Michigan 6-Year-Old Suspended From School for Making Gun With Hand


Michigan boy reportedly has been suspended from school for curling his hand into the shape of a gun and pointing it at another student.
Erin Jammer, said her son, Mason, was just playing around when he made the gesture Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Press reported.
“I do think it’s harsh for a six-year-old. He’s six and he just likes to play. Maybe what you could do is take his recess away. He’s only six and he doesn’t understand any of this,” Erin Jammer said.
But officials at Jefferson Elementary School said the behavior made other students uncomfortable, and they suspended Mason for the remainder of the week, the paper reported.

Rhode Island School Shake-Up Is Embraced by the President

Steven Greenhouse & Sam Dillon:

A Rhode Island school board’s decision to fire the entire faculty of a poorly performing school, and President Obama’s endorsement of the action, has stirred a storm of reaction nationwide, with teachers condemning it as an insult and conservatives hailing it as a watershed moment of school accountability.
The decision by school authorities in Central Falls to fire the 93 teachers and staff members has assumed special significance because hundreds of other school districts across the nation could face similarly hard choices in coming weeks, as a $3.5 billion federal school turnaround program kicks into gear.
While there is fierce disagreement over whether the firings were good or bad, there is widespread agreement that the decision would have lasting ripples on the nation’s education debate — especially because Mr. Obama seized on the move to show his eagerness to take bold action to improve failing schools filled with poor students.
“This is the first example of tough love under the Obama regime, and that’s what makes it significant,” said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Washington, an educational research and advocacy organization.

KIPP helps worst students, study says

Jay Matthews:

Among the many controversies surrounding the Knowledge Is Power Program, the nation’s most successful charter school network, is the suggestion that KIPP scores look good because their weakest students drop out. A new and unusually careful survey has found that in the case of at least one KIPP school, that’s not true.
Last year I wrote a book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” about KIPP co-founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg. I promised readers who think this makes me biased that I would mention this in future columns on KIPP. I don’t think I’m biased, but I am obsessed. I think KIPP–and schools like it–are the most interesting phenomenon to emerge in public education in my lifetime. I make sure that all important developments in KIPPland–both good and bad–are reported here.
The new study, “Who Benefits From KIPP,” [[[this link is to a page that makes you pay for the report. The link to the report directly for free is http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/5311, but I could not copy and paste it. Yet the WSJ managed to use it as a link in a blog post. Maybe our experts can figure this out.]]]was done by Joshua D. Angrist, Parag A. Pathak and Christopher R. Walters of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan and Thomas J. Kane of Harvard University, for the National Bureau of Economic Research. It is the first to use a randomized control group method to determine the effects of KIPP’s long school days, energetic teaching and strong work ethic on fifth- through eighth-graders.

As public education goes, so goes California

San Jose Mercury News Editorial:

How appropriate that, as one of the biggest education protests in history unfurled across the state, California’s application for a Race to the Top school reform grant was rejected by federal officials. Could there possibly be a louder wake-up call?
Given the chaos and infighting that muddied the state’s halting attempt to qualify for Race to the Top, the rejection is no surprise. But if education funding continues to decline, and if turf battles continue to prevent real reform, it’s not just students who will suffer. California’s greatness is at risk.
For much of the late 20th century, our public schools, colleges and universities were the envy of the nation, driving an economic boom that made the Golden State a global power. It’s no coincidence that this happened when taxpayers’ commitment to education was at its zenith.
That support has been declining for years, and the results are alarming.
Community colleges are required to accept everyone, but next fall, they’ll turn away some 200,000 students because they can’t afford to offer enough classes. With unemployment around 12 percent, what will those students — with only a high school diploma — do while waiting for a spot on campus?

Teachers as reformers: L.A. Unified teachers won the right to run several new or underperforming schools. Can they pull it off?

Los Angeles Times Editorial:

Los Angeles schools did not undergo the transformation we had expected from the Public School Choice initiative, which in its first year opened more than 30 new or underperforming public schools to outside management. Top-notch charter operators applied for relatively few schools and then were removed from the running at the last minute. The school board once again mired itself in political maneuvers instead of putting students first.
What transformation there was came, more surprisingly, from the teachers. They agreed to allow and create more pilot schools, which are similar to charter schools but employ district personnel. They formed partnerships and, with the help of their union, United Teachers Los Angeles, drew up their own, often strong applications for revamping schools. It would be wrong to underestimate the effort and skills needed to pull this off. The time frame was short and the list of requirements long. Unlike charter operators, which submit such applications as a matter of course, the teachers had no particular background for this work. They met with parents who have long fumed that the schools discourage their participation. They listened. They responded.
This is a tremendous step in a school district where, too often, teachers and their union have not been the agents of change but impediments to it. In fact, had the process worked as it was supposed to, the reform initiative would have served as a much stronger application for federal Race to the Top funds than anything the Legislature came up with.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate & Local Property Tax Increase Rhetoric

Walter Alarkon:

President Barack Obama’s budget will lead to deficits averaging nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, the CBO estimated Friday.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said President Barack Obama’s budget would lead to annual deficits averaging nearly $1 trillion for the next decade.
The estimates are for larger deficits than the budget shortfalls expected by the White House.
Annual deficits under Obama’s budget plan would be about $976 billion from 2011 through 2020, according to a CBO analysis of Obama’s plan released Friday.

Susan Troller:

Madison school ‘budget gap’ really a tax gap
Try “tax gap” or “revenue problem.” These are terms that Superintendent Dan Nerad — who is slated to offer his budget recommendations to the School Board on March 8 — and other school district players are starting to use to describe the financial troubles the district is facing.
What’s commonly been defined as the district’s budget gap in the past — the difference between the cost to continue existing programs and salaries and what the district is allowed to tax under state revenue caps — is actually $1.2 million. That’s the amount the district would still have to cut if the board were willing to tax to the maximum amount allowed under the state revenue limits. (And in past years, Madison and almost every other district in the state have taxed to the limit.) But if you add in the drop in revenue from the state — about $17 million for the 2010-2011 budget — the gap grows to $18.2 million.
It’s fair to ask then, what makes up the other $11.6 million that the administration calls the $29.8 million 2010-2011 budget gap? In a rather unorthodox manner, Nerad and company are including two other figures: $4 million in levying authority the district was granted through the 2008 referendum and $7.6 million in levying authority within the revenue limit formula.
Confused? You’re not alone. It’s got many folks scratching their heads. But the bottom line is this: Although the district has the authority to raise property taxes up to $312 on an average $250,000 home, it’s unlikely the board would want to reap that amount of revenue ($11.6 million) from increased taxes. Large property tax hikes — never popular — are particularly painful in the current economy.

The Madison School District has yet to release consistent total spending numbers for the current 2009/2010 budget or a total budget number for 2010-2011. Continuing to look at and emphasize in terms of public relations, only one part of the puzzle: property taxes seems ill advised.
The Madison School District Administration has posted 2010-2011 “Budget Gap” notes and links here, largely related to the property tax, again. only one part of the picture. For reference, here’s a link to the now defunct 2007-2008 Citizen’s Budget.
Doug Erickson has more:

Madison school administrators laid out a grim list of possible cuts big and small Friday that School Board members can use as a starting point to solve a nearly $30 million hole in next year’s budget.
The options range from the politically painless — restructuring debt, cutting postage costs — to the always explosive teacher layoffs and school closings.
But the school-closing option, which would close Lake View, Lindbergh and Mendota elementary schools on the city’s North Side as part of a consolidation plan, already appears to be a nonstarter. A majority of board members said they won’t go there.
“It’s dead in the water for me,” said Lucy Mathiak, board vice president.
President Arlene Silveira said the option is not on the table for her, either. Ditto for board members Marj Passman and Maya Cole, who said she immediately crossed out the option with a red pen.
Board members could decide to raise taxes enough to cover almost all of the $30 million, or they could opt to not raise taxes at all and cut $30 million. Neither option is considered palatable to board members or most residents, so some combination of the two is expected.

Frosh will need to show writing skills

Anne Simons, via a kind reader’s email:

Seniors will have to “show evidence of their writing” in order to graduate, beginning with the class of 2013, Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron will announce Thursday.
“All students are expected to work on their writing both in general courses and in their concentration,” Bergeron wrote in an e-mail to be sent to students Thursday. Sophomores will have to reflect on their writing in their concentration forms, according to the letter.
The changes come out of recommendations from the Task Force on Undergraduate Education, Bergeron told The Herald. Based on the findings of an external review and discussions with faculty and academic committees, the College Writing Advisory Board and the College Curriculum Council collaborated on a new, clearer delineation of the expectations of writing at Brown, she said.
Bergeron’s letter ends with a statement on writing, explaining why it is an important skill for all graduates. “Writing is not only a medium through which we communicate and persuade; it is also a means for expanding our capacities to think clearly,” she wrote.

Fire the teachers? When schools fail, it may work

Ray Henry:

When all the teachers were fired from Central Falls High School last week in a sweeping effort at school reform, their superintendent gave them a taste of the accountability President Barack Obama says is necessary.
It is a strategy that has been used elsewhere, such as in Chicago and Los Angeles. But while there have been some improvements in test scores, schools where most teachers have been replaced still grapple with problems of poverty and discipline. Even advocates of the approach say firing a teaching staff is just one of several crucial steps that must be taken to turn around a school.
Central Falls teachers have appealed the firings and both they and the administration are now indicating a willingness to go back to the table to avoid mass firings. Teachers say wholesale firings unfairly target instructors who work with impoverished children who have been neglected for years.
“We believe the teachers have been scapegoated here,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said of the Central Falls firings this week.


The Economist:

Killed, aborted or neglected, at least 100m girls have disappeared–and the number is rising
IMAGINE you are one half of a young couple expecting your first child in a fast-growing, poor country. You are part of the new middle class; your income is rising; you want a small family. But traditional mores hold sway around you, most important in the preference for sons over daughters. Perhaps hard physical labour is still needed for the family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old. Perhaps she needs a dowry.
Now imagine that you have had an ultrasound scan; it costs $12, but you can afford that. The scan says the unborn child is a girl. You yourself would prefer a boy; the rest of your family clamours for one. You would never dream of killing a baby daughter, as they do out in the villages. But an abortion seems different. What do you do?

“Clearly what’s needed and lacking in the district is a curriculum.”

New Jersey Left Behind:

That’s a real quote. The speaker is Asbury Park School District’s new superintendent Denise Lowe, who says that “major changes have to be made to the schools or the school district will cease to exist, ” according to the Asbury Park Press. Enrollment is dropping because students are leaving for parochial schools and charter schools, so she’s put together a five-year plan to improve achievement.
She’s got her work cut out for her. Asbury Park High School, for example, with 478 kids, has a 45.7% mobility rate. (The state average is 9.6%.) 72% of students failed the 11th grade HSPA test in language arts and 86.1% failed the math portion. Average SAT scores are 325 in math and 330 in verbal. Attendance rates in 9th grade are 83%. A whopping 64.6% of kids never pass the HSPA and end up taking the Special Review Assessment, a back-door-to-diploma-route that is impossible to fail. The total comparative cost per pupil? $24,428. (DOE data here.)

We only get one chance to educate our children


The East Providence School Committee can step off the main stage. Their formerly astounding move to cut teacher pay and increase benefit co-pays is no longer the most dramatic school administration move in the state.
Sure, it got a little national attention. But did the president talk about it?
But he had something to say about the situation in Central Falls this week, where the entire high school teaching staff was recently fired by the superintendent. It is not easy to make this long story short, but here goes: The snowball that resulted in the firings rolled downhill from Washington, DC to Central Falls. President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, asked the states to identify their lowest-performing schools. RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist did just that. Her list included Central Falls High School, where barely half of the students graduate and hardly any of them can pass the math standards tests. She told the superintendent there to implement one of four federally mandated changes. The superintendent chose to negotiate a plan in which teachers would spend more time with the students outside of class and do a couple weeks of training in the summer.

Media Use by Teens and Adolescents Continues to Explode


Has the time come for parents to pull the plug on mobile media?
A recent study completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation brought little in the way of surprises for those who work with children. But just to set the record straight, the foundation found that daily media use among children and teens is up dramatically even when compared to just five years ago.
With mobile devices providing nonstop internet availability, it is easy to see that entertainment media has never been more accessible than it is right now. The results of the Kaiser survey reveals that children, particularly minority youth, are taking advantage of that access.
But for parents and educators, the key question should not be simply how much time is actually spent with media. Instead, the issue should center upon what effect such consumption has on the mental, emotional and academic development of our youngsters.

Jordan School District seeks ruling on seniority layoffs could bring spate of lawsuits

Lisa Schencker & Katie Drake:

The Jordan School Board is asking a state judge to rule on how seniority must be calculated for its employees as it plans to lay off about 500 staff members and educators.
Without clarification about how seniority should be considered, the district could face liability in numerous potential lawsuits, the 3rd District Court complaint said. It names the Jordan Education Association (JEA) and the Jordan Classified Education Association, and has been assigned to Judge Joseph Fratto.
Whatever the judge determines could well decide who among Jordan’s teachers would be most vulnerable to layoffs.
The Jordan board, in the face of a projected $30 million shortfall, has decided to cut about 500 jobs, including 200 to 250 teachers. When terminating workers, school districts in Utah must abide by a “last in, first out” policy that provides job security to those with the most seniority.
The board now plans to eliminate employees in each school based on the number of years they have worked for the district. In other words, the jobs of those teachers with the least district seniority in each school would be at risk.

A Decent Education

Chicago Tribune Editorial:

When state Sen. James Meeks asks fellow Democrats to give education vouchers to kids who attend some of the worst schools in Chicago, the legislators often tell him they don’t want to divert dollars from public education.
Meeks’ response: “If the public schools are not doing their job, why do you want to continue to reward them with money?”
Good question.
We have yet to hear a good answer.
Meeks is trying valiantly to shake up the status quo in public education, and we stand with him in that effort. He is pushing a solid plan to create a voucher program for Chicago. The Senate’s executive subcommittee on education is set to discuss the bill on Wednesday.

17 states to fight dismal college completion rates

Jessie Bonner:

More than a dozen states have formed an alliance to battle dismal college completion rates and figure out how to get more students to follow through and earn their diplomas.
Stan Jones, Indiana’s former commissioner for higher education, is leading the effort with about $12 million in startup money from several national nonprofits including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
About one in every two Americans who start college never finish, said Jones, who founded Complete College America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, last year.
The U.S. has focused on access to higher education for the past several decades, and states need to turn their focus toward how many students actually graduate after they get in, even if it means using a funding structure that is based on degree completion instead of attendance, Jones said Tuesday.

DFER Report on Accountability Systems

Complete PDF Report via Democrats for Education Reform:

I think it is very difficult for a person who lives in a community to know whether, in fact, his educational system is what it should be, whether if you compare his community to a neighboring community they are doing everything they should be, whether the people that are operating the educational system in a state or local community are as good as they should be.
… I wonder if we couldn’t have some kind of system of reporting … through some testing system that would be established [by] which the people at the local community would know periodically … what progress had been made.”
Senator Robert Kennedy,
U.S. Senate hearing, 1965

Survey: Supportive leadership helps retain top teachers

Nick Anderson:

A national survey of more than 40,000 public school teachers suggests that while higher salaries are far more likely than performance pay to help keep top talent in the classroom, supportive leadership trumps financial incentives.
The survey, funded by a philanthropy active in education reform, also shows that teachers have mixed feelings about proposals for new academic standards: Slightly more than half think that establishing common standards across all states would have a strong or very strong impact on student achievement, but two-thirds believe the rigor of standards in their own state is “about right.”
The survey, to be released Wednesday, was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the publisher Scholastic Inc. Harris Interactive canvassed the teachers via telephone and online questionnaires from March 2009 to June 2009, as the Obama administration was developing strategies to promote higher standards and more sophisticated use of test data to improve achievement and reward effective teachers.

Ravitch Is Right… and Wrong

Alan Gottlieb:

I spent part of the last two weekends reading Diane Ravitch’s new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. It’s part polemic and part confessional.
Ravitch, once an ardent supporter of charter schools, accountability and other market-based reforms, has done a dramatic, highly public 180-degree turn. She now says these approaches will destroy public education if allowed to continue unfettered.
A former federal education official (under Bush I and Clinton) and an influential writer and thinker on education, Ravitch’s change of heart is attracting national notice, and with good reason.
Her book, while exhibiting some of the new convert’s zeal and bombast, contains thought-provoking stuff. While I don’t agree with some of her conclusions, and though she paints some people as villains who don’t deserve the abuse, she also makes some compelling arguments that those of us pushing some of the reforms she now abhors would be wise to ponder.

The key to education

Harriet Brown:

I wish to take issue with some of the assumptions made by the four teachers who were interviewed concerning the Gates Foundation grant (“Teachers in transition,” Views, Feb. 28).
It was said several times that good parenting is essential for children’s success in school. Not true! My two brothers and I grew up in a totally dysfunctional home, filled with constant criticism, hatred, anger, punishment, a mostly absent father, and one in which our mother constantly set us one against the other. There were no books, no magazines, no art on the walls and certainly no love or encouragement. Never once did we hear, “I’m proud of you!” or “Good job!”
We should have been poster children for not succeeding in school, but we weren’t. Today, my older brother is a medical doctor. My younger brother has two master’s degrees and is a life-long learner with a huge book collection. I started and completed my BA in English at age 25, with two toddlers to care for and no help from anyone, graduated in three years and had a successful career. We all still read voraciously.

School Salary & Benefit Growth Driving Budget “Cuts”

New Jersey Left Behind:

NJEA President Barbara Keshishian has a news release out today slamming Gov. Christie’s seizure of $475 million in local district surplus accounts. Add to that a possible 15% cut in state aid, she intones, and it’s a “doomsday scenario for families” which will have “a devastating impact next fall, with many [districts] forced to lay off teachers and staff, cut academic programs or raise taxes.”
Fair enough. Local school districts are frantically calculating draconian cuts to accommodate projected shortfalls. But here’s the missing link in her jeremiad: those cuts are driven less by loss of surplus and state aid than by payroll and benefits increases radically out of sync with economic realities and private sector compensation. However, the solution’s pretty simple: NJEA should direct its local affiliates to proffer a one-year freeze on salaries, and encourage small contributions to health benefits.
Here’s an example. District A has a budget of $50 million. Typically 75% of those costs are payroll and benefits, or $37.5 million. If NJEA would exercise meaningful leadership and promote flat salaries for one year, those lay-offs, academic cuts, and tax raises would be almost entirely mitigated.

Calling the Parents When a College Student Drinks

Lisa Belkin:

I visited my college-freshman son last week, and over pizza we talked about drinking. Part of pledging a fraternity means being the sober designated driver, I learned, and I was relieved that the the idea had become ingrained in college culture. Kids get it that driving while drinking is dangerous, right? Not exactly, he corrected. What they get is that a single D.U.I. means expulsion, and that’s a concept students respect.
So schools have the tools to stop students from drinking altogether, at least those who are under-age and breaking the law, I suggested. Just throw the book at anyone who gets caught?
He didn’t think that sounded like a good idea.

Push to strengthen environmental education is gaining traction and a Look at Madison’s 300 Acre School Forest

Mary Ellen Gabriel, via a kind reader’s email:

Two dozen seventh-graders from Jefferson Middle School toil up a stony ridge on snowshoes, in the heart of the Madison School Forest. At the top they peel off into small groups and stand gazing upward at a twiggy village of giant nests, silhouetted against a pure-blue sky.
“How many do you see in your tree?” calls Nancy Sheehan, a school forest naturalist. The kids in her group count seven great blue heron nests in the bare branches of one towering white oak. They also record data about the tree, including its GPS location, which they’ll turn over to the Department of Natural Resources as part of ongoing monitoring of this heron rookery near the Sugar River in southwest Verona.
“This is your chance to do some real science,” Sheehan tells them. “Herons are extremely sensitive creatures. If this landscape continues to suit them, they’ll come back again in spring. That’s why your work today is important.”
Seventh-grader Amos Kalder’s cheeks are red with cold (and exercise) as he gazes upward at the rookery: “Dude, it’d be so cool to see these nests with all the herons in them. There’d be like 50 birds sitting in the sky.”

The school forest is a real blessing, one in which I had an opportunity to participate in some years ago. I hope every classroom visits.

A Once Great American Scholar

Tom Vander Ark:

Last week I attended Education Industry Days in a hotel between the AFT and the NEA-a bit ironic, don’t you think?. On the opening day, the front page of the USA Today reported that public sector union members now outnumber private sector members-we are well protected from ourselves.
The once respected scholar Diane Ravitch has joined the unions in monopoly protection-no choice, no market, no testing. She nearly made me crash my car in Phoenix this morning during her ridiculous back-to-the future NPR interview suggesting a return to free-for-all teach what-ever-however past. A former conservative, she now shuns markets, choice, testing-basically everything necessary to drive performance at scale. Hard to follow the logic of how her proposals would make things better for low income kids.
If you care about equality and excellence, see Education Equality Project and their case for accountability. Folks like Ravitch complain about accountability but don’t offer an alternative that has a reliable chance for making this significantly better for low income kids.

50 State Report on College Readiness

Daniel de Vise:

Many states have made measurable progress in recent years toward the elusive goal of college readiness, according to a new report by the nonprofit Achieve.
Maryland, Virginia and the District have made more progress than some, but less than most. Each state has achieved only one of five college-readiness goals identified in the report.
“What started off as isolated efforts among a few states five years ago has produced a national consensus: All students should receive a quality education that prepares them to succeed in college, career and life,” said Mike Cohen, Achieve’s president, in a release.
Achieve’s fifth annual “Closing the Expectations Gap” report finds that the majority of states, 31, now have high school standards in English and mathematics that align with the expectations of colleges and business. (Meaning that collegiate and business officials were involved in drafting the standards and approved the final product.) In 2005, by contrast, only three states had such standards.

Complete report here, which mentions:

Four additional states: new Hampshire, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Wyoming reported plans to administer college and career ready assessments, although their plans are not yet developed enough to include in the table on page 16.

Blaska’s Blog says let education compete for business

David Blaska:

Government-run, union-controlled education is as antiquated in 21st Century America as a mimeograph machine and as outdated as the New Deal.
The entire history of this great country is choice — except in the all-important field of education, wherein one size shall fit all.
Imagine an America restricted to one mobile cell phone provider, one television station, never mind cable or satellite, one car insurance company — that is the government-monopoly education system.
Confreres, here is change you can believe in. In the previous blog, I engaged in a colloquy with the delusional Matt Logan, who encourages us law and order types to volunteer for school breakfast. I’m game, but think we’d be welcome?
Imagine the Blaska Man grabbing the empty belt loop of a gangsta wannabe and saying, “Time-out, young fella.”
The kid would laugh at my time out as they laugh at the teachers’ time outs and the squire of Stately Blaska Manor would be brought up on charges of belt-loop grabbing with intent to instill values.

Yo, Ho, Ho, and a Digital Scrum

Jeffrey Young:

History shows that intellectual property is more complex than either its creators or copiers care to admit, says a Chicago scholar
The history of publishing is swimming with pirates–far more than Adrian Johns expected when he started hunting through the archives for them. And he thinks their stories may hold keys to understanding the latest battles over digital publishing–and the future of the book.
Johns, a historian at the University of Chicago, has done much of his hunting from his office here, which is packed so high with books that the professor bought a rolling ladder to keep them in easy reach. He can rattle off a long list of noted pirates through the years:
Alexander Pope accused “pyrates” of publishing unauthorized copies of his work in the 18th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, a man known as the “king of the pirates” used the then-new technology of photolithography to spread cheap reprints of popular sheet music. In the 1950s, a pirate music label named Jolly Roger issued recordings by Louis Armstrong and other jazz greats from LP’s that the major labels were no longer publishing. A similar label put out opera recordings smuggled from the Soviet bloc.

The Substitute: After more than 30 years, he was going back to school. This time, he’d be in charge. Sort of.

Rob Hiaasen:

I was fingerprinted and cleared of any state or federal wrongdoing. No record of forgery, arson, maiming, child-selling or keeping a disorderly house — although I dodged a bullet with the last one. There are usually dishes in the sink and laundry unfolded (how do you fold fitted sheets?). Despite my domestic transgressions, I was invited to attend an orientation for substitute teachers. The word “mandatory” was used, but I preferred to think of myself as invited.
Either way, Plan B was under way.
If you need another sign of the country’s unemployment, attend an orientation for substitute teachers — if you can get a seat. It was standing room only at a Baltimore County public high school, as I sat with pencil and paper taking notes on the dangers of blood-borne pathogens, how to keep students on task, how to be positive but not overly friendly, and how to get paid $82.92 for a day’s work. Younger and older people were there, but more middle-aged men attended than I had expected. Guess that’s why this unemployment streak has been nicknamed a man-cession.

School choice – an overrated concept

Francis Gilbert:

As a teacher for 20 years, I can tell parents that with their support children can flourish anywhere
The agony of waiting is over. Yesterday was national offer day, when parents learnt if their children had got into their favoured secondary schools. Unfortunately, as many as 100,000 children and their families have been bitterly disappointed.
As a teacher who has taught at various comprehensives for 20 years, I know that means a lot of tears and pain. I have seen parents who hit the bottle and come raging on to the school premises, demanding that the school takes their child; parents who do nothing but pester the school secretaries on the phone or by email; and parents who have just given up in despair, despite the fact that they have good grounds to appeal.
The main things parents should remember is not to descend into a great panic, and to review their situation dispassionately. What many don’t grasp is that if they fail to meet the admissions criteria of a school, children won’t get in, no matter how wonderful. The government has a strict admissions code that means schools have little room for manoeuvre: they can no longer just pick pupils they like the look of.

Few States To Qualify For Grants

Neil King:

The Obama administration will inform most states on Thursday that they didn’t make the grade to receive billions of dollars in education funding.
Forty states, plus the District of Columbia, submitted applications in January to compete in the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, which President Barack Obama describes as central to his push to improve local education standards.
The idea is to reward states that show the greatest willingness to push innovation through tough testing standards, data collection, teacher training and plans to overhaul failing schools.
The Department of Education turned to a panel of outside judges to help pick finalists and winners according to an elaborate scoring system, and on Thursday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will announce finalists for the first of two rounds of funding. Administration officials declined to comment, but people familiar with the deliberations said as few as five states could actually qualify when the first round of winners is announced in April.

Seeking the Definition of a “Quality School”

Southeast Seattle for an Excellent Education:

SES4EE requests
1. SPS to publicly define a Quality School (as stated in SPS Strategic Plan Vision 2008) which will include objective measures of that quality.
2. SPS to compare each SE School to that definition of a Quality School and make those results available in a public manner.
3. For each school that does not fall within the parameter of a Quality School, SPS to provide
a. a public, written Plan with specific deadlines and timeframe to make that school a Quality School.

Teachers Criticise Australia’s National Education Curriculum

Big Pond News:

Teachers have criticised the federal government’s draft national education curriculum, saying such a document alone won’t improve educational outcomes.
Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos says they’re also disappointed because there should have been more teacher involvement in the curriculum’s development.
Mr Gavrielatos says a curriculum document alone won’t improve educational outcomes and what teachers need are more resources.

Knewton launches adaptive-learning SAT Prep Course

Matt Bowman:

Knewton, an online test prep company that uses adaptive learning to boost scores on standardized tests, announced today the launch of its new SAT prep course. The company already provides prep courses for the GMAT and LSAT, and now hopes to tap the market of high-pressure parents and overachieving high school students.
The SAT prep course will include live instructors, educational videos and real-time feedback on students’ performance in specific SAT concepts. Overbearing parents can also track their children’s progress with a set of tools designed for them. The course costs $490, (there’s a $290 intro offer).
The courses use adaptive learning technology–a method that serves up questions and resources according to students’ needs based on their past performance. The concept is taken from adaptive learning tests, which serve questions that get harder or easier, depending on a student’s answers. In fact, Knewton’s two chief test designers, Len Swanson and Robert McKinley, helped design those tests: Swanson wrote the scoring algorithms for the adaptive learning tests used by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, GRE, and AP tests, and McKinley wrote the algorithms for the ACT.

Leaders Program Suffers for Lack of Milwaukee Public Schools Support

Alan Borsuk:

A startling ebb tide has been building in recent days across the Milwaukee Public Schools system, as principals and school councils make plans for next year.
Schools losing two teachers. Six teachers. A dozen teachers. More cuts in music, gym and art teachers, as well as librarians. Class sizes increasing – some principals say they are facing 25 or 30 in first-grade classes, with no aides for the teachers. High school classes that could reach 50 or more in some high schools. (“That’s not a classroom, that’s a lecture hall,” one principal said.)
Here’s one important part of that tide: New Leaders for New Schools will not launch a new class this summer to be trained as principals in MPS.
New Leaders is one of the hot acts in American education. Like Teach for America, the New Teacher Project and a few similar efforts, it is a hard-driving effort to bring talent into administrative and teaching positions in urban schools across the country.

Getting Tough in Kansas City

Frederick Hess:

Across the nation, districts are only enduring the first phase of what is likely a several-year stretch of tough budgets. Why? First, property taxes account for so much of school spending, residential real estate prices are only now bottoming, commercial properties will be falling into 2011, and states adjust valuation on a rolling basis. This means the impact of the real estate bubble likely won’t fully play out until 2014 or so. Second, thus far, districts have been cushioned by more than $100 billion in stimulus funds. Third, going forward, K-12 is going to be competing with demands for Medicaid, transportation, public safety, and higher education–all of which have been squeezed and will be hungry for fresh dollars when the economy recovers. And, fourth, massively underfunded state and local pension plans will require states to redirect dollars from operations. All of this means that the funding “cliff” looming in 2010 to 2011 is steeper and likely to be with us longer than most district leaders have publicly acknowledged.
Early responses to this situation have been inadequate, to put it mildly. Districts first took out the scalpel and turned up thermostats, delayed textbook purchases, and reduced maintenance. Now they’re boosting class sizes, raising fees, and zeroing out support staff and freshmen athletics. It’s going to take a lot more for districts to thrive in their new fiscal reality. It would behoove them to take a page from the playbook of new Kansas City Superintendent John Covington.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Five Decades of Federal Spending

Chris Edwards:

The chart below shows federal spending in three component parts over the last five decades. It includes Obama’s proposed spending in 2011. Here are a few thoughts on the recent spending trends:
Defense: In the post-9/11 years, defense spending bumped up to a higher plateau of around 4 percent of GDP. But now we have jumped to an even higher level of around 4.9 percent of GDP.
Interest: The Federal Reserve’s easy money policies reduced federal interest payments in recent years. That is coming to an end. Obama’s budget shows that interest payments will start rising rapidly next year and hit 3 percent of GDP by 2015. And that’s an optimistic projection.
Nondefense: This category includes all other federal spending. After a steady decline during the Clinton years to 12.9 percent of GDP, President Bush pushed up nondefense spending to a higher plateau of around 14.5 percent. Then came the recession and financial crisis, and the Bush-Obama tag team hiked spending to an even higher level of around 19 percent of GDP. That level of nondefense spending is almost double the level in 1970 measured as a share of the economy.

More schools add online class options to traditional schedules

Erin Richards:

When Lindsey Lecus heads to the library for her literature studies class at Fritsche Middle School, she checks the assignments posted by her teacher in Maine and may enter a discussion forum with a classmate in Switzerland.
It’s the second online English class Lecus has taken thanks to Fritsche’s partnership with an international provider of online courses, and the seventh-grader said she likes the fact that she can work ahead of the traditional curriculum and earn credits toward high school.
In Milwaukee and elsewhere, more middle and high schools are starting to offer online classes to students during the day in place of one or more face-to-face classes.
Fully virtual schools in Wisconsin continue to attract students who pursue their entire educations through the Internet, but adding online classes to the options students have during a traditional school day is a trend that may combine the best of both worlds.
Advocates say students learn to work independently and can take harder courses in preparation for college while also getting in-school support from teachers and peers.

Life Among the ‘Yakkity Yaks’

Bari Weiss:

‘Who do you think made the first stone spear?” asks Temple Grandin. “That wasn’t the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Asperger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits you wouldn’t even have a recording device to record this conversation on.”
As many as one in 110 American children are affected by autism spectrum disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. But what causes this developmental disorder, characterized by severe social disconnection and communication impairment, remains a mystery.
Nevertheless, with aggressive early intervention and tremendous discipline many people with autism can lead productive, even remarkable, lives. And Ms. Grandin–doctor of animal science, ground-breaking cattle expert, easily the most famous autistic woman in the world–is one of them.
Earlier this month, HBO released a film about her to critical acclaim. Claire Danes captures her with such precision that Ms. Grandin tells me watching the movie feels like “a weird time machine” to the 1960s and ’70s and that it shows “exactly how my mind works.”

Spring reading: The Demise of the Venerable Codex, or Bound Book….

Tim Martin:

The demise of the venerable codex, or bound book, has been predicted at least since 1899, when HG Wells in The Sleeper Awakes envisaged the entire corpus of human literature reduced to a mini-library of “peculiar double cylinders” that would be viewable on a screen. More informed commentators have been arguing since the computer became domesticised in the 1980s that it would herald the end of print but, each time, the predicted end of days has rolled around with no sign of an apocalypse. As the joke goes, books are still cheap, robust and portable, and the battery life is great.
Most of us are in no hurry to see them go. This week the UK’s early version of World Book Day rolls around with its freight of £1 children’s books (the rest of the world gets around to it on April 23). Meanwhile, Oxford has just launched upon the public its lavish Companion to the Book, a vast work of reference seven years in the making in which some 400 scholars chart the forms that books have taken since mankind began scratching out characters.
But it seems reasonable to think that change is afoot. At the time of writing, an American court is in the process of reconsidering the settlement that Google reached with the Authors Guild in 2008, allowing the company to digitise thousands of books, including many still in copyright. The case has caused heated debate – court documents this week revealed that more than 6,500 authors, many well-known, have decided to opt out of the Google settlement. The case continues: its outcome promises to transform the way in which we view and access information. If Google has its way, one of the world’s largest companies will end up with unchallenged distribution rights over one of the world’s largest book collections.

Doyle: Each Wisconsin Covenant scholar will get $250 or more

Ryan Foley:

High school students who complete a new Wisconsin program to promote college attendance will be eligible for annual grants worth $250 to $2,500 for their first two years of college, Gov. Jim Doyle said Monday.
Doyle also said Wisconsin Covenant scholars would be eligible for additional aid during their final two years, with the amounts depending on the availability of funding. He said he was unhappy his administration had issued a proposal while he was traveling overseas in December to limit the grants to two years.
Under the revised proposal Doyle submitted to the Legislature on Monday, the poorest Wisconsin Covenant scholars will receive $2,500 grants _ $1,000 from the state and $1,500 from a private foundation _ during each of their first two years in college.
Those with higher family incomes _ up to $80,000 in some cases _ will receive between $1,000 and $1,500, he said. All others who complete the Covenant challenge will receive $250, an amount one Republican critic mocked as paltry.

District May End North Carolina Economic Busing Program

Robbie Brown:

When Rosemarie Wilson moved her family to a wealthy suburb of Raleigh a couple of years ago, the biggest attraction was the prestige of the local public schools. Then she started talking to neighbors.
Don’t believe the hype, they warned. Many were considering private schools. All pointed to an unusual desegregation policy, begun in 2000, in which some children from wealthy neighborhoods were bused to schools in poorer areas, and vice versa, to create economically diverse classrooms.
“Children from the 450 houses in our subdivision were being bused all across the city,” said Ms. Wilson, for whom the final affront was a proposal by the Wake County Board of Education to send her two daughters to schools 17 miles from home.
So she vented her anger at the polls, helping elect four new Republican-backed education board members last fall. Now in the majority, those board members are trying to make good on campaign promises to end Wake’s nationally recognized income-based busing policy.

Teacher Layoffs: Rethinking “Last-Hired, First-Fired” Policies

National Council on Teacher Quality:

In September of 2009, Washington, DC, schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee laid off nearly 400 teachers, citing a serious shortfall in funds for the DC school system. The move, coming as it did after Washington hired more than 900 new teachers in the summer of 2009, made jaws drop — some in outrage, some in awe. But the controversy was due only partly to the fact that Rhee axed jobs so close on the heels of a hiring spree; she also took full advantage of a clause in DC regulation that made “school needs,” not seniority, the determining factor in who would be laid off.
Approve of Rhee’s move or not, the highly scrutinized and controversial layoffs spotlight an important question: what factors should be considered when school districts must decide who will stay and who will go?
In the past year, cash-strapped districts have been handing out pink slips by the hundreds, and some, by the thousands. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 60,000 teachers were laid off in 2009. State budget gaps and deficit projections, with federal stimulus funding already spent, suggest more of the same for 2010. Some observers expect current cuts to come faster even than those of the 1970s, when the baby boom generation waned, emptying out schools across the country.

Obama’s unfortunate comments on teacher firings

Valerie Strauss:

I have an uncle who was for years a Chicago public school teacher. Passionate and articulate about his subject, biology, Arnie cared a great deal about whether the kids learned in his class.
But here’s the disturbing thing he recalls about his career:
In the years that his classes were filled with kids from poor, broken homes who didn’t eat or sleep with any regularity, he worried that he wasn’t nearly as effective as he wanted to be. He reached some of the kids, sometimes, with some material, but not enough to his liking, no matter what he did or how hard he tried.
When he changed schools and suddenly was teaching kids from middle-class families who valued education, he instantly became a brilliant teacher. His students progressed at a fast clip, and everything he did seemed to work.
What some school reformers seem to forget is that the kids’ circumstances outside school affect their class performance: how much they eat, how much they sleep, how many words they heard when they were young, how many books were made available to them, the abilities and the disabilities with which they were born, etc.

The Dictionary of Old English explores the brutality and elegance of our ancestral tongue.

Ammon Shea:

“Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.” So said Samuel Johnson, according to James Boswell–and if any man can get away with making a pithy, slightly nonsensical, yet somehow illuminating statement about the merits of dictionaries, repositories of our language, it is Johnson.
Watches and other kinds of clocks may not “go quite true” yet, but they have managed to attain such a degree of exactness that the point is largely moot. The most accurate form of timekeeper available today, a cesium fountain atomic clock, is expected to become inaccurate by no more than a single second over the next fifty-plus million years (although it is by no means clear what other clock might be used to judge the world’s most accurate timekeeper).
What of dictionaries? Have they been improved to the same extent as clocks? Is there somewhere a dictionary that is expected to be wrong by only one word in the next fifty million years?

Idaho School Budgets Face 7.5 Percent Cut in 2011

Business Week:

Idaho schools will likely make do with 7.5 percent less in total funding next year, according to a plan that includes reducing salaries for first-year teachers.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee aims to give schools $128 million less in fiscal year 2011 than they’re getting this year from all funding sources. State general fund spending is due to drop 1.4 percent, to $1.21 billion.

A Partial Madison School District Budget Update, Lacks Total Spending Numbers

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad 292K PDF:

In November of 2008 the district was given voter approval for a three year operating referendum: $5 million in 2009-2010, $4 million in 2010-2011, and $4 million in 2011-2012, The approved operating referendum has a shared cost plan between property tax payers and the district.
During the fall adoption of the 2009-2010 budget the Board of Education worked to reduce the impact for property tax payers by eliminating costs, implementing new revenues, and utilizing fund balance (see Appendix A). The Wisconsin State 2009-2011 budget impacted the district funding significantly in the fall of2009-2010 and will again have an impact on the 2010-2011 projections.
The district and PMA Financial Network, Inc, have worked to prepare a five year financial forecast beginning with the 2010-2011 budget year, which is attached in pgs 1-2.
2010-2011 Projection Assumptions:
The following items are included in the Budget Projection:
1. The budget holds resources in place and maintains programs and services.
2. October enrollment projections
3. Salary and Benefits – Teacher salary projections are based on their current settlement, and all other units are at a projected increase consistent with recent contract settlements.
4. Supplies & Materials – A 1% (~$275,000) projection was applied to supply and material budgets each year
5. Revenues – The district utilized revenue limit and equalization aid calculations based on the 2009-2011 State Budget. All other revenues remained constant.
6. Grants – Only Entitlement Grants are included in the forecasted budget. Example ARRA funds are not included as they are· not sustainable funds.
7. Debt – The forecast includes a projection for the WRS refinancing as of January 26th Attached on pgs 3-4 is a current Debt Schedule for the District which includes thecurrently restructured debt and the estimated WRS refinanced debt.
8. The 4-k program revenues, expenditures and enrollment have been added to the
projections beginning in 2011-2012.

Much more on the budget, including some total budget numbers via a Board Member’s (Ed Hughes) comment. The recent State of The District presentation lacked total budget numbers (it presented property taxes, which are certainly important, but not the whole story). There has not been a 2009-2010 citizen’s budget, nor have I seen a proposed 2010-2011 version. This should be part of all tax and spending discussions.

More on the Madison School District High School’s Use of Small Learning Communities & A Bit of Deja Vu – A Bruce King Brief Evaluation

Pam Nash 4.5MB PDF:

Introduction and Overview
1. Background and Overview Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent of Schools
Prior to the fall of 2008, MMSD high schools functioned as four separate autonomous high schools, with minimal focus on working collaboratively across the district to address student educational needs.
In 2008 MMSD received a Federal Smaller Learning Communities for $5.3 million dollars over a five year period. The purpose of that grant is to support the large changes necessary to:

  • Increase student achievement for all students.
  • Increase and improve student to student relationships and student to adult relationships.
  • Improve post-secondary outcomes for all students.

District administration, along with school leadership and school staff, have examined the research that shows that fundamental change in education can only be accomplished by creating the opportunity for teachers to talk with one another regarding their instructional practice. The central theme and approach for REaL has been to improve and enhance instructional practice through collaboration in order to increase stndent achievement. Special attention has been paid to ensure the work is done in a cross – district, interdepartmental and collaborative manner. Central to the work, are district and school based discussions focused on what skills and knowledge students need to know and be able to do, in order to be prepared for post-secondary education and work. Systemized discussions regarding curriculum aligll1nent, course offerings, assessment systems, behavioral expectations and 21 st century skills are occurring across all four high schools and at the district level.
Collaborative professional development has been established to ensure that the work capitalizes on the expertise of current staff, furthers best practices that are already occurring within the MMSD high school classrooms, and enhances the skills of individuals at all levels from administration to classroom teachers needed. Our work to date has laid the foundation for further and more in-depth work to occur.
While we are at the formative stages of our work, evidence shows that success is occurring at the school level. Feedback from principals indicates that district meetings, school buildings and classrooms are feeling more collaborative and positive, there is increased participation by teachers in school based decisions, and school climate has improved as evidenced by a significant reduction in behavior referrals.
This report provides a summary of the REaL Grant since fall of2008 and includes:
1. Work completed across all four high schools.
2. School specific work completed.
3. District work completed.
4. REaL evaluation
5. Future implications
In addition the following attachments are included:
1. Individual REaL School Action Plans for 09-10
2. REaL District Action for 09-10
3. ACT EP AS Overview and Implementation Plan
4. AVID Overview
5. Templates used for curriculum and course alignment
6. Individual Learning Plan summary and implementation plan
7. National Student Clearninghouse StudentTracker System
8. Student Action Research example questions
2. Presenters

  • Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools
  • Darwin Hernandez, East High School AVID Student
  • Jaquise Gardner, La Follette High School AVID Student
  • Mary Kelley, East High School
  • Joe Gothard, La Follette High School
  • Bruce Dahmen, Memorial High School
  • Ed Holmes, West High School
  • Melody Marpohl, West High School ESL Teacher

3. Action requested of the BOE
The report is an update, providing information on progress of MMSD High Schools and district initiatives in meeting grant goals and outlines future directions for MMSD High schools and district initiatives based on work completed to date.

MMSD has contracted with an outside evaluator, Bruce King, UW-Madison. Below are the initial observations submitted by Mr. King:
The REaL evaluation will ultimately report on the extent of progress toward the three main grant goals. Yearly work focuses on major REaL activities at or across the high schools through both qualitative and quantitative methods and provides schools and the district with formative evaluation and feedback. During the first two years ofthe project, the evaluation is also collecting baseline data to inform summative reports in later years of the grant. We can make several observations about implementation ofthe grant goals across the district.
These include:
Observation 1: Professional development experiences have been goal oriented and focused. On a recent survey of the staff at the four high schools, 80% of responding teachers reported that their professional development experiences in 2009-10 were closely connected to the schools’ improvement plans. In addition, the focus of these efforts is similar to the kinds of experiences that have led to changes in student achievement at other highly successful schools (e.g., Universal Design, instructional leadership, and literacy across the curriculum).
Observation 2: Teacher collaboration is a focal point for REaL grant professional development. However, teachers don’t have enough time to meet together, and Professional Collaboration Time (PCT) will be an important structure to help sustain professional development over time.
Observation 3: School and district facilitators have increased their capacity to lead collaborative, site-based professional development. In order for teachers to collaborate better, skills in facilitation and group processes should continue to be enhanced.
Observation 4: Implementing EP AS is a positive step for increasing post-secondary access and creating a common assessment program for all students.
Observation 5: There has been improved attention to and focus on key initiatives. Over two- thirds ofteachers completing the survey believed that the focus of their current initiatives addresses the needs of students in their classroom. At the same time, a persisting dilemma is prioritizing and doing a few things well rather than implementing too many initiatives at once.
Observation 6: One of the important focus areas is building capacity for instructional leadership, work carried out in conjunction with the Wallace project’s UW Educational Leadership faculty. Progress on this front has varied across the four schools.
Observation 7: District offices are working together more collaboratively than in the past, both with each other and the high schools, in support of the grant goals.
Is it likely that the four high schools will be significantly different in four more years?
Given the focus on cultivating teacher leadership that has guided the grant from the outset, the likelihood is strong that staff will embrace the work energetically as their capacity increases. At the same time, the ultimate success ofthe grant will depend on whether teachers, administrators, anddistrict personnel continue to focus on improving instruction and assessment practices to deliver a rigorous core curriculum for all and on nurturing truly smaller environments where students are known well.


Playing along with the Mozart effect
If you want music to sharpen your senses, boost your ability to focus and perhaps even improve your memory, you need to be a participant, not just a listener.

Melissa Healy:

Five months after we are conceived, music begins to capture our attention and wire our brains for a lifetime of aural experience. At the other end of life, musical memories can be imprinted on the brain so indelibly that they can be retrieved, perfectly intact, from the depths of a mind ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease.
In between, music can puncture stress, dissipate anger and comfort us in sadness.
As if all that weren’t enough, for years parents have been seduced by even loftier promises from an industry hawking the recorded music of Mozart and other classical composers as a means to ensure brilliant babies.
But for all its beauty, power and capacity to move, researchers have concluded that music is little more than ear candy for the brain if it is consumed only passively. If you want music to sharpen your senses, boost your ability to focus and perhaps even improve your memory, the latest word from science is you’ll need more than hype and a loaded iPod.

What happens to Madison’s bad teachers?

Lynn Welch:

It’s absurd to believe anyone wants ineffective teachers in any classroom.
So when President Barack Obama, in a speech last fall at Madison’s Wright Middle School, called for “moving bad teachers out of the classroom, once they’ve been given an opportunity to do it right,” the remark drew enormous applause. Such a pledge is integral to the president’s commitment to strengthen public education.
But this part of Obama’s Race to the Top agenda for schools has occasioned much nervousness. Educators and policymakers, school boards and school communities have questions and genuine concern about what it means. What, exactly, is a bad teacher, and how, specifically, do you go about removing him or her from a classroom?
Many other questions follow. Do we have a “bad teacher” problem in Madison? Does the current evaluation system allow Madison to employ teachers who don’t make the grade? Is our system broken and does it need Obama’s fix?
A look into the issue reveals a system that is far from perfect or transparent. But Madison school board President Arlene Silveira agrees it’s an issue that must be addressed.

United STATES Coalition for World Class Math!

via a Jill Gladstone email:

The Florida State DOE posted (leaked) the January 13th confidential draft of the Common Core Standards in their Race to the Top Application. Thank you Florida!
Read them here:
January 13th Draft of Common Core Mathematics.pdf
January 13th Draft of Common English-language Arts.pdf
A few of NJ Coalition for World Class Math’s Major Concerns on Jan. 13, 2010 Mathematics draft:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Class War How public servants became our masters

Steven Greenhut:

In April 2008, The Orange County Register published a bombshell of an investigation about a license plate program for California government workers and their families. Drivers of nearly 1 million cars and light trucks–out of a total 22 million vehicles registered statewide–were protected by a “shield” in the state records system between their license plate numbers and their home addresses. There were, the newspaper found, great practical benefits to this secrecy.
“Vehicles with protected license plates can run through dozens of intersections controlled by red light cameras with impunity,” the Register’s Jennifer Muir reported. “Parking citations issued to vehicles with protected plates are often dismissed because the process necessary to pierce the shield is too cumbersome. Some patrol officers let drivers with protected plates off with a warning because the plates signal that drivers are ‘one of their own’ or related to someone who is.”
The plate program started in 1978 with the seemingly unobjectionable purpose of protecting the personal addresses of officials who deal directly with criminals. Police argued that the bad guys could call the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), get addresses for officers, and use the information to harm them or their family members. There was no rash of such incidents, only the possibility that they could take place.

Portland School Board approves new contract with district teachers

Kimberly Melton:

The Portland School Board this morning unanimously approved a three-year contract between Portland Public Schools and the district’s nearly 4,000 teachers.
The new contract gives teachers a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase in 2008-09 and in 2010-11. For 2009-10, teachers will receive no pay raise. The district gained the ability to extend the student day, which means additional support and tutoring classes could be available to kids before or after school.
“The important message is that we’re trying to balance the challenges of the economy with being fair to our teachers,” board co-chair Trudy Sargent said after the vote, “and I think the 0 percent cola in the current year, which has been a really tough year for everybody … that was an important place to balance the budget and teachers were willing to sacrifice in that year.”
Added schools Supt. Carole Smith: “We hit a sweet spot of being able to both protect services to students and reflect the tough economic times that we’re in.”


The Portland School Board voted unanimously Saturday to approve a three-year contract between Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers, ending a negotiation that has stretched on for more than a year and a half.
“This agreement allows us to live within our means,” said Portland School Board co-chair Trudy Sargent in a prepared statement Saturday. She said it garners two goals: It “increases instructional time for students and honors the good work of educators in Portland Public Schools,” Sargent said.
Key details of the approved contract agreement include:

Related: Madison School District & Madison Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement: 3.93% Increase Year 1, 3.99% Year 2; Base Rate $33,242 Year 1, $33,575 Year 2: Requires 50% MTI 4K Members and will “Review the content and frequency of report cards”.

And the Orchestra Played On

Joanne Lipman:

The other day, I found myself rummaging through a closet, searching for my old viola. This wasn’t how I’d planned to spend the afternoon. I hadn’t given a thought to the instrument in years. I barely remembered where it was, much less how to play it. But I had just gotten word that my childhood music teacher, Jerry Kupchynsky — “Mr. K.” to his students — had died.
In East Brunswick, N.J., where I grew up, nobody was feared more than Mr. K. He ran the town’s music department with a ferocity never before seen in our quiet corner of suburbia. In his impenetrably thick Ukrainian accent, he would berate us for being out of tune, our elbows in the wrong position, our counting out of sync.
“Cellos sound like hippopotamus rising from bottom of river,” he would yell during orchestra rehearsals. Wayward violinists played “like mahnyiak,” while hapless gum chewers “look like cow chewing cud.” He would rehearse us until our fingers were callused, then interrupt us with “Stop that cheekin plocking!”

An Update on the Madison School District’s Efforts to Increase Teacher Use of the “Infinite Campus” Student Portal

Superintendent Dan Nerad 2.1MB PDF:

The Board of Education has shown concern with current levels of participation among staff, parents, and students in the use of the Infinite Campus student information system. This concern comes despite many efforts to engage the stakeholders with various professional development opportunities and promotional campaigns over the past three years. In December 2009, the Board was provided a summary from a staff survey conducted on the topic explaining why staff had been reluctant to use the teacher tools. That report is found as an attachment to this report (see Attachment 1).
A survey of Wisconsin school districts was completed to determine the standards for teacher use of student information system technologies in the state. The survey gathered information about the use of grade book, lesson planners, and parent and student portals. Responses were collected and analyzed from over 20 Wisconsin districts. Nearly all responding districts report either a requirement for online grade book use, or have close to 100 percent participation. (See Attachment 2).
Describe the action requested of the BOE
The administration is requesting that the Board of Education take action in support of the proposed action steps to enhance the overall use of the teacher and portal tools among our stakeholders.
The proposed time line for full teacher use of grade level appropriate Infinite Campus teacher tools is: High school teachers – 2011-2012 End of 4th Quarter, Middle school teachers – 2010-2011 End of 4th Quarter, Elementary school teachers – End of 4th Quarter, 2011-2012 (calendar feature only)

Fascinating tone. I support the Board’s efforts to substantially increase usage of this system. If it cannot be used across all teachers, the system should be abandoned as the District, parents and stakeholders end up paying at least twice in terms of cost and time due to duplicate processes and systems.

Problem children should be helped, not excluded, says schools report

Anushka Asthana:

The system of excluding badly behaved pupils from school should be abolished because it punishes the most vulnerable children, a major new report on education has concluded, writes Anushka Asthana.
The study, by the thinktank Demos, says that difficult children are being pushed out of schools too often and finds that exclusions do not solve behavioural problems. Instead, they are linked to very poor results and in three out of four cases relate to children with special educational needs who should receive additional support. The report finds that 27% of children with autism have been excluded from school.
Sonia Sodha, co-author of the report, said: “Most other countries do not permanently exclude children from school in the same way we do. Instead of helping these children, we are punishing and then banishing them.”
The report comes as figures from the Conservatives show that 1,000 pupils are excluded or suspended for physical and verbal assaults every day. Speaking at the Tory party spring conference, Michael Gove, shadow children’s secretary, promised that in power he would make it easier for teachers to remove violent and disruptive pupils.

Starting them young: Nursery schools are the latest front-line in the Scandinavian integration debate

The Economist:

N SOFT, southern countries, snow is enough to close schools. In Sweden–a place that lives by the maxim that “There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes”–fresh snow is a cue to send 18-month-olds into the playground, tottering around in snowsuits and bobble hats. It is an impressive sight at any time. But it is particularly striking in a Stockholm playground filled with Somali toddlers, squeaking as they queue for sledge-rides.
The playground belongs to Karin Danielsson, a headmistress in Tensta, a Stockholm suburb with a large immigrant population. Mrs Danielsson calls her municipal preschool “a school for democracy”. In keeping with Swedish mores, even young children may choose which activities to join or where to play. All pupils’ opinions are heard, but they are then taught that the group’s wishes must also be heeded.
Swedes take preschool seriously. Though education is not compulsory until seven, more than 80% of two-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, and many begin earlier. Among European countries only Denmark has higher enrolment rates at that age.

29 students being evaluated after pepper spray incident at DC school

Paul Duggan:

wenty-nine students at the private Lab School in Northwest Washington were taken to hospitals Friday morning, most of them for precautionary reasons, after someone apparently discharged a canister of pepper spray in the campus’ high school building, the D.C. fire department and a school spokesman said.
The incident occurred about 9:30 a.m. in a building that houses 147 high school students and other students in the fifth through eighth grades, school spokesman Edison Lee said. He said a separate building for children in the first through fourth grades was not affected.
The Lab School, in the 4700 block of River Road NW, specializes in educating youngsters with moderate to severe learning disabilities.
Edison and fire department spokesman Pete Piringer said school officials called for help after someone apparently discharged the pepper spray in a classroom on the second floor, where high school students attend classes. All the youngsters who were taken to hospitals are high school students. The younger students in the high school building attend classes on lower floors.