K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New Jersey’s ‘Failed Experiment’

James Freeman:

‘I said all during the campaign last year that I was going to govern as if I was a one-termer,” explains New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on a visit this week to the Journal’s editorial board. “And everybody felt that it was just stuff you say during a campaign to sound good. I think after the first 12 weeks, given the stuff I’ve done, they figure: ‘He’s just crazy enough to do it.'”
Call it crazy, or just call it sensible: Mr. Christie is on a mission to make New Jersey competitive once again in the contest to attract people and capital. During last fall’s campaign, while his opponent obliquely criticized Mr. Christie’s size, some Republicans worried that their candidate was squishy–that he wasn’t serious about cutting spending and reining in taxes. Turns out they were wrong.
Listen to Mr. Christie’s take on the state of his state: “We are, I think, the failed experiment in America–the best example of a failed experiment in America–on taxes and bigger government. Over the last eight years, New Jersey increased taxes and fees 115 times.” New Jersey’s residents now suffer under the nation’s highest tax burden. Yet the tax hikes haven’t come close to matching increases in spending. Mr. Christie recently introduced a $29.3 billion state budget to eliminate a projected $11 billion deficit for fiscal year 2011.

On Stanford Education School’s Charter Difficulties

Andrew Rotherham:

My take on the Stanford charter school situation is below. Punchline: This is sad in some powerful ways, it’s not funny.

But the New York Times story demands a bit more discussion. (Plus it buries the lede…check out the Shalvey quote)

In the story Linda Darling Hammond points out that the Stanford school takes all kids. Sure, but so do many other public schools (including some in the community including Aspire Public Schools, a network of public charters established by a former CA school superintendent) that have better results. More on that below. That uncomfortable reality also makes Diane Ravitch’s quote in the story really curious. This situation doesn’t illustrate much about the debate about schools and poverty overall, but it does again show that there are big differences among schools serving similar kids and that powerful and intentional instruction matters.

Are Business Schools Failing?

Paul Barrett:

The aftermath of a historic financial crisis seems an appropriate time to take stock of graduate business education. What are we teaching these people before they head off to the executive suite?
Three Harvard Business School scholars, Srikant M. Datar, David A. Garvin and Patrick G. Cullen, address this question in “Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads,” a thought-provoking examination of the curriculums that shape many top investment bankers, consultants and chief executives. After studying the nation’s most prestigious business schools, the authors conclude that an excessive emphasis on quantitative and theoretical analysis has contributed to the making of too many wonky wizards. M.B.A. recipients, according to this book, haven’t learned the importance of social responsibility, common-sense skepticism and respect for the dangers of taking risks with other people’s money.
Put even more bluntly: Business schools played a contributing role in creating the geniuses who brought us the economic meltdown of 2008.

Paying for College on Your Own

Samantha Stainburn:

The federal government expects parents to help pay for college. But plenty of students can’t get one penny from them. “At Michigan State, we see several hundred of those students every year,” says Val Meyers, associate director of its financial aid office. Some parents don’t believe they can or should contribute, or maybe they don’t like a particular college, or aren’t living together. A father might refuse to take responsibility for the education of a child from a first marriage.
And here’s a sticky wicket: an 18- year-old may be an adult in most states, but for financial aid purposes, students aren’t independent until age 24.

Should high schoolers read aloud in class?

Jay Matthews:

Recently I visited a history class at a local, low-performing high school where students read in turn from the autobiography of a famous American. The teacher was bright and quick. He interrupted often with comments and questions. The 18 sophomores and juniors seemed to be into it, but it was such an old-fashioned–and I suspect to some educators elementary–approach for that I decided to see what other educators thought of it.
I love spending time in classrooms, listening and watching. Often I see something new and surprising, or sometimes old and surprising like one young English teacher diagramming sentences. Was round robin reading (what educators usually call the read aloud technique I witnessed) bad or good? Was it a time-wasting throwback or a useful way to involve every student?
Yes and yes, teachers told me. That is the problem judging the way teachers teach. It all depends on the circumstances, the students, the object of the lesson, the style of the instructor and the judge. Read these and tell me who is right:

The Paper Debate

Robbie Brown:

Before each tournament, Sam Crichton, a senior on the Wake Forest debate team, meticulously stocks a half-dozen Rubbermaid tubs with computer printouts. Each sheet of paper — perhaps 5,000 total — summarizes the argument in, say, a presidential speech or op-ed piece. These “cards” have been sorted into manila files, grouped into brown accordion folders, stacked into the tubs and labeled by argument type: affirmatives, disadvantages, counterplans, critiques, case arguments/negatives, backfiles.
There are 50 tubs for the entire Wake Forest team — a traveling library of debate research. With the aid of all those pages of argumentation, debaters can summon up well-reasoned, highly specific points about nuclear disarmament, this year’s topic for college policy debaters. What if an affirmative team contends that nuclear armament has hurt Africa? What if a negative team cites Heidegger to bolster its response?
“There’s a strange comfort in reading off a sheet of paper,” Mr. Crichton says. “Having all of this paper may seem like a form of chaos, but to me it actually seems more organized.”

Milwaukee’s Plans for a One Size Fits All Reading Curriculum

Alan Borsuk:

The textbooks and the workbooks and the teachers manuals and all the other materials were displayed attractively. There were mini-candy bars and cloth shopping bags for visitors to take.
America’s biggest text book companies – Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt – each had large, handsome displays.
For three days last week, the third-floor library of the Juneau High School building was the center of looming big change in the way children in Milwaukee Public Schools are taught reading. MPS officials are selecting a new reading program.
A special committee will make a recommendation and the School Board will make the choice in the winner-takes-all curriculum selection process. The sunlit scene in the Juneau library was the part of the process where anyone could take a look and give input.
It was an amiable scene. The representatives of the publishers were friendly, talkative, knowledgeable, and quite willing to schmooze. “Great tie,” one told me as I walked down the aisle. She appeared to know something about this tie that no one else had noticed in the 20 years I’ve owned it.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychology Professor Mark Seidenberg has written a number of articles on Madison’s reading programs.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Take the Quiz

New York Times:

1. To become a United States senator, a person must be at least how old?
2. President John Adams was a member of what political party at the time of his election?
3. What was the given name of the Civil War general Stonewall Jackson?
4. What revolutionary leader famously uttered the words “Give me liberty or give me death!” in a speech at the second Virginia Convention?

The Examined Life, Age 8

Abby Goodnough:

A few times each month, second graders at a charter school in Springfield, Mass., take time from math and reading to engage in philosophical debate. There is no mention of Hegel or Descartes, no study of syllogism or solipsism. Instead, Prof. Thomas E. Wartenberg and his undergraduate students from nearby Mount Holyoke College use classic children’s books to raise philosophical questions, which the young students then dissect with the vigor of the ancient Greeks.
“A lot of people try to make philosophy into an elitist discipline,” says Professor Wartenberg, who has been visiting the school, the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence, since 2007. “But everyone is interested in basic philosophical ideas; they’re the most basic questions we have about the world.”
One afternoon this winter, the students in Christina Runquist’s classroom read Shel Silverstein’s “Giving Tree,” about a tree that surrenders its shade, fruit, branches and finally its trunk to a boy it has befriended. The college students led the discussion that followed — on environmental ethics, or “how we should treat natural objects,” as Professor Wartenberg puts it — with a series of questions, starting with whether the boy was wrong to take so much from the tree.

An Open Mind

Katie Hafner:

At 83, Marian C. Diamond has been teaching anatomy at the University of California, Berkeley, for 50 years. Her class is so popular that it’s difficult for students to get in, though she holds court at the campus’s largest lecture hall, with room for 736.
She begins by opening a colorful hatbox. Dressed in an elegant suit and scarf with her hair swept back into a chig non, Professor Diamond pulls on a pair of latex gloves and reveals the box’s contents: a human brain. It is in alcohol, she says, “because alcohol will preserve the brain. Need I say more?” The students laugh as they take this in. She has the room in the palm of her hands.
Professor Diamond is one of the tweedy celebrities of cyberspace. Videos of her anatomy course, Integrative Biology 131, have been viewed nearly 1.5 million times on YouTube, where they have been available since 2005 to anyone with an Internet connection. Some of the world’s foremost scholars are up there for viewing, tuition free. From Yale, you can tune into an economics class by a professor with his own home-price index, Robert Shiller, or a course by the Milton scholar John Rogers. The undisputed rock star academic is Walter H. G. Lewin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who flies across the room to demonstrate that a pendulum swings no faster or slower when there is an added mass (Professor Lewin) hanging at the end.

Why Homeschool? The Highlights of Free Education

An Education Life:

Why homeschool? Maybe to brush up for an exam, get a sense of what a college is like, or just to learn. In the articles listed below, writers who know the fields weigh in on some of the highlights of free education.

  • Economics | Yale: My Teacher Is an Index
  • French | Carnegie Mellon: Voilà! A Better e-Course
  • Music | Connexions: The Music Lesson
  • History | M.I.T.: Asian Culture Through a Lens
  • Psychology | Yale: Why We Go Cuckoo for …
  • Psychology | Yale: Smiles, Sex and Object Permanence
  • Genetics | U.C.L.A.: Decoding DNA
  • Physics | U.C. Berkeley: Atoms and Antimatter
  • Physics | U.C. Irvine: The Marvel of Science
  • Linear Algebra | M.I.T.: The Matrix
  • Computer Science | Stanford: They Have a Class for That
  • Anatomy | U.C. Berkeley: The Inner Body

  • Every school should provide opportunities for their students to take advantage of online courses. They are a great complement to traditional teaching, and a way to reduce or eliminate local curriculum creation expenditures.

    Oakland schools fact-finding report released

    Jill Tucker:

    With a one-day teacher strike looming in Oakland, a fact-finding report released Thursday gave both the district and the teachers union some ammunition in the bitter battle over a new labor contract.
    The report, a required step following failed contract negotiations, validated the district’s claims of financial desperation, but it also gave a nod to the Oakland Education Association’s claims of relatively low teacher pay and need for small class sizes.
    It urged both sides to get over the past – a history mired in fiscal mismanagement and bitterness.

    Seattle Teachers Union Bristles at New Coalition’s Effort to Muscle In on Contract Negotiations

    Nina Shapiro:

    Contract negotiations began this week between Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union, and the atmosphere is already getting testy–but not between the parties you might expect. Seattle Education Association president Olga Addae is peeved over a new coalition led by the non-profit Alliance for Education that is trying to muscle in on the talks.
    Although technically no one else is allowed at the bargaining table besides the union and the district, the “Our Schools Coalition” last week launched a campaign to influence the process by unveiling a list of nine proposed changes it would like to see in the new contract–all of which are aimed at supporting good teachers and weeding out the bad.
    While the group’s ideas are not necessarily new, its effort to influence the negotiations is. And the coalition may have the political clout to do just that.

    Minnesota House approves crackdown on weapons at school


    Minnesota lawmakers approved legislation that increases punishment for bringing weapons to school while going a little easier on fake guns and BB guns.
    The bill, from Rep. Sandra Peterson, DFL-New Hope, passed the House 111-18 on Thursday.
    It would punish bringing dangerous weapons onto school property with a sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. That’s more than double the current prison sentence and twice the maximum current fine.

    Emphasis on Ethics Schools want students to recognize that profits aren’t everything

    Beth Gardiner:

    The study of ethics, once an academic orphan, is grabbing a more central role at many business schools since the financial crisis shone a spotlight on the damage that can be done by irresponsible business practices and an exclusive focus on the bottom line.
    Critics have suggested that B-schools bear some responsibility for the culture of excessive risk-taking that helped trigger the credit crunch, saying they failed to teach students that there is more to business than just making money. Many schools have responded by re-examining their priorities, and giving ethics more classroom time, either in modules of its own or incorporated into key classes like strategy, finance and accounting.
    Faculty are defining the subject broadly, arguing that ethical business practice is not just about refraining from cheating and corruption, but recognizing that a company has responsibilities beyond its shareholders’ wallets–to employees, community, customers and the environment.

    Florida Politics: Governor Crist Vetoes SB6 – Changes to Teacher Tenure

    Kyle Munzenrieder:

    Gov. Charlie Crist has vetoed the Jeb Bush-backed, controversial SB6. The education bill would have eliminated tenure for newly hired teachers, and would have tied a portion of teachers’ salaries to test score results.
    “I say we must start over. This bill has negatively affected the morale of our parents, teachers and students,” Crist said.
    The bill was opposed by many teachers and school boards, including Miami-Dade’s. About 25 percent of county teachers called out “sick” on Monday to protest the bill.

    Tom Vander Ark sees NEA’s hand in this veto.

    Grade Inflation: Who Really Failed?

    Scott Jaschik:

    Dominique G. Homberger won’t apologize for setting high expectations for her students.
    The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn’t use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn’t want students to get very far with guessing.
    Students in introductory biology don’t need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university’s administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor’s right to set standards in her own course.
    To Homberger and her supporters, the university’s action has violated principles of academic freedom and weakened the faculty.

    Related: Marc Eisen: When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?.

    U.S. Falls Short in Measure of Future Middle School Math Teachers

    Sam Dillon:

    America’s future math teachers, on average, earned a C on a new test comparing their skills with their counterparts in 15 other countries, significantly outscoring college students in the Philippines and Chile but placing far below those in educationally advanced nations like Singapore and Taiwan.
    The researchers who led the math study in this country, to be released in Washington on Thursday, judged the results acceptable if not encouraging for America’s future elementary teachers. But they called them disturbing for American students heading to careers in middle schools, who were outscored by students in Germany, Poland, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan.
    On average, 80 percent to 100 percent of the future middle school teachers from the highest-achieving countries took advanced courses like linear algebra and calculus, while only 50 percent to 60 percent of their counterparts in the United States took those courses, the study said.


    Josh Barro & Stuart Buck:

    To all the other fiscal travails facing this country’s states and largest cities, now add their pension obligations, which are far greater than they may realize or are willing to admit. This paper focuses on the crisis in funding teachers’ pensions, because education is often the largest program area in state budgets, making it an obvious target for cuts.
    Although it is generally acknowledged that education is the foundation of every modern society’s future prosperity, schools unfortunately will have to compete with retirees for scarce dollars. This competition is uneven, because retirees have a legal claim on promised pension benefits that supersedes schools’ budgetary needs. Consequently, Americans can look forward to higher taxes and cuts in services, resulting in fewer teachers, bigger classes, and facilities that are allowed to deteriorate. In several states, these developments have already arrived.
    The crux of the problem is the gap between assets and liabilities affecting the fifty-nine pension funds that cover most public school teachers in America. Some of these are general state-employee pension funds, while others cover only teachers. Among the findings of our study of these funds:

    Milwaukee Public Schools’ labor relations and the new superintendent

    Public Policy Forum:

    Over the past few days, four former MPS superintendents have met in two public forums to share the lessons they have learned about running the state’s largest school district. In both forums a recurring theme was Howard Fuller’s contention that: “I was in charge, but I wasn’t in control.”
    His meaning, with which the other former superintendents generally agreed, was that the labor contracts with the teachers and principals unions constrained his ability to make dramatic changes in the district. The implication was that the district’s new superintendent, Gregory Thornton, would find it similarly difficult to improve outcomes under the current labor-management dynamic.
    Whether this perception is accurate or not with regard to MPS, a new, still tentative, labor agreement in the Washington D.C. school district provides an example of a superintendent turning labor negotiating on its head. The D.C. superintendent, Michelle Rhee, has received much national press over the past two years as she pushed for a new paradigm of how, and how much, teachers are paid in D.C.

    Why Smart, Ambitious People Rarely Become Teachers

    Forrest Hinton:

    WARNING: This blog post is utterly simple and obvious. There are some life phenomena, events, and trends that are widely recognized and accepted by most people as just plain Truth. (Majority perception isn’t always right, but it often is.) The argument that follows needs no regressions, 5-page data sets, or integration symbols.
    This is a fact: Smart, ambitious people are rarely choosing K-12 teaching as a career these days.
    Consider that, in 2007, among high school seniors who took the SAT and intended to major in education, the average scores were a dismal 480 in Critical Reading, 483 in Mathematics, and 476 in Writing. Compare those scores with the average scores of students intending to become engineers–524, 579, and 510. Or to students intending to enter the fields of communications and journalism: 523, 501, 519. Also consider that the most competitive, elite colleges and universities, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, aren’t offering undergraduate majors in teaching or education.

    We’re the NEA. We think so that you don’t have to.

    Forest Hinton:

    For almost a decade, No Child Left Behind has tested and labeled our kids and our schools. We know you care about your students, and we are eager to let Washington know just what you think about NCLB. Please take a few minutes to complete the following survey so we can let your representatives know exactly how this legislation has affected you and your students, and how it needs to be changed.

    This is the introductory text to a new survey the National Education Association is using to ostensibly guage where its members stand on ESEA reauthorization.
    But this “survey” is hardly a survey. C’mon.
    Although the NEA claims to be eager to “let Washington know just what [its member-teachers] think about NCLB,” tools like this only serve to tell teachers what the NEA thinks they should think. This all-too-short, multiple-choice-only survey begins by using the rotten brand “NCLB” in the introduction to inflame the survey-taker. Next, it asks only two questions about the survey-taker’s identity: role and zip code.

    Film: The Cartel – Children Left Behind

    Jeannette Catsoulis:

    A mind-numbing barrage of random television clips and trash-talking heads, “The Cartel” purports to be a documentary about the American public school system. In reality, however, it’s a bludgeoning rant against a single state — New Jersey — which it presents as a closed loop of Mercedes-owning administrators, obstructive teachers’ unions and corrupt school boards.
    Blithely extrapolating nationally, the writer and director, Bob Bowdon, concludes that increased financing for public schools is unlikely to raise reading scores but is almost certain to raise the luxury-car quotient in administrator parking lots. To illustrate, Mr. Bowdon rattles off a laundry list of outrages — like a missing $1 billion from a school construction budget — and provides a clumsy montage of newspaper headlines detailing administrative graft.
    The evidence may be verifiable (and even depressingly familiar), but its complex underpinnings are given short shrift. Instead Mr. Bowdon, a New Jersey-based television reporter, employs an exposé-style narration lousy with ad hominems and emotional coercion. In one particularly egregious scene he parks his camera in front of a weeping child who has just failed to win a coveted spot in a charter-school lottery — another tiny victim of public school hell. Later, confronted with the president of the New Jersey Education Association, Mr. Bowdon performs the rhetorical equivalent of poking a lion with a stick and running away.

    Florida Teacher Pay Bill an Outgrowth of Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan

    Cristina Silva:

    For many educators across the state, the Republican-led Legislature’s proposed overhaul of Florida schools is inspiring a wave of deja vu.
    Florida’s last dramatic education shift in 1999 was also pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. It, too, was hurried through the legislative process by Republican leaders who used buzz words like accountability and performance measurements. Both efforts saw teacher unions and Democrats square off against big business and conservatives.
    But, this time, critics said, it is worse. This time it is personal.
    “They are going after the individual classroom teacher,” said Ceresta Smith, a Miami Language Arts teacher who drove to Tallahassee Wednesday to beg Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the legislation, which would link teacher pay and recertification to student learning gains.

    Another Chicken Little Madison School District Budget

    Lynn Welch:

    It’s a good thing Madison is a full of certified smarty-pants. It takes a high level of smarts just to comprehend the complex and shifting budget situation faced by the Madison school district. Even some school board members have a hard time making sense of it.
    “I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Lucy Mathiak, the board’s vice president, of the process by which the district has presented information about its proposed $372.8 million budget this year. “When you have the health and welfare of schools on the line, I feel like I have to ask for answers. It’s not a comfortable position.”
    Frustrated, Mathiak first raised questions about how the district came to its projected $30 million budget hole in her School Daze blog. She notes, first of all, that the gap was closer to $18 million, presuming the board exercises its existing ability to raise taxes, as approved by voters in a 2008 referendum: “This means that the draconian school closings and massive staff layoffs reported earlier are unlikely to happen.”
    But even if that gap is plugged, new ones are opening up. Recently the district was told by a consultant that it needs to do $85.7 million in repairs to existing buildings over the next five years, well beyond the $4 million a year it budgets to this end.

    “Concerns about Collection of Student Data”

    Representative John Kline (R-MN):

    Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s senior Republican member, today warned sensitive student information could be at risk through vast data warehouses that collect private, personally identifiable information on school children. The committee heard testimony on the risks to students’ personal information during a hearing on data collection in the K-12 education system.
    “Today’s hearing reinforces the need for federal, state, and local policymakers to ensure sensitive personal information about our children is safeguarded, and student and family privacy rights are protected. Efforts to collect vast troves of information on our students, tracking them from cradle to career, raise serious concerns,” said Kline. “Information on student performance, while important to a child’s success in the classroom and ensuring we have the best teachers serving in our schools, should not supersede our responsibility to protect a student’s personal information.”
    The committee heard testimony from Professor Joel Reidenberg, academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at the Fordham University School of Law, who shared his research into security weaknesses in current state-based data systems and the potential that state data warehouses could be commandeered to create an unprecedented federal tracking system for maintaining private student information.

    Better food at a school near you

    Susan Troller:

    Local foodies are cheering the news that Wisconsin lawmakers this week passed legislation that will help bring local farm products to school lunchrooms.
    The Assembly passed AB 746, which creates a statewide council to coordinate the process of selling Wisconsin-grown products to schools. The Senate concurred on the Farm-to-School initiative which is cheering news to Wisconsin farmers and advocates for more fresh foods on school menus.
    Meanwhile, a newly released report from chef Beth Collins and Lunch Lessons about Madison’s school meal program says the Madison school district’s food service facilities, staff and organization pose no barriers to putting healthier, less processed food on kids’ plates at school. But district budget woes and time constraints, plus the lack of a well-focused plan, still pose significant hurdles to upgrading what kids eat at school.

    Middlebury to Develop Online Language Venture

    Tamar Lewin:

    Middlebury College, a small Vermont college known for its rigorous foreign-language programs, is forming a venture with a commercial entity to develop online language programs for pre-college students. The college plans to invest $4 million for a 40 percent stake in what will become Middlebury Interactive Languages.
    The partnership, with the technology-based education company K12 Inc., will allow Middlebury to achieve two goals, said Ronald D. Liebowitz, the president of the college: It will help more American students learn foreign languages, an area in which they lag far behind Europeans; and it will give Middlebury another source of revenue.
    “We wanted to do something about the fact that not enough American students are learning other languages, and it’s harder for students if they don’t learn language until college,” Mr. Liebowitz said. “It is also my belief, and I think our board’s belief, that finding potential new sources of revenue is not a bad thing. By doing what we’re doing with this venture, we hope to take some stress off our three traditional sources of revenue — fees, endowment and donations.”

    There are many online opportunities today. These initiatives are an opportunity for school districts to think differently about traditional methods and their curriculum creation expenditures.

    Incoming Milwaukee Public Schools chief lays out goals for district

    Erin Richards:

    Milwaukee’s incoming schools leader will focus on improving student achievement, creating more efficient and effective district operations, and partnering with parents, businesses and community members when he takes the reins of the state’s largest public school system in July.
    That’s according to Gregory Thornton, Milwaukee Public Schools’ superintendent-in-waiting, who for the first time in public Tuesday began laying out his plan for improvement and hinting at the changes those inside and outside the system can expect to see over the next few years.
    “I’m excited because I think Milwaukee is at a very key place,” Thornton said. “I think we’re at a tipping point . . .  I believe we need to tip this thing in a way that young people can be successful.”
    Thornton’s discussion was part of a Newsmaker Luncheon hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club at the downtown Newsroom Pub. He answered questions from a panel of local journalists as well as audience members.
    From the start, Thornton said, he will have to do “some housekeeping” in the district. Change will happen, he said, and those standing in the way will not be encouraged to stick around.

    Are charters’ students doing better? New way of grading schools will tell

    Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki:

    The latest report on Michigan’s charter schools, to be presented to the state Board of Education today, does not compare the performance of charter students to those in traditional public schools — a controversial practice done in past years.
    In previous years, the annual report compared test scores in all charter schools with the average score of 20 traditional (and mostly low-performing) districts in which about 75% of Michigan charter schools are located. By that measure, charter schools do better.
    The new 33-page annual report, created by the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan State University, explores topics including student performance and profiles. The report also recommends giving the department more authority over charter schools and a small increase in funding to pay for that.

    Fewer Minnesota school districts had excess debt in 2009

    Tom Weber:

    A new State of Minnesota report finds that fewer Minnesota school districts are in the worst category of financial hardship.
    The report reveals six charter schools and five traditional public school districts were in what’s called “standard operating debt” last year.
    Schools in standard operating debt don’t have to close, but they must follow certain spending rules aimed at improving their fiscal standing.
    This year’s 11 districts in standard operating debt is a small decrease from the previous year’s number and it continues a mostly downward trend since 2001, when 45 districts had that label. This year’s tally is also the lowest number of schools to be in standards operating debt since the state started keeping track in 1990.

    If New Jersey Was Indiana

    New Jersey Left Behind:

    Interesting development in Indiana regarding Race To The Top: the State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, has written a letter to the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association explaining that because union buy-in is so important to wining the federal competition, “I ask for your unequivocal agreement to the following proposals.” If the Union won’t support Indiana’s RTTT application then Indiana won’t even bother applying for the next round in June. (Hat tip: Flypaper.)
    Mr. Bennett goes on to stipulate that the application will only be submitted if ISTA agrees to support a requirement that 51% of teacher evaluations be based on student growth data, and new legislation that uses teacher evaluations to inform tenure and compensation decisions. The Union must submit a “strong letter of support and a recommendation that local associations sign on in support.”

    For Students, a Waiting List Is Scant Hope

    Jacques Steinberg:

    Ashley Koski, ranked third in the senior class at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Va., has wanted to attend Duke University since she was 12.
    Late last month, she learned that Duke had neither accepted nor rejected her. It had offered her a spot on the waiting list — along with 3,382 other applicants. That is almost twice the size of the incoming freshman class.
    “I kind of just went quiet the rest of the day,” Ms. Koski said. “I’d rather have a yes or no. I can’t make plans and be excited like the rest of my friends.”
    Duke, which had a record 27,000 freshman applicants, has placed 856 more on its waiting list than a year ago. The reasons include the uncertain economy, which makes it hard for Duke to estimate how many of the 4,000 it has accepted will say yes.

    Ex-Milwaukee Public Schools leaders speak out at forum

    Erin Richards:

    Milwaukee Public Schools can be turned around, but it will need a strong, visionary leader to chart a course of action and stick to it despite the pressures of special interests, the School Board and political forces, several former MPS superintendents said Monday night.
    During a public forum hosted by the Marquette University Law School, four former leaders of the state’s largest public school system spoke with relative candor about their past leadership experiences and the challenges they see ahead for the district at a time when MPS is about to accept a new superintendent.
    Panelists Robert Peterkin (superintendent from 1988 to ’91), Howard Fuller (1991-’95), Barbara Horton (1997) and Spence Korte (1999-2002) broke tradition with the silence on MPS issues that those who leave the top post generally adhere to and shared frustrations they encountered with a bureaucracy that too willingly accepts mediocrity and makes it hard to reward success.
    They also made clear that Milwaukee should look to cities and states that have had success over the past 10 to 15 years in raising achievement levels for students.
    “You cannot tell me it can’t be done – there are no unteachable children,” said Fuller, who after his superintendency became an advocate for choice schools as leader of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette.

    100 Years of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

    James Crow, professor emeritus of genetics at the UW-Madison recently gave a talk to the Madison Literary Club on “100 Years of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Click to download a 4.5mb .zip file that contains a few images from Monday’s Madison Literary Club talk.

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin pension funding for teachers falls $10.9 billion short, report says

    Amy Hetzner:

    Wisconsin’s statewide pension system for public employees may not be as well-funded as the state reports, with a new study estimating it could be as much as $10.9 billion short in meeting its obligations just to teachers.
    While the state estimates that the Wisconsin Retirement System is nearly 100% funded, the report by the conservative Manhattan Institute and Foundation for Educational Choice warns that the amount could be far less.
    By using asset growth projection rates similar to what are required for private pension plans, the study found that Wisconsin’s retirement system would be considered only 78% funded. In addition, an analysis that takes into account recent stock market activity drops it to 72% funding, according to the report.
    “We think this is more accurate than the stated market value of assets,” said Josh Barro, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of the report, which was released Tuesday.
    Pension plans that are not adequately funded could lead to higher property taxes or take resources away from the classrooms, Barro said. “Pension obligations are not some big ethereal thing,” he said.

    Reading Period

    When I was a student at Cambridge University, I was told that term time was for attending lectures and socializing, at Oxford and Cambridge, and vacation time was for reading lots of books (a reading period). When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, (this is my 50th reunion year), we were given a formal Reading Period before exams, to help us catch up on semester reading assignments and prepare for finals.
    If we would like to expect high school teachers of English and History to work with their students on the sort of serious research paper from which they will learn a lot on their own, and which will prepare them for college term papers, we have to give teachers a Reading Period, too, but we don’t, so many don’t assign such papers, and the majority of our public high school students now go on to college unprepared for college writing and panicked when their first assignments come down.
    Laura Arandes, when she was a Freshman at Harvard, was shocked at the newacademic writing expectations, because at her public high school in Southern California she had never been asked to write more than a five-paragraph essay. She wrote me that:

    I thought a required freshman writing course was meant to introduce us to college paper-writing. To ease us into the more rigorous scholastic environment we had so recently entered. In reality, the course was a refresher for most of the other students in the class. At a high-level academic institution, too many of the students come from private schools that have realized that it would be an academic failure on their parts to send their students to college without experience with longer papers, research environments, exposure to non-fiction literature, and knowledge of bibliographic techniques. And they’re right. It is a failure, one being perpetrated by too many public high schools across the nation.
    It took me two years to gain a working knowledge of paper-writing, to get to a point where I was constructing arguments and using evidence to support them. I read pamphlets and books on the mechanics of writing college papers, but the reality is simple: you only learn how to write papers by WRITING them. So here I am, about to graduate, with a GPA much lower than it should be and no real way to explain to graduate schools and recruiting companies that I spent my first semesters just scraping by. And the amount of determination, energy and devotion it took to scrape by isn’t easily quantified and demonstrable.

    A survey of college professors done a couple of years ago by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 90% of them thought the students they were seeing were not very well prepared in reading, doing research, and writing.
    The Diploma to Nowhere report from 2008 found that more than one million of our high school graduates, with diploma and college acceptances in hand, are put into remedial courses when they arrive at college. The California State College people reported at a conference in Philadelphia last fall that 47% of their Freshman were in remedial writing courses. I asked the Director of Composition at Stanford if they had any remedial writing courses, and she told me that, no, all Freshman had to take a composition course.
    So, what is the matter with all those public high school English and History teachers, that they are not preparing our graduates for college writing tasks? Many public high school teachers have five classes of thirty students each. With 150 students, if the teacher assigns a 20-page paper, she/he will have 3,000 pages of student research and writing to read, consider and correct when they come in. If she/he takes an hour on each paper, that would require 150 hours, or 30 days at five hours a day.
    Even teachers who do a lot of their preparation and correcting after regular school hours, at night and on the weekends, do not have 150 hours to go over research papers. As a result, they do not assign them, students do not learn how to do the reading and writing required, and colleges (and students) complain when students arrive unprepared.
    A sensible solution, it seems to me, would be to provide a Reading Period of perhaps eight school days for History and English teachers to do the necessary work to prepare their students for serious academic papers. This will seem excessive and unmanageable to administrators, but not, perhaps, if they consider the extra time already allotted in our public high schools for other things, like band practice, layup drills for basketball, yearbook, concerts, football and baseball practice, and on and on and on, when it comes to non-academic purposes.
    If we do give the necessary time for teachers of English and History to work with their students on research papers, and to evaluate their work, I believe our students will learn how to read complete nonfiction books and to write serious term papers, but if we continue to expect the impossible of our teachers, they will continue to ask less academically of their students than they can do, and students will continue to suffer the consequences.
    “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
    www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
    Varsity Academics®

    The States Are Concealing Teacher Pension Costs of ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!

    Jay Greene:

    A new study by Josh Barro and Stuart Buck, co-sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Choice and the Manhattan Institute, finds that states have total teacher pension liabilities of ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!
    These days that doesn’t sound like much, does it? We’re getting to the point where raising an alarm about ONE TRILLION DOLLARS is a little like holding the world to ransom for a measly million.
    But check out some other points from the study:

    Miss. county schools ordered to comply with desegregation order

    Spencer Hsu:

    A federal judge Tuesday ordered a rural county in southwestern Mississippi to stop segregating its schools by grouping African American students into all-black classrooms and allowing white students to transfer to the county’s only majority-white school, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
    The order, issued by Senior Judge Tom S. Lee of the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi, came after Justice Department civil rights division lawyers moved to enforce a 1970 desegregation case against the state and Walthall County.
    Known as Mississippi’s cream pitcher for its dairy farms and bordering Louisiana 80 miles north of New Orleans, Walthall County has a population of about 15,000 people that includes about 54 percent white residents and 45 percent African American residents, according to the U.S. Census.

    D.C. Contract Previsionist History!

    Andrew Rotherham:

    I have a great deal of respect for Larry Cuban and his important work, but this blog post on Michelle Rhee reads like boilerplate applied to a situation that it doesn’t fit.
    For starters, when you actually read the new contract you’ll see that Rhee didn’t compromise a lot away, she basically got everything she wanted – including tenure reform. If there is a lesson in the contact timeline and resolution it’s far less about compromise than about fortitude. Cuban says that the teachers got the raises they wanted. OK, sure. But Rhee wanted those, too!
    The AFT’s Randi Weingarten deserves a great deal of credit (which so far she hasn’t gotten in the media in my view**) for signing a contract that effectively ends tenure and addresses layoffs in a respectful but cost-sustainable form, but the spin that this was a give and take deal evaporates when you actually read the document. It’s precedent setting in some key ways.*
    Second, I don’t know where Cuban gets his 5 percent figure on the number of ineffective teachers in D.C.’s schools but while the percent can certainly be overstated in the public debate you’re hard pressed to find anyone with firsthand experience in the D.C. schools or around them who does not peg that number higher. I was a charter trustee in D.C. for seven years and have spent a lot of time in both sector’s of the city’s public schools and would place that figure higher than 5 percent in a lot of the city’s charter schools, too, by the way. This just isn’t something the field does well yet.

    In Support of Madison School District’s Budget Growth

    Progressive Dane:

    Despite the 2008 referendum which so many of us worked so hard to pass, state actions and inaction have once again placed the quality of our public schools in jeopardy. It is time to stand up for our schools (again).
    On Sunday April 18th at 1:00 pm at Warner Park Community Recreation Center – 1625 Northport Dr. – the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will hold their second Public Hearing on the 2010-11 district budget. The Board needs to hear from the community that we value education and are willing to pay to keep our schools strong. Progressive Dane urges community members to attend and make their voices heard.
    Even if you don’t want to speak at the meeting, you can attend register with positive message. If you can’t make on Sunday, the Board can be contacted at board@madison.k12.wi.us.

    Teacher debate over Washington, DC contract heats up

    Bill Turque:

    Twenty percent over five years is the best we’re ever going to do. Yes, there are problems, but let’s sign and move on.
    Private donors such as the Walton Family Foundation are not to be trusted. They’ll be gone, along with their money, the moment Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee leaves.
    The deal is a trap, because it does nothing to limit the IMPACT evaluation system, which is a disaster, or to protect teachers from the kind of layoffs Rhee instigated last October.
    This, in paraphrase, is some of the conversation among teachers over the tentative contract agreement announced last week. If District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi certifies the funding commitments of the four foundation donors as sound, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) will mail out ballots to begin a two-week voting period. This week, WTU president George Parker begins a series of informational meetings for teachers to discuss the proposed deal. The sessions, which all start at 4:30 p.m., will be Tuesday at McKinley High School, Thursday at Woodrow Wilson, Monday, April 19, at Ballou and Wednesday, April 21, at Spingarn.

    Cameron’s UK parent school promise


    Conservative leader David Cameron has made an election centrepiece of plans to allow parents and other providers to set up schools with state funding.
    Launching his party’s manifesto, Mr Cameron has promised parents “the power to get a good new school in your community”.
    The manifesto also says all schools, including primaries, will be able to have the autonomy of academy status.
    And there is a commitment that all pupils should read by the age of six.

    Obama’s plan to reward schools for innovation sparks congressional debate

    Nick Anderson:

    At Adelphi Elementary School, students peel away from their classrooms twice a week for tutorials in reading and math. Clusters of five or six children will shuffle into a book closet, a hallway, a computer lab or any place teachers can fit a few empty chairs for 45 minutes of catch-up lessons or enrichment.
    Such all-out efforts helped this Prince George’s County school win a national award this year for steep gains in test scores. But the federal anti-poverty program that funds the academic drive at Adelphi represents a model of education reform — spreading aid to states based on population and need — that is fast going out of fashion.
    President Obama aims to reinvent the Education Department as a venture capitalist for school reform, investing more in schools with innovative ideas. The Title I program, which supports Adelphi and thousands of other schools in low-income areas based on formulas of need, is not facing extinction. But Obama would freeze the core of that program even as he sends billions of dollars to states that harmonize their policies with his.

    A Right Denied

    Dear Public Education Advocate:
    Yesterday I attended the premier showing of A Right Denied produced by Bob Compton who also produced 2 Million Minutes and few other related documentaries about education systems in the US and the world.
    In between watching the Masters or the Yankees lose a few ballgames this weekend, please review this information and in particular, the attached 240 slide PPT presentation prepared by Whitney Tilson who is featured in A Right Denied. Whitney’s research and factual data took a few years to compile and is the basis for the documentary. I have been following Whitney’s work closely for a few years and if you asked me if I could have dinner with any one person in America today who would it be; my answer (after my wife of course) Whitney Tilson. Please review his material and feel free to share this with those you know.
    While the achievement gap among racial groups and the sad inequities based solely one’s zip code are illustrated, so is the decline in the U.S. education system on a whole – the data is alarming.
    Some select pieces from the PPT slides (5.5MB PDF):
    Why hasn’t additional money resulted in improved results?

    1. Teacher quality has been falling rapidly over the past few decades
    2. Our school systems have become more bureaucratic and unaccountable
    3. As a nation, have been so rich for so long that we have become lazy and complacent. Our youth are spending more time watching TV, listening to iPods, playing video games (up 25% in the last four years), going to sporting events, etc. rather than studying hard. These two pictures capture what’s happening in China vs. the U.S. (see slide number 15).

    Americans watch more than twice as much TV as any other country. (Watching the Masters or Baseball is exempt however.)
    Achievement Gap #1 – We are falling behind all economic competitors.

    • 15-year-olds trail almost all other OECD countries in Math and Science.
    • Our High School graduation rate lags nearly all OECD countries.
    • US is among the leaders in college participation but ranks in the bottom half or college completion.
    • The college completion rate in the US has stagnated and our competitors have surpassed us.
    • American students score highly in self-confidence. 72% agree or strongly agree; “I get good marks in Mathematics”, yet we are near the bottom internationally in mathematics.

    Achievement Gap #2 – Academic achievement of low-Income, minority students is dramatically lower than their more affluent peers. You already know this but, did you know;

    • The black-white achievement gap is already one year in kindergarten?
    • The majority of Black and Latino 4th graders struggle to read a simple children’s book.
    • The achievement gap widens the longer students are in school.
    • Black and Latino 12th graders read and do math at the same level as white 8th graders.
    • Massachusetts and NYC have made great strides in math the past six years.
    • Very few children from low-income households are graduating from any four-year college, and this has stayed consistent for the past 40 years.
    • 74% of students at elite colleges are from the top quartile of households and only 9% are from the bottom half of households.
    • Even the better high school graduates today are alarmingly unprepared for college. Close to half need remedial courses.

    Two general approaches to fixing our schools

    • Improve the current system and create alternatives to the current system. Adopt both strategies.
    • Too many school systems today are dominated by the “Three Pillars of Mediocrity.”
      • Lifetime Tenure
      • Lockstep Pay
      • System Drive by seniority (not merit)
    • Teacher Quality and Effectiveness. Teacher quality has been declining for decades. College seniors who plan to go into education have very low test scores.
    • Teacher certification has little impact on student achievement.

    Please review the trailer http://www.2mminutes.com/films/ and the slide presentation attached which I know you will appreciate. I would encourage you to purchase the CD too or you can borrow mine if you like, I also have 2 Million Minutes and 2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution.

    Teachers Embrace the Power of Prayer A New Jersey teacher’s union prays for Chris Christie’s death.

    Allysia Finley:

    Hell hath no fury like a teacher’s union scorned. To close a $10.7 billion budget deficit, New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie last month proposed slashing education by $820 million, an equivalent to a 5% cut for each school district. That follows on the heels of an across-the-board pay freeze.
    Not happy is the Bergen County Education Association, which sent a letter to 17,000 members asking them to pray for the governor’s death. The letter offers a sample prayer that begins: “Dear Lord, this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. . . . I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”

    Milwaukee Representative Grigsby Statement on Education Reform Announcement

    The Milwaukee Drum:

    Today, State Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) joined other education supporters to announce a new education reform proposal designed to increase supports for Milwaukee Public Schools and its democratically-elected school board. Grigsby issued the following statement regarding today’s activities:
    “If this compromise were about mayoral takeover, I would not be here in support of it today. Over the past year, much of the debate surrounding MPS has been about who runs the schools, rather than the quality of education being given to our children. Now that the debate surrounding takeover has come to an end, I’m glad that so many different stakeholders have been able to join together to find common ground with the best interests of Milwaukee’s children in mind.
    “This compromise is not about a change in governance, nor is it about school control. This compromise is about support for our schools and providing a consistent, quality education for our children. For education to improve, MPS needs more community support, more district support, and more state support. You will not find a takeover of any sort in this legislation. Instead, this proposal puts in place important policies designed to support and strengthen Milwaukee Public Schools and maintain its democratically-elected, empowered school board.

    NJ gov wants teachers union leader fired for memo

    Angela Delli Santi:

    The president of a state teachers union left a meeting Monday with Gov. Chris Christie after refusing to fire a local president who wrote a memo that joked about the governor’s death, further escalating a rift that began before Christie’s election.
    Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak said the governor wants Bergen County teachers union head Joe Coppola fired for his “irresponsible” memo. The memo from the Bergen County Education Association to its locals included a closing prayer that read:
    “Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.”

    Additional Discussion on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 Budget

    Gayle Worland:

    “We still have the big stuff ahead, some of the harder discussions,” School Board President Arlene Silveira said. “So it’s good to get some of these items off the table.”
    Superintendent Dan Nerad started the budget discussion Monday with the news that more than nine full-time jobs for bilingual resource specialists had been double-counted in budget estimates, allowing the board to remove $632,670 in expenses for those duplicate positions.
    Also, the rise in employee health insurance costs for the 2010-11 school year had been overestimated, resulting in costs that are $1.4 million less than projected, Nerad said.

    Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.

    Colleges Turn From In-House E-mail To Free Gmail, One Considers Privacy and Other Issues

    Libby Conn Franklin:

    Cristin Frodella, a senior marketing manager for education at Google, says this is not a strategy to make money.
    “We give it away for free now,” Frodella says. “We plan to always give it away for free. You know, Google actually started in the education world, and so we’d like to continue to support education. And we think this is a great way for us to support it.”
    No ads, no charge — what’s the catch?
    “That’s a very good question. The answer isn’t entirely clear,” says Christian Csar, a senior computer science major at Yale University.
    He says he was troubled when he heard that Yale was planning to migrate student e-mail to Google. “There are some distinct privacy concerns because Google now has complete access to your e-mail in order to show it to you,” he says.
    Frodella says students shouldn’t worry. “The school owns all of the student’s private data. We are not looking at it. The school owns all of it,” Frodella says.

    Videos on Proposed Milwaukee Public Schools’ Governance Changes

    The Milwaukee Drum:

    On National Curriculum Standards: One Size Fits None

    Jay Greene:

    Sandra Stotsky and I have pieces in today’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette on the current national standards push. We take slightly different approaches — Sandy thinks national standards are a good idea in general but the current draft has bad standards, while I think national standards are a bad idea altogether. But we end up with the same policy recommendation — the current national standards push should be stopped. I’ve reproduced both pieces below:
    One Size Fits None
    by Jay P. Greene
    The Obama administration and Gates Foundation are orchestrating an effort to get every state to adopt a set of national standards for public elementary and secondary schools.
    These standards describe what students should learn in each subject in each grade. Eventually these standards can be used to develop national high-stakes tests, which will shape the curriculum in every school.

    The Alternative: Younger students give community college a second look

    Michelle Davis:

    College student Sehrish Shah perched on a well-worn chair in a student activities lounge and pulled markers and glitter paint from her backpack. A white sheaf of poster board was spread on a table, and several other students huddled around it, trying to tap latent artistic genes to create a poster for an upcoming event.
    The students, who represented different religious groups on campus, sketched a tree incorporating religious symbols and words into the branches and trunk. They were promoting World Peace Day to foster the idea of various faiths working together. As they sketched, Shah and the other students talked about fundraising possibilities (a kissing booth was rejected), groaned about classes and compared parents’ discipline policies.

    Opposing view on education: Teach founding principles

    Don McLeroy:

    For a free society, history is everything. Thus, the greatest problem facing America today is that we have forgotten what it means to be an American.
    OUR VIEW: Texas school board seeks to rewrite your kids’ textbooks
    On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson charted the course for a new nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Abraham Lincoln declared that we were “a new nation, conceived in Liberty” and “the last best hope of earth.” Ronald Reagan observed: “Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than any other place on earth.”

    Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent

    Susan Troller, via a kind reader’s email:

    Where did the money go?
    For more than a year, Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak has been asking Madison school district officials for a precise, up-to-date summary of how $26.2 million in 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent over the last five years.
    She’s still waiting, but her patience is wearing out.
    Now the sharp-tongued budget hawk says she may ask the school board as early as Monday night to authorize an outside audit that would identify how the money approved by taxpayers in 2005 for repairs and maintenance of dozens of the district’s aging buildings was actually spent between 2005 and fall of 2009.
    “We need to have a serious, credible accounting for where the money went from the last referendum, and I haven’t seen that yet,” Mathiak told The Capital Times. “I’m ready to ask for an audit, and I think there are other board members who are equally concerned.”

    Related: Proposed Madison School District Maintenance Referendum: 1999, 2005 and 2010 Documents:

    The Madison School District is considering another maintenance referendum ($85M?). The documents below provide a list of completed (1999, 2005) and planned projects (2010+). The reader may wish to review and compare the lists:

    The 2005 special election included 3 referenda questions, just one of which passed – the maintenance matter.

    Is Education a Civil Right?

    Catherine Meek:

    I recently watched Al Sharpton on the Stephen Colbert show talk about how education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. He discussed his collaboration with Newt Gingrich to promote education reforms. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich? That’s an interesting coupling.
    And I thought of all the interesting volunteers who come together at School on Wheels to tutor a homeless child. Why do they do this? For some it’s because they recognize the vulnerability and difficulty of being a homeless student. For others, it’s the opportunity to give back to those they consider less fortunate. For most, however, it’s the understanding that education is the one sure path out of poverty and the cycle of homelessness. In Los Angeles County, we have a 60% graduation rate, well below the national average of 70%. And not only is the poverty rate in L.A. County higher than the nation as a whole, but we are the homeless capital of the nation.
    Homelessness is extreme poverty. A serious illness or the loss of a job can leave anyone in extreme poverty. And when kids become homeless, their education suffers immensely.

    Fewer Students, More Teachers: Even as enrollment falls, school districts keep hiring.

    Wall Street Journal:

    New York Governor David Paterson wants to reduce state aid to local school districts next year by 5% to address the state’s $9.2 billion budget deficit, and state educators are complaining that the cuts could result in teacher layoffs. Maybe so, but the reality in New York and other states is that teacher hires in recent years have far outpaced student enrollment.
    A new report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy found that New York public schools added 15,000 teachers between 2000 and 2009, even though enrollment fell by 121,000 students over the same period. New York City, home to the nation’s largest school system, added 7,000 teachers and 4,000 nonteaching professionals (guidance counselors, administrators, nurses) even as its enrollment was decreasing by 63,000 kids, according to state data.
    Teachers unions prefer fewer students per class because it means more dues-paying jobs, but the evidence that it improves academic outcomes is thin. In any case, the Empire Center report found that “by national standards, class sizes in New York were small even before the further staff expansion of the past nine years.” In 2008 New York’s pupil-teacher ratio was 13.1, the eighth lowest among the 50 states, and its per-pupil spending ($16,000) leads the nation.

    Proposed Madison School District Maintenance Referendum: 1999, 2005 and 2010 Documents

    The Madison School District is considering another maintenance referendum ($85M?). The documents below provide a list of completed (1999, 2005) and planned projects (2010+). The reader may wish to review and compare the lists:

    The 2005 special election included 3 referenda questions, just one of which passed – the maintenance matter.

    The Stimulus Test and Title I

    Ben Miller:

    In the midst of an interesting memo defending President Obama’s decision to propose level funding Title I for next year, Raegan Miller of the Center for American Progress raises the point that many states and school districts don’t need increased Title I money because they are still receiving additional stimulus dollars. That’s a good point and makes a lot of sense–no need to spend more when there are already federal funds available.

    But while the stimulus funds may be enough to justify flat-funding Title I for next year, it also hints at some important looming questions in all levels of federal education spending—what to do when the stimulus money expires.

    As Miller notes, school districts and states still have some remaining funds from the $10 billion provided for Title I in the stimulus that would supplement the flat funded level of $14.49 billion for Title I. According to Jennifer Cohen, my former colleague at the New America Foundation, only about 24 percent of Title I stimulus funds had been disbursed by March 5. Coupled with the fact that up to 15 percent of the $10 billion can be reserved for the 2011 fiscal year, this increases the likelihood that states will still have a decent amount of money to use.

    Obama’s Blueprint for Total Federal Control in Public Education

    Lew Cypher (Libertarian):

    Win or lose with healthcare “reform”, there is another socialist crisis looming, thanks to the Obama administration, but one that most conservatives and many libertarians will not only go along with but actually applaud, until it is forever too late. The battle over our schools has been being lost for nearly a decade and with the help of conservatives who do not understand how The late Senator Edward Kennedy and the current Pelosi ally, U.S. Representative George Miller pulled one over on Bush and the GOP with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The defining impact of NCLB was not what it imposed on the nation’s public schools but that it opened the door to direct Federal control of one of the most intimately local institutions in American history and culture (Will, 2007). That Federal control of the schools is precisely why Democrats who railed against the law for its first four years did not overturn it after taking control of Congress in 2007, when the law first came up for renewal. Democrats may not like details within NCLB but they apparently like the idea of federal control of the schools more than they dislike the current law, considering that they have left NCLB unchanged until Obama has proposed his “Blueprint for Education” (Turner, D). Many of the same people who bitterly opposed Obama on healthcare will now jump through all his various hoops to help him further take over the nation’s schools on a federal level by accepting his shiny false lure of blaming education’s ills on so-called “bad” teachers (Navarrette). The proof of the falsehood in the lure to punish “bad” teachers is in which states won first approval under Obama’s first canary in the coal mine for federal takeover of the schools, also known as Race To The Top; states whose teachers unions agreed to the so-called reforms (Anderson & Turque).

    State leaders, Education Minnesota get a wake-up call on reform.

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

    Disappointment was widespread last month when Minnesota failed to make the list of finalists for federal Race to the Top education funds. For a state accustomed to being a national leader in education, it was a rude awakening to be bested by winners Delaware and Tennessee and eight other finalists.
    Still, the poor showing can be the kick in the teeth Minnesota needs to jump-start educational reforms, and it should serve as a wake-up call for a teachers union that has wielded too much power in preserving the status quo. Minnesota lost points in the competition for poor plans to produce better educators and close the achievement gap, and for not having more support from its teachers unions.

    College not mandatory under exam program

    Marc Tucker:

    Ze’ev Wurman and Sandra Stotsky, in their opinion piece (“Grade 10 Diploma Not a Wise Idea,” Insight, April 4) misrepresented our proposals.
    They suggest that the State Consortium on Board Examination Systems is proposing to send all of the high school students in our states to community colleges at the age of 16. Not so.
    We offer the option of going to community college after the sophomore year in high school to students who pass exams showing they can do college-level work. But students who pass these exams could stay in high school to take a career and technical program or a program designed to prepare them for admission to selective colleges. High schools would be obligated to give students who don’t pass their exams additional instruction in the areas in which they are weak, so they could succeed the next time they take the exam.

    Happening Now:Send Us Your News, Weather and Sports Photos! School district proposes ban on Facebook friends between students and faculty

    Maile Tua’one:

    Granite School District has proposed a policy on banning faculty from becoming friends on Facebook with students. If the policy is passed, it will be the first of its kind in the entire state. The proposed policy applies to all employees in the District. “I think it’s very good because I think it’s a check and balance on the Facebook,” said Helen Mellen, teacher at Olympus High School. “I think they get out of hand. They can become very dangerous.”
    Some students at school will not deny the dangers of getting to know their teachers better on Facebook, but a few students feel the social networking site has helped them in contacting their teachers.
    “Even if they do make the policy, I could see teachers getting away with it,” said student Gavin Salisbury. “Last week I turned in an assignment over Facebook, I at least told the teacher over Facebook that my assignment was in his e-mail, so the assignment was on time because of Facebook.”

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: 66% Say America Is Overtaxed

    Rasmussen Reports:

    When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes.
    Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.
    Lower income voters are more likely than others to believe the nation is overtaxed.
    Not surprisingly, the tax issue provokes a wide gap between the Political Class and Mainstream Americans. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Mainstream American voters believe the nation is overtaxed, while 74% of those in the Political Class disagree (see more about the Political Class and Mainstream Americans).

    New Madison School District Senior Administrator Hiring Requests

    Superintendent Dan Nerad:

    In the approved Plan to Align the Work of the Administration to the District’s Mission and Strategic Plan, the Reorganization Plan, it states “For all revised or newly created positions, job descriptions will be developed and submitted to the Board of Education for approval.”
    On the April 12, 2010 Regular Meeting agenda – Superintendent’s Announcements and Reports – I am seeking action on four position descriptions representing three new positions as a result of the approved reorganization plan and one revised description. These include:

    • Deputy Superintendent / Chief Learning Officer
    • Director Professional Development Director
    • Early and Extended Learning
    • Executive Director – Curriculum and Assessment

    Action on these position descriptions is being sought at this time in order to allow the newly created positions to be posted in as timely a manner as possible.
    When additional existing position descriptions are revised, as a result of the reorganization plan, they will be submitted to the Board for review and approval. Please let me know if you have any questions on these position descriptions.

    The Deputy Superintendent / Chief Learning Officer adds a layer between the current Superintendent, Dan Nerad and a number of positions that formerly reported to him:

    The Deputy Superintendent/Chief Learning Officer provides leadership in the ongoing development, implementation and (curriculum, instructional and responsible for the improvement of all learner-related programs within the all assigned administrators
    Assistant Superintendents-Elementary and Executive Director of Educational Services Executive Director of Curriculum and Ksse:,snm Executive Director of Student Services Director of Professional Development Coordinator-Grants and Fund Development Executive Assistant

    Historic Madison School District staffing levels can be reviewed here: 2004-2005 FTE counts were 3872. A 2010-2011 MMSD Budget Book document displays a FTE total of 3,755.03.

    Wisconsin Schools Chief May Get More Power

    Alan Borsuk:

    Key legislators and major players in Wisconsin’s education scene are close to agreement on a package of ideas aimed at invigorating efforts to improve low performing schools, particularly in Milwaukee.
    The focus of the proposal is on giving Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction, an array of new tools for taking on the problems of the schools in the state that get the weakest results.
    According to a draft of the proposal, when it comes to low-performing schools, Evers would have powers to order school boards to change how principals are hired and fired; how teachers are assigned; how teachers and principals are evaluated, including the use of student performance data; and how curriculum and training of teachers is handled.
    “There’s a large consensus of people who are around this,” State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) said. “That’s exciting.”
    Evers said, “We feel confident we have a good, meaningful piece of legislation.” He said it had been “an amazing few weeks” as prospects for a major education reform package this year went from bleak to energized. He said conversations, including a session Wednesday at the Capitol with many of the major players, had involved hard conversations in which people had given ground on stands they had taken previously.

    Redesigning Education: Rethinking the School Corridor

    Trung Le:

    “I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder how we could have tolerated anything so primitive.”

    – John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, “No Easy Victories” (1968)
    Education reform is in the air and taking root in thousands of classrooms across the country. From overhauling No Child Left Behind to closing poorly performing schools and raising student expectations, the push for change is powerful. Yet, the space where most learning takes place–the school and classroom–has changed little over the last 200 years.
    Even before students set foot in a classroom, most schools still are built like factories: long hallways, lined with metal lockers, transport students to identical, self-contained classrooms. School designers call these hallways “double-loaded corridors.” The factory model of control and direct instruction still pervades most new schools. If we are to have thorough-going school reform, we must change the design model, too, starting with the place students first enter the school.

    State budget cuts singe one Naperville school district, scorch another

    Noreen Ahmed Ullah:

    Two years ago, Indian Prairie School District 204 was building state-of-the art schools and athletic facilities. For years, new homes regularly had been added to the tax rolls, which kept dollars rolling in. Administrators in the district covering south and west Naperville decided to expand kindergarten to a full school day.
    In the older neighborhoods to the north and east, Naperville School District 203 was enlarging its older schools rather than building new ones. Although the district spent more per pupil than its southern neighbors, kindergarten remained a half-day program, which didn’t sit well with some parents.
    But in recent weeks, District 204 approved plans to cut 145 teachers and $21.4 million out of next year’s budget, while its neighbors in District 203 made small budget adjustments that left the educational program largely intact.

    History: ‘Too much Hitler and the Henrys’

    Niall Ferguson:

    History matters. Most intelligent adults, no matter how limited their education, understand that. Even if they have never formally studied the subject, they are likely to take an interest in historical topics. Historians on television – notably Simon Schama and David Starkey – draw big audiences (the book of Schama’s History of Britain sold more than a million copies). Military historians who have become household names in recent years include Richard Holmes and Anthony Beevor. And journalists such as Andrew Marr, Jeremy Paxman and David Dimbleby have also been highly successful in reaching a mass audience with historical material.
    History, it might be said, has never been more popular. Yet there is a painful paradox at the very same time: that it has never been less popular in British schools.
    History is not a compulsory part of the British secondary school curriculum after the age of 14, in marked contrast to nearly all other European countries. The most recent statistics for England and Wales indicate the scale of the problem. In 2009 a total of 219,809 candidates sat the GCSE in history – just 4 per cent of all GCSEs taken. More students sat the design and technology GCSE (305,809).

    The ‘Race to the Top’ of the Education Peak

    Letters to the New York Times Editor:

    Re “In School Aid Race, Many States Are Left Behind” (front page, April 5):
    No wonder a Race to the Top that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hyped as education’s “moon shot” is beginning to look like a wet firecracker. The Obama administration said the competition would be transparent, yet anonymous judges evaluated 40 states’ applications behind closed doors. The administration said it would reward innovation, yet gaining assent from change-averse teacher unions gave the two winning states the edge, not bold new options for students and parents.
    In the final analysis, the race may have a good effect if it finally convinces education patrons and stewards that “Waiting for Superman” (to borrow from Davis Guggenheim’s brilliant documentary about deeply flawed public education) is an exercise in futility. The only way to reform education is from the bottom up.
    Sweden has the right idea in letting public money follow children to the independent or public schools of their choice, thus sparking a competition that actually enhances quality for all.

    “Do Crew” Augmented Reality Cartoons Help Get Kids Off the Couch

    Chris Cameron:

    New York-based online video management company whistleBox has developed a new browser-based augmented reality (AR) experience geared directly at children by integrating it with the one thing every kid loves: cartoons. The project, dubbed Do Crew, is a series of animated stories for kids that include interactive AR games and challenges that the kids can play with using a webcam attached to a desktop or laptop computer.
    In examples shown in videos on the Do Crew site, kids can control cartoon vehicles by jumping or leaning side-to-side, and can play other games by waving their hands in front of the camera. Think Project Natal but in a web browser, and integrated within kids’ cartoons. This is an excellent use of augmented reality technology because it is a practical application with genuine value, an attribute we discussed last week as being the strongest way AR can break into the mainstream.

    Veto merit pay for teachers?

    Palm Beach Post:

    Merit pay for teachers based on genuine, verifiable student learning would be a good thing. But the bill the Legislature finalized early Friday morning has too many holes in it, takes away local control and doesn’t pay for the changes it orders.
    Gov. Crist has said he might veto the bill, and that’s exactly what he should do.
    The bill requires local school districts to hire, fire and pay teachers according to how well students do on end-of-course exams in all subjects. But those tests don’t exist yet. So how can teachers and students know they’ll be valid when they go into effect in 2014? The Legislature says the state Department of Education will take care of the details.
    That would be more reassuring if the state had a better track record on the FCAT. For a decade Florida has corrupted an otherwise useful test by putting way too much weight on it. Entire schools and districts are graded on a high-stakes test that doesn’t even cover most subjects.

    Grad School Survival Guide

    Scott Jaschik:

    While most doctoral programs have some sort of orientation, the focus on such matters as required courses, time to degree and dissertation goals may diminish opportunities to consider really important matters — such as how to wander into a colloquium at which food is served, timing your entrance so you don’t need to listen to the talk.
    Adam Ruben wants to help. His Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School is just out from Random House and offers advice — tongue in cheek but with plenty of truth — for those who want a doctorate. Ruben earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University in 2008, so the material comes from his personal experience — although the attitude comes from his moonlighting as a stand-up comic. He covers everything from selecting professors to work with to figuring out when you need to finish up already (the latter in a chapter appropriate for the Passover season, “Let My Pupil Go.”)

    Before It Ends, Schools ‘Race’ Is a Success

    New York Times:

    Critics of the Obama administration’s signature education initiative have been breathing fire since it was announced that only Delaware and Tennessee had won first-round grants under the program, known as Race to the Top. Politicians from some losing states have denounced the well-designed scoring system under which the 16 finalists were evaluated. Others have thrown up their hands, suggesting that retooling applications for the next round is more trouble than it’s worth.
    Plenty of states will line up for the remaining $3.4 billion. But even if the program ended today, it already has had a huge, beneficial effect on the education reform effort, especially at the state and local levels.

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Great Debt Bailout


    This blog was created in late 2006 in order to “vent” my frustration over the huge debt bubble and what I perceived to be the risks it posed to the global economy. In summary, I claimed that the economy had become hooked on debt to create additional GDP growth – or “growth” in quotation marks – and that the finance “tail” was wagging the real economy “dog”.
    Soon thereafter, the bubble burst – first in the U.S. and then everywhere else. What followed was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And we are still in the midst of it, albeit in ever-mutating form, so today’s post is meant as a tour d’horizon, a quick summary of how I see things shaping up today.
    I believe all that has happened so far is The Great Debt Bailout. Governments and central banks have issued trillions in new government-backed debt, some to replace private debt gone bad (bailouts for billionaires) and some to finance massive budget deficits (pennies for penniless). It is a policy mishmash produced by the combination of (a) Bernankean revulsion to monetary deflation and (b) Keynesian aversion to economic recession.

    As School Districts consider property tax increases to address spending growth and flat or reduced redistributed state and federal tax dollars, it may well be useful to keep local goodwill in reserve for future funding challenges.
    Related: Peter Gorenstein: Pray For Inflation — It’s Our Only Hope and New Jersey’s K-12 Staffing growth.

    Homeschoolers don’t match stereotypes

    Chanel Volpel:

    I was flipping through the paper the other day, and one of the comics stood out to me. (Yes, I do still enjoy reading the funny pages; it’s relaxing after a long day.) It was Ziggy, one of my favorites, because of its cute illustrations, and funny one-liners.
    In this particular comic, Ziggy was at the doctor’s office, sitting on a chair next to the doctor, when he looked at the diploma on the wall. Then he cried out, “Wait a minute! This says you were homeschooled!”
    I laughed, because it was a stereotypical illustration of a common reaction that people have of homeschoolers, such as myself.
    One of my favorite reactions happened at my school, Fox Valley Technical College. I was chatting with another student before my class and, somewhere in the conversation, I mentioned having been homeschooled. She looked at me in amazement, and exclaimed, “I would have never guessed you were homeschooled!”

    A pact for D.C. school reform

    Washington Post:

    THROUGHOUT the torturous contract talks between D.C. schools and teachers, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee vowed she would not agree to anything that didn’t further her efforts at reform. The innovative agreement announced Wednesday is evidence of that resolve — and also of a gutsy willingness by local and national union leaders to make the changes that are needed if D.C. children are to do better in school.
    Ms. Rhee and officials of the Washington Teachers’ Union reached an accord — subject to ratification by the full membership and approval by the D.C. Council — that would provide base salary increases of 21 percent over five years. In return, school officials would get important tools to reward teachers who do well with children and hold accountable those who don’t. This includes a performance-based bonus system to be instituted in the fall, greater autonomy in assigning teachers and better means of getting rid of teachers unable to produce results.

    Denver Schools using Gates Foundation grant to find a better way to evaluate instructors

    Jeremy Meyer:

    As fourth-grade teacher Abel Varney introduced a lesson on negative and positive integers, all eyes in his Sabin Elementary classroom were upon him — including the unblinking lens of a high-tech camera.
    The camera recorded Varney’s every move and utterance and captured the reactions of every child in the room — images that will be examined by researchers in a national study trying to figure out what makes effective teaching.
    Varney is one of 176 teachers from 17 Denver schools who signed up to have their lessons analyzed during a two-year project funded by a $878,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Vouchers and the Rising Tide

    Greg Forster:

    I haven’t had a chance to read the details yet, but from the executive summary of the new results released today by the School Choice Demonstration Project, it looks like vouchers have done a good job of improving education for all students in the city of Milwaukee.
    What? That’s not the way you heard it?
    Of course not. Because the new result, taken in isolation from other information, simply says that after two years, the voucher students are making learning improvements about the same as public school students. The scores for the voucher students are higher, but the difference is not statistically certain.
    However, let’s plug that into the larger universe of information. We know – from the very same research project – that vouchers are improving education in Milwaukee public schools. The positive incentives of competition and the improved matching of student needs to school strengths are causing public schools to deliver a better education.

    On New Jersey K-12 Schools’ Staffing (and spending) Growth

    Steven Malanga:

    Gov. Chris Christie is trying to solve New Jersey’s chronic bud get problems by cutting spending, including state aid to local schools. But the state’s powerful teacher unions and many school boards are balking — claiming that this will either drive up local property taxes or result in devastating cuts to school services.
    In fact, there’s plenty of fat to cut. For proof, just take a close look at the recent hiring and spending patterns of Jersey’s school districts: Both hiring and spending have risen far faster than can be justified by the mild growth in enrollment. Thus, most should have plenty of room to cut spending without major impact.
    Given the state’s chronic budget woes, the schools’ hiring spree defies logic. Since 2001, just as budget problems began in earnest, public-school enrollment in Jersey has risen by less than 3 percent, or slightly more than 36,000 students. But total school hiring (full-time employees and equivalents) has jumped by 14 percent, or nearly 28,000 employees, according to federal Census statistics.

    Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wants to bring civics education to social media

    Christina Boyle:

    Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is not on Facebook or Twitter, but she wants to use the power of the Internet to get young people interested in civics.
    “Two-thirds of Internet users under the age of 30 have a – whatever this is – social-networking profile,” the feisty 80-year-old said in a speech at New York Law School Tuesday.
    “We need to bring civics education into the 21st century.”
    O’Connor, who retired in 2006, said she knows young people are using sites such as Twitter and Facebook to swap political views – and the medium could be harnessed for other messages.

    Hillsboro School District budget highlights for 2010-11 not encouraging

    Wendy Owen:

    Teachers in the Hillsboro School District may see even more students in each classroom next school year as the district seeks to cut the budget without “decimating” programs.
    The school district’s budget committee, a mix of citizens and board members, took its first look at the funding “highlights” for 2010-’11 and it wasn’t good news.
    “The best scenario is unhappiness,” said Sam Heiney, budget member.
    Projecting a continued shortfall in state education funding, the district is considering plans to maintain staff levels. Enrollment, however, is expected to increase by 1 percent, which could bump up class sizes from the current average of 27.

    Rhode Island Education Commissioner Gist: Failing schools need sweeping change

    Eric Tucker:

    Failing schools are a drain on the state’s already sluggish economy and require wholesale transformation, not just minor tinkering, state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told lawmakers Wednesday in a speech on education reform.
    Gist, whose reform efforts led to the firings of all teachers and staff at one of the state’s worst-performing schools, said test scores in the state need vast improvement, the graduation rate must grow and too few high school graduates — just more than half — are heading directly to college.
    Improving schools is critical to the economy in Rhode Island, a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment, since students who drop out will struggle and be a cost to society, Gist said in an address to the General Assembly.
    “We cannot thrive in a knowledge-based marketplace if 45 percent of our high-school students cannot do math and 39 percent cannot do science at the very basic level,” said Gist, who is in her first year as commissioner of elementary and secondary education.
    The commissioner annually addresses the Legislature.

    K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Fed Chief Bernanke Says U.S. Must Address Soaring Debt

    Luca Di Leo:

    The U.S. must start to prepare for challenges posed by an aging population with a credible plan to gradually reduce a soaring public debt, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday.
    Health spending is set to increase over the long term as the U.S. population grows older, posing challenges to the country’s already strained finances, the Fed chief warned.
    Meanwhile, Fed Bank of New York President William Dudley said Wednesday that the damage caused by financial-market bubbles should bring about a sea change in the way the central bank acts, with the Fed needing to move toward active efforts to reign in financial market excess.
    “There is little doubt that asset bubbles exist and they occur fairly frequently,” and when they burst the economy frequently suffers, Mr. Dudley said. While it can be difficult to discern the existence of a financial-market bubble, “uncertainty is not grounds for inaction” on the part of central bankers, Mr. Dudley said.

    California’s schools From bad to worse

    The Economist:

    AS THE Obama administration spreads enthusiasm about a proposal to replace a patchwork of state education standards with national ones, it might also heed a cautionary tale. In the 1990s California too established rigorous standards. “We thought they were the highest,” up there with those of Massachusetts and Indiana, says Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think-tank in Washington, DC. But California never translated those standards into results. Its public schools are, with some exceptions, awful. Moreover, the state’s fiscal crisis is about to make them even worse.
    California’s 8th-graders (14-year-olds), for example, ranked 46th in maths last year. Only Alabama, Mississippi and the District of Columbia did worse. California also sends a smaller share of its high-school graduates to college than all but three other states. One of its roughly 1,000 school districts, Los Angeles Unified, which happens to be the second-largest in the country, has just become the first to be investigated by the federal Office for Civil Rights about whether it adequately teaches pupils who have little or no English.
    Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist who is trying to reform education, blames a combination of California’s dysfunctional governance, with “elected school boards made up of wannabes and unions”, and the fact that the state’s teachers’ union is both more powerful and “more regressive” than elsewhere. The California Teachers Association (CTA) is the biggest lobby in the state, having spent some $210m in the past decade–more than any other group– to intervene in California’s politics.

    We Need to Acknowledge the Realities of Employment in the Humanities

    Peter Conn:

    Predictions are always perilous. Many of us recall the hearty enthusiasm of the Bowen report of 1989, which assured prospective graduate students that they would find “a substantial excess demand for faculty in the arts and sciences” when they earned their degrees in the mid-1990s. Of course, they did not.
    Moral: Avoid confident assertions about the future of the academic job market in the humanities (or in any other field). It may be that our current dilemma is another episode in a longish cyclical history. It may also be, as I rather pessimistically suspect, that something more serious is going on.
    My reason is that just about all of the key drivers are simultaneously pointed in the wrong direction. Full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities are endangered by half a dozen trends, most of them long-term.

    New Orleans Schools See Progress Despite Troubles

    PBS NewsHour:

    In his ongoing look at efforts to turn around ailing schools in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. John Merrow reports on the use of alternative school programs in Louisiana and progress on negotiations between a teachers union and public schools in the nation’s capital.
    JIM LEHRER: The “NewsHour”‘s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has been tracking changes in the public schools of New Orleans and Washington, D.C., two cities that are being watched nationally.
    We begin in New Orleans tonight. John looks at alternative schools for students with behavior and academic problems.
    JOHN MERROW: When school superintendent Paul Vallas arrived in New Orleans three years ago, he faced a tough challenge: how to educate students who are way behind academically or who have gotten in trouble with the law.
    This school, Booker T. Washington, was designed for teenagers who are performing at an elementary school level. Although three-fourths of students in Vallas’ district are at least one grade level behind, here, the problem is extreme.

    A Food Revolution in School Lunches

    Kari McLennan:

    Has anyone been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? I have and I have to say that Jamie is truly inspiring. He’s got so much passion and drive. I wish I had a pinky’s worth of his. If you’re not familiar with Jamie, he has a long career that I believe started with his simple cooking show The Naked Chef. Since then he’s revolutionized the British school lunch program and is now on to America’s unhealthiest city to continue the revolution.
    So just what is so bad about school lunches? Well, this is certainly not a new topic for The Green Mama, but it’s important because kids are the future and habits are created when we’re young. This is the first generation that is not expected to live longer than their parents due mostly to obesity. One in three Illinois children is overweight or obese and according to the Community Food Security Commission, 1 in 3 children will develop type 2 diabetes. It’s heartbreaking.

    Book of Work

    Tom Vander Ark:

    Had an encouraging conversation at College Board this morning about the potential for a new AP assessment system that would allow several testing times each year (eventually many times or anytime) and reduced reliance on the end of course assessment but considering a ‘book of work’ during the course taking period.
    The reason this would be a breakthrough is that this country could double the number of AP courses taken by expanding online offerings. Districts could double the number of courses offered, ensure instructional quality, and reduce costs by moving all AP online (or a blend of online and onsite). This would best be facilitated by 1) eliminating seat time requirements, 2) adding flexibility to certification requirements, and 3) making it easier to take the test when a student is ready.

    The Writing on the Wall – Facebook Apps, Trust, and Your Reputation

    Rusty Carter:

    If you didn’t know me, and I told you that I was an attorney working as the executor for a recently deceased prince and needed your help to move millions of dollars would you believe me?
    Right, I didn’t think so.
    What if you did know me, and you found out that I enabled a social networking app that tells me how many times each of my friends were peeking at pictures I posted from my last vacation to the beaches in Spain?
    I bet you might want to enable it too!
    In a previous blog post last year (http://siblog.mcafee.com/consumer/from-the-419-to-facebook-email-scams-and-you/), I commented about the possibility of social networking scams using information gleaned from Social Networks about a person to target them in a confidence scam. Since that posting, that concept has become a reality, and criminals have begun executing advanced fee and confidence scams on people on social networks like Facebook. Today, tools like SiteAdvisor and SiteAdvisor Plus (http://www.siteadvisor.com) which show you sites that are bad (phishing, etc.) and protect you from being exposed to malware for download, along with good old-fashioned vigilance, go a long way to keep you safe from these types of threats.

    Dispelling Myths about Gifted Students and Gifted Education

    Tamara Fisher:

    Back in 1982, Gifted Child Quarterly published a special edition that focused on myths about gifted education – and the research that dispels those myths. For a look at those first articles, check out this link. It really was an important collection of works, focusing on such myths as “myth: we need to have the same scores for everyone” and “myth: there is a single curriculum for the gifted” and “ myth: the gifted constitutes a single, homogenous group.”

    Recently, GCQ undertook the same task, tackling a series of current myths about gifted students and gifted education and providing the research that backs up why those myths are not true. Many of the myths tackled in the 2009 issue are the very same ones tackled in the 1982 issue, plus the list is expanded with timely and relevant new (actually – old) myths, such as “myth: it is fair to teach all children the same way” and “myth: classroom teachers have the time, the skill, and the will to differentiate adequately” and “myth: high-ability students don’t face problems and challenges.”

    States push to pay teachers based on performance

    Dorie Turner:

    For parents and politicians hungry for better schools, the idea of paying teachers more if their students perform better can seem as basic as adding two and two or spelling “cat.”
    Yet just a handful of schools and districts around the country use such strategies. In some states, the idea is effectively illegal.
    That could all be changing as the federal government wields billions of dollars in grants to lure states and school districts to try the idea. The money is persuading lawmakers around the country, while highlighting the complex problems surrounding pay-for-performance systems.
    Some teachers, like Trenise Duvernay, who teaches math at Alice M. Harte Charter School outside of New Orleans, want to be rewarded for helping students succeed. Duvernay is eligible for $2,000 a year or more in merit bonuses based on how well her students perform in classroom observations and on achievement tests.

    Negotiating the price of college — Flagel, Part 4

    Andrew Flagel:

    For the most part, admissions and financial aid are honorable professions. My colleagues are generally very ethical people who strive to help students and deeply believe in the importance of their mission and the service they provide.
    That being said, sometimes their work this time of year – the months that colleges and universities package financial aid – can seem a little dirty. I’m not talking DIRTY – I’ve yet to hear about a colleague finding a way to engineer financial aid kickbacks or helping the cartels launder money through financial aid.
    Clearly, however, the process is neither transparent nor easy to understand. For years I’ve listened to my colleagues cry that we’re NOT used car dealers (by the way, I know some very ethical car dealers), but in the end, it comes down to a basic question for most families:

    Loudoun County raises property taxes, lowers school funding

    Sholnn Freeman:

    Loudoun County officials approved a $1.4 billion annual budget Tuesday that includes a property tax increase and a 2.5 percent cut in school system funding.
    The county Board of Supervisors adopted a tax rate of $1.30 per $100 of assessed value, a 4.4 percent increase over this year’s rate. Ben Mays, deputy chief financial officer for the county, said the average tax bill for homeowners should go up only about 2.5 percent because of declining property values. The average commercial tax bill could fall by that amount because property values in that category have dropped even more, he said.
    Earlier in the year, the county had proposed a tax rate of $1.40 per $100 of assessed value but scaled back after an outpouring of e-mails from taxpayers who cited economic distress brought on by the recession. Under the approved fiscal 2011 budget plan, the county will cut about 75 full-time positions, 50 of which are currently unfilled, Mays said.

    30% of Driver Candidates Flunk UPS “Traditional” Training

    Jennifer Levitz:

    Vexed that some 30% of driver candidates flunk its traditional training, United Parcel Service Inc. is moving beyond the classroom to ready its rookies for the road.
    In the place of books and lectures are videogames, a contraption that simulates walking on ice and an obstacle course around an artificial village.
    Based on results so far, the world’s largest package-delivery company is convinced that 20-somethings–the bulk of UPS driver recruits–respond best to high-tech instruction and a chance to hone skills.
    Driver training is crucial for Atlanta-based UPS, which employs 99,000 U.S. drivers and says it will need to hire 25,000 over the next five years to replace retiring Baby Boomers.
    Candidates vying for a driver’s job, which pays an average of $74,000 annually, now spend one week at Integrad, an 11,500-square-foot, low-slung brick UPS training center 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C. There they move from one station to another practicing the company’s “340 Methods,” prescribed by UPS industrial engineers to save seconds and improve safety in every task from lifting and loading boxes to selecting a package from a shelf in the truck.

    The Death of Liberal Arts

    Nancy Cook:

    After the endowment of Centenary College in Shreveport, La., fell by 20 percent from 2007 to 2009, the private school decided to eliminate half of its 44 majors. Over the next three to four years, classic humanities specialities like Latin, German studies, and performing arts will be phased out. It’s quite a change from 2007, when NEWSWEEK labeled Centenary the “hottest liberal-arts school you never heard of,” extolling its wide range of academics. In their place, the school is considering adding several graduate programs, such as master’s degrees in teaching and international business. Such professional programs have proven increasingly popular and profitable at other universities and colleges, especially during economic downturns, a point that the college president tries to downplay. “We’re not intentionally trying to chase markets,” says David Rowe. “We think the students need to have a grounding in the arts and sciences, but they also probably need some training in a specific area.”

    D.C. Deal With Teachers Union A Model For U.S.?

    All Things Considered:

    One of Washington, D.C.’s angriest, most bitter disputes may be coming to an end. After more than two years of wrangling, District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the city’s teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.
    The deal could become a model for school reform around the country.
    It comes after a protracted, three-year dispute that got so nasty, few thought it would ever be resolved. Rhee and union officials made key concessions that once seemed unattainable, but it was worth it, Rhee said at a hastily arranged news conference.
    “We’ve had one goal since [starting the job as chancellor], and that is to build a school system that ensures that every child in this city, regardless of where they live, has the opportunity to obtain an excellent education through our public school system,” Rhee said.

    School Choice Deserves the Red Carpet Treatment

    Christian Schneider:

    I generally have a great deal of sympathy for regular schmoes who look inordinately like famous people. Through no fault of their own, they walk through life being judged on what they are not (the famous person), rather than what they are (a working stiff that is sick of being told he looks like Jim from “The Office.”)
    Imagine if you were the guy who works at Kinko’s who looks sort of like Matt Damon. (Trust me, this is going somewhere.) People don’t notice that you may be better looking than your average guy – they only judge you on how far you fall short of looking like Jason Bourne. (After all, if you looked exactly like Matt Damon, you probably wouldn’t be working at Kinko’s. Staples, maybe – but certainly not Kinko’s.)
    On Wednesday of this week, the results of a longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) were released. The study, mandated by a state law enacted in 2006 and conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas, is an attempt to compare student achievement in the Choice program in Milwaukee to similar students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

    Technology and Tutoring

    Ben Miller:

    The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an interesting article ($) earlier this week about the use of online graders located in other countries both to ease the burden of scoring papers for professors and because teaching assistants were not offering quality feedback. The piece mainly focuses on graders from EduMetry, a Virginia-based company, which are providing this service for business students at the University of Houston, though one can easily imagine that there are schools across the country trying similar programs: