals.
Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, said additionally, the district will conduct a full scale national search for 10 principal positions, district officials said.
Bobb told The Detroit News Thursday that he plans to change the operation of the district’s school by giving its principals more autonomy and authority over finances and school budgets.
Steven Leinwand, American Institutes for Research and Alan Ginsburg, US Department of Education [2.5MB PDF] via a kind reader’s email:
Higher expectations for achievement and greater exposure to more difficult and complex mathematics are among the major difference between Hong Kong, home of the world’s top-performing 4th grade math students, and Massachusetts, which is the highest scoring state on the U.S. National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), according to a report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).
While Massachusetts 4th grade students achieved a respectable fourth place when compared with countries taking the 2007 Grade 4 Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS-4), Hong Kong students outperformed the Bay State 4th graders in numerous categories.
The Hong Kong performance advantage over Massachusetts was especially large in the percentage of its students achieving at the very highest level. For example, 40 percent of Hong Kong students achieved at the advanced TIMSS level, compared with only 22 percent of Massachusetts students.
To help understand why Hong Kong students outperform Massachusetts students, the AIR study identified differences between the items on Hong Kong’s and Massachusetts’ internal mathematics assessments administered in the spring of grade 3 in 2007 to gather insight into the relative mathematical expectations in Hong Kong and Massachusetts.
The AIR report found that the Hong Kong assessment contained more difficult items, especially in the core areas of numbers and measurement, than the Massachusetts assessment.
“The more rigorous problems on the Hong Kong assessment demonstrate that, even at Grade 3, deep conceptual understanding and the capacity to apply foundational mathematical concepts in multistep, real-world situations can be taught successfully,” said Steven Leinwand, Principal Research Analyst at AIR and co-author of the report.
via a kind reader’s email: Janet Mertz and Gabi Meyer have written a letter about new math hires that they would like you to sign on to. Please send your name, your school(s), and any relevant identifying information or affiliation to:
Dear Superintendent Nerad and members of the Board of Education:
To address as quickly as possible the MMSD’s need for more middle school teachers with outstanding content knowledge of mathematics, we, the undersigned, urge you to consider filling any vacancies that occur in the District’s middle schools for the coming academic year with applicants who majored in the mathematical sciences or related fields (e.g., statistics, computer science, physics) in college, but may be currently deficient in teaching pedagogy. You might advertise nationally in appropriate places that applications from such candidates would be welcome. In recent years, many outstanding graduates with such backgrounds went into the computing, consulting, and financial industries. However, in the current economic climate, such jobs are much less available, especially to new college graduates. Thus, jobs in the teaching profession may be viewed much more favorably now by folks trained in the mathematical sciences despite the significantly lower salary. One indication of this is the fact that applications to Teach for America were up 42% this year. Teach for America had to reject over 30,000 applicants this spring, including hundreds of graduates from UW-Madison, due to the limited numbers they can train and place. Undoubtedly, some of these applicants were math majors who would be happy to live in Madison. Math for America, a similar program that only accepts people who majored in the mathematical sciences, likely also had to turn away large numbers of outstanding applicants. Possibly, the MMSD could contact Teach for America and Math for America inquiring whether there might be a mechanism by which your advertisement for middle school math teachers could be forwarded to some of the best of their rejects. As these programs do, the MMSD could provide these new hires with a crash course in teaching pedagogy over the summer before they commence work in the fall. They could be hired conditionally subject to completing all of the requirements for state teacher certification within 2 years and a commitment to teach in the MMSD for at least 3-5 years.
While the District’s proposal to provide additional content knowledge to dozens of its current middle school teachers of mathematics might gradually improve the delivery of mathematics to the District’s students, it would take numerous years to implement, involve considerable additional expense, and may still not totally solve the long-term need for math-qualified teachers, especially in view of the continuing wave of retirements. The coincidence of baby boomer retirements with the current severe economic recession provides a rare opportunity to fill our middle schools now with outstanding mathematics teachers for decades to come, doing so at much lower cost to the District since one would be hiring new, B.A.-level teachers rather than retraining experienced, M.A.-level ones. Thus, we urge you to act on this proposal within the next few weeks, in possible.
Ed Hughes comments over at Madison United for Academic Excellence:
It is interesting to note that state law provides that “A school board that employs a person who holds a professional teaching permit shall ensure that no regularly licensed teacher is removed from his or her position as a result of the employment of persons holding permits.”
Jennifer Mrozowski & Santiago Esparza:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today advocated for Detroit’s new mayor to take over the city school system, saying strong change happens when good leaders are in control.
“I am strongly advocating for mayoral control,” he said at Detroit’s Cody High School, where he was conducting a listening tour to hear from students on how to improve schools.
Duncan, who headed Chicago Public Schools, reiterated his stance when addressing people gathered for the United Way’s national convention at Cobo Center.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who accompanied Duncan on his tour at Cody, said this year is the right time for mayoral control, but added that a ballot measure is preferable to legislative action.
“A lot of the leadership is perfectly aligned to make changes,” he said.
Bing, later addressing his first national convention since becoming mayor, said improving the district would be a top priority and that he would rely on partnerships to help get the job done.
Duncan said he hopes Detroit Public Schools can move from being a “national disgrace” to a “national model,” and he would like to commit significant federal resources to help the system.
David Brooks, via a kind reader’s email:
The fight against poverty produces great programs but disappointing results. You go visit an inner-city school, job-training program or community youth center and you meet incredible people doing wonderful things. Then you look at the results from the serious evaluations and you find that these inspiring places are only producing incremental gains.
That’s why I was startled when I received an e-mail message from Roland Fryer, a meticulous Harvard economist. It included this sentence: “The attached study has changed my life as a scientist.”
Fryer and his colleague Will Dobbie have just finished a rigorous assessment of the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They compared students in these schools to students in New York City as a whole and to comparable students who entered the lottery to get into the Harlem Children’s Zone schools, but weren’t selected.
They found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. The typical student entered the charter middle school, Promise Academy, in sixth grade and scored in the 39th percentile among New York City students in math. By the eighth grade, the typical student in the school was in the 74th percentile. The typical student entered the school scoring in the 39th percentile in English Language Arts (verbal ability). By eighth grade, the typical student was in the 53rd percentile.
Jim Fallows here and here:
Recently we’ve had Chinese and non-Chinese perspectives on Chinese schools (background here). For balance, a Chinese and a non-Chinese view in the same post!
Reasons I’m offering such long first-hand testimony: (1) no one has to read it! (2) many things about life in China — and yes, life in other places — are conveyed not in theoretical summaries but in accumulations of day by day experiences, like those recounted here. Several more still in the queue. Also, bear in mind that the foreigners writing in are ones who generally came to Chinese schools to “do something good.” They’re not here for the big bucks or the easy life but because they thought it would be valuable as well as interesting to be part of China’s development at this stage.
Lynn Jacobs & Jeremy Hyman:
Often we find that students, and their parents, tend to focus on bells and whistles when making their college selections. They fixate on things like the looks of the campus, the size of the library, the honors and study-abroad programs, even the quality of the football team. Hey, these are all fine and good. But we urge you to also think about some things that, while often overlooked, constitute the bread and butter of your college experience. Before you decide, here are 10 things you might not have thought to consider:
1. The number of requirements . These vary widely from school to school. And while it might look very impressive to see a long list of required courses, it’s not so great to find yourself mired in courses that don’t interest you, while you’re unable to take electives in areas that do. It’s even less great when you realize that some of these most unpleasant requirements were instituted by some legislator who insisted that everyone in the state needs to take State History 101. Or by some pushy department in 1950, which couldn’t get students to take its courses in any other way.
2. How flexible those requirements are . Schools that require specific courses, with no substitutions allowed, can really put you in a bind if you’d rather take more advanced courses–or need to take more remedial courses–to fulfill that requirement. So check to see that the school allows a choice of levels to satisfy the various requirements. Also, keep in mind that anytime a school needs to route hundreds or thousands of students through Course X, Course X is going to become a sort of factory that neither the students taking the course nor the teachers teaching the course are going to like much.
Wausau Daily Herald via a kind reader’s email:
Sometime in the spring of 2007, Don Bubolz of Vesper didn’t like what he heard at a meeting of the Wisconsin Rapids School Board.
He filed an open records request on April 16 of that year seeking the release of all e-mail messages sent to and from the accounts of five teachers in the district, for a period of about six weeks. At the time, he told the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune that he wanted to find out — and wanted school administrators to know — whether the teachers were “doing their job the way it’s supposed to be done.”
The district superintendent indicated he would release the e-mails. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, representing the five teachers, filed an injunction to block their release.
The case made its way through trial court, and last month the Appeals Court certified it for consideration by the state Supreme Court. The appeals court said that there is no existing legal guideline in Wisconsin about whether personal e-mails constitute public records. If it chooses to rule on the case, then, the Supreme Court’s decision would have far-reaching implications.
California teenagers may be spared having to lug back-breaking loads of textbooks to school under a proposal that would make it easier for campuses to use electronic instructional material.
Allowing high schools greater freedom to spend state money on software to put textbooks on laptops and other electronic devices was backed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and approved Monday by the state Senate.
The Assembly will consider the proposal, drafted by state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara). “Today’s K-12 students represent the first generation to have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, cellphones and all the other gadgets of the digital age,” Alquist said after the 36-0 Senate vote.
“Today’s students are no longer the students of blackboards and chalk.”
California law limits how school districts can use state funds for instructional materials, requiring them to purchase enough textbooks for all students before spending money on electronic material.
As a result, some districts have purchased materials in both book form and software or have refrained from buying software, Alquist said.
I’ve read a number of ebooks on my iPhone while on travel. The benefit: light and easy to carry. Downside: it is still quite a different experience, but the text is certainly readable. This is certainly the future, particularly as the small devices become more powerful.
Even though spasms of intense violence erupt on campuses occasionally and linger in the social consciousness, violence at schools across the country has been decreasing for a number of years.
That doesn’t necessarily mean schools are safe havens. Consider:
— Eighty-six percent of public schools in 2005-06 reported that one or more violent incidents, thefts of items valued at $10 or greater or other crimes had occurred — a rate of 46 crimes per 1,000 enrolled students.
— Almost a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied inside school.
— Nearly a quarter of teenagers reported the presence of gangs at their schools.
Indicators of School Crime and Safety.
Steven Pearlstein, via a kind reader’s email:
Early in his career, Paul Romer helped solve one of the great puzzles of economics: What makes some economies grow faster than others? His “new growth theory” might one day earn him a Nobel prize.
Then a decade ago, Romer, by then a professor at Stanford University, decided to tackle what may be an even tougher puzzle: Why were so many of his students coming to class unprepared and disengaged?
Romer’s quest began with the proposition that the more time students put into their studies, the more they learn. As Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates in his new book, “Outliers,” that’s certainly true in many other areas of human endeavor — the more you practice scales or swing a club, the better you are at playing piano or hitting a decent golf shot. Why should learning economics be any different?
It took some noodling around, but two years later, Romer raised $10 million in venture capital to start a software company he called Aplia. The idea was to develop interactive exercises that students could do in conjunction with the most widely used college economics textbooks. Students would answer questions, then get immediate feedback on what they got right and wrong, along with some explanations that might help them get it right on a second and third try. Aplia’s team of young Ph.D. economists and software programmers also devised laboratory experiments in which the entire class could participate in simulated markets that give students a practical understanding of concepts like money supply and demand curves.
Locally, the Madison School Board is discussing a proposed technology plan this evening. Ideally, before any more is spent, the Infinite Campus system should be fully implemented, and used by teachers, staff and students. Once that is done, there are many possibilities, including this example.
About a year ago, I made the circuit of kindergartens in my town. At each stop, after the pitch by the principal and the obligatory exhibit of art projects only a mother (the student’s own) could love, I asked the same question: “What is your policy on homework?”
And always, whether from the apple-cheeked teacher in the public school or the earnest administrator of the “child centered” private one, I was met with an eager nod. Oh, yes, each would explain: kindergartners are assigned homework every day.
Bzzzzzzt. Wrong answer.
When I was a child, in the increasingly olden days, kindergarten was a place to play. We danced the hokeypokey, swooned in suspense over Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (that’s what Minnesotans stubbornly call Duck, Duck, Goose) and napped on our mats until the Wake-Up Fairy set us free.
No more. Instead of digging in sandboxes, today’s kindergartners prepare for a life of multiple-choice boxes by plowing through standardized tests with cuddly names like Dibels (pronounced “dibbles”), a series of early-literacy measures administered to millions of kids; or toiling over reading curricula like Open Court — which features assessments every six weeks.
According to “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” a report recently released by the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, all that testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.
James Wollack & Michael Fish [280K PDF], via a kind reader’s email UW Center for Placement Testing [Link to Papers]:
- CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students
- Change in performance was observed immediately after switch
- Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly – Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis
- CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional – AP students – Both sample sizes were low
[280K PDF Complete Presentation]
Much more on the stimulus/splurge here.
Washington Times Editorial:
Fighting to save the District’s popular school-voucher program, some 1,000 parents, pupils and politicians gathered near Mayor Adrian Fenty’s office on Wednesday to protest Congress’ plans to end school choice in Washington.
That same day, the Senate approved a $4,500 voucher for cars, encouraging citizens to trade in their old automobiles for newer ones that burn less fuel.
So, Congress thinks that vouchers for schools are bad, but vouchers for cars are good.
Slashing school vouchers spares teachers’ unions from competition. On the other hand, car vouchers are supposed to boost demand for cars built by the United Auto Workers. The obvious explanation for this schizophrenia: Congress does whatever helps unions.
A closer look reveals that Congress has it wrong in both cases – which is what happens when lawmakers let interest groups trump common sense.
Gong Yidong writing in state controlled China Daily:
He is hard of hearing and his right hand shakes. But Liu Daoyu, in his seventies, still works four hours a day, offering his thoughts on the weaknesses of higher education in China. His latest bombshell was a 7,000-word thesis in China’s most influential newspaper, Southern Weekend, in which he called for an overhaul of the country’s growing number of universities.
The former president of Wuhan University, or Wuda, is convinced that education should be based on mankind’s ultimate values and stripped of bureaucratic interference. “China’s education awaits a movement of enlightenment,” he says, sitting in his humble university residence.
Born in a village in northern Hubei province, Liu studied chemistry in Wuda in 1953, aspiring to become China’s Alfred Nobel. “Nobel’s story implanted a seed of innovation in me when I was just 14,” he recalls.
Before 1949, Wuda was ranked as one of the top five universities in China, on a par with the universities of Peking, Tsinghua, National Central (Nanjing) and Zhejiang. But a fast decline set in after 1953, in the wake of Left dominance. “Professors were caught with a sense of terror, some of them sent to the gymnasium to receive physical punishment, and nobody was in the mood to pursue research,” Liu recalls.
In the next few years, Wuda became a hotbed of factionalism, “a cart pulled by an old ox”, as Liu puts it. It slid to the 22nd of the 23 universities under the supervision of Ministry of Education (MoE). After graduating in 1957, Liu became a chemistry lecturer. The university sent him to pursue organic fluorine studies at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the spring of 1962.
We passed the 2009-2010 Madison public school district budget last night. This was the second year in a row that we were able to reallocate to avoid ugly ugly cuts.
This was the first year that we moved to undo damage by reallocating money to put back beginning of the year “Ready Set Goal” parent-teacher conferences AND stop doubling up our art, music, gym, and computer classes through “class and a half.” Both items were cuts from past years that were absolute disasters for elementary students.
We expect to receive the strategic planning report in June, and it will inform planning for the 2010-11 budget as we move forward this coming year. In the meantime, we are waiting to hear how the state budget will impact school finance. And we are continuing work to modernize and refine the ways that we work with resources to find additional ways to strengthen our schools.
For many years, Lucy Calkins, described once in Education Week as “the Moses of reading and writing in American education” has made her major contributions to the dumbing down of writing in our schools. She once wrote to me that: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much.” This dedication to contentless writing has spread, in part through her influence, into thousands and thousands of classrooms, where “personal” writing has been blended with images, photos, and emails to become one of the very most anti-academic and anti-intellectual elements of the education we now offer our children, K-12.
In 2004, the College Board’s National Commission on Writing in the Schools issued a call for more attention to writing in the schools, and it offered an example of the sort of high school writing “that shows how powerfully our students can express their emotions“:
“The time has come to fight back and we are. By supporting our leaders and each other, we are stronger than ever. We will never forget those who died, nor will we forgive those who took them from us.”
Or look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the supposed gold standard for evaluating academic achievement in U.S. schools, as measured and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. In its 2002 writing assessment, in which 77 percent of 12th graders scored “Basic” or “Below Basic,” NAEP scored the following student response “Excellent.” The prompt called for a brief review of a book worth preserving. In a discussion of Herman Hesse’s Demian, in which the main character grows up, the student wrote,
“High school is a wonderful time of self-discovery, where teens bond with several groups of friends, try different foods, fashions, classes and experiences, both good and bad. The end result in May of senior year is a mature and confident adult, ready to enter the next stage of life.”
Continue reading Writing in Trouble
Valerie Visconti, Tania McKeown and David Wald:
Is a change in management enough to transform some of the worst schools in the country? Paul Vallas seems to think so, which might explain why the New Orleans superintendent is one of the biggest cheerleaders for charter schools. Because charter schools are free from district control and often from teacher unions, they have the power to hire and fire, choose the curriculum, and set student rules.
Over half of Vallas’ schools are now charters, and most of them are outperforming traditionally-run schools in New Orleans. But Vallas wants to ‘charterize’ the entire district, even though there’s evidence that charters may be abusing their freedom.
Bill Turque & Shailagh Murray:
President Obama will propose setting aside enough money for all 1,716 students in the District’s voucher program to continue receiving grants for private school tuition until they graduate from high school, but he would allow no new students to join the program, administration officials said yesterday.
The proposal, to be released in budget documents today, is an attempt to navigate a middle way on a contentious issue. School choice advocates, including Republicans and many low-income families, say the program gives poor children better access to quality education. Teachers unions and other education groups active in the Democratic Party regard vouchers as a drain on public education that benefits relatively few students, and they say the students don’t achieve at appreciably higher levels at their new schools.