Easy grades equate to failing grads

Heather Vogell:

Some metro Atlanta public high schools that don’t grade rigorously produce more graduates lacking the basic English and math skills needed for college, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.
Many graduates of those high schools are sent to freshmen remedial classes to learn what high school didn’t teach them. As many as a third or more college-bound graduates from some high schools need the extra instruction.
Problems with classroom grading came to light in a February state study that showed some high schools regularly awarded good marks to students who failed state tests in the same subject.
The AJC found that metro high schools where classroom grading appeared lax or out-of-step with state standards tended to have higher rates of students who took remedial classes. And at dozens of high schools, most graduates who received the B average needed for a state HOPE scholarship lost it in college after a few years.
Unprepared high-school graduates are a growing problem for the public university system, where remedial students are concentrated in two-year colleges.
Statewide, the remedial rate has climbed to 1 in 4 first-year students after dropping in the 1990s, said Chancellor Erroll Davis Jr. of the University System of Georgia. The cost to the system: $25 million a year.
Students such as Brandon Curry, 20, a graduate of Redan High in DeKalb County, said they were surprised to learn decent high school grades don’t always translate into college success.

Georgia remedial class database – very useful.

Arne Duncan’s Choice

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

Washington, D.C.’s school voucher program for low-income kids isn’t dead yet. But the Obama Administration seems awfully eager to expedite its demise.

About 1,700 kids currently receive $7,500 vouchers to attend private schools under the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and 99% of them are black or Hispanic. The program is a huge hit with parents — there are four applicants for every available scholarship — and the latest Department of Education evaluation showed significant academic gains.

Nevertheless, Congress voted in March to phase out the program after the 2009-10 school year unless it is reauthorized by Congress and the D.C. City Council. The Senate is scheduled to hold hearings on the program this month, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised proponents floor time to make their case. So why is Education Secretary Arne Duncan proceeding as if the program’s demise is a fait accompli?

Mr. Duncan is not only preventing new scholarships from being awarded but also rescinding scholarship offers that were made to children admitted for next year. In effect, he wants to end a successful program before Congress has an opportunity to consider reauthorizing it. This is not what you’d expect from an education reformer, and several Democrats in Congress have written him to protest.

In Favor of Everyday Math; Middleton Cross Plains Math Scores Soar

Angela Bettis:

The most recent research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that American 15-year-olds are behind their International counterparts when it comes to problem solving and math literacy.

The report showed the U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 nations.

But a math program, gaining in popularity, is trying to change that.
The program is called Everyday Math.

Lori Rusch is a fourth grade teacher at Middleton’s Elm Lawn Elementary. This year she teaches an advanced math class.

On Monday, students in Rusch’s class were mastering fractions and percentages.

But her students began learning fractions and percentages in first grade.

“We’ve been incredibly successful with it,” said Middleton’s curriculum director George Marvoulis. “Our students on all of our comparative assessments like WKCE, Explorer Plan, ACT, our students score higher in math than any other subject area so we’ve been very pleased.”

According to Marvoulis, Middleton was one of the first school districts in the nation to use the Everyday Math program in 1994.

“The concept is kind of a toolbox of different tools they can use to solve a problem,” explained Marvoulis.

Related: Math Forum and Clusty Search on Everyday Math.

The Politics of Education and the Perils of Preferment

The Economist:

PLEDGES are shrinking to aspirations; aspirations are quietly evaporating; no more hoodies are being hugged or huskies stroked (or was it the other way around?). The sunny Californian Conservatism that David Cameron once espoused has been darkened by the crunch. His promise of a happier tomorrow now hangs on a few upbeat policies. Chief among them is education reform–which could make Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, among the most privileged and pressured members of a future Tory government.
Ed Balls, his counterpart in the cabinet, is an equally important figure for Labour, before and after the next general election. Ire over public services often focuses on bad hospitals: death is more heart-wrenching than illiteracy. But pound for pound (and there have been a lot of them), Labour’s education spending has been less rewarding than its health splurge. It falls to Mr Balls to defend its record on what Tony Blair proclaimed his main priority–and to soften the recession’s impact on teenagers and soothe a rumbling moral panic about harm done by and to children.

10 Tips for Prepping for Final Exams

Lynn Jacobs & Jeremy Hyman:

Well, it’s just about showtime. Soon you will face that grueling week of finals on which the fate of this semester’s GPA rests. Sorry, we can’t make final’s week into a piece of cake. Only your professors can, and we wouldn’t be counting on it. But how well you prepare will, in no small measure, determine how well you’ll do. So here are our 10 best suggestions on how to prepare for those all-important final exams (together with a brief glance into the professor’s mind that will show you why the tips work):
1. Spend a week. Start studying for each exam a week before you are due to take it. This will give you time to divide the material into manageable portions that you can digest over a number of study sessions. This is especially important in the case of a cumulative final in a course with tons of material. Whatever you do, don’t try to swallow the whole elephant–the whole course, we mean–in one cram session. (Works because, in most courses, the prof is expecting you to have processed and digested the material–something you can’t do in one fell swoop).

Harford County should get the elected school board it wants

Baltimore Sun:

Under the measure, the school board would gradually transition from seven appointed members to six elected and three appointed members. The current school board believes the bill is too vague and that the transition will be difficult. But the bill clearly outlines the proposed changes, and only a couple of minor details need to be worked out.
Contrary to the board’s objection, the difficulty of the transition would likely be minimal. In order for three board members’ terms to end on June 30, 2011, one board member’s term would be lengthened by a year, and another’s would be shortened. On July 1, 2011, three elected board members would take office along with two appointed members. The board members in office on July 1, 2011 would serve for four years, and in the next election cycle six members would be elected.
So the school board’s vocal opposition is misleading. Why should these minor issues prevent Harford County’s constituents from influencing how their tax dollars are spent on their children’s education? Despite prior bills, Harford County is one of the last counties in which voters cannot elect school board members.

E-Books: Publishers Nurture Rivals to Kindle

Shira Ovide & Geoffrey Fowler:

Some newspaper and magazine companies, feeling let down by the Kindle electronic reader from Amazon.com Inc., are pushing for alternatives.
A few publishers are forging alliances with consumer-electronics firms to support e-readers that meet their needs. Chief among their complaints about the Amazon portable reading gadget is the way Amazon acts as a middleman with subscribers and controls pricing. In addition, the layout isn’t conducive to advertising.
Hearst Corp., which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Chronicle as well as magazines including Cosmopolitan, is backing a venture with FirstPaper LLC to create a software platform that will support digital downloads of newspapers and magazines. The startup venture is expected to result in devices that will have a bigger screen and have the ability to show ads.

Rare Alliance May Signal Ebb In Union’s Charter Opposition

Jay Matthews:

I didn’t see many other reporters Tuesday in the narrow, second-floor meeting room of the Phoenix Park Hotel in the District. A U.S. senator’s party switch and new National Assessment of Educational Progress data were a bigger draw. But in the long term, the news conference at the hotel might prove a milestone in public education. It isn’t often you see a leading teachers union announce it is taking money from what many of its members consider the enemy: corporate billionaires who have been bankrolling the largely nonunion charter school movement.
Of course, it might turn out to be just another publicity stunt. But the people gathered, and what they said, impressed me.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, unveiled the first union-led, private foundation-supported effort to provide grants to AFT unions nationwide to develop and implement what she called “bold education innovations in public schools.” The advisory board of the AFT Innovation Fund includes celebrities of my education wonk world: former Cleveland schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, Harvard professor Susan Moore Johnson and even Caroline Kennedy, well known for other reasons but identified at the conference as an important fundraiser for New York schools.

Muscular Mediocrity

It is excusable for people to think of Mediocrity as too little of something, or a weak approximation of what would be best, and this is not entirely wrong. However, in education circles, it is important to remember, Mediocrity is the Strong Force, as the physicists would say, not the Weak Force.
For most of the 20th century, as Diane Ravitch reports in her excellent history, Left Back, Americans achieved remarkably high levels of Mediocrity in education, making sure that our students do not know too much and cannot read and write very well, so that even of those who have gone on to college, between 50% and 75% never received any sort of degree.
In the 21st century, there is a new push to offer global awareness, critical thinking, and collaborative problem solving to our students, as a way of getting them away from reading nonfiction books and writing any sort of serious research paper, and that effort, so similar to several of the recurring anti-academic and anti-intellectual programs of the prior century, will also help to preserve the Mediocrity we have so painstakingly forged in our schools.
Research generally has discovered that while Americans acknowledge there may be Mediocrity in our education generally, they feel that their own children’s schools are good. It should be understood that this is in part the result of a very systematic and deliberate campaign of disinformation by educrats. When I was teaching in the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, the superintendent at the time met with the teachers at the start of the year and told us that we were the best high school faculty in the country. That sounds nice, but what evidence did he have? Was there a study of the quality of high school faculties around the country? No, it was just public relations.
The “Lake Woebegone” effect, so widely found in our education system, is the result of parents continually being “informed” that their schools are the best in the country. I remember meeting with an old friend in Tucson once, who informed that “Tucson High School is one of the ten best in the country.” How did she know that? What was the evidence for that claim at the time? None.
Mediocrity and its adherents have really done a first-class job of leading people to believe that all is well with our high schools. After all, when parents ask their own children about their high school, the students usually say they like it, meaning, in most cases, that they enjoy being with their friends there, and are not too bothered by a demanding academic curriculum.
With No Child Left Behind, there has been a large effort to discover and report information about the actual academic performance of students in our schools, but the defenders of Mediocrity have been as active, and almost as successful, as they have ever been in preserving a false image of the academic quality of our schools. They have established state standards that, except in Massachusetts and a couple of other states, are designed to show that all the students are “above the national average” in reading and math, even though they are not.
It is important for anyone serious about raising academic standards in our schools to remember that Mediocrity is the Hundred-Eyed Argus who never sleeps, and never relaxes its relentless diligence in opposition to academic quality for our schools and educational achievement for our students.
There is a long list of outside helpers, from Walter Annenberg to the Gates Foundation, who have ventured into American education with the idea that it makes sense that educators would support higher standards and better education for our students. Certainly that is what they hear from educators. But when the money is allocated and the “reform” is begun, the Mediocrity Special Forces move into action, making sure that very little happens, and that the money, even billions of dollars, disappears into the Great Lake of Mediocrity with barely a ripple, so that no good effect is ever seen.
If this seems unduly pessimistic, notice that a recent survey of college professors conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 90% of them reported that the students who came to them were not very well prepared, for example, in reading, doing research, and writing, and that the Diploma to Nowhere report from the Strong American Schools program last summer said that more than 1,000,000 of our high school graduates are now placed in remedial courses when they arrive at the colleges to which they have been “admitted.” It seems clear that without Muscular Mediocrity in our schools, we could never have hoped to achieve such a shameful set of academic results.
“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
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

Federal education money goes to all the wrong places

Dan Thomasson:

A funny thing has been happening to some of that widely heralded federal education money. It has fallen off the bus on the way to school. At least a few cash-strapped local governments upon notification of the federal input have eliminated an equal amount from their own budgets, hardly what the Obama administration had in mind for the $100 billion aimed at vastly improving the nation’s schools.
While the practice is not general and there are strict rules about the use of the federal bucks as part of the economic recovery effort, local and state officials are being forced to reduce manpower in vital services like fire and police. The temptation to relieve some of that pressure and to prevent teacher layoffs seems overwhelming and likely to grow.
For instance, the local press here recently reported that Loudon County in the nearby Virginia suburbs was a case in point. Upon hearing that the county would receive more than $11 million in new school money from Uncle Sam, the county’s supervisors slashed $7.3 million from the regular school budget. According to the reports, the board also has made it clear that schools might have to give more local money back if there were other federal contributions. Similar actions have been taken elsewhere and Arne Duncan, the new secretary of Education, has warned of strong reprisals if this abuse of the president’s intentions is not stopped.

Failure Gets a Pass: Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task

Jason Song:

A Times investigation finds the process so arduous that many principals don’t even try, except in the very worst cases. Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can’t teach is rare.
The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.
He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after an attempt at suicide.
Polanco looked at the cuts and said they “were weak,” according to witness accounts in documents filed with the state. “Carve deeper next time,” he was said to have told the boy.
“Look,” Polanco allegedly said, “you can’t even kill yourself.”
The boy’s classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery, according to the witnesses.

Madison School District’s Technology Plan

1.4MB PDF:

Extensive planning and feedback was conducted during the development of the plan involving many different stakeholders – teachers, library media specialists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, secretaries, computer tech support staff, principals and administrators, parents, students, community agencies, local businesses and business groups, higher education faculty and staff – in order to create the most comprehensive plan possible that meets all of the community’s needs.
Key Issues
Access for All – There is compelling evidence that technology access – especially in regard to Internet access – is not currently equitably distributed within the community (and the nation as a whole) particularly as it relates to the socio-economic status of households. In order to be competitive in a global economy all students (and their parents) must have equitable access to technology in their public schools. The issue extends beyond the school into student’s homes and neighborhoods and must be addressed in that context.
Recommendations: Acquire and deploy technology using a strategy that recognizes the socio-economic access divide so that all students can be assured of contemporary technology-based learning environments. Increase public access to District technology resources outside the regularly scheduled school day so that it is open to parents, students and the community. Implement very specific actions to collaborate with all stakeholders within the community to address these issues. Explore options for families to gain access to computers for use in their homes.
Professional Development – Without an understanding of what technology can do, the hardware simply won’t be used. The feedback is overwhelming that the teacher is key to any technology strategy. Their learning – and access to technology – must be a high priority.
Recommendations: Create four staff positions that provide technology integration professional development support. Create part-time instructional support roles within each school as coaches for teachers and staff. Embed technology within all content-based professional development. Focus on high leverage, low cost options technology tools such as Moodle, Google Apps, Drupal, wikis, and blogs. Create an offering of basic technology professional development courses – both online and face-to-face for staff to access. Create an annual showcase conference opportunity for teachers to share their learning with each other.
Attending to Basics – The MMSD technology infrastructure has been slow to keep up with changes in network issues such as Internet capacity and bandwidth. Fiber-based Internet access was just completed this school year. Emerging technologies include wireless, which opens many more flexible learning opportunities for students. While the number of computers in Madison schools is not significantly behind volumes in other school districts, the age of the computers is significantly older with a current nine-year replacement rate. The District needs to ensure that the basic infrastructure for the core systems are up-to- date and stable, e.g., email, printing, copying, faxing, and telephony.
Recommendations: Investigate network upgrade options, especially wireless. Deploy these technologies across all schools as rapidly as possible. Implement a personal computing plan that replaces all student instructional computing devices every four years and three years for administrative and instructional staff computers. Explore lower cost mobile netbook and hand held devices to supplement any desktop computers.

School reform must have urban focus

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Editorial:

he state Board of Regents, which oversees public schools in the state among its duties, has a lot on its plate at the moment. There is the problem of the crippled state finances and their impact on local schools. There is the arrival of a new education secretary, Arne Duncan, who not only is handing out stimulus money but is looking for national school reform.
And then there is the regents’ task of choosing a commissioner to replace Richard Mills, who is leaving the job this summer, a leader who changed the conversation about public school performance by championing consistent, measurable standards in academic fundamentals.
The value of a measuring process based almost entirely on standardized tests was often questioned, but test scores did show with great clarity the disparity between urban and suburban schools.


The entry The Madison School District on WKCE Data is not accepting comments, so this entry will make a quick note.
The last pages of the MMSD document is a copy of the agenda for a workshop entitled “WKCE DATA ANALYSIS WORKSHOP” for principals and IRT Professional Development, held on May 1 at Olson Elementary School. In this half day workshop, a couple of hours is spent introducing the software package from Turnleaf which allows detailed analysis of student data — according to their site.
This is promising, I would hope. Maybe we will finally be seeing some real analysis of student data and begin to answer the “whys” of the WKCE results. See WKCE Scores Document Decline in the Percentage of Madison’s Advanced Students

Madison School District 2009-2010 Budget Discussion

44MB mp3 audio file. The April 30, 2009 meeting discussed:

  1. undo class and a half for SAGE schools
  2. not extend class and a half for non-SAGE schools
  3. restore funding for Ready Set Go conferences

The board also discussed member compensation, future proposals from task forces such as the fine arts and math along with the strategic plan.
Via a kind reader’s email.

An Update on the Madison School District’s 4 year old Kindergarten Plans

Dan Nerad 100K PDF:

The 4K steering committee had four meetings reviewing prior history, leaming from other districts, and looking at what needs to be accomplished prior to start up. At the last meeting we came to consensus on a time-line. As a result, the steering committee is recommending that the Board of Education make a commitment in May to begin 4K no later than fall, 2010.
The next 4K meeting is tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 11, from 9:30 to 11:30, site to be determined. At this meeting we will divide into working subcommittees focused around the Tasks Ahead piece developed in previous meetings. Attached is a list of the tasks.
The steering committee is a terrific group of individuals to work with and there is no lack of enthusiasm and passion for this initiative.

The Madison School District on WKCE Data

Madison School District 1.5MB PDF:

The 2008-09 school year marked the fourth consecutive year in which testing in grades 3 through 8 and 10 was conducted in fulfillment of the federal No Child left Behind law. The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) is a criterion-referenced test (CRT) where a student’s performance is compared to a specific set of learning standard outcomes. The WKCE-CRT includes testing in all seven grade levels reading and math and in grades 4, 8 and 10 additional testing in language arts, science and social studies. Just under 12,400 MMSD students participated in this year’s WKCE-CRT.

Under NClB, schools are required to test 95% of their full academic year (FAY) students in reading and math. Madison’s test participation rates exceeded 95% in all grade levels. Grades 3 through 8 achieved 99% test participation or higher while the District’s 10th graders reached 98% in test participation.

In general, performance was relatively unchanged in the two academic areas tested across the seven grade levels. In reading, across the seven grades tested four grade levels had an increase in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient or higher performance categories compared with the previous year while three grades showed a decline in the percentage. In math, three grades increased proficient or higher performance, three grades declined, and one remained the same.

The changing demographics of the district affect the overall aggregate achievement data. As the district has experienced a greater proportion of students from subgroups which are at a disadvantage in testing, e.g., non-native English speakers, or English language learners (Ells), the overall district averages have correspondingly declined. Other subgroups which traditionally perform well on student achievement tests, i.e., non-low income students and white students, continue to perform very high relative to statewide peer groups. Therefore, it is important disaggregate the data to interpret and understand the district results.

Jeff Henriques recently took a look at math performance in the Madison School District.

Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum

California High school students weigh in on Prop. 1A

San Francisco Chronicle:

The nonpartisan California Budget Challenge is a free online educational tool from the public-policy group Next 10 that lets users try to balance California’s books and see how their choices would affect the state five years into the future.
Users set their own priorities and make tough decisions about what is best for the people of the state. This allows everyday people the chance to consider the effects of important policy choices. This year, Next 10 is taking the challenge on the road, visiting classrooms and diverse communities throughout the state. Staff members teach audiences about the workings of California’s finances and give them a flavor for what it takes to balance the state’s budget. Here are reactions to Proposition 1A from six Bay Area high school students:

Boise State professors live alongside students

Jessie Bonner:

On the west end of the Boise State University campus, Professor Michael Humphrey lives on the third floor of a residence hall with his wife, 2-year-old daughter, their Labrador retriever Booba – and nearly 30 college students.
Humphrey, a 35-year-old with a doctorate in special education, has lived at the university for the past year as part of a campus housing program created in 2004 to help retain students and enhance their college experience.
The basic premise: If students feel as if they belong, they’ll be more likely to stick around.
Nationwide, about 200 colleges have developed more than 600 living-learning residential programs in an attempt to further engage students outside the classroom and allow them to live on campus with others who have similar interests. In some cases, faculty and academic advisers have offices in the same residence hall.
But an analysis of these programs in 2007 found only 7 percent in the United States integrate faculty into the living arrangements, said Karen Kurotsuchi Inkelas, principal investigator for the National Study of Living-Learning Programs at the Center for Student Studies in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Keep the Wisconsin QEO

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Wisconsin’s three-legged stool of school finance is wobbling and about to fall over.
The Legislature needs to prevent a terrible crash by rejecting the governor’s attempt to kick out the sturdiest leg of the system — the QEO, or “qualified economic offer,” which limits increases in teacher compensation.
Wisconsin’s system of paying for public schools has long been described as a three-legged stool. It’s designed to protect property taxpayers and the quality of K-12 education.
The three legs are:

Much more on the QEO and Wisconsin school revenue limits here.

School districts brace for economic hard times

Amy Hetzner & Erin Richards:

Flat state funding, dropping enrollments and fears about overburdening local taxpayers are helping to shape some of the most difficult financial decisions that school districts have faced in years.
In response, school officials have proposed staff reductions, maintenance cutbacks, energy efficiencies and other ways to curb costs. What’s absent is a reliance on the record levels of new federal funding flowing to the state – already anticipated at $857 million and climbing – for the next two years.
Thus far into school districts’ planning for their 2009-’10 budgets:

Despite Dangers, Afghan Girls Determined To Learn

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson:

Public education is among the many casualties of the growing war in Afghanistan, and the threat of violence is especially acute for Afghan girls. Parents, who in the past did not allow their daughters to go to school because of societal taboos, are once again keeping them at home because of the threat of attacks by militants wielding acid or worse.
But many girls are refusing to give up their schooling — no matter what the cost.
The Afghan government, aid groups and defiant teachers are operating public schools as well as secret, in-home classes in a risky effort to ensure that Afghan girls get an education.
Nearly half of the country’s children do not attend classes, most of them in the Taliban-rife south, says Afghanistan’s education minister, Farouq Wardak. Hundreds of schools have closed in Kandahar and neighboring provinces because of militant attacks and threats.

Judge rules Galveston public schools desegregated


A federal judge has ruled that the Galveston public school system is racially desegregated, ending a civil rights lawsuit dating back to 1959.
The Galveston Independent School District had implemented a desegregation plan in 1969, requiring all students to attend the school nearest to where they lived. Despite that plan, the courts ruled several times since that the district was not fully integrated.
That ended Friday with the ruling by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of Houston.
In his ruling, Lake wrote that he found no segregation on the district’s part in faculty and staff assignments, pupil transportation, extracurricular activities, facilities, resource allocation, student achievement or special programs.

Putting Students on the Same High-Performance Page

Lydia Gensheimer:

What happens when you have a law that’s supposed to improve performance among the nation’s school children but instead it creates confusion, lowers expectations and can result in a “dummying down” of state standards?
That’s what a panel of educational experts is trying to address with a plan to incorporate common academic standards. They are urging Congress to support a state-led initiative to develop more-uniform, clear and integrated standards that reflect both the global marketplace and Americans’ mobility within the country.
Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law (PL 107-110), states set their own standards — resulting in what Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls a “dummying down” of state standards in order to meet benchmarks set by the law.
Those who advocate for common standards contend that a system of variable expectations — ones that are often too low — leads American students to underperform when compared with their peers in Finland or China. President Obama called for common standards in a March 10 speech, and Duncan has said he would use a portion of a $5 billion “Race to the Top” fund under his discretion to reward states working toward that goal.
The panel — which included Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; former North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr.; and Dave Levin, founder of the KIPP charter schools — testified April 29 at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing.

University of Washington to borrow from private financial model

Nick Eaton:

For several months, University of Washington officials had been mum about it. As the state Legislature got closer to slashing UW funding by one quarter, administrators started dropping hints.
UW President Mark Emmert and members of the Board of Regents had been asking themselves, “Is this the privatization of the university?”
This week, Emmert finally said it publicly, in a letter he sent to the UW community: The University of Washington will need to “change its fundamental financial model.”
So, what does that mean?
“When the education is less subsidized by the state, then universities have to be more market-oriented,” Emmert told seattlepi.com. “The university will have to shift to a much more market-driven model than it has in the past.”

Inside the Box

Teachers, students, employees, employers, everyone these days, it seems, is being exhorted to think, act, imagine and perform “Outside the Box.”
However, for students, there is still quite a bit that may be found Inside the Box for them to learn and get good at before they wander off into OutBoxLand.
Inside the Box there still await grammar, the multiplication tables, the periodic table, Boyle’s Law, the Glorious Revolution, the Federalist Papers, Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Bach, Mozart, Giovanni Bellini, recombinant DNA, Albrecht Durer, Edward Gibbon, Jan van Eyck, and a few other matters worth their attention.
Before the Mission Control people in Houston could solve the unique, immediate, and potentially fatal “Out of the Box” problems with the recovery of Apollo 13 and its crew, they had to draw heavily on their own InBox training and knowledge of mechanics, gases, temperatures, pressures, azimuth, velocity and lots of other math, science, and engineering stuff they had studied before. They may have been educated sitting in rows, and been seen in the halls at Mission Control wearing plastic pocket protectors, but in a very short time in that emergency they came up with novel solutions to several difficult and unexpected problems in saving that crew.
It seems clear to me that a group of ignorant but freethinking folks given that same set of novel tasks would either have had to watch Apollo 13 veer off into fatal space or crash into our planet with a dead crew on board, in a creative way, of course.
Many situations are less dramatic demonstrations of the clear necessity of lots of InBox education as preparation for any creative endeavor, but even high school students facing their first complete nonfiction book and a first history research paper when they arrive in college would have been much better off if they had been assigned a couple of complete nonfiction books and research papers before they left high school.
Basketball coach John Wooden of UCLA was of course happy with players who could adapt to unexpected defenses on the court during games, but according to Bill Walton, when he met with a set of new freshmen trying to make his team, the first thing he taught them was how to put on their socks…Perhaps some of his (and their) success came because he was not above going back into the Old Box to lay the groundwork for the winning fundamentals in college basketball.
Many teachers and edupundits decry the insufficiency of novelty, creativity and freethinking-out-of-the-box in our schools, but I have to wonder how many have realized the overriding importance of the education equivalent of having students put on their socks the right way?
Basic knowledge in history, English, physics, Latin, biology, math, and so on is essential for students in school before they can do much more than fool around with genuine and useful creativity in those fields.
True, they can write about themselves creatively, but if the teacher has read Marcel Proust, and would share a bit of his writing with the students, they might come to see that there is creativity in writing about oneself and there is also fooling around in writing about oneself.
Samuel Johnson once pointed out that: “The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight a-while, by that novelty of which the common satiety of life sends us all in quest, but the pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted…”
The pleasures of foolish playacting Outside of the Box of knowledge and skill by students (and their teachers: witness the damage shown in Dead Poets Society) may delight them for a time because they are tired of the hard work involved in learning and thinking about new knowledge in school, but the more they indulge and are indulged in it, the lower our educational standards will be, and the worse the education provided students in our schools.
Novelty and innovation have their place and there they are sorely needed, but the quality of that innovation depends, to a great extent, on the quality of the knowledge and skill acquired while students were still working hard Back in the Box.

Genius: The Modern View

David Brooks:

Some people live in romantic ages. They tend to believe that genius is the product of a divine spark. They believe that there have been, throughout the ages, certain paragons of greatness — Dante, Mozart, Einstein — whose talents far exceeded normal comprehension, who had an other-worldly access to transcendent truth, and who are best approached with reverential awe.
We, of course, live in a scientific age, and modern research pierces hocus-pocus. In the view that is now dominant, even Mozart’s early abilities were not the product of some innate spiritual gift. His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.
What Mozart had, we now believe, was the same thing Tiger Woods had — the ability to focus for long periods of time and a father intent on improving his skills. Mozart played a lot of piano at a very young age, so he got his 10,000 hours of practice in early and then he built from there.

Bad Rap on Schools

Jay Matthews:

Oh, look. There’s a new film that portrays American teenagers as distracted slackers who don’t stand a chance against the zealous young strivers in China and India. It must be an election year, when American politicians, egged on by corporate leaders, suddenly become indignant about the state of America’s public schools. If we don’t do something, they thunder, our children will wind up working as bellhops in resorts owned by those Asian go- getters.
The one-hour documentary, conceived and financed by Robert A. Compton, a high-tech entrepreneur, follows two teenagers in Carmel, Indiana, as they sporadically apply themselves to their studies in their spare time between after school jobs and sports. The film, called Two Million Minutes, cuts to similar pairs of high schoolers in India and China who do little but attend classes, labor over homework, and work with their tutors. Two Million Minutes has become a key part of the ED in ’08 campaign, a $60 million effort by Bill Gates and other wealthy worriers to convince the presidential candidates to get serious about fixing our schools.
Most of the time, I cheer such well-intentioned and powerful promoters of academic achievement. I have been writing about the lack of challenge in American high schools for 25 years. It astonishes me that we treat many high schoolers as if they were intellectual infants, actively discouraging them from taking the college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses that would prepare them for higher education and add some challenge to their bland high school curricula. I share what I imagine is Bill Gates’s distress at seeing Carmel High’s Brittany Brechbuhl watching Grey’s Anatomy on television with her friends while they make half hearted stabs at their math homework.

U.S. Colleges Bask in Surge Of Interest Among Chinese

Susan Kinzie:

It’s an admissions officer’s dream: ever-growing stacks of applications from students with outstanding test scores, terrific grades and rigorous academic preparation. That’s the pleasant prospect faced by the University of Virginia and some other U.S. colleges, which are receiving a surging number of applications from China.
“It’s this perfect, beautiful island of people who are immensely motivated, going to great high schools,” marveled Parke Muth, director of international admission at U-Va.
A decade ago, 17 Chinese students applied to U-Va. Three years ago, 117 did. This year, the number was more than 800 out of almost 22,000 candidates — so many that admissions officers had to devise new ways to select from the pool of strong applicants.

The Outlier Finds His Element

Nancy Duarte:

I read Outliers and The Element back to back last week.
Net-net is that people aren’t successful from passion alone, usually there are other factors or “flukes” that lead to them living in their element. You may have heard successful people say that what made them great is that they were at the right place at the right time. There is some truth to that but they also had enormous passion, put in many hours and were in their “element”.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell contends that passion alone doesn’t equate success; the environment, innovation and generational culture shape our success. Below is an Outlier story of my own.
I have two kids. When Rachel started school, she was like a fish to water. She started kindergarten in an accelerated classroom, worked very hard, loved school and recently finished her teaching credential for the sciences. She’s planning to spend her adult life in the classroom teaching.
Anthony on the other hand didn’t like school enough to even pull his completed homework out of his backpack. In middle school he was a strong D-student,and an exceptional pianist. We contacted the school to see if he could remove Orchestra and PE classes from his schedule so he could devote 4 to 6 hours towards piano practice, they said they’d check with the School District because they “do that kind of thing for athletes”. They said, ” No,” so I pulled him out of public school that very day.

AP More Open, But Not Dumbed Down

Jay Matthews:

More than a decade ago, when I began investigating the odd uses of Advanced Placement courses and tests in our high schools, I tried to find out why AP participation was so much lower than I expected in my neighborhood public school, Walt Whitman High of Bethesda. At least one high school in neighboring D.C., and many more in suburban Maryland, had higher participation rates than Whitman, even though it was often called the best school in the state.

That is how I stumbled on what I call the Mt. Olympus syndrome. There were, I discovered from talking to students, a few AP teachers at that school who didn’t want to deal with average students. One of them actively discouraged juniors who were getting less than an A in a prerequisite course from taking his AP course when they were seniors. He only wanted students who were going to get a 5, the equivalent of an A on the three-hour college-level AP exam, where a score of 3 and above could earn college credit. That test, like all AP exams, was written and graded by outside experts, mostly high school and college instructors. The only way that teacher thought he could control the number of 5s was to make sure only top quality students–the academic gods of the Whitman High pantheon–were allowed into his course.

Related: Growing Pains in the Advanced Placement Program: Do Tough Tradeoffs Lie Ahead?

Universities and the Recession

The Economist:

THE class of 2009 will be almost the largest in America’s history. More than 3m students are getting their high-school diplomas in late spring. Those who plan to go on to university have been told for years to expect a rough time: with so many students applying, winning admission to their college of choice will be a challenge. But those who clear that hurdle will find that their problems are just beginning.
College life is an enviable set-up given the job market at the moment. It comes at a price, though: an average of roughly $25,000 per year at a private university, and $6,600 at a state one. That was this year, and next year it will in most cases cost a bit more. That is ominous for students and the people who fund them. Parents have lost jobs, and seen their savings wither. “I think more parents are being emboldened to ask for more money, or to ask for financial aid, period,” says James Boyle, the president of College Parents of America.

Kindergarten Waiting Lists Put Manhattan Parents on Edge

Elissa Gootman:

As a growing collection of Manhattan’s most celebrated public elementary schools notify neighborhood parents that their children have been placed on waiting lists for kindergarten slots, middle-class vitriol against the school system — and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — is mounting.
Parents are venting their frustrations in e-mail messages and phone calls to the mayor, local politicians and the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein (“You have unleashed the fury of parents throughout this city with your complete lack of preparedness,” read one father’s recent missive, which he shared with The New York Times). Some are planning a rally on the steps of City Hall for next Wednesday afternoon (“Kindergartners Are Not Refugees!” proclaims a flier), and some are taking it upon themselves to scour the city for potential classroom space.
The outpouring of anger comes as state lawmakers consider whether to renew mayoral control of the city school system, which expires at the end of June, and Mr. Bloomberg is seeking a third term in part on his education record.

Is new board president Bonds a ‘clean slate’ for the Milwaukee Public Schools?

Alan Borsuk:

New Milwaukee School Board President Michael Bonds took a stand Wednesday in support of major changes in the direction of Milwaukee Public Schools, calling for a hiring freeze in the central office, more school closings and less busing.
Bonds said MPS could save millions of dollars by taking a series of steps, including some similar to what was in a stinging consultant’s report done for Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Bonds said he was sending letters to Doyle and Barrett, asking for weekly meetings with them or their representatives to develop a unified effort to improve education in Milwaukee. He also held out the prospect of involvement by city and state representatives in MPS decision-making.
He said MPS should not seek or expect more money from the state, both because it is not realistic and because the district needs to do more to control its own spending.
“I still think we have millions in unrealized efficiencies,” he said.

Giving Kids a Jump on Technology Innovative Mitchellville Shows Off Its Success

Ovetta Wiggins:

You could see the pride in third-grader Kuron Anderson’s eyes as he jumped from his tiny chair to talk about his technology project. He called it “The Many Faces of the Man,” a digital photo mosaic that he created to celebrate the election of President Obama.
“I worked hard on it, and I did my best,” Kuron said.
He then methodically explained how he used about 1,000 pictures to create his project for the first science and technology fair last month at the Mitchellville School of Math, Science and Technology in Bowie.
“This is the before picture,” the 8-year-old said, pointing to the cutout on the cardboard display. “And if you step back, you will see his face on the computer. It is made up of cell images.”

A Primer on Wisconsin School Revenue Limits

The Wisconsin Taxpayer 3.4MB PDF:

Since 1994, Wisconsin school districts have operated under state-imposed revenue limits and the associated qualified economic offer (QEO) law.

  • Revenue limits have helped reduce school property tax increases to less than 5% per year from more than 9% annually prior to the caps.
  • The limits have had \aried impacts on school districts, with growing districts experiencing the largest revenue gains. Low-spending districts prior to the caps have seen the largest per student gains.
  • The QEO law has helped school districts keep compensation costs somewhat in line with revenue limits. However, since benefits are given more weight, teacher salary increases have slowed.

Since 1994. Wisconsin school districts have operated under slate-imposed revenue limits, which arc tied to inflation and enrollments. The associated qualified economic offer (QEO) law limits staff compensation increases to about 4% annually. With declining student counts, fluctuations in stale school aid. and various concerns over teacher pay. revenue limits and the QEO have attracted increasing debate.
The governor, in his proposed 2009-11 state budget, recommends eliminating the QEO. I le has also talked about providing ways for school districts to move away from revenue limits. This report does not address these specific proposals. Rather, it seeks to help inform discussions by examining the history of revenue limits and the QEO, legislative attempts to fix various issues, and the impacts of limits on schools, educators, and taxpayers.
School districts collect revenue from a variety of sources. The two largest sources are the property tax and state general (or equalization) aid, General aid is distributed based on district property wealth and spending. Combined, these two revenue sources account for about 75% of an average district’s funding. The remainder is a combination of student fees, federal aid. and state categorical aids. such as those for special education and transportation.
The revenue limit law was implemented in 1994 (1993-94 school year) and caps the amount districts can collect from property taxes and general aid combined. It does not restrict student fees, federal aid. or state categorical aid. A district’s revenue limit is determined by its prior-year cap, an inflation factor, and enrollments. There is an exception to the limit law for districts defined as “low-revenue.” Currently, districts with per student revenues less than S9.000 are allowed to increase their revenues to that level.
While Wisconsin’s revenue limit law began in 1994. its roots date back to several teacher strikes in the early 1970s, culminating with the 1974 Hortonville strike during which 86 teachers were fired. That strike gained national attention.

Related: K-12 tax & spending climate. A number of links on local school spending and tax increases before the implementation of State limits on annual expenditure growth. The Madison School District spent $180,400,000 during the 1992-1993 school year. In 2006, the District spent $331,000,000. The 2009/2010 preliminary Citizen’s Budget proposes spending $367,912,077 [Financial Summary 2.1MB pdf], slightly down from 2008/2009’s $368,012,286.

Californians want schools to spend more wisely

Nanette Asimov:

Californians care deeply about public education – and most want school funding protected in the state budget – but they are feeling less generous than in past years about giving schools more money, a new statewide survey reveals.
People feeling the recession’s bite want schools do a better job with the money already allocated, according to the survey of education attitudes by the Public Policy Institute of California.
At the same time, people are far less willing than in past years to pay higher taxes even to maintain existing levels of school funding.
“Californians are concerned about school quality and they’re concerned about school funding. But that hasn’t translated into more support for taxes and spending,” Mark Baldassare, president of the independent research firm, said in a statement. “They’re looking for reform and innovation that can lead to gains in school performance and student achievement.”

Mitchell Landsberg has more.

Gambling Sponsor to pay for Aristotle school roof


The remains of the ancient school where philosopher Aristotle (Greek philosopher) taught his pupils nearly 2,500 years ago are to be turned into an outdoor museum, thanks to a donation from a betting company, Greece’s Culture Ministry says.
The project in central Athens is slated for completion next year at a cost of euro4.5 million ($5.9 million). But it will not use funds from the government, which has promised spending cuts amid the global financial crisis.
Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 B.C., studied under Plato and tutored Alexander the Great. Later, in Athens, he taught in the grounds of the Lyceum, a public sports complex frequented by the city’s young men.
The outdoor museum will involve building a translucent roof over the site, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said Wednesday.