Last week marked a historic time for the public school system as President Obama and Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, announced that they were drafting a blueprint to “overhaul” the No Child Left Behind policy and improve the quality of the nation’s schools – exactly what the current policy left behind. Though they are only in the planning process, this is the one of the greatest and most desirable moves the White House has made to date – even more so than healthcare reform.
In Fla., we are all too familiar with the No Child Left Behind policy, specifically with the creation of the FCAT and other standardized tests that are supposed to be used to gauge students’ knowledge and education. “Supposed to” is the key phrase here. According to teachers’ complaints, the FCAT has forced teachers to teach only for the test. As a result, students are learning to perform well on the test when they should be learning the material.
When Maurice Johnson was laid off a year ago from his six-figure salary as a managing director at GE Capital, it wasn’t his future he was worried about.
It was his children’s.
The family income of the Johnsons is a fifth of what it used to be. And the children are about to feel the pain. Mr. Johnson’s two oldest are attending his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, at an annual cost of $50,000 apiece. And his youngest daughter, 15 years old, recently began her own college search. Mr. Johnson isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to help her to go to college, or even to get the older kids to graduation.
Wisconsin students continued to make steady gains in math proficiency in 2009-’10, boasting their best performance in five years, even as reading scores remained flat over that same time period, according to statewide test results released Wednesday.
Yet even though the overall proportion of students deemed proficient or advanced in math increased to 77.3% on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations from 72.8% in 2005-’06, the share of students considered at least proficient in 10th grade – the highest grade tested – decreased in that time.
The share of Wisconsin 10th-graders who scored proficient or advanced in math was 69.8% this school year, compared with 71.6% five years ago.
Meanwhile, reading proficiency remained almost constant, with 81.6% of students considered proficient or advanced on this year’s test vs. 81.7% in 2005-’06, when the current version of the WKCE first was implemented.
A dozen governors, led by Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, sat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hotel ballroom in Washington a few weeks back, praising his vision and gushing with enthusiasm over a $4 billion grant competition they hoped could land their states a jackpot of hundreds of millions of dollars.
But for many of those governors, the contest lost some sizzle last week, when Mr. Duncan awarded money to only two states — Delaware and Tennessee.
Colorado, which had hoped to win $377 million, ended in 14th place. Now Mr. Ritter says the scoring by anonymous judges seemed inscrutable, some Coloradans view the contest as federal intrusion and the governor has not decided whether to reapply for the second round.
Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program scored at similar levels as their peers not participating in the school choice program, according to a study released Wednesday.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study, presented their findings at UW-Madison. The study also found that Milwaukee Public Schools are doing better than expected when compared with other urban school districts.
The reports released Wednesday represent the midway point of a five-year study of the oldest and largest public voucher program in the United States, which provides funding for more than 20,000 students to attend private schools in Milwaukee.
The comparison between students in private voucher schools and those in public schools was made two years after large panels of students in the program and students in the Milwaukee public school system had been carefully matched to each other.
Minnesota was hoping for $330 million in grants, which go to states deemed innovative in their school policies. In the next round, Minnesota can’t get more than $175 million.
Pawlenty wants more latitude to let experts become teachers without going through traditional routes, to reassign teachers based on effectiveness and to more closely link teacher pay to student performance.
Democratic state Rep. Mindy Greiling said the alternative licensure proposal has a better shot than the others.
Part of our disagreement centers around differing views regarding the math content knowledge one needs to be a highly-qualified middle school math teacher. As a scientist married to a mathematician, I don’t believe that taking a couple of math ed courses on how to teach the content of middle school mathematics provides sufficient knowledge of mathematics to be a truly effective teacher of the subject. Our middle school foreign language teachers didn’t simply take a couple of ed courses in how to teach their subject at the middle school level; rather, most of them also MAJORED or, at least, minored in the subject in college. Why aren’t we requiring the same breathe and depth of content knowledge for our middle school mathematics teachers? Do you really believe mastery of the middle school mathematics curriculum and how to teach it is sufficient content knowledge for teachers teaching math? What happens when students ask questions that aren’t answered in the teachers’ manual? What happens when students desire to know how the material they are studying relates to higher-level mathematics and other subjects such as science and engineering?
The MMSD has been waiting a long time already to have math-qualified teachers teaching mathematics in our middle schools. Many countries around the world whose students outperform US students in mathematics only hire teachers who majored in the subject to teach it. Other school districts in the US are taking advantage of the current recession with high unemployment to hire and train people who know and love mathematics, but don’t yet know how to teach it to others.
Wisconsin students can count on one hand the number of times they’ll still have to take the math section — or any section — of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the annual weeklong test whose results for 2009-10 were scheduled to be released Wednesday.
That’s because the WKCE is expected to give way in a few years to tests based on new national academic standards proposed last month that could become final this spring.
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and all 50 U.S. states except Alaska and Texas in the fall signed on to the development of the Common Core State Standards for math and English, which spell out what the nation’s public schoolchildren should be taught from kindergarten through high school.
When the final standards are unveiled, probably in late May, Wisconsin likely will adopt them, said Sue Grady, executive assistant to the state school superintendent.
For nearly an hour, no one speaks a word of English in this first-grade math class.
Not the teacher, Ying Ying Wu, who talks energetically in Mandarin’s songlike tones.
Not the students — 6- and 7-year-olds who seem to follow along fine, even though only one speaks Mandarin at home.
Even the math test has been translated, by Wu, into Chinese characters.
At Beacon Hill International School, many students learn a second language along with their ABCs by spending half of each school day immersed in Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.
In Round 1 of Race to the Top, the U.S. Department of Education delivered on its promise to hold states to a high bar for reform. Only 2 states out of 16 finalists and 41 total applicants were selected for awards: Delaware and Tennessee.
These states won because they outlined bold, comprehensive visions of reform and demonstrated the ability to make them a reality. Statewide teacher effectiveness policies were the foundation for their success. They focused on putting effective teachers in every classroom and giving teachers the critical feedback and support they need to do their best work. They shifted to evaluation systems that improve their ability to recognize great teachers and respond to poor performance. Together they set a new benchmark for reform that Round 2 applicants must meet in order to win.
This analysis offers a close look at the scoring of the Round 1 finalists. It refutes some of the most common myths about Race to the Top and offers important lessons for states applying for the $3.4 billion in funding that remains available in Round 2.
At the same time, it examines scoring deficiencies that the Department of Education must address. While these issues did not result in a lowering of the bar for Round 1 winners, they could mean the difference between winning and losing for states applying in Round 2.
A few data points: according to the last School Report Card, there were over 800 freshman at Trenton Central. However, so many kids drop out (24.7% of White students) that there were only 440 seniors left last year. 51.6% of these students failed the language arts HSPA and a stunning 79.5% failed the math HSPA. 43% of the student body was suspended during the 2008-2009 school year. Total cost per pupil is $16,843. 4.4% enrolled in an Advanced Placement class; the state average is 19%. Average SAT scores are 364 Math and 369 Verbal.
What has the Trenton School Board have to say amidst this bleakness? Here’s Board Member Donald Shelton:
Florida’s education reform bills would mean more money — not less — for public-school teachers, says Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey.
“This bill (HB7189) does not affect retirement, it does not cut salaries, it does not eliminate tenure for current teachers,” Legg told a packed meeting of the House Education Policy Council on Monday.
Instead, Legg said, a new performance-based pay program would bring “value-added” components to setting salaries.
Effective July 1, 2014, school districts would be required to reward “effective” or “highly effective” teachers “on top of base pay,” Legg said. Half of those ratings would be based on student learning gains, with the remaining 50 percent tied to other factors, subject to collective bargaining agreements.
Since 1999, districts have been under orders from the state Department of Education to implement pay scales “primarily” linked to academic performance. The reform bills define “primarily” as 50 percent and order districts to earmark 5 percent of funding for performance pay. Statewide, that 5 percent share currently amounts to $900 million annually.
The ongoing health care debate has focused on accessible and affordable health care. Although reforming health care policies is important, we need to change the health behaviors that make our health system one of the most expensive in the developed world. Costly chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are linked to obesity, smoking and diet – things we can do something about.
The Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly one-fifth of high school students smoke cigarettes and binge drink. Over 50% do not attend any physical education classes, and the number of overweight youth has been increasing. These behaviors set the stage for lifelong obesity, smoking habits and poor diet.
According to Trust for America’s Health, in five years, Michigan could save $545 million in annual health care costs by spending just $10 per person on programs to increase physical activity, encourage better nutrition and prevent the use of tobacco.
Two economists who work 2,274 miles away have identified the essence of parenthood in the Washington area since 1995. It turns out we have been spending all that time with our older children — chauffeuring, applauding, coordinating, correcting, planning, obsessing — because we have a deep need to beat the other stressed-out parents in getting our kids into good colleges.
The researchers are Garey and Valerie A. Ramey, a married couple at the University of California-San Diego. They have done the hyper-active parent thing themselves and have a son at Stanford University to show for it. They also admit that most of this exhaustive parenting is done not by men but by women, including, by her own account, Ms. Ramey herself. To sum up, college-graduate soccer moms are trying to outdo all the other soccer moms to get their children into a good school so their daughters can repeat the cycle with their own children.
Diane Ravitch’s new book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education” has been burning up the charts. Ravitch has been ubiquitous, writing op-eds in support of her book, doing lectures and interviews all over the place, and being reviewed in all sorts of high-profile venues.
As an overall matter, the book says little, if anything, that is actually new on the subjects of testing and choice. What Ravitch is really selling with this book is the story of her personal and ideological conversion. Not so long ago, she was writing articles like “In Defense of Testing,” or “The Right Thing: Why Liberals Should Be Pro-Choice,” a lengthy article in The New Republic that remains one of the most passionate and eloquent defenses of school choice and vouchers in particular. Now she seems to be a diehard opponent of these things. But she’s not saying anything that other diehard opponents haven’t already said countless times.
Recently, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a group of 48 states organized by the nation’s governors and chief state school officers, released draft K-12 education standards in English and mathematics.
As a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I know that common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive. Good standards alone are not enough, but without them decisions about such things as curricula, instructional materials and tests are haphazard. It is no wonder that educational quality varies so widely among states.
English and math standards have so far mostly been set without empirical evidence or attention as to whether students were learning what they needed for college and the workplace. College educators and employers were hardly ever part of the discussion, even though they knew best what the real world would demand of high school graduates. Luckily, about five years ago, states began to raise the bar so that their standards would reflect college- and career-ready expectations.
India’s United Progressive Alliance government has come out with a landmark legislation making education a fundamental right for all children between the ages six and 14. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, was first introduced in the Indian Parliament way back in 2002.
It took more than seven years for this act — which makes access to education a fundamental right — to be notified after much debate in and outside the Parliament. The importance of the legislation can be gauged from the fact that there are nearly 300 million Indians below the age of 15, many of whom belong to poor families that can ill-afford the high cost of primary education.
There are about 10 million children in the targetted age group who are today not in school, but working in factories, farms and other places, often in abysmal condition, and helping their parents make both ends meet. It remains to be seen how many of these children can be brought back to classes.
The effectiveness of the landmark measure will depend on how state governments will ensure its implementation. Education falls under the concurrent list in the Indian Constitution and states have a major responsibility in ensuring access, especially to primary education. While many of the southern and western states have a better track record, those in the north and east have been laggards. Guaranteeing free education to millions of children — and making it legally enforceable — will also cost a lot of money. The federal government led by the Congress Party has asserted that funding would not be a problem. Estimates are that a whopping $40 billion will be needed over the next five years and the government has promised a mere $5.5 billion to states during this period.
As Chad Aldeman pointed out at the Quick and the Ed, many major newspapers missed the story on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. The New York Times bemoaned that fourth-grade reading scores have barely increased since the early 1990s.
Aldeman pointed out that reading scores look somewhat better if you separate the data by race, as shown here.
Antonio Villaraigosa, the handsome high-voltage mayor of Los Angeles, really comes alive when recalling his start in local politics–as a labor organizer agitating for reform inside decrepit and overcrowded schools. “I cut my teeth working for the union. I cultivated these young teachers who had come to these schools to change the world,” he said, brimming with pride.
Back in 1989, one of those teachers, Joshua Pechthalt, joined Villaraigosa for a rally downtown in Exposition Park. Pechthalt remembers his charismatic young friend pumping up the crowd. “Antonio was the master of ceremonies who had parents and teachers on their feet,” recalled Pechthalt, now vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). “When we see each other, to this day, we give each other a hug.”
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday will consider amending a new policy that limits the ability of students who live in the district to attend school elsewhere, a contentious issue expected to draw scores of parents to the afternoon meeting.
In February, Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines moved to limit the types of permits issued to families seeking attendance in other districts, allowing exemptions only for students whose parents work within the boundaries of the other school district and for students who would complete fifth, eighth or 12th grades next year.
Last year, L.A. Unified granted permission to more than 12,200 students to enroll in 99 other districts, including Torrance, Culver City and Santa Monica-Malibu. Cortines estimates that the district is losing $51 million in state per-pupil funding, money that could help to close a $640-million budget shortfall.
Despite signs of life in the job market, the outlook for newly minted college graduates remains grim and many are trying new strategies for landing positions.
Students are starting their job hunts months earlier than usual, while others are looking into short stints at positions outside their major.
Bob Tutag began beating the bushes in October, a time when most college seniors are barely back from summer vacation. But it paid off: The 21-year-old Michigan State University student in March accepted an offer at Developers Diversified Realty Corp., a commercial real-estate firm in Beachwood, Ohio. He starts in May.
Mr. Tutag knew he faced a challenge, having majored in accounting with a specialization in real estate, a sector of the economy hammered by the downturn.
Delaware’s surprising first-place finish in a fierce battle for federal school-reform dollars highlights a tension in President Obama’s education agenda: He favors big change, but he also prizes peace with the labor unions that sometimes resist his goals.
Obama often has challenged unions, even voicing support last month for a Rhode Island school board’s vote to fire all the teachers at a struggling high school. But his administration built the $4 billion Race to the Top contest in a way that rewarded applications crafted in consultation with labor leaders.
The announcement that Delaware had won about $100 million highlighted that all of the state’s teachers unions backed the plan for tougher teacher evaluations linked to student achievement. In second-place Tennessee, which won about $500 million, 93 percent of unions were on board.
Reports on the third-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program will be released in Madison on Wednesday, April 7.
The reports on growth, school switching, testing, integration and other measures of the 20-year-old program will be released by the evaluation team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Room 313 of the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
The evaluation team includes professor John Witte of UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs; Patrick Wolf, Jeffery Dean, Jonathan Mills and Brian Kisida, all of the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas; Joshua Cowen of the University of Kentucky; David Fleming of Furman University; Meghan Condon of UW-Madison; and Thomas Stewart of Qwaku & Associates.
The Wisconsin Legislature authorized the evaluation in 2005 to learn how well the program, the oldest and largest urban educational voucher program in the United States, is working. The maximum voucher amount in 2007-08 was $6,607, and approximately 20,000 children used vouchers to attend secular or religious private schools.
The general purposes of the evaluation are to analyze the effectiveness of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in terms of longitudinal student achievement growth and grade attainment, drop-out rates and high school graduation rates. The former will be primarily accomplished by measuring and estimating student growth in achievement as measured by the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations in math and reading in grades three through eight during a five-year period.
It explores two different approaches to math; one is representative of the fuzzy math side of things, and the other is in the traditionalist camp. I make it clear what side I’m on. I talk about how the fuzzy side uses what I call a “separate path” in which students are given open ended and ill posed problems as a means to teach them how to apply prior knowledge in new situations. I present two different problems, one representing each camp.
The math may prove challenging for some readers, though high school math teachers should have no problems with it.
Much has been written about the debate on how best to teach math to students in K-12–a debate often referred to as the “math wars”. I have written much about it myself, and since the debate shows no signs of easing, I continue to have reasons to keep writing about it. While the debate is complex, the following two math problems provide a glimpse of two opposing sides:
Problem 1: How many boxes would be needed to pack and ship one million books collected in a school-based book drive? In this problem the size of the books is unknown and varied, and the size of the boxes is not stated.
Problem 2: Two boys canoeing on a lake hit a rock where the lake joins a river. One boy is injured and it is critical to get a doctor to him as quickly as possible. Two doctors live nearby: one up-river and the other across the lake, both equidistant from the boys. The unhurt boy has to fetch a doctor and return to the spot. Is it quicker for him to row up the river and back, or go across the lake and back, assuming he rows at the same constant rate of speed in both cases?
The first problem is representative of a thought-world inhabited by education schools and much of the education establishment. The second problem is held in disdain by the same, but favored by a group of educators and math oriented people who for lack of a better term are called “traditionalists”.
Imagine if a school were to spend more per pupil on ceramics electives than core science classes. What if a district were to push more funding to wealthy neighborhoods than to impoverished ones? Such policies would provoke outrage. Yet these schools and districts are real.
Today’s taxpayers spend almost $9,000 per pupil, roughly double what they spent 30 years ago, and educational achievement doesn’t seem to be improving. With the movement toward holding schools and districts accountable for student outcomes, we might think that officials can precisely track how much they are spending per student, per program, per school. But considering the patchwork that is school finance–federal block funding, foundation grants, earmarks, set-asides, and union mandates–funds can easily be diverted from where they are most needed.
Clusty Search: Marguerite Roza.
College students are known for their ability to survive on instant noodles, toast and a shoestring budget. But recently, some students in Ireland have gotten particularly desperate. “I have heard from students who have lived on biscuits stolen from the chaplaincy in their college for a week, students who have lived in their cars for months,” says Hugh Sullivan, education officer at the Union of Students in Ireland, a group that advocates on the behalf of over 250,000 students around the country.
The reason? Over the past 15 years, fees at Irish universities that cover the cost of registration, exams and student services have gone from the equivalent of $240 per student to nearly $2,000. On top of that, the government cut funding to universities by 5% last year and Sullivan expects another 5% cut this year. “It’s a time of famine,” Sullivan says, adding that even though students don’t show up in the country’s grim unemployment rate (currently 13.1%), they have become the hidden victim of the recent financial crisis. “The last thing you eat is your seeds.”
Via a kind reader.
Whitney Tilson and True South Studios present A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine Education Reform. Education reformer Whitney Tilson gives the most in-depth exploration ever committed to film of the twin achievement gaps that threaten our nation’s future: between the U.S. and our economic competitors, and between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers. After spending more than two decades on the front lines, witnessing first-hand public education’s shocking failures and remarkable successes, Mr. Tilson was inspired to assemble a powerful and at times unsettling presentation about the twin achievement gaps and what must be done to address them. He utilizes the latest data and research to paint the most detailed portrait of American public education ever committed to film. More importantly, he presents us with a way forward so our nation can deliver on its promise to all of its children and ensure its long-term future.
University of Wisconsin System leaders are crafting a plan to boost the number of degrees the schools award each year by 30% over the next 15 years, a move that would make the universities even more of an engine that makes the state’s economy attractive for businesses.
The goal is to boost the percentage of Wisconsin residents who have college degrees or some professional certificate from a university or college. To meet it, the schools would have to confer 33,700 degrees in 2025, up from today’s rate of about 26,000 a year. If the universities meet the goal, they will award 80,000 more degrees over the next 15 years than they would otherwise.
UWM would be a major player in the plan, UW System President Kevin Reilly said. Officials could announce as early as Monday how many additional degrees the urban campus would produce under the plan.
Meeting the goal would come at an up-front cost for the state, Reilly said. The universities would have to make the case to state lawmakers to reverse a long-term trend in which a shrinking share of the budget for the campuses comes from the state. Reilly also said the state would have to help increase faculty salaries, which lag behind salaries at peer universities in other states.
Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.
STEVE: “Are girls different from boys?” I asked Levi the other night.
He slowly turned toward me from his Facebook screen, arching his eyebrows and flashing a smirk that said: Wow, Dad is even more clueless than I thought. “About money,” I quickly added. “How are teenage girls different from boys about money?”
“Oh,” he mumbled, less cocky now. He thought for a minute: “I don’t know.” Truth is, neither of us does, which is why we’ve avoided the topic in this column. We’re a family with three boys; what do we know about girls?
Boy issues seem simple to me. Girls seem, well, complicated.
WENDY KOPP proposed the idea for creating a national teacher corps in her undergraduate senior thesis at Princeton University in 1989. She then did just that, creating Teach For America (TFA) shortly after graduation. Ms Kopp tells the remarkable story behind the early days of the organisation in her book “One Day, All Children…”. Today TFA attracts many of the brightest college graduates to teach in America’s neediest communities. In the most recent school year, the organisation placed some 7,300 corps members in schools across the country. They join nearly 17,000 TFA alumni, many of whom have become leaders in the education-reform movement. We close out education week by asking Ms Kopp about TFA’s success and what lessons it holds for America’s public-education system.
DiA: You have done a lot of research on the characteristics of successful TFA teachers. What is the magic formula and do you think it holds for non-TFA teachers as well?
Ms Kopp: We have found that the most successful teachers in low-income communities operate like successful leaders. They establish a vision of where their students will be performing at the end of the year that many believe to be unrealistic. They invest their students in working harder than they ever have to reach that vision, maximise their classroom time in a goal-oriented manner through purposeful planning and effective execution, reflect constantly on their progress to improve their performance over time, and do whatever it takes to overcome the many challenges they face.
It follows that the characteristics our research has shown to differentiate our most successful teachers are leadership characteristics–perseverance in the face of challenges, the ability to influence and motivate others, organisational ability, problem-solving ability. All of our insights around successful teaching have come from our work in the nation’s most economically disadvantaged communities so I can’t say that this is the approach or that these are the characteristics that differentiate successful teachers elsewhere.
The recent disclosure that African-American fourth-graders in Wisconsin have the worst reading skills in the entire country came as a shock to many Milwaukeeans.
Keisha Arnold wasn’t among them.
Her 10-year-old son has experienced reading problems and poor grades at his Milwaukee school for some time. Arnold has been frustrated with her inability to find a way to address the problem.
“I just don’t understand why he can’t seem to get the help he needs,” said Arnold, 28, a single parent who returned to Milwaukee a few years ago after living in Phoenix.
When she returned to her hometown, she enrolled her son in a local charter school. “I didn’t want him to go to MPS because I didn’t think he’d get a good education there,” she explained.
But it didn’t take long for Arnold to recognize that deficiencies in her son’s reading and math skills were not being addressed.
She met with his teachers and sought additional tutoring, but her son’s grades failed to improve.
IN 1971, a young black lawyer brought up in rural North Carolina under Jim Crow laws argued on behalf of a boy from Charlotte called James Swann before the United States Supreme Court. In that case, Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the court held that school districts may use busing, quotas and other such methods to ensure integration. Nearly 40 years later that same lawyer, Julius Chambers, stood once again before nine people, this time the Wake County board of education, and this time as a concerned citizen rather than an advocate, to plead a case: that the county ought to retain its programme of assigning pupils to schools based on levels of family income. His suit failed: on March 23rd the board voted 5-4 to abandon that policy.
That vote ended a decade-long experiment. In 2000 Wake County’s school board decided to integrate its schools by income level rather than race. No more than 40% of students at any one school should be receiving free or subsidised lunches (which are given to children from poor families). Evidence dating back more than 40 years shows that schools with too great a concentration of poor pupils are undesirable. Teachers do not stay, and poor pupils tend to perform worse when they are put with others who are poor.
The New York Times education writer, Winnie Hu, had no trouble in Saturday’s paper distinguishing some of NJ’s wealthy and high-performing school districts from our poor, low-performing ones: Cresskill, Montclair, Ridgewood, Millburn, Westfield, West Windsor-Plainsboro and Glen Ridge, she writes, “have long attracted families because they offer some of the best public education in the state. But now many of these top school systems are preparing to reduce the academic and extracurricular opportunities that have long set them apart.”
“Have long set them apart.” It’s an irony-free description of NJ’s educational inequity despite decades of Abbott compensation and the hard line of accountability etched from No Child Left Behind legislation. Among are 591 school districts (and 566 municipalities) are intractably poor, failing schools. Leveling the playing field in NJ is a quixotic task. Sword-yielding education reformers tilt at the windmills of an inculcated culture of disparity with little appreciable difference in student achievement. We can’t cure poverty; we can’t break down district barriers unless we find the cohones to desegregate and move to county-wide districts, an unlikely scenario. School choice is an embryonic concept with a long, slow learning curve (although the DOE just received 36 charter applications, a new record).
The Capital Times.
Watch a recent Madison School Board Candidate Forum here. The spring election is tomorrow, April 6, 2010.
In February, the national press reported on a pilot program that will give high school sophomores in eight states a chance to earn a diploma and head straight to credit-bearing math and English courses at a state college. To do so, they will have to take special course work and can try to pass academic tests known as board exams as early as grade 10.
The idea of a grade 10 diploma is the latest brainchild of the National Center on Education and the Economy, the originator of the unsuccessful school-to-work initiative in the 1990s. The project is funded by the Gates Foundation, which has abandoned its initiative to create small high schools as a way to get more low-achieving students through high school.
The center’s so-called fast-track approach ups the ante and aims to get at-risk students out of high school and into college – and supposedly on a quick credit-bearing path to a degree. It also aims to get bright high school students into college sooner for supposedly better course work. However, the center’s proposed 10th-grade “diploma” is the wrong answer to the wrong problem for three groups of students: those with a strong academic orientation, those without it but who are willing to stay in school and those who drop out.
It was a Race to the Top, but Colorado, amazingly, finished close to the bottom.
Of the 16 finalists for President Obama’s cash giveaway for education reform, only New York and Washington, D.C. — areas with some of the country’s worst schools — finished below Colorado. It was an embarrassing plummet for a state whose bid just a year ago looked so promising.
Colorado had been at the forefront of education reform since Gov. Roy Romer ushered in CSAPs and then-state lawmaker Bill Owens pushed for charter schools. Even Denver Public Schools for the past five years have been incubators for what are now emerging as national reforms.
This was Colorado’s race to lose. And we did.
Obama dangled $4.35 billion in front of states to spur them into developing innovative education-reform plans. But Colorado’s plan lacked ambition, bold ideas and statewide impact. It also failed to build great teachers and leaders, according to the Obama administration’s scoring system.
Six years ago, the then-principal of a small primary school in Sheung Wan was fired with enthusiasm for two key government policies – small-class teaching and integrated education for children with special needs.
Leung Wai-ming ploughed HK$1 million of his money into San Wui Commercial Society School to employ extra teachers and buy state-of-the-art materials and equipment for special needs teaching.
TODAY, Apple’s iPad goes on sale, and many see this as a Gutenberg moment, with digital multimedia moving one step closer toward replacing old-fashioned books.
Speaking as an author and editor of illustrated nonfiction, I agree that important change is afoot, but not in the way most people see it. In order for electronic books to live up to their billing, we have to fix a system that is broken: getting permission to use copyrighted material in new work. Either we change the way we deal with copyrights — or works of nonfiction in a multimedia world will become ever more dull and disappointing.
The hope of nonfiction is to connect readers to something outside the book: the past, a discovery, a social issue. To do this, authors need to draw on pre-existing words and images.
With job openings scarce for young people, the number of unpaid internships has climbed in recent years, leading federal and state regulators to worry that more employers are illegally using such internships for free labor.
Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.
Many regulators say that violations are widespread, but that it is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field, endangering their chances with a potential future employer.
It may just be me, but I found myself getting increasingly annoyed as I read my colleague Jenna Johnson’s blogpost detailing the latest admissions statistics for some of the nation’s most elite schools.
For example, Harvard University’s 7 percent overall rate of admissions last year was apparently not low enough. This year, it dropped to 6.9 percent. Harvard received more than 30,000 applications this year, a 5 percent increase from last year, and accepted 2,110 students.
“That’s 28,000 broken hearts,” one admissions staff member said as several passed trays stuffed with rejections into a car to be mailed, according to the student newspaper the Harvard Crimson.
Duke University was down to 14.8 percent from 18 percent last year, after receiving 26,770 applications, up 11 percent from last year.
The chances of a high school student eventually becoming first violin for the Boston Philharmonic: one in a million.
The chances of a high school student eventually playing basketball in the NBA? About the same.
In fact, the chances of someone growing up and getting a job precisely like yours, whatever it is, are similarly slim. (Head of development at an ad agency, director of admissions for a great college… you get the idea). Every good gig is a long shot, but in the end, a lot of talented people get good gigs. The odds of being happy and productive and well compensated aren’t one in a million at all, because there are many good gigs down the road. The odds are only slim if you pick precisely one job.
After reading aloud from an essay about the fast-food industry, I threw a typical softball question to the students of a UC Berkeley composition class:
“What’s the argument of the paragraph?”
Written by a former student, the paragraph implied that a rise in American obesity is linked to increased dollars spent on fast food.
I called on a student. “Advertising?” she said, a word that appeared in the paragraph only once. Why did this student, a hard-working athlete, so badly misread the paragraph? Because instead of really interpreting the passage, she used a little clue. “Advertising” had been mentioned in the thesis just a paragraph earlier.
Unfortunately, strategies such as hers aren’t uncommon in the college classroom. Within the same lesson, another student made quick assumptions about a sentence’s meaning because of its first words. My colleagues and I often swap stories like these, in which our students use faulty shorthand in place of critical thinking.
This was going to be a piece about a great new book about Advanced Placement, “AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program.” I promise to summarize its conclusions before this column ends.
But I want to focus on the most interesting contributor to the volume, a Texas economist named Kristin Klopfenstein who is author or co-author of two chapters and one of the four editors of the book. She has become the most articulate and knowledgeable critic of using AP to raise achievement in low-income schools, a movement I have been supporting for a quarter of a century, I decided to call her up, discuss our differences and report what she had to say.
Klopfenstein is an associate professor of economics at Texas Christian University, currently on leave to work as a senior researcher at the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas-Dallas. In the new book, she is the sole author of a chapter that argues that people who say AP saves taxpayer money and reduces time to college graduation are wrong. Since I am not one of those people, I didn’t ask her about that chapter, but about a chapter of which she is the lead author, with Mississippi State University economist M. Kathleen Thomas as co-author, entitled “Advanced Placement Participation: Evaluating the Policies of States and Colleges.”
Klopfenstein has spent many years looking at AP in public schools, aided by a terrific state data base in Texas that follows students from grade school into college. Other researchers in Texas and California have produced studies that suggest that taking AP courses and exams in high school leads to more success in college than avoiding or being barred from AP, as happens with most college-bound students. Klopfenstein told me those studies should not be given great weight because they show correlation, not causation.
Massachusetts did not receive Race to the Top school funding but state education officials say they plan to reapply for the grant.
Pres. Barack Obama established the Race to the Top program last summer for states to compete for $4.35 billion in grant funding to pursue education overhauls and innovative reform.
Of the initial 40 states to qualify, Massachusetts was named one of 16 finalists. Early this week, the U.S. Department of Education announced Delaware and Tennessee were the only winners.
The program states winners would be chosen simply on the state’s readiness to rework their education system.
Superintendent Lincoln Lynch said Massachusetts might have been passed up since the achievement gap here may not be as great as in other states. As a finalist, however, Massachusetts will have the opportunity to reapply in for a second round of funding in June.
The kids weren’t buying it. One girl gave the Gov a quiz on the state Constitution. After first noting that the state Constitution provides for “a thorough and efficient system of free public schools,” the student noted the school board was likely to make drastic budget cuts. She then asked: “What does it mean if the superintendent and the school board say the budget they approved cannot provide for that thorough and efficient system?”
Wow, I thought, these kids are sharp — a lot sharper than their governor, it turned out.
The girl had made a point of repeating, as if to a dull student, that in our Constitution the adjectives “thorough and efficient” modify the noun “system.” This is a key legal point. For a moment there, I wondered if the kids had been reading the Rutgers Law Journal. I’m thinking of the excellent article by legal scholar Peter Mazzei in which he traced the language back to New Jersey’s 1873 constitutional convention, at which time it clearly implied equal distribution of state aid to all school districts.
As for the Gov, he hadn’t done his homework. Christie responded that “we have two constitutional issues at conflict here. One is the constitutional obligation to balance and the budget and the other is the constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education.”
From 1982 to 1987 I stalked Jaime Escalante, his students and his colleagues at Garfield High School, a block from the hamburger-burrito stands, body shops and bars of Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. I was the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Washington Post, allegedly covering the big political, social and business stories of the Western states, but I found it hard to stay away from that troubled high school.
I would show up unannounced, watch Jaime teach calculus, chat with Principal Henry Gradillas, check in with other Advanced Placement classes and in the early afternoon call my editor in Washington to say I was chasing down the latest medfly outbreak story, or whatever seemed believable at the time.
Escalante, who died Tuesday from cancer at age 79, did not become nationally famous until 1988, when the feature film about him, “Stand and Deliver,” was released, and my much-less-noticed book, “Escalante: The Best Teacher in America,” also came out. I had been drawn to him, as filmmakers Ramón Menéndez and Tom Musca were, by the story of a 1982 cheating scandal. Eighteen Escalante students had passed the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam. Fourteen were accused of cheating by the Educational Testing Service, based on similarities in their answers. Twelve took the test again, this time heavily proctored, and passed again.
Twenty years after technology began transforming every other sector, there is finally enough movement on a sufficient number of fronts–15 to be precise–that, despite resilience, everything will change. New and better learning options are inevitable, but progress will be uneven by state/country and leadership dependent.
The 5 Drivers. These Web 2.0 forces are benefiting the learning sector, emerging economies, as well as every other sector:
- More broadband: increasingly ubiquitous high speed Internet access is enabling a world of engaging content including video, multiplayer games, simulations, and video conferencing.
- Cheap access devices: netbooks, tablets, and smart phones have dropped below the $100 per year ownership level enabling one-to-one computing solutions.
- Powerful application development platforms: rapid application development and viral adoption have radically reduced cost and increased speed of bringing solutions to market.
- Adaptive content: personalized news (iGoogle), networks (Facebook), purchasing (Amazon), and virtual environments (World of Warcraft) have created a ‘my way’ mindset that will eventually eliminate the common slog through print.
- Platforms: Apple’s iPhone illustrates the elegant bundling of an application, purchasing, and delivery platform.
Delaware’s surprising first-place finish in a fierce battle for federal school-reform dollars highlights a tension in President Obama’s education agenda: He favors big change, but he also prizes peace with the labor unions that sometimes resist his goals.
Obama often has challenged unions, even voicing support last month for a Rhode Island school board’s vote to fire all the teachers at a struggling high school. But his administration built the $4 billion Race to the Top contest in a way that rewarded applications crafted in consultation with labor leaders.
The announcement that Delaware had won about $100 million highlighted that all of the state’s teachers unions backed the plan for tougher teacher evaluations linked to student achievement. In second-place Tennessee, which won about $500 million, 93 percent of unions were on board.
As a teacher at Noelani Elementary School, Katie Nakamura says she believes any person who works directly with students is essential, including librarians, who can serve as a valuable resource to help children.
“Every day that another person can help a child is an essential part of that child’s growth, and every day that we fail to touch a child is a waste of what we, as educators and school employees, seek to achieve,” Nakamura said in an e-mail.
Gov. Linda Lingle sees it differently.
Librarians are among the educational system employees who were included on a list of “nonessential” workers released by the Lingle administration this week.
Determining which workers are “essential” and “nonessential” is at the heart of a $30 million difference between two plans aimed at ending Furlough Fridays for public school students.
Two weeks ago Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he wanted to tackle the disparity in how students of different races with discipline problems are treated in public schools.
Earlier this month, the Civil Rights Division of his federal agency informed Delaware’s largest school district that it is opening an investigation involving the same issue.
Then on Monday, Duncan announced that Delaware is one of two first-round winners in the federal Race To the Top education reform competition. It now has $100 million to spend on strengthening standards and assessment, supporting quality educators, developing data systems to better measure student performance, and turning around failing schools.
Talk about intended consequences.
A lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles teachers union to block the city’s school district from giving new campuses to charter schools was denied Friday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
The suit was filed in December on behalf of United Teachers Los Angeles as a result of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s controversial school reform plan, which sought to turn over 30 campuses to bidders from inside and outside the district, including charter school organizations.
The lawsuit claimed that L.A. Unified could not allow charter operators to take over new campuses unless 50% of the district’s permanent teachers petitioned for it. Charters are independently managed public schools and are generally nonunion.
The legal process went forward, and the school board voted to give teacher-led groups control of 22 of the campuses; four were awarded to charters.
A 12-year-old US schoolgirl is suing the New York City authorities for $1m ($650,000) in damages after she was arrested for writing on her desk.
Alexa Gonzalez was led out of her school in handcuffs by police after she was caught scribbling a message to her friends with an erasable, green marker.
Miss Gonzalez and her mother are suing the police and education departments in New York City.
They are claiming for excessive use of force and violation of her rights.
The Maine International Center for Digital Learning has produced four videos designed to help schools prepare for and transition into one-to-one schools. The videos feature former Maine Governor Angus King and two Maine teachers, Lisa Hogan and Google Certified Teacher Sarah Sutter. The video series covers the practical and logistical aspects of one-to-one for teachers as well as the educational theory aspects of one-to-one.
s spanking an acceptable way of disciplining children?
Opinions differ (1). Some consider it barbaric and a definite no-no, others think it merely old-fashioned but quite handy in case of a parenting emergency. A hard core of disgusted disciplinarians protest that the practice’s decline is why today’s youth lacks any respect for authority – and ultimately is one of the main causes for the Decline of Everything.
The ambiguity extends to the legal sphere. Many countries have outlawed corporal punishment in the classroom (2), while only a handful have done the same for parental correction of the physical kind. This map shows those countries on a world map, and amplifies their relatively small number by submerging all other countries (3).
I count 23 countries on this map. So, which are the members of the World Anti-Spanking League?
The `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009′ (RTE Act) came into effect today, with much fanfare and an address by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In understanding the debates about this Act, a little background knowledge is required. Hence, in this self-contained 1500-word blog post, I start with a historical narrative, outline key features of the Act, describe its serious flaws, and suggest ways to address them.
After independence, Article 45 under the newly framed Constitution stated that The state shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
As is evident, even after 60 years, universal elementary education remains a distant dream. Despite high enrolment rates of approximately 95% as per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2009), 52.8% of children studying in 5th grade lack the reading skills expected at 2nd grade. Free and compulsory elementary education was made a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution in December 2002, by the 86th Amendment. In translating this into action, the `Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill’ was drafted in 2005. This was revised and became an Act in August 2009, but was not notified for roughly 7 months.
The New Jersey School Boards Association, which surveyed school officials about the state aid cuts, found that 268 districts would lay off teachers and that 185 would make cuts to their education programs.
In addition, 206 districts said they would reduce the number of extracurricular activities, and 96 would charge students an activity fee for the first time.
Districts are also seeking to save on teachers’ salaries and benefits, with 195 considering reopening contracts with local teachers’ unions. An additional 265 are already at the bargaining table. As an incentive, Mr. Christie this week announced a proposal to give additional state aid to districts that negotiate salary freezes.
The school boards association received responses from 323 of the state’s 588 districts about how they were preparing for the possible loss of state money.
Wisconsin School District’s face similar issues: the state ranks in the top 10 in per capita debt and the Federal Government’s debt position continues to deteriorate. Local property taxpayers may bear the brunt of local District spending increases.
The school budget is an opportunity for the board and the administration to financially describe the academic aspirations for all children. It’s the means for a district to implement and follow through on its strategic plan. In strategic plans we find the vision and scope for delivering the educational program. The budget must articulate this vision for academic excellence.
It is imperative that each school district, each year, re-examine all of its revenue sources and expenditures. School districts are primarily funded by local real estate taxes. In Dallastown, nearly 78 percent of revenue sources come from local sources — 85 percent of which are local real estate taxes. State sources make up about 21 percent; federal and other sources make up the remai
Clusty Search: Stewart Weinberg.
Your schools are not what they once were. Last week you were named one of only four states to have its fourth-grade reading scores decline on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation’s report card.
This is sad news, but it shouldn’t come as any great surprise: Iowa’s scores have been flat for nearly two decades. In 1992, you trailed only four states in fourth-grade reading. You now trail 25, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
It might be tempting to blame your declining scores on changing demographics, and that’s fair to some extent, but you haven’t had the same influx of minority students that your neighbor Minnesota has, for example, even though their scores have risen much faster than yours.
Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday sent letters to the heads of the statewide teachers union and the state school boards’ association urging them to have local union leaders and school boards agree on pay freezes, an action that would provide a school district with more state aid.
The governor sent the letters to New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian and New Jersey School Boards Association Director Maria Bilik.
“The additional state aid to those districts that make the right choice and join in the shared sacrifice will ensure that more teachers stay in their jobs, more students will be able to participate in extracurricular activities, and protect educational services,” Christie said. “While it is not the easy choice, it is the right choice and it shows we put New Jersey’s children first.”
A new law went into effect in India Thursday making education a fundamental right for every child.
An estimated 8 to 10 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 do not attend school in India.
In most cases, the abject poverty many of these children live in necessitate they instead work to supplement their family’s meager income.
In some cases, parents often frown upon sending daughters to school, and some rural areas deny children of lower castes access to education.
Milwaukee Public Schools today provided some response to the not-so-much-progress progress report recently issued by an independent expert who’s overseeing the implementation of an educational improvement plan in the district.
In a letter, MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and School Board President Michael Bonds tell Alan Coulter, the independent expert, that it’s unfortunate his report doesn’t “accurately reflect the incredible efforts underway by the District” and that it seems he has been “factually deprived of pertinent information” regarding MPS’ progress.
In an e-mail today, Roseann St. Aubin, district spokeswoman, also said there appears to be a communication problem between the Department of Public Instruction in Madison and Coulter in New Orleans.
But, she also said that Coulter is required to do these progress reports under the settlement agreement between Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and that MPS is not a party to this settlement.
Some pundits, reflecting on the looming U.S. budget deficits, claim that Americans are vastly undertaxed compared with other major nations. I was wondering, to what extent is that true?
The most common metric for answering this question is taxes as a percentage of GDP. However, high tax rates tend to depress GDP. Looking at taxes as a percentage of GDP may mislead us into thinking we can increase tax revenue more than we actually can. For some purposes, a better statistic may be taxes per person, which we can compute using this piece of advanced mathematics:
Taxes/GDP x GDP/Person = Taxes/Person
Madison School District Administration [2.3MB PDF]:
The 2010 Facility Assessment identifies $85,753,506 of immediate maintenance needs. It does not address items that have been traditionally handled through our work order system and the annual operating budget. This includes items such as floor tile, carpeting, casework, ceilings tile, painting, wall treatments, minor fencing projects, grounds maintenance and window treatments. The Facility Assessment includes projects divided into specific areas
- Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Building Envelope, gym floors, interior doors, high school athletic fields.
In previous years, all projects were prioritized in order to insure life safety items took precedence over other items like parking lots. It is now necessary to spread funding over multiple trade areas in order to prevent one area from becoming excessively deteriorated. The 2010 Facility Assessment recommends funding all areas offacility needs annually, at varying levels, according to the condition assigned.
2009-2010 Adopted: 3.85%
2010-2011 “Projected”: 12.22%
2010-2011 “Cost to Continue”: 11.82%
2011-2012 “Projected”: 8.88%
2012-2013 “Projected”: 6.03%
2013-2014 “Projected”: 4.47%
2014-2015 “Projected”: 3.23%
The document projects that the Madison School District’s tax on a “typical” $250,000 home will increase from $2,545.00 in 2009-2010 to $3,545 in 2014-2015, a 39% increase over 6 years. Significant.
The District’s total property tax levy grew from $158,646,124 (1998-1999) to $234,240,964 (2009-2010); a 47.6% increase over that 11 year period.
The proposed 2010-2011 budget increases property taxes by 11.8% to $261,929,543
- Madison School District 5 Year Budget Forecast
- Madison School District Financial Overview:
1) Impact of State’s finance on MMSD finances and budget projections
We utilized two separate papers from the legislative fiscal bureau (attached) and a presentation given by Andrew Reschovsky to provide detail to the board of education. Unfortunately projections at this point in time are showing a shortfall for the 2011-13 biennial budget of approximately $2.3 million. Without knowing if there will be another stabilization type package to help ease this burden, chances are funding for education and many other State funded programs will be looked at for possible reduction.
Madison School District: [1.5MB PDF]
Professional development is the manner with which we all learn and grow in our profession. The needs of our students continue to grow and change. The expectations of teachers continue to develop. Larry Wilson once said, “Our options are to learn the new game, the rules, the roles of the participants, and how the rewards are distributed, or to continue practicing our present skills and become the best players in a game that is no longer being played.” Just as we expect doctors, lawyers, and other professions to be current on the latest research and methods, our teachers need to continue developing their skills through professional development.
- “Professional development is the key to the success of a school.” (Holler, Callender & Skinner, 2007)
- “One of the most cost-effective methods for making significant gains in student performance on standardized tests is providing teachers with better content knowledge and instructional methods to enhance the curriculum.” (Holler, Callender & Skinner, 2007)
- “In the history of education, no improvement effort has ever succeeded in the absence of thoughtfully planned and well-implemented professional development.” (Guskey & Yoon, 2009)
- ‘A school culture that invites deep and sustained professional learning will have a powerful impact on student achievement.” (Brandt, 2003)
- According to research, high-quality teaching has about five times more statistical effect than most feasible reductions in class size (Greenwald, Hedges, & Laine as cited in Frank & Miles, 2007).
- “We have a rich, untapped pool oftalent in the millions ofmediocre teachers that are currently in the classroom. Rather than dismiss them, we need to help them grow. If we could move two million teachers from ‘mediocre talent’ to even ‘mediocre- strong’, it would have an incredible effect on student outcomes… Rather than focusing on punishing bad schools and teachers, we need to develop a culture of development and growth.” (Scott, 2010.)
In the 1980s, when I was teaching history at the high school in Concord, Massachusetts, one day there was a faculty meeting during which some of my colleagues put on a skit about one of our most intractable problems: students wandering in the hallways during classes. One person played the principal, another the hall monitor, and others the guidance counselor, the vice-principal, and I can’t remember who else from the staff. One teacher played the student who had been in the halls.
They did a good job on the acting and the lines were good, but as it went on, I noticed something a bit odd. Everyone had a part and things to say, but the only passive member of the show was the student, who had nothing much to say or do.
I notice a parallel to this in the majority of discussions about education reform these days. With some exceptions, including Carol Jago, Diane Ravitch, Paul Zoch, and me, edupundits seem occupied with just about everything except what students do academically.
There is a lot of discussion of what teachers do, and what superintendents, curriculum coordinators, principals, financial officers, mayors, legislators, and so on, do, but the actual academic work of students gets very little attention.
This observation was reinforced for me when the TCR Institute did a study in 2002 of the assignment of serious term papers in U.S. public high schools. It was the first (and last) study of its kind, and it found that the majority of HS students are not being asked to do the sort of academic writing they need to work on to prepare themselves for college (and career).
In the last eight years, I have sought funds for a study of the assignment of complete nonfiction books in U.S. public high schools, but no one seems interested. Of course, many billions have been spent since 2002 on school reinvention and reorganization, assessment plans, teacher selection, training and retention, and so on, but again, the academic work of the students (the principal mission of schools) is “more honored in the breach than the observance.”
My perspective on this is necessarily a bottom-up, Lower Education one. I publish the serious research papers of high school students of history. Most of the 20,000+ U.S. public high schools never send me one, which is not a great surprise, because most history departments, other than in IB schools, do not assign research papers.
But it gives me a curiosity over the neglect of student work which does not seem to be present in those whose focus is at a Higher Level in education. Those who live on the Public Policy level of Education Punditry can not see far enough Down or focus closely enough on the activity of schools to find out whether our HS students are reading history books and writing term papers.
I believe this is because foundation people, consultants, education professors, public policy experts, and their tribes mostly talk to each other, not to students or even to teachers, who are so far far beneath them. They hold conferences, and symposia, and they write papers and books about what needs to be done in education, but from almost none of them come suggestions that involve the academic reading and writing our students should be doing.
Of course what teachers do is vastly important, as well as very difficult to influence, but surely it cannot be that much more important than what students do.
Naturally, we should design curricula rich in knowledge, but if they don’t include serious independent academic work by students, the burden will still be on the teacher, and many too many students can slide through under it and arrive in college ready for their remedial classes in reading, math and writing, as more than a million do now each year.
Tony Wagner, the only person I know at the Harvard Education School who is interested in student work, did a focus group with some graduates of a high school he was working with, and they all said they wished they had been given more serious work in academic writing while they were in the high school. I asked him how many schools he knows of which take the time to hold focus groups with their recent graduates to get feedback from them on their level of academic preparation in school, and he said he only knew of three high schools in the country which did it.
We do need improvements in all the things the edupundits are working on, and the foundations and our governments are spending billions on. But if we continue to lack curiosity about and to ignore what students are doing academically, I feel sure all that money will continue to be wasted, as it has been so many many times in the past.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® 
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Rhode Island’s new education boss told a large crowd of Bristol and Warren residents last Thursday night that their towns have gotten a great deal for nearly two decades, but it’s time to settle up. The message was frustrating and disappointing to many in attendance.
Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist confirmed that a proposed funding formula would slash into the Bristol Warren Regional School District’s revenue stream each year for the next 10 years, escalating to a $9.1 million reduction by 2020. Her message was delivered to a large crowd packed into the Mt. Hope High School auditorium to hear her speak.
Half the reduction is elimination of a regionalization “bonus” that has been given to the school district each year since the two towns merged their school systems in the early 1990s. Ms. Gist said the state simply does not have the resources to continue to fund the district at the level it has been. However, Ms. Gist offered one small carrot — she said the state would help pay for students requiring a high level of specialized services.
According to Ms. Gist, the proposed funding formula would distribute enough funds to each district so all can adhere to the Basic Education Plan, an outline of standards Rhode Island students must achieve.
Why draw from the model? A number of years ago, my husband and I and some friends–all, except for me, artists who also teach at art schools here in New York–spent hours discussing this question, though without arriving at anything particularly convincing. A few of them recalled drawing from the model as undergraduates, but none had done so in graduate programs–these were the heady, experimental days of the early ’70s, when all the action took place in the seminar room; in my husband’s program, studios had been dispensed with altogether. When we turned our attention to the art world today, drawing and models seemed just as antiquated. Installation, photography, and video, more popular than ever, are mechanically derived. And though we could easily think of paintings with figures in them, all of them had been lifted from mass-media images; they had as little relation to drawing from the pose of a living person in the artist’s studio as photography.
Yet, at art schools today, freshmen are required to draw from the model, sometimes six hours at a stretch, their labors then judged by teachers who have no use for, indeed, who disdain, the practice in their own work. We spent quite a while trying to account for this odd disjuncture. The best anyone could come up with is that studio drawing focuses the eye and hand; it is an intense discipline in seeing and then translating what one sees into material form. This, it seemed to me, was another way of saying that it was good for its own sake, even if it had no relation to making art these days. The conversation drifted to other subjects, but the next morning what had eluded us the night before now appeared so ridiculously obvious that I could not believe we had missed it: The reason the Academy required students to master the painstaking practice of drawing from the model was because, until very recently, the action of figures–gods, heroes, and mere mortals–was the prime subject, the central drama, the moving force, of all the greatest paintings.
via a kind reader’s email: 250K PDF.
Tuition discounting reached record high levels at private colleges and universities in 2008, and the largest share of that aid was awarded without consideration of students’ financial need, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).
The average discount rate for full-time freshmen increased from 39 percent in fall 2007 to 42 percent in fall 2008, and the average award covered more than half – 53.5 percent – of the “sticker price.” The discount rate represents the share of tuition and fee revenues colleges use to award institutionally funded aid.
Despite lamentations from some college presidents, tuition discounting has become an increasingly common practice at private institutions. Standard discounting involves placing the sticker price of attendance beyond the reach of many families, only to effectively slash that price by offering institutionally funded financial aid to many or, more typically, most students. Critics say it steers too much aid toward students without financial need, and it also forces high-tuition colleges to defend sticker prices students seldom actually pay.
Educating the poor is more than just a numbers game, says Shukla Bose. She tells the story of her groundbreaking Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which brings hope to India’s slums by looking past the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.
The founders of the Blue School aspired to create something different: a private school not fixated on the Ivy League prospects of preschoolers and devoid of admissions hysteria. An education that, as they put it, “you don’t have to recover from.”
The school was in the East Village, not uptown, and its leaders were not bluebloods but the founders and spouses of the Blue Man Group, the alternative theater troupe.
The school, which is entering its fourth year, has remained true to its progressive roots, with “imagination stations” and “glow time.” Children help direct the curriculum, and social and emotional skills are given equal weight to reading and math.
Washington has historically talked tough about requiring the states to reform their school systems in exchange for federal aid, and then caved in to the status quo when it came time to enforce the deal. The Obama administration broke with that tradition this week.
It announced that only two states — Delaware and Tennessee — would receive first-round grants under the $4.3 billion Race to the Top initiative, which is intended to support ambitious school reforms at the state and local levels. The remaining states will need to retool their applications and raise their sights or risk being shut out of the next round.
That includes New York State, which ranked a sad 15th out of 16 finalists.
Nine students are being prosecuted for bullying a fellow student, Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after being taunted and threatened. What, if anything, could and should the school have tried to protect Ms. Prince? What can and should teachers and administrators do at any school where students are bullying other kids?
In their article “9 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate’s Suicide,” Erik Eckholm and Katie Zezima consider what happened at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, and the legal fallout
What if the Supreme Court had banned affirmative action? What if colleges moved away from the use of affirmative action on their own?
A new study by two Princeton University researchers uses admissions data from elite colleges to portray what would happen in such a world without affirmative action. In short, black and Latino enrollment would tank, while white enrollments would hardly be affected. The big winners would be Asian applicants, who appear to face “disaffirmative action” right now. They would pick up about four out of five spots lost by black and Latino applicants.
As his patient lay unconscious in an emergency room from an overdose of sedatives, psychiatrist Damir Huremovic was faced with a moral dilemma: A friend of the patient had forwarded to Huremovic a suicidal e-mail from the patient that included a link to a Web site and blog he wrote. Should Huremovic go online and check it out, even without his patient’s consent?
Huremovic decided yes; after all, the Web site was in the public domain and it might contain some potentially important information for treatment. When Huremovic clicked on the blog, he found quotations such as this: “Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings.” A final blog post read: “I wish I didn’t wake up.” Yet as Huremovic continued scanning the patient’s personal photographs and writings, he began to feel uncomfortable, that perhaps he’d crossed some line he shouldn’t have.
Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County superintendent of schools, will start overseeing the Alisal Union School District today after the state Board of Education unanimously appointed her as an interim state trustee.
Citing “the need to protect public interest,” the board decided to name Kotowski on Tuesday afternoon during an emergency meeting in Sacramento. She will have veto power over the Salinas district’s board of trustees until the state appoints a permanent trustee — and outlines his or her responsibilities and power — in May.
“My immediate goal is establish stability and prepare the District for an effective community meeting with the State Board of Education on April 14,” Kotowski said Tuesday. “This will be done by focusing all efforts on teaching and learning in the classrooms of the District.”
In March, the board assigned a state trustee to oversee two school districts in Monterey County: Greenfield Union and Alisal Union. The decision came after the districts chronically failed to meet academic standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act. The state board also found that problems “managing adult relationships” were ruining the districts’ ability to improve student achievement.
Even if you don’t live in Florida, you should pay attention to what is going on there.
Teachers, parents and even students in the Sunshine State call it the “Education Debacle.” And they are no longer sitting quietly, hoping that common sense will magically prevail with state legislators seemingly intent on passing legislation affectionately called a “hammer” on the teaching profession by its sponsor.
They are taking to the streets, literally and digitally, to transmit their horror over legislation that would end teacher job security, increase student testing and tie teacher pay to student test scores. It also prohibits school districts from taking into account experience, professional credentials or advanced degrees in teacher evaluation and pay.
Ever since MIT’s famous OpenCourseWare initiative was launched in 2001, people have been fascinated with the power that technology would have on open sourcing of information and the democratization of education. OpenCourseWare started as MIT’s decision to open up its vast academic curricula to “any joker with a browser”. I will never forget the visualization from this Wired article of an MIT ‘student’ racing home through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to ‘attend’ a lab in software engineering…
It’s true that initiatives like OpenCourseWare have helped to deliver new ways to learn. But despite access to these new tools, true innovation in education has been hampered by all the restrictive dependencies which have been part of education’s lineage. For example, kids may learn a foreign language better earlier in schooling, but the structure around how English grammar is taught prevents foreign language classes from being rolled out until much too late. Clay Christensen’s new book Disrupting Class brilliantly delves into this topic.
Sitting before a computer in the library at Wauwatosa West High School, senior Ricky Porter clicks his mouse and moves a squiggly web of multicolored lines across a computerized map speckled with red and blue dots.
Move one line wrong and an elected representative whose district he has redrawn will stand up in protest, a warning that Porter’s new map might not be able to pass an imaginary state legislature, governor and court review. But if he gets his lines just right and manages to please all the incumbents, while staying on the right side of the law, his mission is complete.
The Redistricting Game played by Porter and classmates in his American Public Policy class at West is one of a number of new online and video games that offer educational experiences for schools and teachers willing to experiment. Porter’s teacher, Chris Lazarski, who also plans to use a game named Peacemaker to teach students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said such games give students chances to interact and solve problems in a way with which they’re comfortable.
In it, Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director, explains that leadership is the art of trading imaginary things in the future for real things today.
This is precisely the art of leadership practiced by Seattle Public Schools. Think of all of the imaginary future things they have promised in exchange for real things in the present. Then remember how few (if any) of the imaginary future things ever materialized.
When dealing with the public, the real thing they want in the present is usually your willingness to accept a change that is unacceptable and the imaginary thing in the future is some action that will mitigate the damage done by the change.
For example, if the APP community won’t kick up too much of a fuss over the split of the program, then the District will deliver an aligned, written, taught and tested curriculum concurrent with the split. The APP community didn’t oppose the split, but the District never delivered – and now clearly never will deliver – the promised curriculum.
A casual joke on Twitter recently let slip a dirty little secret of large science and engineering courses: Students routinely cheat on their homework, and professors often look the other way.
“Grading homework is so fast when they all cheat and use the illegal solutions manual,” quipped Douglas Breault Jr., a teaching assistant in mechanical engineering at Tufts University. After all, if every answer is correct, the grader is left with little to do beyond writing an A at the top of the page and circling it. Mr. Breault, a first-year graduate student, ended his tweet by saying, “The profs tell me to ignore it.”
While most students and professors seem to view cheating on examinations as a serious moral lapse, both groups appear more cavalier about dishonesty on homework. And technology has given students more tools than ever to find answers in unauthorized ways–whether downloading online solution manuals or instant-messaging friends for answers. The latest surveys by the Center for Academic Integrity found that 22 percent of students say they have cheated on a test or exam, but about twice as many–43 percent–have engaged in “unauthorized collaboration” on homework.
Wisconsin had 8.2% fewer state and local government employees per capita than the national average in 2008. The state had 50.35 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees for every 1,000 state residents vs. 54.82 for the U.S. and ranked 41st nationally, according to a new study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). The study, “Wisconsin’s Public Workforce,” details public employment and pay using 2008 Census figures, the most recent available. WISTAX is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and education.
The study also compares public employee salaries and total compensation (salaries plus benefits) at the state and local levels. The average salary for a Wisconsin state employee was $53,703, 4.3% higher than the national average ($51,507). State salaries here were above those in Michigan but below salaries in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. When estimated benefits were added to salaries, total compensation averaged $71,000. That was 5.9% above the national average, but still below Iowa and Minnesota.
Teenagers in the San Diego Unified School District will no longer need parental consent to leave campus for private medical appointments, including pregnancy, abortion, drug and suicide counseling.
The school board unanimously adopted the revised policy Tuesday night to comply with state law.
Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus, died Tuesday. He was 79.
The subject of the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” Escalante died at his son’s home in Roseville, Calif., said actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed the teacher in the film. Escalante had bladder cancer.
“Jaime didn’t just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives,” Olmos said earlier this month when he organized an appeal for funds to help pay Escalante’s mounting medical bills.
Escalante gained national prominence in the aftermath of a 1982 scandal surrounding 14 of his Garfield High School students who passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam only to be accused later of cheating.
Dads are helping out with childrearing more and more these days. The result can be both a boon and a letdown for super-moms, whose self-competence can take a hit when paired with husbands who are savvy caregivers, new research finds.
The findings reveal the fallout as women have entered the workplace in droves over recent decades, many of them leaving young children at home. One result is mothers have less time for care-giving. Past studies have shown working moms are torn between full-time careers and stay-at-home duties. And lately more diligent dads are helping out with the diaper-changing and other household duties.
But since mothers pride themselves on being just that — moms — their self-esteem can take a blow.
HEY THERE, talented recent university graduate! I’d like to offer you a job in an extremely challenging and rewarding field. The pay is based almost entirely on performance metrics–you know, what they used to call “commission” in the old days. The better you do, the more you earn! Of course the worse you do, the less you earn, but don’t focus on that–you’re a winner, you’ll do great. We can offer you a five-year contract to start. By “contract” I mean we’ll let you work for us, if things work out, but we can of course fire you at any time. And after that you’ll have solid contracts! Each contract lasts one year, and we can decide to let you go at the end if you’re not performing up to our standards. And by that time, you’ll be earning…well, actually, you’ll be paid at exactly the same rate as when you started out. We’re prohibited by law from paying you more just because you’ve worked for us longer. If, however, you want to go get qualified in some new technical field or obtain an advanced degree, then…we can’t raise your pay either. We basically just pay you a flat standardized commission depending on how well you perform on the mission.
President Barack Obama has made education reform a signature issue of his administration, and the sweeping changes in how school systems are evaluated by the federal government announced over the weekend appear to go a long way toward achieving that goal.
Mr. Obama wants to revise the criteria for judging student achievement away from a strict reliance on standardized testing and toward a system that measures not only how much progress students make during the school year but also how well prepared they are for college and the workplace when they graduate from high school.
The Obama administration sent up a bright yellow warning flag Monday to states vying for billions of dollars in federal education funds intended to encourage school reform efforts. Of the 40 states that entered the first round of the Race to the Top competition in January, only 16 were named as finalists last month, and of those only two states — Delaware and Tennessee — actually ended up winning part of the federal largesse this week. Delaware was awarded $102 million, while Tennessee got just more than $500 million.
In rejecting the bids of big states such as Florida, New York and Illinois, all of which had been considered strong contenders for the prize, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a powerful signal that the feds won’t be satisfied by half-measures grudgingly adopted by state lawmakers without strong support from local teachers unions. The message was that everybody needs to get behind meaningful reform.
The results of this first round of judging should be sobering to anyone who believed that all Maryland had to do was wave around its No. 1 ranking in Education Week to walk away with a big pile of federal money. More than a dozen states with stronger education reform credentials than Maryland were shut out, and this state surely would have been as well had it not belately recognized how unprepared it was to compete seriously.