KIPP visitor’s critique, KIPP leader’s response

Jay Matthews:

A reader signing in as “suegjoyce” recently posted a comment on this blog describing her visit to a KIPP middle school “in the Delta.” KIPP is the Knowledge Is Power Program, the most successful charter school network in the country and the subject of my most recent book. I was pleased to see suegjoyce’s comment, since I have been urging readers curious about KIPP to ignore the myths they read on the Internet and instead visit a KIPP school. The vast majority of people I have encountered online with negative opinions of KIPP give no indication that they have ever been inside one of those schools, so she was setting a good example.
She had some critical things to say. She was not specific about which KIPP middle school she visited, but only one has the word “Delta” in its title, the KIPP Delta College Preparatory School in Helena-West Helena, Ark. So I asked Scott Shirey, executive director of the KIPP schools in that area, to respond. Neither Scott nor I know how to reach suegjoyce, but if she sees this and has more to say, I would be delighted to post her thoughts prominently on the blog.


Many educators greatly admire the wide range of human achievements over the millennia and want their students to know about them. However, there are those, like the Dean of the Education School at a major east coast university, who told me that: “The myth of individual greatness is a myth.” Translated, I suppose that might be rendered: “Individual greatness is a myth (squared).”
Why is it that so many of our teachers and others in education are, as it were, in the “clay feet” business, anxious to have our students know that human beings who accomplished wonderful things also had flaws, like the rest of us? As they emphasize the flaws, trying to encourage students to believe that they are just fine the way they are now, with their self-esteem and perhaps a couple of the multiple intelligences, they seem to teach that there is no need for them to seek out challenges or to emulate the great men and women who have gone before.
One of the first major problems with this, apart from its essential mendacity, is that it deprives students of the knowledge and understanding of what these people have accomplished in spite of their human failings. So that helps students remain ignorant as well as with less ambition.
It is undeniable, of course, that Washington had false teeth, sometimes lost his temper, and wanted to be a leader (sin of ambition). Jefferson, in addition to his accomplishments, including the Declaration of Independence, the University of Virginia, the Louisiana Purchase and some other things, may or may not have been too close to his wife’s half-sister after his wife died. Hamilton, while he may have helped get the nation on its feet, loved a woman or women to whom he was not married, and it is rumored that nice old world-class scientist Benjamin Franklin was also fond of women (shocking!).
The volume of information about the large and small failings is great, almost enough to allow educators so inclined to spend enough time on them almost to exclude an equal quantity of magnificent individual achievements. Perhaps for an educator who was in the bottom of his graduating class, it may be some comfort to focus on the faults of great individuals, so that his own modest accomplishments may grow in comparison?
In any case, even the new national standards for reading include only short “informational texts” which pretty much guarantees for the students of educators who follow them that they will have very little understanding of the difficulties overcome and the greatness achieved by so many of their fellow human beings over time.
Alfred North Whitehead wrote that: “Moral education is impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness.” What Education School did he go to, I wonder?
Peter Gibbon, author of a book on heroes, regularly visits our high schools in an effort to counter this mania for the denigration of wonderful human beings, past and present.
Surely it would be worth our while to look again at the advantages of teaching our students of history about the many many people worthy of their admiration, however small their instructor may appear by comparison.
Malvolio was seriously misled in his take on the meaning of the message he was given, that: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” but his author, the greatest playwright in the English language, surely deserves, as do thousands of others, the attention of our students, even if he did leave the second-best bed to his wife in his will.
Let us give some thought to the motivation and competence of those among our educators who, whether they are leftovers of the American Red Guards of the 1960s or not, wish to advise our students of history especially, not to “trust anyone over thirty.”
After all, in order to serve our students well, even educators should consider growing up after a while, shouldn’t they?
“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 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Sally Blount, Kellogg School of Management’s new dean, says being a middle child makes her perfect for the role

The Economist:

SALLY BLOUNT, unveiled today as the new dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, describes her appointment as a return to her intellectual home. The school was where, as a PhD student, she did much of her work in the fields of psychology and economics.
But other than a sense of going back to her roots, the main reason she was drawn to Kellogg, she says, is its reputation as a collaborative institution. “I am a middle child,” she explains. “So it’s in my DNA, this collaborative approach.”
Collaborative leadership is a model whose time appears to have come in business as well as business education. The days of the imperial CEO bestriding an organisation, browbeating the company with the force of his personality, became suddenly unfashionable at around the same time that sub-prime mortgages did. But, perhaps unusually for academia, which can be famous for its backbiting, teamwork has long been a characteristic of Kellogg.

Michigan can do more with less for our schools


Michigan can harness innovation as a way to do more with less in K-12 education, even though that challenge may seem overwhelming. At a time when new investments in our K-12 system are not likely, Michigan must face the daunting task of improving student achievement and increasing graduation rates with fewer financial resources.
To date, K-12 education has yet to realize the full potential of using online learning to improve how educators teach and how students learn. Nearly every sector of our economy is now turning to information and communications technologies to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Education is not alone in its need to manage scarce resources, maintain relevance and succeed in today’s new global economy.
Research has shown online learning is academically effective and can provide meaningful alternatives for students who have a need for greater flexibility with their education due to individual learning styles, health conditions, employment responsibilities, lack of success with traditional school environments, or desire to be working early at the college level. Online learning needs to be part of the broader policy discussion related to restructuring public education during this prolonged budget crisis. Economic arguments in addition to the latest research on student learning support this position.

Traditional schools aren’t working. Let’s move learning online.

Katherine Mangu-Ward:

Deep within America’s collective consciousness, there is a little red schoolhouse. Inside, obedient children sit in rows, eagerly absorbing lessons as a kind, wise teacher writes on the blackboard. Shiny apples are offered as tokens of respect and gratitude.
The reality of American education is often quite different. Beige classrooms are filled with note-passers and texters, who casually ignore teachers struggling to make it to the end of the 50-minute period. Smart kids are bored, and slower kids are left behind. Anxiety about standardized tests is high, and scores are consistently low. National surveys find that parents despair over the quality of education in the United States — and they’re right to, as test results confirm again and again.
But just as most Americans disapprove of congressional shenanigans while harboring some affection for their own representative, parents tend to say that their child’s teacher is pretty good. Most people have mixed feelings about their own school days, but our national romance with teachers is deep and long-standing. Which is why the idea of kids staring at computers instead of teachers makes parents and politicians extremely nervous.

Maryland Senate Votes to Increase the Dropout Age from 16 to 18

John Wagner:

It’s become a common lament this session among lobbyists and journalists and other Annapolis insiders: not much is happening.
Perhaps, but in case anyone missed it, two bills with major implications for Maryland education policy cleared the Senate on Wednesday without much fanfare.
One would gradually raise the state’s dropout age from 16 to 18. The other would create a new tax credit with the hope of stemming the tide of Catholic school closures. Debate over both measures has been heavily colored by concerns over the state’s fiscal situation. Neither has made it through the House.

More multigenerational families living together

Hope Yen:

Goodnight, John-Boy: Driven partly by job losses, more multigenerational families are choosing to live together as “boomerang kids” flock home and people help care for grandchildren or aging parents.
About 6.6 million U.S. households in 2009 had at least three generations of family members, an increase of 30 percent since 2000, according to census figures. When “multigenerational” is more broadly defined to include at least two adult generations, a record 49 million, or one in six people, live in such households, according to a study being released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
The rise in multigenerational households is heavily influenced by economics, with many young adults known as “boomerang kids” moving back home with mom and dad because of limited job prospects and a housing crunch.
But extended life spans and increased options in home health and outpatient care over nursing homes have also played a role. So, too, has a recent wave of immigration of Hispanics and Asians, who are more likely to live with extended family.

Wisconsin’s Race to Top bid deemed subpar

Amy Hetzner & Erin Richards:

Wisconsin’s application for a share of $4.35 billion in federal education grants scored in the bottom half of 41 applicants, earning the equivalent of a C-minus grade by government reviewers.
The state’s score sheet and the accompanying reviewer comments were released Monday after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan revealed that Tennessee and Delaware won funding from the first phase of the Race to the Top competition, qualifying them for $500 million and $100 million, respectively, over the next four years.
All of the reviewers noted that few local teachers union leaders in Wisconsin had supported the state’s application, and one noted that the statewide teachers union’s support seemed “tepid.” That was far short of expectations for competitive applications.
“Because teachers will play such a key role in the implementation of these efforts, their support is essential,” one of Wisconsin’s reviewers wrote in an evaluation of the state’s application.

Poor Strategy, Muddled Efforts and Strong Opposition Killed the Doyle-Barrett plan to Overhaul Milwaukee’s Crisis Ridden Schools

Alan Borsuk:

It was an off-the-record conversation early last summer with a major figure in education politics in Wisconsin. I suggested that if a serious move was made to put the Milwaukee Public Schools under mayoral control, the outcome would be decided by a few specific people.
“Gwen Moore?” the source suggested.
No, but what an interesting thought. And it pointed to several key reasons that the proposal, when it came a couple months later from Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, faltered from the start, never picked up momentum, and soon became a dead idea walking.
When Moore, the popular congresswoman who is influential among Milwaukee’s African Americans, promptly came out against mayoral control, her decision pointed to three major flaws in the Doyle-Barrett plan:
*** There is almost no evidence that Doyle and Barrett prepared a strategy for building support for the idea before they went public. Was the fight even worth instigating if it had garnered so little support over the preceding years, and there was so little evidence anything had changed?

Yale delays switch to Gmail

David Tidmarsh:

The changeover to Google as Yale’s e-mail provider has been put on hold.
Information Technology Services has decided to postpone the University’s move from the Horde Webmail service to Google Apps for Education, a suite of communication and collaboration tools for universities, pending a University-wide review process to seek input from faculty and students. After a series of meetings with faculty and administrators in February, ITS officials decided to put the move on hold, Deputy Provost for Science and Technology Steven Girvin said.
“There were enough concerns expressed by faculty that we felt more consultation and input from the community was necessary,” he said in an e-mail to the News.
The idea to switch to Google Apps for Education — which includes popular programs such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs — arose during an ITS internal meeting around Christmas, computer science professor Michael Fischer said. After ITS notified faculty members and administrators of the plan in February, several expressed reservations about the move, and ITS officials decided to convene a committee to discuss the situation.
Google has been at the center of a number of recent controversies relating to privacy, security and intellectual property issues. The introduction of the Google Buzz social networking service in February, which automatically allowed Gmail users to view the contacts of members in their address books, raised concerns among privacy advocates. [White House Deputy CTO’s ties with Google revealed via Buzz]

Interestingly, the Madison School District has used its website and Infinite Campus system to advocate on behalf of (private company) Google, for a fiber network deployment in Madison.
While I strongly support pervasive high speed networks, I don’t agree with the District’s advocacy, in this case. They should, simultaneously, link to privacy concerns, such as those expressed at Yale, regarding Google’s services.

Madison School Board gives proposed marketing campaign the ax

Gayle Worland:

In an effort to save money and save face, the Madison School Board has nixed its plans to launch a “positive branding” effort for the school district.
Board members voted unanimously earlier this month to shelve the idea of hiring a marketing firm to help sing the district’s praises at a budgeted cost of $43,000 per year for two years. The vote took place during a discusssion of the district’s looming budget deficit for the 2010-11 school year, at the time estimated at close to $30 million.
“If we’re looking at as many millions of dollars in cuts as we are, it’s a little much to ask the community to pay more property tax so that we can publicize our school district,” School Board member Marj Passman said during the meeting.

Madison School District Administration PR on Budget Tax & Spending Discussions

Madison School District, via a kind reader’s email:

Video Answers to Budget Questions
Answers from Superintendent Dan Nerad and Asst. Supt. for Business Services Erik Kass
Recorded on March 24
At their meeting on March 22, the Board of Education took actions related to the 2010-11 budget. What did they do regarding their use of taxing authority?

Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.
Tangentially related with respect to ongoing tax & spending growth during the “Great Recession”: What Does Greece Mean to You by John Mauldin.

Swedish School Choice – 1100 schools….


When I travelled to Sweden to report on their school system, I took some company – the Conservative party’s policy document Raising the Bar, Closing the Gap – its action plan for raising standards in schools, creating more good school places and making opportunity more equal.
It describes an educational utopia, a land where new schools can open up anywhere to meet parental demand. Even better, the increased competition for pupils forces standards up. The blueprint is based on similar reforms introduced in Sweden in 1992 as part of a sweeping New Labour-style reform programme to give more choice in public services.
I thought it was really good that I could choose the new school. I had a choice
Mimmi Kindstrom
There are now more than 1,100 such schools in Sweden, funded by the state, but operated independently.
I visited one of them. Kallskollen was one of the very first to be set up when the Swedish education system went from being one of the most centrally controlled, to being one of the most liberal.

Fascinating. Tom Vander Ark has more, with a link to Kunskapsskolan (Translation)

History of School Reform Offers Glimmer of Hope

Laura Impellizzeri:

Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning” (Belknap Press, 336 pages, $25.95) by Paul E. Peterson: Education reformers have left the essential teacher-pupil relationship untouched for more than a century, fighting instead for changes outside the classroom: desegregation, teacher pay hikes, funding equality, increased testing, vouchers and changes in curriculum.
Harvard University government professor Paul Peterson argues that although many of those efforts have been well-intentioned, even noble, American schools haven’t kept pace with changes in society. And they’re just not very good.
In a compelling and enlightening narrative, “Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning,” Peterson traces a variety of reform movements by profiling their leaders or other key players. Horace Mann fostered public schools nationwide, creating a global model in the 19th century; in the early 1900s, John Dewey pushed for education that respected children as individuals and erased social strata; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in leading the civil rights movement, forced schools to start doing as courts and legislators told them; Albert Shanker pushed for better pay and conditions for teachers; a series of “rights” reformers tried to improve quality across the board, while a series of scholars measuring their work found precious little benefit, and that led to the “adequacy” and choice movements, including the push for publicly funded vouchers and charter schools, which together involve less than 10 percent of U.S. schoolchildren.

Merkel seeks to defuse Turkish schools row

Delphine Strauss:

Angela Merkel on Monday sought to calm tensions over first-language schooling for Germany’s Turkish immigrant community during a visit to Turkey aimed at strengthening trade ties and steadying a difficult bilateral relationship.
Some 3m Turks live in Germany and trade between the two countries is worth $23bn annually. But political sensitivities over the integration of migrants, and Ms Merkel’s reluctance to back Turkey’s European Union membership bid, frequently place strains on the partnership.
The latest irritant in the relationship was Ankara’s request, revived shortly before the German chancellor’s visit, to open Turkish-language secondary schools in Germany.

What can policymakers learn from happiness research?

Elizabeth Kolbert:

In 1978, a trio of psychologists curious about happiness assembled two groups of subjects. In the first were winners of the Illinois state lottery. These men and women had received jackpots of between fifty thousand and a million dollars. In the second group were victims of devastating accidents. Some had been left paralyzed from the waist down. For the others, paralysis started at the neck.
The researchers asked the members of both groups a battery of questions about their lives. On a scale of “the best and worst things that could happen,” how did the members of the first group rank becoming rich and the second wheelchair-bound? How happy had they been before these events? How about now? How happy did they expect to be in a couple of years? How much pleasure did they take in daily experiences such as talking with a friend, hearing a joke, or reading a magazine? (The lottery winners were also asked how much they enjoyed buying clothes, a question that was omitted in the case of the quadriplegics.) For a control, the psychologists assembled a third group, made up of Illinois residents selected at random from the phone book.

Lawmakers Say Needs of Rural Schools Are Overlooked

Sam Dillon:

An Oklahoma senator complained that federal rules on teacher credentials had driven thousands of experienced educators out of rural schools. A North Carolina lawmaker complained that formulas for distributing federal education money favored big-city districts at the expense of poor students in small towns.
And a senator from Alaska wanted to know how school-turnaround strategies based on firing ineffective instructors would work in a remote village on the Bering Sea that she said already had tremendous teacher turnover.
Lawmakers who represent rural areas told Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hearing Wednesday that the No Child Left Behind law, as well as the Obama administration’s blueprint for overhauling it, failed to take sufficiently into account the problems of rural schools, and their nine million students.

School does not tolerate bullying

George Alexander Sistrunk:

am in the eighth grade and a student at Robert E. Howard Middle School. I have been attending the school since 2008. I’m writing to your newspaper in view of the recent allegations of bullying at the school. In all fairness, individual incidents of bullying can happen because they are hard to detect and manage. The reason for this is that bullying can take many forms.
Since being at the school, I have not personally seen anyone being bullied by another student. The security at Howard is good. Teachers monitor student activities while traveling to and from classes and at the end of the day. When teachers see something going on that should not be happening, they do their best to stop it.

The Lie of the Liberal Arts Education

Jeff G.

This will be an especially personal post, but as it brings into sharp relief many of the ideas I’ve spent years writing about here, I figured it’s worth sharing.
As many of you know, a few evenings ago I received the following email from one of my old creative writing professors:
Would you mind taking my name off your “about” page on Proteinwisdom? I’ve always liked you and your fiction, and your and [name redacted] impetus to make that conference happen, at that moment in time, did a great deal to speed this program along. I was also simply grateful to have you in the program when you came along, because you were-and are-a very smart and intellectual fiction writer, a rare commodity still, to this day. But I am more and more alarmed by the writings in this website of yours, and I do not want to be associated with it.
Brian Kiteley
Here’s the context of that mention on my “about” page: “Some of the writers Jeff studied under are Rikki Ducornet, Beth Nugent, Brian Kiteley, and Brian Evenson.
My reply was terse:

India’s HRD Ministry to Develop Syllabus for Geospatial Studies

Press Trust of India:

n a bid to enhance innovative and technical education in India, Union HRD Ministry will develop a syllabus for geospatial information studies.
“Presently, we are working with Rolta in preparing a syllabus for geospatial study. It is being developed to create more workforce in the geospatial space as India is lacking speciality technical education. We are trying to expand more opportunities in the education space,” HRD Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters on the sidelines of a CII meet here today.
Geospatial information studies focuses on the interface between human information constructs and spatial decision making.

Delaware, Tennessee Win US Race to the Top Grants

Neil King, Jr.:

The Obama administration has decided to award just two states–Delaware and Tennessee–with hundreds of millions in education grants, the culmination of a hard-fought competition that originally drew applications from 40 states, according to people familiar with the decision.
That the administration has picked only two states, and passed up states like Florida and Louisiana that were widely seen as favorites, will surprise many in the education world.
The grants, the first of two rounds under the administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, are designed to reward states that are pushing ahead on tough teaching standards to overhaul lagging schools.
The fact that just two states won will placate critics, who warned that the administration appeared to be watering down its own standards for the awards. Skeptics have also raised concerns that the Race to the Top program, a cornerstone of the administration’s education policy, would reward states making big promises instead of only those best prepared to impose real change.

Research concludes that students don’t learn more science under Chicago Public Schools College-Prep-for-All Policy

Nicholas Montgomery & Elaine Allensworth:

A Chicago Public Schools policy that dramatically increased science requirements did not help students learn more science and actually may have hurt their college prospects, according to a new report from the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.
The science policy was part of a larger CPS initiative to expose all students to a college-preparatory curriculum by increasing course requirements across a range of subjects.
Though CPS high school students took and passed more college-prep science courses under the new policy, overall performance in science classes did not improve, with five of every six students earning Cs or lower. College-going rates declined significantly among graduates with a B average or better in science, and they dipped for all students when researchers controlled for changes in student characteristics over time.

Commentary from Melissa Westbrook.

Madison East High’s theater doesn’t do justice to school’s rich performing arts tradition

Susan Troller:

When the curtain goes up at East High, the school’s talented musicians, singers, dancers, actors and spoken-word artists have a well-deserved reputation for creating an enchanting world onstage. That’s good, because East’s real-life theater is one of the most awkward, uninspiring performance venues in the county, if not the state.
Consider the orange plastic bowling chairs, bolted to a concrete floor. These backbreakers may have been the height of utilitarian chic when East’s original theater was remodeled in the early 1970s, but they’re hardly conducive to long performances. In fact, after a two-hour play or a 90-minute concert, ardent fans have been heard quietly cursing the theater’s discomfort even as they praise the quality of the performances.
Then there’s the cramped, inadequate size of the theater, also a legacy of the remodeling that transformed the original, elegant Jazz Age theater with a 765-seat capacity into two study halls, one of which now doubles as the theater/auditorium.

What does authentic learning mean, if anything?

Jay Matthews:

Those of us who wallow in educational jargon have all heard the term “authentic.” It seems to mean lessons that connect to the real world, like a physics class visiting a nuclear power plant or an English class performing a play by Edward Albee.
But like all fashionable terms, its meaning can evolve, or be distorted, depending on your point of view. I often use it to describe the powerful effect of telling Advanced Placement students in inner city schools that they are preparing for the same exam that kids in the richest school in the suburbs are taking. That makes their studies seem more authentic. Am I misusing the word?
How do you use it? Is it important in schools? Or is it just another buzz word gone bad?
I raise this intriguing issue, which had not occurred to me before, because of an email from Carl Rosin, an English and interdisciplinary/gifted class teacher at Radnor High School, 12 miles west of Philadelphia:

Advocating Online Curricular Options

Tom Vander Ark:

[Note: this unpublished paper was originally drafted in 2004 with Jim Shelton and draws heavily from the work of Paul Hill, Michael Barber, Michael Fullan, Kim Smith. Posting today, with a few updates, was inspired by a panel discussion yesterday including Paul Hill, Steve Adamowski, Garth Harries, Dacia Toll, and Andy Moffit]
The most important challenge in America today is creating systems of schools that work for all students, particularly low income and historically underserved groups. The goal of helping all students achieve at high levels is now decades old. We’ve made slow but steady progress in elementary literacy but secondary achievement levels and graduation rates remain stagnant. Hundreds of schools are helping most students achieve at high levels, but they remain largely random acts of innovation and heroic leadership. Few if any public school districts have achieved uniformly high performance and attainment levels. Building systems of schools that break the cycle of poverty and close the achievement/attainment gap remains critical to our economy, society and democracy.

Is a College Education Essential for Americans?

PBS NewsHour:

GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: Does the U.S. need more college graduates in its work force to remain competitive in the global economy? That was the central question at the kickoff of a new season of national debates hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, argued that we need more college graduates. George Leef, director of research at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richard Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University, argued that many jobs being created today don’t require college degrees.
PAUL SOLMAN: Is it not the case that the United States needs to have a more and more sophisticated work force? Isn’t it the case that, if other countries with whom we’re competing are becoming more sophisticated, that that’s a challenge to us, George?
GEORGE LEEF, director of research, John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy: Oh, it’s a challenge, but putting more people through college is not the way to meet it.
At the margin — remember, we’re not talking here about are we going to educate most of the Americans who — who have high skills and high aptitude, the high-SAT kids, the motivated students. They can — they’re going to go to college. The question is, are we going to get a few more at the margin into college?
That’s what we’re debating.

Comments on School District Budget Transparency

Melissa Westbrook:

Meg Diaz pulled together a chart (which I will post later on) that shows some of the “foundation, institutions and private donor contributions to SPS for 2009-2010”). It’s quite interesting reading to see how much some PTAs raise. There are some schools that have real money going through them like McGilvra PTA, $252,558 for a staffing grant, Laurelhurst PTA with $161,000, JSIS PTA, $280,000, Salmon Bay PTA $101,000). New School Foundation gave South Shore $1.2M.
Hey, bless all these people for raising this money and donating it.
But a lot of this says “PTA Supplemental Staffing”. Again, the PTA is not there to backfill staff or fix buildings and it is very sad that this is what is happening. (I know at least one school that does not allow this because of the worry of it being sustainable and I’m sure it is quite a heavy worry for parents to keep up this level of fundraising.) Given that this is happening, I’m a little surprised at how little engagement and respect parents receive given that kind of support and largesse.

2 Sisters Improve Reading Online

Tom Vander Ark:

When I was superintendent in Federal Way, two of our best reading teachers happened to be sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I had the good fortune to run into them on a flight this week. They’ve published two great books, The Daily 5 most recently, and run an online professional development site, The Daily Cafe–a great business model and resource. It’s great to see a couple edupreneurs doing well by doing good.

The Turnaround Myth: Failing schools are best shut down.

Wall Street Journal:

Like its predecessor, the Obama Administration is focusing its education policy on fixing failed schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls for a “dramatic overhaul” of “dropout factories, where 50, 60, 70 percent of students” don’t graduate. The intentions are good, but a new study shows that school turnarounds have a dismal record that doesn’t warrant more reform effort.
“Much of the rhetoric on turnarounds is pie in the sky–more wishful thinking than a realistic assessment of what school reform can actually accomplish,” writes Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution. “It can be done but the odds are daunting” and “examples of large-scale, system-wide turnarounds are nonexistent.”
Mr. Loveless looked at 1,100 schools in California and compared test scores from 1989 and 2009. “Of schools in the bottom quartile in 1989–the state’s lowest performers–nearly two-thirds (63.4 percent) scored in the bottom quartile again in 2009,” he writes. “The odds of a bottom quartile school’s rising to the top quartile were about one in seventy (1.4 percent).” Of schools in the bottom 10% in 1989, only 3.5% reached the state average after 20 years.
Conversely, the best schools tended to remain that way. Sixty-three percent of the top performers in 1989 were still at the top in 2009, while only 2.4% had fallen to the bottom. School achievement, or lack thereof, is remarkably persistent, and California’s worst schools were all the subject of numerous reform attempts in “finance, governance, curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” writes Mr. Loveless, a former California public school teacher.

Teen gets carpal tunnel from texting, wants iPhone

Chris Matyszczyk:

A 100-a-day habit isn’t good for you. Everyone knows that. It’s just hard, sometimes, to explain it to kids who think it’s so cool.
Cigarettes? Lord, no, those things smell. We’re talking texting.
According to ABC News, 16-year-old Annie Levitz from Mundelein, Ill., began to sense a little disharmony in her hands. They would feel tingly, numb, or merely hurt like hell. Had she been practicing her free throws in preparation for March Madness? Had she been attempting to become Mundelein’s Chopin? If only. Levitz had merely been texting her friends up to 100 times a day.

10 Competencies for Every Graduate

Joshua Kim:

Every job is a technology job. Technology is baked into each aspect of work. Social media means that everyone in an organization is a communicator, everyone is a salesperson.
As the technical infrastructure continues an inexorable movement towards a service, sourced from without, skills to utilize technology higher up the value chain will be the only ones that pay a professional wage. Just as the word processor replaced the secretary, lightweight authoring tools and social media publishing platforms will replace Web and media specialists for all but the highest fidelity (and revenue generating) tasks.
I’m not saying the media and Web jobs will disappear, rather we will all be expected to create multimedia work in digital format and share / interact with digital tools. Today’s NYTimes reporter who writes, but also podcasts and creates short videos, (think David Pogue), provides a glimpse into all of our futures.
What would you choose as the 10 competencies that every college graduate must bring to the job market?

Iowa Association of School Boards dismisses Kilcrease

Clark Kauffman:

Maxine Kilcrease’s stint as the head of the Iowa Association of School Boards began one year ago with her breaking down and crying during a mock job interview, and it ended Thursday when she was fired for alleged misconduct.
Just 10 months ago, the association’s directors praised Kilcrease for her “experience in financial management.”
On Friday, a different board president denounced Kilcrease for misleading the board about finances, raising her salary to $367,000 without board approval and circumventing bidding requirements for purchases.

Parents question Florida Senate education bill, say effective teachers could be lost

Katie Tammen:

Teachers aren’t the only ones talking about a proposed bill that will change the way they are evaluated and paid.
Parents talk about it when they pick up their children from school, at extracurricular activities and at church. Some of them are unfamiliar with the particulars of the bill, while others have written legislators to ask them to vote against the bill.
Few of them support it.
“I just do not feel like that is something that is going to help our kids or our education system in Florida,” said Amy Moye, who has two children at Bluewater Elementary School. “I think it’s going to hurt us in the long run. I am all for removing ineffective teachers from the classroom, but I think there are other ways to do it, and this is going to remove good teachers from the classroom.”

Wisconsin Reading test scores are terrible, but let’s not write black kids off

Eugene Kane:

Black fourth-graders in Wisconsin are bringing up the rear in national reading tests for the nation’s schoolchildren, according to a recent government report.
This news has led to another round of the usual handwringing, head-shaking and general consternation about the state of public education in cities like Milwaukee, where the largest population of black students lives.
For many, the main concern about failing black students is the assumption many won’t be able to contribute productively to society because of their lack of reading skills. In that event, some fear, failing black students will eventually end up behind bars.
If that happens, some will have their education continue with people like James Patterson.
Patterson is an education specialist with the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility, where inmates 15 to 24 are held for various juvenile and adult offenses. During their time at the facility, many inmates attend classes and work toward earning a high school equivalency diploma.

More on Diane Ravitch & School Choice

Alan Borsuk:

Milwaukee, in the strongly revised opinion of Diane Ravitch, is almost a textbook example for showing that the prediction that the tide of school choice will lift all educational boats is wrong.
“One might wonder about how much (Milwaukee Public Schools) is coming apart at the seams because of the competition,” Ravitch said in a telephone conversation. “The competition was supposed to make things better.”
A few years ago, Ravitch was a prominent voice for that latter sentiment. But in a way that has caused a stir in education circles nationwide, she now has come down emphatically in the opposite camp when it comes to private school vouchers, charter schools and the testing-based accountability regimen that is at the heart of the No Child Left Behind education law.
Those ideas just haven’t worked, she argues in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” It is time to return to emphasizing better curriculum and instruction as the key to better success, she says, and it is time for emphasizing the needs of the mainstream of public school students.

Weather to Go to College

Uri Simonsohn:

Does current utility bias predictions of future utility for high stakes decisions? Here I provide field evidence consistent with such Projection Bias in one of life’s most thought-about decisions: college enrolment. After arguing and documenting with survey evidence that cloudiness increases the appeal of academic activities, I analyse the enrolment decisions of 1,284 prospective students who visited a university known for its academic strengths and recreational weaknesses. Consistent with the notion that current weather conditions influence decisions about future academic activities, I find that an increase in cloudcover of one standard deviation on the day of the visit is associated with an increase in the probability of enrolment of 9 percentage points.

NJEA responds to Christie’s heavy criticism

Tom Hester, Sr.:

Under public pressure from Gov. Chris Christie to renegotiate contracts with local school boards and being accused by him as part of the problem of high education costs and not part of the solution, the 200,000-member state teachers’ union criticized him in return Friday.
New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian said Christie has chosen the welfare of residents who earn over $400,000 annually over full school funding for the benefit of children.
“The choice could not be more stark: tax cuts for millionaires, or full school funding for New Jersey kids,” Keshishian said. “Just a few weeks into his term Governor Christie has staked out his position, slashing nearly $1.5 billion from state aid to schools and higher education.
“At the same time, he has rejected out of hand any consideration of reinstating a very modest tax on the very wealthiest New Jersey residents, those making more than $400,000 per year,” she said. “Last year, that surcharge generated nearly $1 billion in revenue for the state, enough to close much of the hole that his reckless budget opened in local school budgets.”

Facebook privacy policy shift fires critics

David Gelles:

Facebook on Friday announced another round of changes to its privacy policy, including amendments that could allow the site to share user information automatically with third-party websites.
Certain websites could soon be “pre-approved” by Facebook, so that if a user is logged into Facebook and then visits the third-party website, it would receive information including the “names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting” of a user and his or her friends.
The sites might be able to retain that information “to the extent permitted under their terms of service or privacy policies”.
Facebook said it would introduce the feature with a small group of partners and offer new controls for users to opt out.
However, the company could face resistance by users and advocates who see such a move as another invasion of privacy.

Senate Votes to Overhaul Student-Loan Industry

Corey Boles:

The Senate voted to implement a major shakeup of the student loan industry Thursday, in a move that will lead to the most dramatic changes in the way college loans will be made since the Clinton era.
Under the proposal, all private lenders will be banned from originating student loans, with the federal Department of Education stepping in to become the sole provider of loans through a government-backed program.
The overhaul bill still needs to clear the U.S. House once more before it is sent to President Barack Obama for his expected signature. The House is scheduled to consider the bill later Thursday, and Democratic leaders have expressed confidence that it should be approved in that vote.

Why no Male Studies?

Daniel de Vise:

Lots of colleges have Women’s Studies departments. Some pursue Gender Studies. What about Men’s Studies?
I was just alerted to a web site that announces the following:
A gathering of academicians drawn from a range of disciplines will meet on April 7, 2010, at Wagner College, Staten Island, New York, to examine the declining state of the male, stemming from cataclysmic changes in today’s culture, environment and global economy.
At first I wondered if it was a joke. Evidently it is not.
The colloquium will be led by Lionel Tiger, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University.

Doubts About Diversity Training

Idea of the Day:

Today’s idea: Though diversity training has been widely embraced by corporate America, there’s little evidence so far that it works, sociologists find.
Work | In The Boston Globe, Drake Bennett reports on studies by researchers at Princeton, Yale, Columbia and elsewhere finding little empirical support for the idea that diversity training programs change attitudes or behavior. He describes one wide-ranging survey of more than 800 companies that points to what doesn’t work, and what might:
Some training programs were more effective than others: Voluntary programs were better than mandatory ones, and those that focused on the threat of bias and harassment lawsuits were worse than those that did not. But even the better programs led only to marginal changes. And those that were mandatory or discussed lawsuits — the vast majority of the programs the researchers examined — slightly reduced the number of women and minorities in management. Required training and legalistic training both make people resentful, the authors suggest, and likely to rebel against what they’ve heard.

Time to Pull the Plug on New Covenant Charter School

Peter Murphy:

It’s never easy closing a school, but sometimes it needs to happen if policymakers take accountability issues seriously. District school closures, particularly outside New York City, are rare. By contrast, the unique accountability and oversight of charter schools is integral to the bargain they make, which includes the ultimate accountability of closing their doors for underperformance.
This has always been the case for charter schools, of which eight have been closed since 2004, when the initial schools first came up for their five-year charter renewal (another conversion charter was revoked in 2001).
In some instances, it’s a close call whether or not to close a charter school. Like any school, charters can make mistakes and need more time to implement corrections to show better academic results. Charter school authorizers have typically granted additional time in the form of a short-term renewal of their charters. In most cases, short-term renewals were just the right approach, as these charters took the extra time to show better results to earn them a subsequent full five-year renewal.

Clusty Search: New Covenant Charter School – Albany, NY.

Google Earth for Educators: 50 Exciting Ideas for the Classroom

Associate Degree:

Google Earth has opened up potential for students in classrooms around the globe with its bird’s-eye view of the world. Whether you are a veteran teacher looking for new ways to teach old topics or you are a still an education student getting ready to make your debut in the classroom, these exciting ways to use Google Earth are sure to infuse your lessons with plenty of punch. Find ideas for any age student and a handful of virtual tours that will not only help you instruct your students, but might even teach you something along the way.
Younger students can have fun with these Google Earth lessons and ideas.

All Google users should be familiar with their privacy policies and the related controversies. More here.

Principal Bans Hugs in Oregon Middle School

Allan Brettman:

A ‘culture’ of hugging that reportedly got out of control led an Oregon middle school principal to outlaw the displays of affection, reported.
After students would “scream and run down the hallway and jump into each other’s arms,” the school decided enough was enough and have halted hugs as well as other behaviors deemed detrimental to teaching and learning, reported.
Principal Allison Couch told that the ban came after a school bus incident resulted in a call to police, but did not describe what happened.

Obama Retreats on Education Reform

Karl Rove:

“Teaching to the test” means teaching real skills.
In a week dominated by health care, President Barack Obama released a set of education proposals that break with ideals once articulated by Robert F. Kennedy.
Kennedy’s view was that accountability is essential to educating every child. He expressed this view in 1965, while supporting an education reform initiative, saying “I do not think money in and of itself is necessarily the answer” to educational excellence. Instead, he hailed “good faith . . . effort to hold educators responsive to their constituencies and to make educational achievement the touchstone of success.”
But rather than raising standards, the Obama administration is now proposing to gut No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) accountability framework. Enacted in 2002, NCLB requires that every school be held responsible for student achievement. Under the new proposal, up to 90% of schools can escape responsibility. Only 5% of the lowest-performing schools will be required to take action to raise poor test scores. And another 5% will be given a vague “warning” to shape up, but it is not yet clear what will happen if they don’t.

New York parents turn up heat on ‘bake sales’ ban

Jonathan Birchall:

New York city’s standard-setting efforts to improve the heatlh of its citizens have provoked resistance in the past from bar owners, fastfood restaurants and global food and drink companies.
But this week it was the turn of parents selling muffins, brownies and spinach empanadas on the steps of City Hall.
About 300 people turned out to oppose new city regulations that in effect ban school “bake sales” – an all-American fundraising staple where students and parents sell homebaked cakes and cookies to fund museum trips and equip their sports teams.
The sales, which can raise as much as $500 a time, have fallen foul of efforts by the Department of Education to improve the nutritional quality of foods available in schools as part of its battle against rising levels of childhood obesity.

‘Gang whisperer’ interprets for those wanting to help

Petula Dvorak:

The teens lean all the way back in their chairs, so low they’re like tables. Hats are down tight; they won’t take them off no matter how many times you ask.
Arms are crossed. They never look right at you. They’re mean muggin’. Hoodies go up. You don’t exist.
You can call them street kids, at-risk youths, gang members, crew members, juvenile delinquents, abused children, thugs, rebels, whatever.
When you’re one of those people who are there to throw them a lifeline, to show them someone cares, to give them a chance, to try to make a tiny opening in that closed-off, scary world they are sealed shut in, sometimes all you can call them is frustrating.

5 S.F. school principals under fire

Jill Tucker:

Five principals at the helm of struggling San Francisco schools will be forced within the next few weeks to make a gut-wrenching choice: Fight for their jobs – a battle that could cost their schools millions of dollars – or leave.
Last week, the principals found out their sites had been placed on the state’s list of schools that are persistently the lowest-performing. Statewide, 188 schools are on the list, and each one can qualify for up to $2 million annually in federal grants for the next three years. But in exchange, they must undergo a major overhaul, starting with naming a new principal.
The schools have less than five months to come up with a reform plan, apply for the funding, and put everything in place by the first day of school in the fall.

Illinois State Senate OKs school vouchers

Dave McKinney:

Parents with students in the lowest-performing elementary schools in Chicago could obtain vouchers to move their children into better-performing private schools under a plan that passed the Illinois Senate on Thursday.
The voucher legislation pushed by Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) passed 33-20, with three voting present, could affect thousands of children in the lowest-performing 10 percent of city schools. It now moves to the House.
“By passing this bill, we’ll give 22,000 kids an opportunity to have a choice on whether or not they’ll continue in their failing school or go to another non-public school within the city of Chicago,” Meeks said.
“Just as we came up with and passed charter schools to help children, now is an opportunity to pass this bill so we can help more children escape the dismal realities of Chicago’s public schools,” Meeks said.

The 3 Year MD

Scott Jaschik:

As the buzz continues to grow about three-year bachelor’s degrees, Texas Tech University is starting a three-year M.D. program.
Two Canadian institutions — McMaster University and the University of Calgary — offer three-year M.D. options. In the United States, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offers a three-year option for a D.O. degree. But the unusual Texas Tech M.D. program could represent a significant move in efforts to encourage more medical students to go into primary care and to find ways to minimize the costs of medical education. And it may raise questions about the fourth year of most medical degrees.

Lousy School Lunch Bill Closer to Passage

Jill Richardson:

Why do Democrats put their least loyal Senator in charge of one of their highest profile issues? Michelle Obama started her government-wide “Let’s Move” program to improve children’s health and nutrition, but Blanche Lincoln’s the author of the Senate child nutrition bill that just passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday. And Blanche Lincoln is no Michelle Obama. She’s not even as progressive as Barack Obama, who called for $10 billion in new money over 10 years for child nutrition, a number Lincoln reduced by more than half.
To put that in easier to understand terms, Obama’s proposal would have given up to $.18 in addition funds to each child’s school lunch. Lincoln’s bill gives each lunch $.06. Compare that to the School Nutrition Association’s request to raise the current $2.68 “reimbursement rate” (the amount the federal government reimburses schools for each free lunch served to a low income child) by $.35 just to keep the quality of the lunches the same and make up for schools’ current budgetary shortfall. School lunch reformer Ann Cooper calls for an extra $1 per lunch to actually make lunches healthy. So any amount under $.35 is no reform at all, and Lincoln gave us $.06.

A Look at Arne Duncan’s VIP List of Requests at Chicago Schools and the Effects of his Expansion of Charter Schools in Chicago

Amy Goodman & others, via a Laura Chern email:

When President Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was the head of Chicago’s Public Schools, his office kept a list of powerful, well-connected people who asked for help getting certain children into the city’s best public schools. The list–long kept confidential–was disclosed this week by the Chicago Tribune. We speak with the Chicago Tribune reporter who broke the story and with two Chicago organizers about Duncan and his aggressive plan to expand charter schools. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: When President Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was the head of Chicago’s Public Schools, his office kept a list of powerful, well-connected people who asked for help getting certain children into the city’s best public schools. The list–long held confidential–was disclosed this week by the Chicago Tribune.
The paper reports that the nearly forty pages of logs show admissions requests from twenty-five aldermen, Mayor Daley’s office, the state House Speaker, the state attorney general, the former White House social secretary, and a former United States senator. The log noted “AD”–initials for Arne Duncan–as the person requesting help for ten students and a co-requestor about forty times.
A spokesman for Duncan denied any wrongdoing and said Duncan used the list, not to dole out rewards to insiders, but to shield principals from political interference.
AMY GOODMAN: Duncan was chief executive of the Chicago schools, the nation’s third-largest school system, from 2001 to 2009. During that time, he oversaw implementation of a program known as Renaissance 2010. The program’s aim was to close sixty schools and replace them with more than 100 charter schools. Now as President Obama’s Education Secretary, Duncan is overseeing a push by the administration to aggressively expand charter schools across the country.

Decision makes schools chief loathed and loved

Wayne Drash:

Superintendent Frances Gallo combed the classrooms of embattled Central Falls High School. Teachers and students were gone for the day. Gallo was hunting for a particular item: an effigy of President Obama.
She hoped the rumor of its existence wasn’t true.
Gallo had fired all the high school teachers just a month earlier, igniting an educational maelstrom in Rhode Island’s smallest and poorest community while winning praise from the president.
The teachers union lampooned her; hate mail flooded her inbox. For weeks, she’d prayed every morning for the soul of the man who wrote: “I wish cancer on your children and their children and that you live long enough to see them die.”
It was one thing to take barbs from opponents — another thing altogether if the division was infecting classrooms. Teachers assured the superintendent that the school battle wasn’t seeping into lesson plans. So, when CNN asked her about the rumor of the effigy, Gallo took it upon herself to get to the bottom of it.

War on Teachers Escalates

Christopher Paslay:

Last month’s wholesale firing of 74 teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island exemplified America’s rising anti-teacher sentiment. Both President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised Superintendent Frances Gallo’s decision, and Newsweek writers Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert called the firings a “notable breakthrough.”
This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “War on teachers escalates”. Please click here to read the entire article. You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.

Illinois considers a four-day school week to save money

Melanie Eversley

Illinois state senators are considering a measure already in place in other states that would allow school districts to convert to a four-day week, the Chicago Tribune writes.
State House members already have approved the plan, designed to help rural school districts save money, the paper said. California, Colorado and Arizona have adopted similar plans, the paper reported.
“We would save $100,000 or more a school year … (if we) run the buses one less day a week,” Mark Janesky, superintendent of the Jamaica School District, told the Tribune. “I turn the heat off an extra day a week. Your cafeteria is open one day less a week.”

Classroom fight as Texas rewrites textbooks

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson:

America’s classroom culture wars broke out again this week after a vote by the Texas Board of Education to rewrite the standards for high school social studies courses in the largest single US market for textbooks.
A conservative group on the board voted through revisions that opponents said would challenge the Founding Fathers’ belief in the separation of church and state, play up Republican leadership and play down negative connotations about the word “capitalist” by replacing it with talk of the “free-enterprise society”.
The dispute has sparked headlines around the country about a “Texas textbook massacre”. It was featured by Jon Stewart, Comedy Central late-night television satirist, under the caption “Don’t mess with textbooks”, a reference to the state’s old “Don’t mess with Texas” bumper stickers.
For the publishing industry, however, the news is both wearily familiar and a sign of how much the textbook business has changed. Battles over subjects from evolution to Civil War history have become almost annual events, not least in Texas.

Education lessons are lost on Obama

Steve Chapman:

I can’t pinpoint the moment the Obama administration went wrong on the subject of education. But I can pinpoint the moment when it demonstrated it can’t be taken seriously.
I can’t pinpoint the moment when the Obama administration went wrong on the subject of education. But I can pinpoint the moment when it demonstrated that it can’t be taken seriously.
It happened on Monday, March 15, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was expounding to reporters about revising the No Child Left Behind law. The new policy, he asserted, “is going to revolutionize education in our country.”
No, it’s not. We have been at the task of education for a long time, and one thing we know is that you cannot revolutionize it. The American system of schooling is vast, complicated, self-protective, slow to change and even slower to improve.
On these points, No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, leaves no doubt. It was inaugurated with grand promises eight years ago. “As of this hour, America’s schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results,” exulted President George W. Bush upon signing it.

School Reform: The Next Test

The Economist:

HEALTH reform was supposed to be the crowning achievement of Barack Obama’s first year as president. Instead it has riled Republicans, alienated leftists and exhausted everyone else. However, on March 15th Mr Obama presented Congress with a plan that ought to have a greater chance of support: reforming No Child Left Behind (NCLB), America’s main federal education programme. Everyone agrees that America’s public schools are floundering, and NCLB is widely considered to have failed.
NCLB, enacted in 2002, transformed education policy. It gave the federal government a crucial role in education, forcing states to set standards and hold their schools accountable for meeting them. Schools that failed to make progress would face financial sanctions. All students were to be proficient in reading and maths by 2014. George Bush championed the law; Congress supported it wholeheartedly.

Incoming Irving (TX) schools chief discusses the challenges ahead

Katherine Leal Unmuth:

ana T. Bedden, 43, will begin his new job as Irving school superintendent in July.
Bedden currently leads the Richmond County School System in Augusta, Ga. He’s also worked in school districts in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Florida native makes history as Irving’s first black superintendent. He replaces Jack Singley, who led the district for 21 years.
Bedden has signed a three-year contract with the district at a base salary of $244,400.
Bedden answered questions in a telephone interview Wednesday. Here are excerpts from the discussion.
One challenge in Irving is a lack of parental involvement. How will you address this?
I try to be inclusive. Who’s at the table so a community can feel they have a voice? We have to look at how we go about engagement. Are we always asking them to come to us, or do we take opportunities to go to them where they feel comfortable? It’s creating access, but it’s also educating.

Some St. Cloud students start their school day before the dawn

Tim Post:

At 6:30 or 7:00 each morning, you may just be rolling out of bed or finishing up that first cup of coffee. But some students at St. Cloud Technical and Community College have already been in their first class of the day.
Because of a demand for courses in the health sciences, the school now offers a 6:30 a.m. anatomy course.
It’s part of a nationwide trend. Because of skyrocketing enrollment, community colleges are scheduling classes at unusual times to squeeze more students in.
Things move quickly during Liz Burand’s 6:30 a.m. physiology and anatomy course. She begins her pre-dawn class with a short quiz, then moves into a brief discussion about the cross-section of cells featured on the test.
After that, Burand runs a video showing an up-close, and rather gory, throat surgery.

Professional fathers are downing tools to play with their children

The Economist:

S THE rich have got richer and those in work ever busier, people with children have discovered a new way of spending their money: on handymen to do the sorts of odd jobs fathers used to roll up their sleeves and take care of. Despite the recent recession, dads, it seems, would rather spend quality time with their offspring than put up shelves or fix dripping taps at the weekend. So their wives, themselves hard pressed, are hiring other men to change fuses and the like, thus making time to dine out, kick a football or visit museums en famille.
Domestic help has long been a mostly female preserve, involving nannies, cleaners and laundry maids. That is changing, according to a forthcoming study by Majella Kilkey of the University of Hull and Diane Perrons of the London School of Economics. The pair reckon that nowadays 39% of domestic helpers in Britain are men, up from 17% in the early 1990s; in London, many are also migrants. Many households hiring handymen already employ a small army of nannies, cleaners and gardeners.

A High School Stu dent Speaks Out  - Why I Cheat

A High School Sophomore:

To start off, I’m a sopho more in a rel a tively pres ti gious pri vate insti tu tion; I have an IQ over 180. I don’t need to cheat. But why wouldn’t I. Hell, I don’t bother on tests, I get all the answers right before most kids in my class, but the sheer volume of home work I receive every night is absolutely ridiculous! Tell me, if I’m already investing 8 hours in school, 2 in sports, 2 in other ECs, how in the hell do my teachers expect me to add 6 more hours to homework?
I’m not stupid, it’s not a matter of me being slow with my work, there just aren’t enough hours in a day for school, rugby practice, play rehearsal, and that much home work! I’ll give a run-down of what I’m supposed to do tonight:
AP U.S. History: Take (meticulous) notes on chapters 40 – 43 (the end of the text, thank [insert deity here].) Prepare for in-class essay on anything that occurred during Roosevelt’s presidency. Okay, so that’s not so bad, but we still have another 6 classes to cover.

Test time for Madison school board candidates James Howard and Tom Farley

Lynn Welch:

Madison voters will soon be put to a test, perhaps one of the more important ones they’ve faced in recent years. On April 6, they’ll get to decide who will fill an open seat on the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education during its biggest financial crisis.
It’s apt, then, that the opposing candidates — James Howard and Tom Farley — also be put to the test. We gave them a series of essay questions on a range of pertinent topics, from how they’d cut the school budget to challenges they’ve faced with their own children in Madison schools.
Their answers, lightly edited for length and style, follow.
Isthmus: What are two specific programs you would suggest cutting or policies you would suggest changing due to ongoing budget challenges, and why?
Howard: In Wisconsin, for 17 years, since 1993, we have had a school funding plan that caps a school district’s annual revenue increase at 2.1%, although the actual cost to run a school district has averaged 4% during those years. Secondly, the state of Wisconsin is supposed to pay two-thirds of the cost of schools. This has never happened. So I’d suggest lifting the revenue caps and legislating complete state funding of public education.
Farley: Certainly, the state’s funding formulas and current economic cycles have had a major effect on this current budget crisis. However, budget challenges will be “ongoing” until the district addresses our own systemic issues. Policies regarding talented and gifted students should be based on national best practices. We should also address length of school year and school day, which are far too limiting and lag other countries.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Personal Income Drops in 42 US States, 2.5% in Wisconsin; Not a great time to raise taxes

Sara Murray:

Personal income in 42 states fell in 2009, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
Nevada’s 4.8% plunge was the steepest, as construction and tourism industries took a beating. Also hit hard: Wyoming, where incomes fell 3.9%.
Incomes stayed flat in two states and rose in six and the District of Columbia. West Virginia had the best showing with a 2.1% increase. In Maine, Kentucky and Hawaii, increased government benefits, such as unemployment insurance and Social Security, offset drops in earnings and property values.
Nationally, personal income from wages, dividends, rent, retirement plans and government benefits declined 1.7% last year, unadjusted for inflation. One bright spot: As the economy recovered, personal income was up in all 50 states in the fourth quarter compared with the third. Connecticut, again, had the highest per capita income of the 50 states at $54,397 in 2009. Mississippi ranked lowest at $30,103.

Yet another reason for school reform

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Worst in the nation?
What an embarrassment.
More importantly, what a loss of young talent for our state.
Wisconsin must do better when it comes to teaching students – especially black students – to read.
Black fourth-graders in Wisconsin just posted the lowest reading scores among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Only 9 percent of black fourth-graders in Wisconsin performed at or above the proficient level. That compares to 38 percent of white fourth-graders, itself a discouraging number.
Those percentages increase to 38 percent for blacks and 75 percent for whites when fourth-graders who can read at a “basic” level are included.

Truly a jury of their peers

Victoria Kim:

The teen court at Dorsey High School is one of 17 in Los Angeles County where students decide the cases of first-time juvenile offenders. The idea is to steer them away from more serious offenses.
The jury’s decision on the 15-year-old scofflaw was swift and unanimous: Guilty. Then the 12 jurors moved on to the question of what consequences the vandal should face for his actions.
“I kinda wanna go pretty hard,” volunteered one juror in a hooded sweat shirt and basketball shorts, gesturing with his arms. “He’s reckless!”
A fellow juror, standing with arms crossed and head cocked, was a little more sympathetic.
“He’s struggling,” she says. “He doesn’t have friends, so being the class clown is an easy way to make friends.”
The defendant was convicted of misdemeanor vandalism for turning on the emergency showers in his middle school’s science lab on a dare. The flooding did more than $2,000 in damage.

Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

Hilary Parker:

A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides. The researchers say the work sheds light on the factors contributing to obesity trends in the United States.
“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

Supporting Online Collaboration in Bandwidth-Challenged Areas

Patty Seybold:

Have you noticed the ways that your work patterns have changed over the past five years? Instant messaging, tweeting, SMS, email, and chat, combined with smartphones has enabled us to be “always on.” It’s now easy to strike up a collaborative working relationship across organizational and geographic boundaries–by messaging, emailing, conferencing, and sending pictures and files back and forth.
Everyone is now reachable much of the time by mobile phone. The modalities of collaboration are becoming richer, and, at the same time, more ad hoc. You can get a quick answer via Twitter, SMS or instant messaging.
Having recently returned from rural Africa, I was amazed by my ability to stay in touch through my Blackberry email in the remotest locations.

The origins of selflessness: Fair play

The Economist:

FOR the evolutionarily minded, the existence of fairness is a puzzle. What biological advantage accrues to those who behave in a trusting and co-operative way with unrelated individuals? And when those encounters are one-off events with strangers it is even harder to explain why humans do not choose to behave selfishly. The standard answer is that people are born with an innate social psychology that is calibrated to the lives of their ancestors in the small-scale societies of the Palaeolithic. Fairness, in other words, is an evolutionary hangover from a time when most human relationships were with relatives with whom one shared a genetic interest and who it was generally, therefore, pointless to cheat.
The problem with this idea is that the concept of fairness varies a lot, depending on which society it happens to come from–something that does not sit well with the idea that it is an evolved psychological tool. Another suggestion, then, is that fairness is a social construct that emerged recently in response to cultural changes such as the development of trade. It may also, some suggest, be bound up with the rise of organised religion.

Education chief closes struggling Texas school

Associated Press:

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott ordered the closure Thursday of a small school district near Houston that has been plagued by years of poor performance on state academic tests.
Kendleton ISD, a 78-student district southwest of Houston that serves elementary students through the sixth grade, is scheduled to be annexed July 1 to the neighboring Lamar Consolidated school district. Scott’s order is pending approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Kendleton received state ratings of “academically unacceptable” for the last four years, most recently due to poor performance on the writing portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Previously, the ratings were caused by poor performance in reading, math and science.

Education Funding Bias in Illinois: Lawsuit Filed

Michael Ciric:

In the State of Illinois, 65% of all education funding comes via property taxes. The state, meanwhile, contributes a measly 28%. Illinois’ contribution ranks one of the lowest rates in the nation. Yet, Illinois is still $853.5 Million in arrears to school districts around the state.
Property Tax funding of school districts has long been a controversial issue. The biggest argument, against this method of funding, is that poorer communities must pay higher property taxes in order to meet the minimum cost of educating a student than the affluent ones. Each year, the state must establish a funding “foundation level”. From that baseline and depending on property values, communities rely on different tax rates, along with expected state aid to arrive at the minimum cost of educating a student. This year that cost was determined to be $6,119 per pupil.

Investors Buy Private Dana College in Neb.

Associated Press:

Dana College will soon join the handful of private colleges that have been sold in recent years and converted from nonprofit organizations to for-profit corporations, The Associated Press reported.
College officials announced Wednesday that a group of investors and an unnamed private equity firm agreed to buy the school in Blair, Nebraska. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close this summer, were not disclosed, the news service said.
Since 2004, 10 other private, nonprofit colleges have been sold and converted to for-profit enterprises, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. But that remains just a fraction of the nation’s 1,600 private, nonprofit colleges, group spokesman Tony Pals told The Associated Press.

At Stuyvesant, Interpreting Parent-Teacher Night

Susan Dominus:

They were too old to be high school students, but not old enough to be the parents. They were lingering near Room 236 at Stuyvesant High School, a group of 20 young people, all of them Asian, standing awkwardly together, waiting for the moment when their peripheral but crucial role would become clear to the main characters at the event, the vaunted parent-teacher night.
Two big signs at the school entrance, one written in Chinese, explained their mission: Parents in need of interpreters could find them by Room 236. (Teachers supervised the writing of the signs, noted Harvey Blumm, who coordinated the event, “so we’d know they didn’t say, ‘Go find a bathroom and stick your head in it.’ “)
Sally Liu, 26, a university graduate student in film, came because she knew what it was like to be lost in a sea of English. Lin Lin Cheng, who is 18 and studying paleontology, had some extra time during her spring break. And Ying Lin, 19, an undergraduate interested in business, had always wanted to see the inside of Stuyvesant.

More gauzy goals for US schools

George Will:

Doubling down on dubious bets is characteristic of compulsive gamblers and federal education policy.
The nation was essentially without such policy for grades K through 12, and better off for that, until 1965. In that year of liberals living exuberantly, they produced the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Now yet another president has announced yet another plan to fix education. His aspiration has a discouraging pedigree.
In 1983, three years after Jimmy Carter paid his debt to teachers’ unions by creating the Education Department, a national commission declared America “a nation at risk”: “If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” So in 1984, Ronald Reagan decreed improvements.

Performance Evaluations – School Board

Charlie Mas:

With all of this talk about Performance Management I thought it would be a good time to review the Performance of the Board Directors and the Board as a whole. I know that the Board does their own self-assessment, but I can’t find it. Besides, it is impossible for anyone to hold themselves accountable. I simply have no faith in self-policing.
For accountability purposes we need some objectively measurable outcomes for the Board job.
The Board job, as I have often written, has three components.
First is to serve as the elected representatives of the public. This includes:

Big-City Test Scores on Rise, Report Says

Dakarai Aarons:

Students in the nation’s urban school districts have improved markedly in mathematics and reading proficiency as measured both on state exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to a new report by the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools.
Released today, the council’s ninth annual “Beating the Odds” report looks at how students in urban districts stack up on state tests compared with students in their respective states as a whole. The report from the council, a Washington-based advocacy organization that represents more than five dozen of the nation’s urban school districts, also uses NAEP data to compare scores of students in big-city districts with national averages.
Urban students showed progress on both sets of data, in some cases outstripping the performance of other students in their own states and nationwide, the report says.

Florida Senate kills teacher tenure pay system; raises tied to student success

Josh Hafenbrack:

In a major shift, the salaries of Florida’s 167,000 teachers could soon be tied to student test scores, rather than seniority and education level.
The state Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial bill by a 21-17 vote to dismantle teacher tenure, a decades-old system in which educators’ pay is based on years of experience and whether they earn upper-level degrees.
New teachers hired after July 1 would work on one-year contracts and face dismissal if their students did not show learning gains on end-of-year exams for two years in any five-year period. For them, job security would be based soley on two factors: standardized scores and job reviews by principals. Existing teachers would have future pay raises tied to student scores and reviews but would keep their current job security.
“It takes a sledgehammer to the teaching profession,” Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said Wednesday.

Books that Have Influenced Me the Most

Will Wilkinson:

Tyler started this nice meme. I’m a bit skeptical about the reliability of introspection and memory, and I think this kind of thing generally reflects one’s favorite current self-construction rather than real influence, so I’ll try to avoid that, but I won’t entirely. I guess I’ll do this roughly chronologically, and leave out the Bible and the Book of Mormon…
1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer. This book made me realize that it is possible to play with words and ideas. I can’t even remember much of the story now. (Is it Milo?) What I remember is the revelation that it is possible to get a thrill from manipulating ideas and the words that express them.
2. Dune by Frank Herbert. The Dune books connected with me deeply as a teenager. They appealed, I think, to the sense that people have profound untapped powers that discipline can draw out; e.g., Mentats, Bene Gesserit. Also, it appealed to the fantasy that I might have special awesome hidden powers, like Paul Atreides, and that they might just sort of come to me, as a gift of fate, without the hassle of all that discipline. I think this book is why I was slightly crushed when I turned 18 and realized that not only was I not a prodigy, but I wasn’t amazingly good at anything. I sometimes still chant the Litany against Fear when I’m especially nervous or panicking about something.

Stanford Seeks to Create a New Breed of Engineer

John Wildermuth:

Stanford is training a new type of engineer for a fast-changing world and James Plummer wants to get the word out that students needn’t be a total techie to apply.
“We’re looking for kids who think of the world in terms of finding solutions to big problems, like global warming, international development, the environment,” Plummer, dean of the School of Engineering, said in an interview. “We want to attract students … who might have a wider world view” than those in the traditional math- and science-laden programs featured at the nation’s top technical schools.
“We are not – and should not be – a technical institute,” Plummer told the university’s Faculty Senate last month. “If (students) come here, they can take advantage of all the other pieces of this campus, which are equally as good as the School of Engineering.”
The approach has advantages when recruiting the kind of students Stanford wants, Plummer said. But it has also brought the engineering school some grief, both from the professional group that accredits it and from the employers who hire the graduates.

Happy Meal is ageless: no decay in a year on a shelf

Cory Doctorow:

Joann Bruso, author of Baby Bites – Transforming A Picky Eater Into A Healthy Eater Book, a book on getting kids to overcome picky eating habits, has been blogging the half-life of a McDonald’s Happy Meal that she bought a year ago. In the intervening year, the box of delight, plastic toys and food-like substances has experienced virtually no decay.

The Fordham Institute’s expert reviewers have analyzed the draft Common Core K-12 education standards (made public on March 10) according to rigorous criteria. Their analyses lead to a grade of A- for the draft mathematics standards and B for those in Eng

Sheila Byrd Carmichael, Chester E. Finn, Jr., Gabrielle Martino, Kathleen Porter-Magee, W. Stephen Wilson, Amber Winkler:

Two weeks ago, American education approached a possible turning point, when the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released drafts of proposed new academic standards in English language arts and math for kindergarten through high school. Already the object of much interest–and some controversy–these are standards that, once revised and finalized, will be candidates for adoption by individual states in place of those they’re now using.
For months before they were made public, the “Common Core” standards were much discussed. Between now and April 2–the end of the public comment period on this draft–there will be plenty more. That is a healthy thing, both because the more thoughtful scrutiny these drafts receive, the better the final product is apt to be, and because the only way for these standards ever to gain traction in our far- flung, highly-decentralized, and loosely-coupled public education system is if peo- ple from all walks of life–parents, educators, employers, public officials, scholars, etc.–take part in reading, commenting, and shaping the final product.
But ought they gain traction? We think so. Assuming this draft only improves in the process of revision, the Common Core represents a rare opportunity for American K-12 education to re-boot. A chance to set forth, across state lines, a clear, ambi- tious, and actionable depiction of the essential skills, competencies, and knowledge that our young people should acquire in school and possess by the time they gradu- ate. Most big modern nations–including our allies and competitors–already have something like this for their education systems. If the U.S. does it well and if–this is a big if–the huge amount of work needed to operationalize these standards is earnestly undertaken in the months and years to follow, this country could find itself with far-better educated citizens than it has today. Many more of them will be “college- and career-ready” and that means the country as a whole will be stronger, safer, and more competitive.

Reading scores stalled despite ‘No Child Left Behind,’ report finds

Nick Anderson & Bill Turque:

The nation’s students are mired at a basic level of reading in fourth and eighth grades, their achievement in recent years largely stagnant, according to a federal report Wednesday that suggests a dwindling academic payoff from the landmark No Child Left Behind law.
But reading performance has climbed in D.C. elementary schools, a significant counterpoint to the national trend, even though the city’s scores remain far below average.
The report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that fourth-grade reading scores stalled after the law took effect in 2002, rose modestly in 2007, then stalled again in 2009. Eighth-grade scores showed a slight uptick since 2007 — 1 point on a scale of 500 — but no gain over the seven-year span when President George W. Bush’s program for school reform was in high gear.

Smart pill that helps children through puberty

Richard Alleyne:

Teenagers could become smarter just by taking a pill that stimulates a part of the brain that controls learning and memory, scientists say.
Researchers claim to have discovered the brain receptor that dictates how much people can learn – especially during the all important puberty years – and armed with that knowledge they could develop a smart pill to help teenagers expand their minds.
The receptor called alpha4-beta-delta appears to slow down learning when teenagers hit puberty.
Instead of parents spending tens of thousands of pounds on private school fees, they could give their teenagers a regular dose of steroids to negate its effect, researchers say.
The brain receptor develops in the hippocampus, which controls learning and memory, when children hit puberty.
But researchers say giving children a steroid can stop the receptor and boost teenagers’ memory.

Parents & The Detroit Public Schools

Marisa Schultz:

Less than five months after Detroit voters passed a $500.5 million school construction plan, nearly half of the 18 schools that were to be rebuilt or renovated are now headed for closure or plans for them have been altered.
The changes have outraged some supporters of the Proposal S bond who say they feel cheated for voting for a plan they were told would mean new construction or renovation in their neighborhood, but instead their schools will be shuttered as soon as this summer, according to the facilities plan released this week by Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools.
“It’s a slap in the face to the community,” said Tia Shepherd, whose children’s schools, Cooley High School and Bethune Academy, were slated for $17 million in upgrades but now are closing. “Our community got shortchanged twice.”

Graduate students juggle parenthood with academic politics

Jenna Johnson:

University of Maryland graduate student Anupama Kothari went into labor on a Friday afternoon two years ago. After a Caesarean section, she was a first-time mother, with a baby girl with huge brown eyes.
But there wasn’t much time to settle into motherhood, bond with her daughter or follow her doctor’s orders to rest. Seven days later, Kothari was back at work on her doctorate in business and helping marketing professors with their research. Her body ached in protest.

Wyo education leaders not impressed with federal education law

Tom Lacock:

The proposed overhaul of No Child Left Behind is prompting concern from the Wyoming teachers’ union.
President Barack Obama last week announced his administration would revamp the federal education law, officially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), during an upcoming re-authorization process. The Wyoming Education Association sees the rewrite as both promising and troubling.
“The blueprint earns a grade of incomplete,” WEA President Kathryn Valido said. “There are a lot of areas that need to be re-thought. There are some pieces in it that are a step in the right direction, but the overemphasis on one or two test scores to determine the effectiveness of a teacher or a school doesn’t make sense.”

Schools use referendums to balance budgets

Gina Duwe:

When Parkview Superintendent Steve Lutzke talks to fellow superintendents, the question isn’t, “Are you going to referendum?”
The question is, “When are you going to referendum?”
Declining enrollments and increasing costs that exceed revenue limits plague the Orfordville-based Parkview School District and its neighbor to the west, Brodhead. The results are referendums in both districts April 6 asking voters for permission to exceed state revenue caps.
“They have a lot of company,” said John Ashley, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Parkview and Brodhead join 34 other districts in the state planning 48 referendums on next month’s ballot. Of those, 26 referendums are to exceed revenue caps.

A School District PTA Tax?

Melissa Westbrook:

Thanks to Julie for the alert about Rep. Reuven Carlyle blog thread about the so-called PTA tax that the district is levying on funds raised by PTAs (3.3%). The district hasn’t even publicly announced this but it has been confirmed by several school principals. Shame on the district for not even having the courage of their convictions to publicly say this.

North Carolina Teacher Suspended After Writing ‘Loser’ on Girl’s School Work


A North Carolina teacher reportedly has been suspended after being accused of writing “loser” on a sixth grade student’s school work.
A parent accused Enka Middle School teacher Rex Roland of writing “-20% for being a LOSER” on an assignment done by her daughter, after she had already complained about him writing the word “loser” on previous assignments.
Roland apologized, saying using that kind of language is his way of relating to his students, but the woman said she thinks it’s his way of bullying her daughter, the Associate Press reported.

Wisconsin’s fourth-grade readers lose ground on NAEP Test

Amy Hetzner:

The latest scorecard gauging how well Wisconsin’s students read compared with their classmates in other states showed little change from previous years, but the rest of the nation’s fourth-graders have been catching up and Wisconsin’s black students now rank behind those in every other state.
“Holding steady is not good enough,” state schools Superintendent Tony Evers said about the results. “Despite increasing poverty that has a negative impact on student learning, we must do more to improve the reading achievement of all students in Wisconsin.”
Fourth-graders in Wisconsin posted an average score of 220 on the 500-point reading test administered in 2009 as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card. That represented a three-point drop from two years before and translated to a 33% proficiency rate.
It also matched the national average score for fourth-graders. In 1994, Wisconsin students bested the nation’s fourth-grade average by 12 points.

James Howard Endorsed for the Madison School Board

The Capital Times:

Across decades of interviewing candidates for the Madison School Board, the members of The Capital Times editorial board have talked with dozens of able contenders — and a few not-so-able ones.
We have endorsed liberals and conservatives, friends and foes of the teachers union, veteran board members and newcomers — always in response to a basic question: Which candidate would make the most valuable contribution to the seven-member board that sets the direction for what has been, is and we hope will always remain one of the finest urban school districts in the nation?
With this history providing a sense of perspective, we can say without a doubt that we have rarely if ever encountered a first-time candidate as impressive as James Howard.

Wisconsin State Journal:

James Howard is best prepared for the challenging job of serving on the Madison School Board.
Voters should support him in the April 6 election.
Howard, 56, a research economist, says he’s trained and committed to analyzing data before making decisions. He’ll bring that strong trait to a School Board that has sometimes let emotion get the best of it.
A good example is the difficult issue of consolidating schools with low enrollments to save money during tight times. The School Board backed down from its smart vote in 2007 to consolidate elementary schools on the Near East Side.

Districts need short-term power to raise taxes without voters’ approval, Minnesota Rep. Greiling says

Megan Boldt:

School administrators are staring down a triple-barreled threat.
State aid for schools is frozen. Minnesota is borrowing more than $2 billion in funding promised to schools to help balance the books, forcing districts to dip into their reserves and take out loans. And lawmakers still need to fill in an additional $1 billion shortfall.
So does that mean school districts should have more authority to raise property taxes without voter approval? Some education leaders believe so. The notion has been batted around for years but never gained traction.
“In any other year, I would be horrified by the idea,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville. “But I will consider this as a short-term solution. Education funding should be from the state. But schools need a lifeline right now.”

Gifted education important for students

Bellevue Reporter
The Bellevue School District has many hard choices to make in the next few weeks. There is only one item on the district survey that has to do with basic education–the enrichment program. As mentioned in last week’s front-page article in the Bellevue Reporter, swimming and other athletics groups could be removed from the budget. Cutting any athletic program would be tragic. Music and art are also being considered. Neither of these should be taken out of our curriculum, either. Music is well known to help students with mathematics, and art cultivates the creative side of students, which helps them in their writing ability. However, to cut a program that is part of a child’s basic education, harms that child.
Bellevue has been a leader in the area of special education as well as “highly capable” learning programs. One of two stated BSD goals is to “Extend learning for those that currently meet or exceed standard,” of which enrichment falls into. Students in enrichment are designated as special needs children. They learn differently and think differently from other children, just like children at the other end of the spectrum learn and think differently. As a special needs group, enrichment becomes part of these children’s basic education curriculum. The enrichment program is vital to these children’s basic education. Without it, they will suffer.
According to the Morland Report on gifted children in 1972, “because the majority of gifted children’s school adjustment problems occur between kindergarten and fourth grade, about half of gifted children became ‘mental dropouts’ at around 10 years of age.”
The result of this report was the creation of the Office of the Gifted and Talented in the US Office of Education. In this sense, gifted and talented refers directly to academics. All children are gifted in different ways. We don’t hold back a star football player and take away his programs because he is gifted athletically and is exceeding athletic norms. Instead we try to develop his football talent and hire top notch football coaches. It should be the same for academically gifted children. We do not want any of our children to mentally drop out of school and we need to meet all children’s needs.
Because the needs of highly capable children are different from the needs of other children, we need the enrichment program in our schools. Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing is more unequal than equal treatment of unequal people.

Bill opens College threat assessments to public view

Tonia Moxley:

The legislation lets the public see the workings of teams that identify threats of violence at colleges and universities.
The workings of college and university threat assessment teams would be opened to the public after violent incidents under a compromise bill passed by the General Assembly.
The compromise came after weeks of negotiations between legislators and open government advocates and now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is expected to act on it before April 21. The governor may sign, veto or amend the bill.
“It’s a good outcome for everyone,” Virginia Press Association Executive Director Ginger Stanley said of the legislation.

Driven Young Man With a Basketball Mission

Daniel Libit:

De La Salle and Foreman High Schools battled for the 4A state basketball sectional semifinals March 10 in a packed Maywood gym, but in many ways, the most interesting action was unfolding in the north bleachers. There, two rows up from the floor, Daniel Poneman held court in his usual fashion.
Every few moments, Mr. Poneman stood up to greet someone he knew, and by the end of the evening, it seemed as if he had exchanged handshakes and hugs with half of those in attendance. The gym was one giant flowchart before him. Even as Mr. Poneman tracked the action, a recruiter from Purdue, a local basketball legend, and a former Foreman coach who has since moved to Niles North High School all passed — very noticed — before Mr. Poneman’s well-trained eyes.
“I really wouldn’t call him a scout,” said Nate Pomeday, an assistant coach at Oregon State. “I would call him more of a professional networker.”

The takeover takedown

Charlie Sykes:

Even in a year of notable failures-from the stimulus to health care reform-the collapse of efforts to reform the Milwaukee Public Schools stands out as an epic flop. As veteran education reporter Alan J. Borsuk writes in our cover story, the stars seemingly were aligned for a mayoral takeover of the dysfunctional system.
“[Y]ou had the president of the United States, the secretary of education, the governor of Wisconsin and the mayor of Milwaukee-all Democrats-coming down firmly for what they wanted to see happen in the Democratic-controlled Wisconsin Legislature.
“And they didn’t prevail.”
The debate over the mayoral takeover, writes Borsuk, “could have been a real chance to discuss how to energize the deeply troubled MPS system. It could have been a catalyst for re-energizing the whole subject of improving education in Milwaukee. “Instead, it became a plodding tour of why things don’t change easily in Milwaukee….”