The Edu-Innovation Opportunity

Tom Vander Ark:

A reporter asked me “what went wrong with the small schools idea?” It’s odd question because all the networks developing highly effective new schools–KIPP, Achievement First, Success Network, Green Dot, Alliance and dozens more–still use the tried and true rule of thumb of 100 students per grade.
The better question is “what went wrong with the big schools idea?” The 50-year experiment with mega-high schools of 1,500-4,500 students had disastrous results especially for low income students. The combination of anonymity and a proliferation of low expectation courses set up the results we see today: one third of American students drop out and one third graduate unprepared for college or careers.
Fixing this problem has proven vexing. The one difference between good schools and bad schools is everything–structure, schedule, curriculum, instruction, culture, and connections with families and community. That makes turnarounds, especially at the high school level, really difficult. Layer on top of that outdated employment contracts and revolving door leadership and you have a national Gordian knot.

Related: English 10.

Teachers union may not sway California schools chief race

Jill Tucker:

For nearly three decades, California’s largest teachers union has all but handpicked the candidate who went on to win the race for state superintendent of public instruction.
It was pretty much a given for the candidate: Get the California Teachers Association’s campaign cash, gain the support of most other education groups in the state and win the race.
This year is different.
In a packed field of 12 candidates, three have emerged as the top contenders for the nonpartisan job. All three are Democrats, two of whom are splitting the support of the education establishment, and a third who has attracted support of non-establishment education reformers.
The three include former South Bay schools superintendent Larry Aceves; state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles; and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch

Pay-for-performance for school students is no silver bullet

The Economist:

POLITICIANS around the world love to promise better education systems. Proposals for reform come in many flavours. Some tout the benefits of more competition among schools; others aim to train more teachers and reduce class sizes. Still others plump for elaborate after-school programmes or for linking teachers’ pay to how well pupils do.
A relatively recent addition to this menu is the idea of paying students directly for performance. Boosters argue that pupils may fail to invest enough time and effort into education because the gains–better jobs and higher incomes–are nebulous and distant. Cash payments, on the other hand, reward good performance immediately. Link payments to test results or graduation rates, the argument goes, and test scores should increase and drop-out rates decline. Two new papers* describe the effect of such schemes in Israel and America. Their results will disappoint those who hope for a silver bullet. But they also suggest that cash payments may have their uses in some situations.
Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Victor Lavy of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem studied high-school students in 40 Israeli schools where few pupils went on to get their school-leaving certificate (the Bagrut). In half the schools students were offered a chance to earn nearly $1,450 if they passed all the tests and got the certificate. The economists found that completion rates in “payment schools” increased by about a third–but only for girls and mainly for those who needed to do only a tiny bit more to graduate.

On Graduation Day, Seniors Take Time to Feel Like Kindergartners Again

Jenny Anderson:

When Nitya Rajendran started kindergarten, she didn’t talk until November. “She’d point and wave,” said her teacher, Rick Parbst. This year she was the lead in Trinity School’s spring musical and decided to translate parts of “The Iliad” from ancient Greek. She’s headed to Georgetown University in September.
In fourth grade, Cody Cowan’s class was studying ancient Egypt, and he was asked to develop an irrigation system. He was fine with the engineering, but didn’t know how to draw people and animals. “By the time I turned around, he had four girls doing his drawings,” recalled his teacher from that year, Mary Lemons. This summer, Mr. Cowan will intern on Representative Carolyn B. Maloney’s re-election campaign, and he plans to study international relations in the fall.
At Trinity, one of Manhattan’s oldest independent schools, a roomful of graduating seniors and their childhood teachers unearthed these pieces of the past at the annual survivors breakfast, a rite of passage for seniors who received all 13 years of their formal education at Trinity. Over coffee and bagels and chocolate Jell-O pudding doused with crushed Oreos and gummy worms (a class of 2010 culinary tradition), the students reconnected with teachers and dished about who, at age 5 , ate Play-Doh, sang well and cried whenever his mom left the room.

California schools ban sugary sports drinks

Jill Blocker:

California middle-and high schoolers will have to find another way to quench their thirst during lunch, other than those brightly-colored, sugar-sweetened sports drinks.
On Thursday, the California Senate passed Senate Bill: 1255, which prohibits the sale of sugar-sweetened sports drinks in public middle and high schools as part of an effort to combat childhood obesity, according to the Ventura County Star.
“Studies have shown weight gain is connected to consuming sports drinks, and I applaud the California Senate for taking action to help prevent childhood obesity,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., said in a press release. Schwarzenegger sponsored the bill, which was authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles.
An original 32-ounce Gatorade has four servings per container, with 14 grams of sugar, meaning consumers are taking in 56 grams of sugar if they drink one regular-size bottle. It contains no fruit juice.

AP classes’ draw extends beyond extra grade points

Jay Matthews:

Like all human beings, educators accept rules and procedures that make sense to them, even when academic types wave data in their faces proving they are wrong. That appears to be the case with one of the most powerful and widespread practices in Washington area high schools — the extra grade point for college-level courses.
Thousands of students are taking panicked breaths wondering whether what I am about to reveal will incinerate their grade-point averages, keep them out of any college anyone has heard of and consign them to a life of begging for dollar bills like that scruffy guy on Lynn Street south of Key Bridge.
A new study shows that grade weighting for Advanced Placement courses is unnecessary. Schools have been promising students 3 grade points (usually given for a B) if they get a C in an AP course so they will not be frightened away by its college-level demands. It turns out, however, they will take AP with or without extra credit.

What does UK academy freedom mean?

Mike Baker:

Academy status is “a state of mind more than anything else”.
That is the view of the former Schools Commissioner, Sir Bruce Liddington, who heads EACT, which sponsors eight academies with more in the pipeline.
He was trying to answer my question: “what exactly makes an academy different?”
As we could be about to see academies in England leap from just over 200 now to well over 2,000 in a few years, it is a key issue.
Professor Chris Husbands of the Institute of Education says that it could be “the most significant change in the school system for 45 years”.

Mobile Data: A Gold Mine for Telcos A snapshot of our activities, cell phone data attracts both academics and industry researchers.

Tom Simonite:

Cell phone companies are finding that they’re sitting on a gold mine–in the form of the call records of their subscribers.
Researchers in academia, and increasingly within the mobile industry, are working with large databases showing where and when calls and texts are made and received to reveal commuting habits, how far people travel for public events, and even significant social trends.
With potential applications ranging from city planning to marketing, such studies could also provide a new source of revenue for the cell phone companies. “Because cell phones have become so ubiquitous, mining the data they generate can really revolutionize the study of human behavior,” says Ramón Cáceres, a lead researcher at AT&T’s research labs in Florham Park, NJ.

Tense time for AP students: grade weighting flunks a test

Jay Matthews:

Like all human beings, educators accept rules and procedures that make sense to them, even when academic types wave data in their faces proving they are wrong. That appears to be the case with one of the most powerful and widespread practices in Washington area high schools—the extra grade point for college-level courses.
Thousands of students are taking panicked breaths wondering if what I am about to reveal will incinerate their grade point averages, keep them out of any college anyone has heard of and consign them to a life of begging for dollar bills like that scruffy guy on Lynn Street south of Key Bridge.
A new study shows that grade weighting for Advanced Placement courses is unnecessary. Schools have been promising students 3 grade points (usually given for a B) if they get a C in an AP course so they will not be frightened away by its college-level demands. It turns out, however, they will take AP with or without extra credit.

Madison Schools’ 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Task Force Spending Moratorium, Increase consulting, travel and Professional Development Spending

The Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, June 1, 2010 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget. A few proposed budget amendments were posted recently:

Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District budget here.

The Real Time Web & K-12 Education – In and Out of the Classroom

Audrey Watters:

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) recently released its report on “Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009.” While 97% of those teachers surveyed said they had access to computers in the classroom, the ratio of computer to student was more than 5 to 1. And while 94% of teachers responding indicated they used the Internet often, most of them – 66% – said they used it for “research.”
But Internet technology has done more than make research easier and more timely for teachers and students. Educators are using the real-time Web for a variety of innovative purposes, both in and out of the schoolroom.
The Real-Time Web in the Classroom
It may be cliche to emphasis the world wide aspect of the Web, but Internet technologies have lowered the proverbial walls of the classroom, giving students access to information that far surpasses the print-bound copies of encyclopedias and periodicals that were once the standard for K-12 research projects. As technology-educator Steven Anderson argues, these technologies “really make the world smaller for our students and show them that they can find the answers they need if we equip them with the tools and resources do to so.” But in addition to simply making information more accessible, real-time technologies including Twitter, Skype, and Google Wave have shaped the types of lessons teachers can create and the types of projects they can task their students.

Oxford Tradition Comes to This: ‘Death’ (Expound)

Sarah Lyall:

The exam was simple yet devilish, consisting of a single noun (“water,” for instance, or “bias”) that applicants had three hours somehow to spin into a coherent essay. An admissions requirement for All Souls College here, it was meant to test intellectual agility, but sometimes seemed to test only the ability to sound brilliant while saying not much of anything.
“An exercise in showmanship to avoid answering the question,” is the way the historian Robin Briggs describes his essay on “innocence” in 1964, a tour de force effort that began with the opening chords of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” and then brought in, among other things, the flawed heroes of Stendhal and the horrors of the prisoner-of-war camp in the William Golding novel “Free Fall.”
No longer will other allusion-deploying Oxford youths have the chance to demonstrate the acrobatic flexibility of their intellect in quite the same way. All Souls, part of Oxford University, recently decided, with some regret, to scrap the one-word exam.

Placing the Blame as Students Are Buried in Debt

Ron Lieber:

Like many middle-class families, Cortney Munna and her mother began the college selection process with a grim determination. They would do whatever they could to get Cortney into the best possible college, and they maintained a blind faith that the investment would be worth it.
Today, however, Ms. Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University, has nearly $100,000 in student loan debt from her four years in college, and affording the full monthly payments would be a struggle. For much of the time since her 2005 graduation, she’s been enrolled in night school, which allows her to defer loan payments.
This is not a long-term solution, because the interest on the loans continues to pile up. So in an eerie echo of the mortgage crisis, tens of thousands of people like Ms. Munna are facing a reckoning. They and their families made borrowing decisions based more on emotion than reason, much as subprime borrowers assumed the value of their houses would always go up.

Schools Key in Harlem Election

Barbara Martinez:

Basil Smikle Jr. has a lot of ideas about how to address Harlem’s most vexing problems, from crime to housing to underemployement, but his biggest asset as he runs for state Senate against Bill Perkins may be that he supports charter schools.
Mr. Perkins, a two-term legislator from Harlem, has outraged the charter-school community with his vocal opposition of the schools.
During a hearing on charter schools that he organized in April, Mr. Perkins said that because so many of the schools serve predominantly African-American and Hispanic children, “there is concern that charters are creating a de facto re-segregationist educational policy in New York City,” Mr. Perkins said.

The Public Education Spending Binge Must Stop

Lindsey Burke:

On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan tried to publicly shore-up support for the $23 billion “Education Jobs Fund” being considered by Congress. Flanked by union heads Dennis Van Roekel (President, National Education Association) and Randi Weingarten (President, American Federation of Teachers) and Representatives Dave Obey (D-WI) and George Miller (D-CA), Secretary Duncan pleaded for additional taxpayers dollars:

School boards and state legislatures are finalizing their education budgets for the upcoming school year and many face tough choices about whether to retain teachers and continue programs that are vital to their ability to provide a world-class education for their students. We must act quickly and responsibly to provide schools the resources they need so they don’t have to make choices that would not be in the best interests of their students and teachers.

More high schools dropping class ranking Elmbrook schools are latest to cite college admission concerns

Amy Hetzner:

A 3.5 grade-point average is enough to qualify a student for honor roll and be considered above a B-plus average at Brookfield East High School, but it might not be enough to put a student among the top third of the class.
That’s one of the reasons why sophomores at the school say they won’t be sad when class rank is eliminated from high school transcripts and report cards in two years.
“We get good grades, but we don’t get credit for it,” said Alison Kent, a sophomore at Brookfield East. “You can have a 3.5 or higher and it looks terrible.”
Nearly a decade after some of the state’s top-performing high schools began dropping class rank from their students’ transcripts, more are following their lead.
The Elmbrook School Board voted this month to end reporting class rank on high school transcripts and student report cards in the 2011-’12 school year. The school boards for Nicolet and Mequon-Thiensville will consider whether to enact similar measures this summer.

Are the school reforms really going to improve education?

The Guardian:

Under plans unveiled by Michael Gove last week, the school system in England and Wales will be radically overhauled. Some will break away from local government control. Elsewhere, other new schools will be created by parents. Here, experts discuss whether this shake-up will benefit those who matter most – our children
His fake diamond earring, only just small enough to meet school rules, is gleaming in the May sunshine. Under a tough exterior, over-long, frayed trousers and a shambling walk, is a sensitive teenager coping with a lot. Shane tells me that his girlfriend has run off with his best friend, he is not getting on with his dad’s new “bird”, he is looking after his seven-year-old brother who is depressed and To Kill a Mocking Bird is just “bare” hard.
This student and 80 like him have been subjected to a carefully choreographed series of interventions – one-to-one mentoring, Saturday school, motivational assemblies, extra revision classes – at the London comprehensive where I work, to try to get them to the magic number of five good GCSEs.

Girls shine again, this time in India’s CBSE Class X

Times of India:

Girls once again outclassed boys, this time in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class X examination, the results of which were announced on Friday. In Ajmer region, 93.51% candidates cleared the examination. The success rates for boys and girls were 92.26% and 95.42% respectively. Ajmer region stood second as Chennai region secured the top slot with 96.18% success rate. Board examination will be abolished from next year.
A total of 9,02,747 candidates (9.50% more than last year) had registered for the board examination and 89.28% students cleared the examination . Last year, 88.84% students cleared the test, with 90.68% girls clearing the test and 88.30% boys being successful. For the first time, the results were not in the form of marks but grades and candidates had mixed reactions about it. Under the new grading system, the CBSE has introduced a nine-point scale –A 1 (91-100 marks), A2 (81-90 ), B1 (71-80 ), B2 (61-70 ), C1 (51-60 ), C2 (41-50 ), D (33-40 ), E1 (21-32 ) and E2 (20 and below).

Free UK schools and private profit

The Guardian:

Simon Jenkins is right to be critical of the way in which the education proposals in the Queen’s speech will further undermine local government (Comment, 26 May). However, that is the least of the problems inherent in the expansion of academies and the proposed introduction of Swedish-style “free” schools. What we will see, if the Treasury does not sabotage these expensive proposals, is more and more outsourcing of public education to private, profit-driven companies.
If this could be shown to be an effective means of raising overall standards, it might be a price worth paying, but all the evidence is to the contrary.

A Tale of Two Students In middle school, Ivan and Laura shared a brief romance and a knack for trouble. Then they parted ways. Now he is college-bound and she isn’t. How different schools shaped their paths.

Miriam Jordan:

In middle school, Ivan Cantera ran with a Latino gang; Laura Corro was a spunky teen. At age 13, they shared their first kiss. Both made it a habit to skip class. In high school, they went their separate ways.
This fall, Ivan will enter the University of Oklahoma, armed with a prestigious scholarship. “I want to be the first Hispanic governor of Oklahoma,” declares the clean-cut 18-year-old, standing on the steps of Santa Fe South High School, the charter school in the heart of this city’s Hispanic enclave that he says put him on a new path.
Laura, who is 17, rose to senior class president at Capitol Hill High School, a large public school in the same neighborhood. But after scraping together enough credits to graduate, Laura isn’t sure where she’s headed. She never took college entrance exams.
The divergent paths taken by Laura and Ivan were shaped by many forces, but their schools played a striking role. Capitol Hill and Santa Fe South both serve the same poor, Hispanic population. Both comply with federal guidelines and meet state requirements for standardized exams and curriculum. Santa Fe South enrolls about 490 high school students, while Capitol Hill has nearly 900.
At Santa Fe South, the school day is 45 minutes longer; graduation requirements are more rigorous (four years of math, science and social studies compared with three at public schools); and there is a tough attendance

No, We Don’t Need a Teacher Bailout

Neal McCluskey:

From the recent apocalyptic pronouncements of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others, you may think our schools are selling their last bits of chalk and playground sand to employ mere skeleton crews of teachers and staff. The truth is “apocalypse not.”
Yes, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten last week warned that, without a huge infusion of federal cash, public schools face “draconian cuts.” And the American Association of School Administrators declared a few weeks ago that without a bailout, job losses “would deal a devastating blow to public education.”
Then there’s Duncan’s warning, while making the TV-news rounds last week, of educational “catastrophe” if a federal rescue isn’t forthcoming. And now the National Education Association has launched something called “Speak Up for Education & Kids” — a campaign to get people to call their congressmen and demand a handout for education.
The scaremongering is producing results. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) is planning to put $23 billion to save education jobs in a supplemental spending package. The move appears to have widespread Democratic support.

In Defense of Teachers What charter schools really tell us about education reform

Raina Kelley:

I think it’s fair to say that most people know we’re in the midst of an educational emergency. Just this week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN, “There isn’t one urban school district in the country–Chicago, L.A., New York, D.C., Philly, Baltimore–there’s not one urban system yet where the dropout rate is low enough and the graduation rate is high enough.” And for those people who work in the school system, no issue has come to represent the struggle to save public education more than the fight over charter schools. For the sake of clarity, let me just note that a charter school is one which uses public funds to run a school that is managed privately, thus giving them the freedom to experiment as well as hire nonunion teachers. Charters such as the Harlem Children’s Zone HCZ in New York have longer school days (and a longer school year) with kids often required to come in Saturdays to work with tutors. The most successful charter schools (and they are not all the same in either quality or mission) have produced stunning results. At the Harlem Success Academy, 100 percent of third graders passed their state math exam and 95 percent passed the state English exam.

Inspector General Keeps the Pressure on a Regional Accreditor By Eric Kelderman

Eric Kelderman:

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education has reaffirmed a recommendation that the department should consider sanctions for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the nation’s major regional accrediting organizations. In a report this week, the Office of Inspector General issued its final recommendations stemming from a 2009 examination of the commission’s standards for measuring credit hours and program length, and affirmed its earlier critique that the commission had been too lax in its standards for determining the amount of credit a student receives for course work.
The Higher Learning Commission accredits more than 1,000 institutions in 19 states. The Office of Inspector General completed similar reports for two other regional accreditors late last year but did not suggest any sanctions for those organizations.
Possible sanctions against an accreditor include limiting, suspending, or terminating its recognition by the secretary of education as a reliable authority for determining the quality of education at the institutions it accredits. Colleges need accreditation from a federally recognized agency in order to be eligible to participate in the federal student-aid programs.

More here.

Big blunder cost New Jersey teachers years of goodwill

Kevin Manahan:

At Saturday’s rally in Trenton, teachers wondered when the Earth started spinning in the other direction.
“It’s like we woke up one morning and the world had changed,” said Linda Mirabelli, a music teacher in Livingston. “We were liked and respected, and now, overnight, people have turned against us.”
How did it happen? That’s easy: One bad decision, one stupid miscalculation: An overwhelming majority of teachers refused to accept a pay freeze. They could have won taxpayers’ eternal gratitude, but instead demanded their negotiated raises and fought against contributing a dime toward budget-breaking health insurance benefits. Teachers could have pitched in, but they dug in.
They thumbed their noses at taxpayers, who have lost their jobs, had their pay cut, gone bankrupt and fallen into foreclosure. As taxpayers made less, teachers demanded more. You do that, you become a villain. Fast. It doesn’t matter how many stars Junior gets on his book report.
Teachers listened to their overpaid brain trust, the architects of this disastrous public relations strategy. Together, NJEA president Barbara Keshishian, executive director Vincent Giordano and spokesman Steve Wollmer earn more than a million dollars.
Keshishian, who has been outmaneuvered by the governor at every turn, earns $256,450 annually. Giordano, with salary and deferred compensation, earned $550,203 in 2009, and Wollmer makes $300,000.
Who says you get what you pay for? Union members are shelling out a lot of money for lousy representation. They should stage a coup. Instead they joined hands at Saturday’s You-And-Me-Against-The-World rally and tried to convince each other they’re doing the right thing.

NJ Teacher who complained of low pay to Gov. Chris Christie makes >$100,000 with benefits.

Eisman of ‘Big Short’ Says Sell Education Stocks

Daniel Golden & John Hechinger:

Steven Eisman, a hedge-fund manager whose bet against the housing market was chronicled in a best- selling book, said he has found the next “big short”: higher education stocks.
The stocks of companies operating for-profit colleges could fall much as 50 percent if the U.S. tightens student-loan rules, said Eisman, manager of the financial-services fund at FrontPoint Partners, a hedge-fund unit of New York-based Morgan Stanley.
An Obama administration proposal to limit student debt would slash earnings of Apollo Group Inc., ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges Inc. by forcing them to reduce tuition and slow enrollment growth, Eisman said yesterday at a New York investment conference. Without new regulation, students at for-profit colleges will default on $275 billion of loans in the next decade, he said.

High School Dropouts Costly for American Economy

Bill Whitaker:

Sarae White is an all-too-typical student in Philadelphia — she stopped going to school last year, and was on her way to becoming one more dropout.
“The teachers didn’t care, the students didn’t care,” White said. “Nobody cared, so why should I?”
In Philadelphia, the country’s sixth largest school district, about one of every three students fails to graduate — about the national average. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that of the 4 million students who enter high school every year, one million of them will drop out before graduation. That’s 7,000 every school day — one dropout every 26 seconds.
Michael Piscal, Headmaster of View Park Prep Charter School in Los Angeles said, “It’s not working for teachers, it’s not working for students — it’s not working for society.

More On Teachers’ Unions, Accountability and School Reform

Andrew Rotherham:

Two updates on the Steven Brill NYT Mag piece and the various fallout from it.

Old: No further word from the AFT on their claim that Brill made up quotes. For his part Brill’s denial is here. If Brill’s right don’t they owe him some sort of apology? And if he’s not where’s The Times Mag?

New: A lot of back and forth about some data in the Brill article. The Washington Post published it and then published the most evasive and confusing clarification you might see all year. I think its main point is that numbers are confusing? Is Valerie Strauss becoming the bloggy equivalent of Mikey? She’ll publish anything! The school in question, NY’s HSA, disputes the claims here.

Cutting and Adding Administrators in the Chicago Public Schools

Ben Joravsky:

The Chicago Public Schools is a system so broke it can’t afford sophomore sports, wants assistant coaches to work for free, and has summoned hundreds of teachers to the principal’s office to let them know they’ll be laid off over the summer. But it can still afford to pay 133 central office officials more than $100,000 a year.
That’s what budget reform looks like to schools CEO Ron Huberman.
About two months ago, when Huberman and the Board of Education cut sophomore sports, they said the district, roughly $900 million in the red, could only afford to let freshmen, juniors, and seniors play after-school sports–even after laying off dozens of well paid administrators.
It irked me that a city so rich it could afford to shower subsidies on profitable corporations such as United Airlines and MillerCoors to the tune of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars couldn’t afford to let sophomores play.
So I decided to do a little digging. After spending hours plowing through the 350-page 2009-2010 CPS budget, I discovered that contrary to cutting wages at the central office, Huberman and the board had given raises to scores of top bureaucrats.

Ruth Robarts classic bears a visit: Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process.

Charter School Funding Inequity, or the “Funding Gap”: Milwaukee’s Charter Schools Received 21.6% less than District Schools

Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney & Jay May [Complete 2MB PDF Report]:

The Funding Disparity: Now and Then
In 2005, a group of researchers associated with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined the comparative funding of charter schools in the broader context of educational finance. The goal of that study, which used data from the 2002- 2002-03 school year, was to determine whether and to what extent there were differences in the financial resources provided to charter schools when compared to public school districts in the same states. These researchers used data from 18 states across the United States, and released their results in the report “Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier.” The results of this first study demonstrated a clear pattern of inequity in charter school funding. Across the states included in the study, the per pupil funding gap was $1,801 per pupil, or 21.7 percent of district funding. The funding disparity was most severe in the study’s 27 focus districts, many of them urban, where charter schools received $2,256, or 23.5 percent less funding per pupil compared to the school districts in which they were located. The researchers identified lower local funding as the primary source of this fiscal gap, particularly with respect to capital investment.

Q&A: UK Schools reform

David Turner:

What has the government proposed?
Every state school in England will be allowed to apply to become an academy – a school funded by the state but independent from local authorities. That leaves them free to set their curriculum and run themselves as they see fit. In practice, however, anything too unconventional will attract a bad rating from Ofsted, the schools watchdog. Fears that this academic freedom could, for example, lead to the teaching of Creationism as a factual discipline can therefore be largely allayed.
Hasn’t this all been done already by Labour?
Yes, but the policy was limited. Only 203 academies were established under Labour out of a possible 3,100 secondary schools. The last government mainly invited bids from schools in deprived areas, arguing that this was where radical changes such as the creation of academies were most needed. But Michael Gove, the Conservative education secretary, said on Wednesday he expected the bulk of secondaries to become academies eventually. He has also invited applications from primaries, which were disbarred by Labour from bidding for academy status.
Are these academies the same as “free schools”?

Wendy Kopp: Marquette University 2010 Commencement Address

Video @ Marquette University:

Wendy Kopp is founder and chief executive of Teach For America. She proposed the creation of Teach For America in her 1989 undergraduate senior thesis at Princeton University and has spent the past 20 years working to sustain and grow the organization. Today, 7,300 corps members teach in 35 urban and rural regions across the country. The organization expanded to Milwaukee in 2009, and Marquette is one of two area universities that provides course work for corps members.
Kopp gave the Commencement address to Marquette’s Class of 2010 on May 23, 2010 at the Bradley Center. More than 2,000 graduating students, their family and friends, and members of the Marquette community attended.

Clusty Search: Wendy Kopp.

The Way of the Future: Carpe Diem

Matthew Ladner:

Last week I visited the Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma Arizona. Yuma is off the beaten path, in far western Arizona near the borders of California and Mexico.
Carpe Diem is a 6-12 school with 240 students. A value added analysis of test scores found that they have the biggest gains in the state of Arizona. Their math results are really off the chart, with some grades averaging at the 98th percentile on Terra Nova.
Carpe Diem is a hybrid model school, rotating kids between self-paced instruction on the computer and classroom instruction. Their building is laid out with one large computer lab, with classroom space in the back. They had 240 students working on computers when I walked in, and you could have heard a pin drop.
Carpe Diem has successfully substituted technology for labor. With 6 grade levels and 240 students they have only 1 math teacher and one aide who focuses on math. Covering 6-12 and 240 students and getting the best results with a demographically challenging student body = no problem for Carpe Diem. Their founder, Rick Ogston, told me they use less staff than a typical model, and have cash reserves in the bank despite relatively low per pupil funding in AZ. They have never received support from philanthropic foundations, making due with state funding, but their model seems like it could be brought to scale with the right investment.

Towns Challenge New Jersey Voters’ Wishes

Winnie Hu:

After years of frustration over school taxes, New Jersey residents turned out in record numbers last month to reject 58 percent of their school districts’ budget proposals — sounding an unmistakable call to arms that echoed across the country.
But in the weeks since, many of the 316 defeated budgets have been adopted with few, if any, changes by town councils, where members risked thwarting the will of voters — and incurring their wrath — rather than cut sports, lay off teachers or increase class sizes.
In Ridgewood, an affluent village in Bergen County known for its schools, the Council whittled $100,000 from the proposed $84.9 million budget, or 0.1 percent. Average savings to taxpayers: $12 per year.

A Financial Audit of the Seattle Public Schools

Linda Shaw:

If Seattle Public Schools didn’t have enough financial problems already, it now has a few of its own making.
The latest audit of the state’s largest school district says the district overpaid employees by at least $335,000 in the 2008-09 school year, made several mistakes in its financial statements, and continues to claim more Native American students than it can document.
District officials called the errors unacceptable and pledged to fix them, while at the same time saying that it brought most of them to the auditor’s attention and that they are a very small part of the district’s budget.
The overpayment of salaries, for example, represents a small fraction of 1 percent of the district’s $558 million budget, said Duggan Harmon, the district’s executive director of finance.
Harmon also said none of the problems will add to the $27 million in expenses that the district already is planning to cut from its budget for the 2010-11 school year.

In college admission process, tough choices

Jay Matthews:

I once interviewed Alyson Barker, a former student at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, about her attempt to use the college admission process to drive her relationship with her parents into a ditch.
Barker’s parents wanted her to attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, a fine state school with lower tuition for Virginia residents. Barker told them, with a 17-year-old’s irritating certitude, that instead she would attend a small, expensive private school in Ohio.
Because so many area families are starting their college searches, I am going to write a few columns on the hidden pitfalls of the process. I started last week warning against overlooking the quality of campus extracurricular activities. That was important but, I realize now, not the right place to begin.

Teachers’ Strike in Paradise

Reason TV:

South Orange County is a suburban paradise is southern California. The climate is unbeatable, the surfing is great and the public schools are performing well. But not everything is perfect in the Capistrano Unified School District.
In April 2010, 2,200 teachers went on strike for three days after the school board imposed a 10 percent pay cut. The children who attended school during the strike had to walk past their teachers who, instead of preparing for class, were marching in front of the school with picket signs reading “It’s not about the money” and “We’d rather be teaching.”
Some parents honked in support of the union as they drove by. Other parents were frustrated by union members who were unwilling to work out a compromise with a district that is facing a $34 million budget deficit. Lots of parents talked about using the strike as “a teaching moment.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Easy Money, Hard Truths & Local Maintenance Referendum Audit?

David Einhorn:

Are you worried that we are passing our debt on to future generations? Well, you need not worry.
Before this recession it appeared that absent action, the government’s long-term commitments would become a problem in a few decades. I believe the government response to the recession has created budgetary stress sufficient to bring about the crisis much sooner. Our generation — not our grandchildren’s — will have to deal with the consequences.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, the United States’ structural deficit — the amount of our deficit adjusted for the economic cycle — has increased from 3.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2007 to 9.2 percent in 2010. This does not take into account the very large liabilities the government has taken on by socializing losses in the housing market. We have not seen the bills for bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and even more so the Federal Housing Administration, which is issuing government-guaranteed loans to non-creditworthy borrowers on terms easier than anything offered during the housing bubble. Government accounting is done on a cash basis, so promises to pay in the future — whether Social Security benefits or loan guarantees — do not count in the budget until the money goes out the door.
A good percentage of the structural increase in the deficit is because last year’s “stimulus” was not stimulus in the traditional sense. Rather than a one-time injection of spending to replace a cyclical reduction in private demand, the vast majority of the stimulus has been a permanent increase in the base level of government spending — including spending on federal jobs. How different is the government today from what General Motors was a decade ago? Government employees are expensive and difficult to fire. Bloomberg News reported that from the last peak businesses have let go 8.5 million people, or 7.4 percent of the work force, while local governments have cut only 141,000 workers, or less than 1 percent.

Locally, the Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, 6/1 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget, which looks like it will raise property taxes at least 10%. A number of issues have arisen around the District’s numbers, including expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum.
I’ve not seen any updates on Susan Troller’s April, 12, 2010 question: “Where did the money go?” It would seem that proper resolution of this matter would inform the public with respect to future spending and tax increases.

Seattle Schools Chief Maria Goodloe-Johnson Heads into Board Evaluation on the Heels of Scathing Surveys

Nina Shapiro:

Is Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson in for a drubbing tomorrow?
The school board will hear a report from a local consulting company that summarizes what individual board members have said about the superintendent in one-on-one interviews, as well as what Goodloe-Johnson has said about herself.
The report will be used for a formal evaluation of the superintendent and will help determine whether she gets a raise and an additional bonus. It will also influence whether her contract, which runs through 2012, is extended.
If the report is anything like a recent community group’s survey, Goodloe-Johnson is in trouble.

Melissa Westbrook has more.

Is the public turning against teachers unions?

Jo-Ann Armao:

Kurt Schmoke, the former mayor of Baltimore who helped broker the contract agreement between D.C. schools and its teachers union, had strong words for those who wanting to improve education. “Stop demonizing the unions,” he told an education roundtable convened Wednesday at the Aspen Institute. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan quickly seconded his message. I couldn’t help wondering if the two had happened to catch Monday night’s final episode of “Law & Order.”
The program, centered on a frantic search to find a blogger threatening to assault a New York City high school, deals with some of the thorny issues of school management and reform. The program’s title, “The Rubber Room,” comes from the real-life temporary reassignment centers where New York City teachers who are facing disciplinary action are sent. For those who are less avid “Law & Order” fans and missed the show, detectives first suspect a deranged student, but it turns out the blogger, called Moot, is a teacher who had been sent to a rubber room after he was falsely accused of molesting a student.

Gove invites every UK state school to bid for academy status

Richard Garner:

Academy status will become the norm for state secondary schools, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, forecast yesterday.
Mr Gove revealed he had written to every state school head in England – primary, secondary and special – urging them to consider putting in a bid for academy status.
If they take up his offer, it would bring to an end 108 years of local authorities running the vast majority of state schools. Mr Gove predicted that secondary schools would initially be more interested in taking up the offer than primaries. “I anticipate that’s likely to be the case [for academy status to be the norm for secondary schools],” he added. “However, I’m not putting a time limit on it. It’s up to the schools to decide.”

More here.

NCAA cracks down on correspondence courses

Alan Scher Zagier:

The NCAA has a message for would-be college athletes hoping to use online courses to bolster their high school transcripts: proceed with caution.
The organization announced Tuesday that it will stop accepting course credit from two virtual schools based in Utah and Illinois as part of a move to strengthen high school eligibility standards in Division I.
That means no more high school credit from Brigham Young University’s independent study program. The school in Provo, Utah, has previously been targeted by NCAA investigators and federal prosecutors pursuing claims of academic fraud at Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, Nicholls State and Barton County Community College in Kansas.
Also on the prohibited list is the American School, a correspondence program based in Lansing, Ill.
New NCAA rules approved last month require “regular access and interaction” between teachers and students in the 16 core courses required to establish initial eligibility for new college athletes.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New York Is Almost Out of Cash

Betsy McCaughey:

Guess how long it is before the state of New York runs out of cash? Less than a week, according to the state’s comptroller.
On June 1, New York is due to send $3.8 billion in aid to local school districts, including $2.1 billion that was supposed to be paid in March but not sent for lack of funds. Yet New York is still $1 billion short. This could affect school operations, the solvency of any business that sells goods or services to the state, the paychecks of state workers, and ultimately home values.
At the state capitol in Albany, you wouldn’t sense there’s a crisis. The state senate still meets only half a work-week, Monday evening through Wednesday. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators (in the majority) are shuttling back and forth between Albany and the Democratic Party’s state nominating convention at the Rye Town Hilton in Westchester County, 150 miles away.
The crowded meeting rooms and festooned ballrooms are where you’ll find the action. Legislators are securing their nominations for another two-year term. Never mind that legislative malpractice is to blame for the cash running out.a

The Swedish module: Overhauling England’s Education System with Privately Run schools

David Turner:

Lesley Surman, a 42-year-old housewife and mother of three – “working class and proud of it” – wants to set up a new secondary school in the west Yorkshire village of Birkenshaw.
Mrs Surman is no fantasist. She is part of a group of about 60 activists trying to establish the school in 2013 because she harbours doubts about the alternatives available to local parents. “We want to get back to core values, pastoral care and a school where you celebrate winning.” Instead of offering “beauty therapy and mechanics” – vocational subjects increasingly offered in the state sector – she would prefer a focus on nine or so academic subjects, including science and history.
The answer to her problems could lie several hundred miles across the North Sea. Tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, outlining the ruling coalition’s legislative priorities, is expected to use Sweden’s “free schools” as a model for an overhaul of the English education system, making it easier for parents and teachers to create privately run but state-funded primary and secondary schools.
“Free” in the sense of independent, these private establishments were introduced in 1995 to provide greater choice for parents unable to afford the fees for Sweden’s tiny (now even tinier) privately funded sector. Underpinning the policy of the country’s centre-right government was the free-market principle that competition would raise standards in all schools as state institutions were forced to work harder to keep up.
The government has similar hopes for England (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own education policies) – where, in spite of large numbers of private, fee-charging, schools, 93 per cent of children are state educated.

Related Links: The Guardian’s Editorial.
The Prime Minister’s Office:

“Legislation will be introduced to…give teachers greater freedom over the curriculum and allow new providers to run state schools.”
The purpose of the Bill is to:
Give full effect to the range of programmes envisaged in the Coalition agreement.
The main benefits of the Bill will be:

  • To give all schools greater freedom over the curriculum
  • To improve school accountability
  • To take action to tackle bureaucracy
  • To improve behaviour in schools

The main elements of the Bill are:

  • To provide schools with the freedoms to deliver an excellent education in the way they see fit.
  • To reform Ofsted and other accountability frameworks to ensure that head teachers are held properly accountable for the core educational goals of attainment and closing the gap between rich and poor.
  • To introduce a slimmer curriculum giving more space for teachers to decide how to teach.
  • To introduce a reading test for 6 year olds to make sure that young children are learning and to identify problems early.
  • To give teachers and head teachers the powers to improve behaviour and tackle bullying.
  • We expect standards across the education sector to rise through the creation of more Academies and giving more freedom to head teachers and teachers. We will also ensure that money follows pupils, and introduce a ‘pupil premium’ so that more money follows the poorest pupils.

No Benefit in Delayed Immunization

Jennifer Corbett Dooren:

With young children receiving twice as many vaccines as they did 25 years ago, many parents are seeking to postpone at least some shots. A new study, though, finds no benefit to a child’s development in delaying vaccines, and doctors warn that waiting can expose kids to possible disease.
One of the researchers, Michael J. Smith, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, says some parents request alternative immunization schedules out of concern that getting so many vaccines in such a short time period might lead to health problems later on.
Dr. Smith and Charles R. Woods, also a pediatric infectious-disease specialist, looked at results of intelligence, speech and behavior tests conducted on children several years after receiving their infant vaccines and found few differences between children who were vaccinated on schedule and those who waited. “This study suggests that delaying vaccines does not give infants any advantage in terms of brain development,” Dr. Smith said. Published online Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics, the study is believed to be the first to address the issue of delayed vaccination.

Entering the U.S. Market

Jennifer Epstein:

The law of supply and demand drove SKEMA, a French business school, to open campuses in the emerging markets of China and Morocco, and to start planning for expansion into India, Brazil and possibly Russia.
But the decision to set up shop in the United States was driven by something a bit more emotional. “For European students, this is a dream; America is a dream for them,” says Alice Guilhon, the school’s dean. “And it is a dream for us, to be known in the U.S.”
While Harvard Business School, the Wharton School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business might not be the kind of competition that most institutions would willingly seek out, well-regarded European business schools like SKEMA have in the last few years ratcheted up their efforts to be known and respected in the United States.
SKEMA — created last year by the merger of ESC Lille School of Management and CERAM Business School – is hoping to build its global reputation by situating its new campuses near hubs of the technology industry, and saw a venture in the United States as key to that strategy. “To be in America is to be close to the headquarters of all the big firms, to be where the story began,” Guilhon says. “To be well-known in America, it is leverage for the visibility of the school in the world.”

Comedian Not Laughing at Graduate’s Speech

Dave Itzkoff:

The congratulations offered by the comedian Patton Oswalt to Brian Corman, the Columbia University 2010 School of General Studies valedictorian, in a Twitter message on Tuesday were hardly heartfelt. The message linked to an online video showing that Mr. Corman’s valedictory speech had appropriated material from Mr. Oswalt’s stand-up routine. The Twitter message drew an apology from the student and a statement by the university that it was “deeply distressed.” On his Twitter account Mr. Oswalt, right, a star of “The King of Queens” and “Ratatouille,” wrote: “Congrats to Columbia University valedictorian Brian Corman! Great speech.”

Online or Bust: An Educational Manifesto

Steve Isaac:

In this postrecession, digital era, colleges must reevaluate how accessible they are–or, often, how inaccessible they really are–to their potential customers, or, as you call them, “college students.” Schools must change their business models to attract more students if they have any hope of surviving in the current competitive economic environment.
Over the past 10 years, we have seen a definitive shift from brick-and-mortar to online offerings across most industries. If 20 years ago you were told that shopping malls would be cannibalized by online shopping sites like eBay (EBAY) and (AMZN), and that movies would be accessed online through Netflix (NFLX) instead of at the movie theater, many of us would have found that difficult to believe. Yet the companies that failed to adapt to the digital consumer’s demand for instant, online access struggled or failed. And for the companies actively marketing online to consumers with infinite options at their fingertips, competition has never been tougher. Online consumers today are looking for the best, most reliable bargain.

Voters face tough choice: pay up or shutdown

Carolyn Jones:

Alameda voters embark today on a monthlong, mail-only election to decide whether taxes will be raised to support public schools. Both sides describe the outcome as Armageddon for the quiet island city.
Measure E is a parcel tax that would give Alameda some of the highest school taxes in the Bay Area: Homeowners would pay $659 a year and business owners would owe up to $9,500 annually per parcel.
If it passes, many small business owners, already struggling with the recession, say they’ll be forced to close, stripping Alameda of its mom-and-pop charm. If the measure fails, the district’s superintendent warns that half the schools in town would close.
“If this doesn’t pass, all bets are off in Alameda,” said Encinal High School Principal Mike Cooper, a fifth-generation Alamedan. “We’re watching the collapse of public education. We’ve been trying to make this work, but something’s got to give.”

On runoff scholarships and college hoops

Eamonn Brenna:

You know what would be, like, a total buzzkill? Signing a scholarship to play collegiate basketball at a major institution, making good on your end of the commitment, and then finding out after a year — or two or three — that, hey, thanks for coming, but we kind of need that scholarship for someone vastly more talented now. Would you mind transferring? This is where we the school will kindly remind you that your scholarship is a one-year, merit-based, renewable document, and we are under no obligation to extend it for another year should we choose not to. Any questions?
Harsh, bro. Harsh. The practice of sending players away via transfer to make room for scholarships is called a runoff, and it happens more frequently than it should — which is to say it shouldn’t happen at all.
Typically, runoff players transfer quietly, moving on from their schools with little protest. Sometimes, though, a player or a player’s family gets angry about what they see as a raw deal. Sometimes they talk to the media. These are important moments; they draw the curtain back on one of college basketball’s most unfair, exploitative policies, and they’re worth discussing when they arrive.
Last year’s biggest such moment came when Kentucky coach John Calipari oversaw the transfer of seven players leftover from Billy Gillispie’s tenure at the school. Several of those players publicly claimed they forced out of the program, while Calipari insisted that he merely told those players they likely wouldn’t get much playing time if they decided to stay at UK.

Wisconsin DPI Receives $13.8M in Federal Tax Funds for “an interoperable data system that supports the exchange of data and ad hoc research requests”

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

State Superintendent Tony Evers issued a statement today on the $13.8 million, four-year longitudinal data system (LDS) grant Wisconsin won to support accountability. Wisconsin was among 20 states sharing $250 million in competitive funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“Receiving this U.S. Department of Education grant is very good news for Wisconsin and will allow us to expand our data system beyond its current PK-16 capacity. Through this grant, the Department of Public Instruction will work with the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities to develop an interoperable data system that supports the exchange of data and ad hoc research requests.
“Teacher quality, training, and professional development are key factors in improving student achievement. However, Wisconsin’s aging teacher licensing and certification system is insufficient for today’s accountability demands. This grant will allow us to improve our teacher licensing system and incorporate licensing data into the LDS, which will drive improvement in classroom instruction and teacher education.

2. Post-graduation Information Available to Wisconsin Schools

Public schools in Wisconsin can now obtain, at no cost, post-graduation student data for local analysis.
The Department of Public Instruction recently signed a contract with the National Student Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization which works with more than 3,300 postsecondary institutions nationwide to maintain a repository of information on enrollment, degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other educational achievements.
The NSC data can answer questions such as
Where in the country, and when, do our high school graduates enroll in college?
How long do their education efforts persist?
Do they graduate from college?
What degrees do they earn?
The DPI will integrate information about graduates from Wisconsin high schools into the Wisconsin Longitudinal Data System (LDS). In addition, any public high school or district in Wisconsin can use the NSC StudentTracker service to request similar data for local analysis.

Prep Profile: John Martin, Madison East

Dennis Semrau:

Year: senior
Sports: swimming, tennis, soccer
Swimming highlights: John is a four-time letterwinner and two-year captain at East. He was a member of three state-qualifying relays his senior year. He earned All-State honorable mention for the 200 freestyle relay, which tied for seventh at the WIAA Division 1 state meet. He also swam on the 200 medley relay (16th) and 400 freestyle relay (13th). He earned Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Academic All-State honors and the team’s Purgolder Award for leadership his senior year. He was an alternate at state as a junior and named the team’s Most Improved Swimmer his freshman year.
Other sports highlights: John is a four-year member of the Purgolders’ JV tennis team as a doubles player. As a senior, he is playing No. 1 doubles with Aaron Lickel and they have a 15-4 record. He earned a varsity letter as a sophomore when was an alternate for East at the state tournament. He played soccer as a freshman and on the JV team as a senior.

The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students

Cristina Sepe and Marguerite Roza via a Deb Britt email:

K-12 school districts that lay off teachers by seniority, a policy known as “last in, first out,” disproportionately affect the programs and students in their poorer and more minority schools than in their wealthier, less minority counterparts.
Looking at the 15 largest districts in California, researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that teachers at risk of layoffs are indeed concentrated in schools with more poor and minority students.
In these districts, if seniority-based layoffs are applied for teachers with up to two years’ experience, highest-poverty schools would lose some 30 percent more teachers than wealthier schools, and highest-minority schools would lose 60 percent more teachers than would schools with the fewest minority students.

Complete report: 354K PDF.

We’re Firing the Wrong Teachers

Joel Klein:

Thousands of New York City’s strongest teachers are in danger of losing their jobs–with no consideration given to their talent, only how long they’ve been teaching. And the real losers will be children, says Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
When the principal at P.S. 40 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, talks about the impact on students of one of her best teachers, Malvola Lewis, her eyes fill with tears.
After growing up in homeless shelters, Lewis earned an education degree from Brooklyn College and returned to her old neighborhood to teach at P.S. 40, a historically hard-to-staff school. Now she’s one of the school’s strongest teachers; her students are making more progress than almost any other class in the school. And they love her.
Lewis is a terrific teacher. Despite her exceptional work, though, she (and thousands of teachers like her) may be laid off shortly because of antiquated seniority rules in New York City. The real losers will be children.
Teachers are professionals, and they deserve to be treated the way professionals in almost every other line of work are: evaluated based upon their work.

Seattle School District Files Appeal in “Discovery Math” Lawsuit Loss

Martha McLaren:

The District’s Appeal Brief is in — A link to the appeal is shown on the lower left.
The Seattle School District’s first brief in its appeal of Judge Spector’s decision was filed on Friday. To me, it is not surprising that its arguments are weak. I don’t think we could ever have scored this unprecedented victory had our case not been extremely well founded. Nonetheless, one can’t predict what the appeals panel will rule.
Basically, the brief restates the district’s original contention that, because the specified process was followed, any decision made by the board, (I might add — regardless of how it flouted overwhelming evidence) must stand. Also, the brief misstates and misinterprets many aspects of our case. One of the most egregious examples is the contention that the court overstepped its authority by making a decision on curriculum. Not so – the court simply remanded the board’s decision back to the board on the basis of the lack of evidence to support the decision.
We have 30 days to file our response brief (by June 21), and SPS has 15 days after (by July 6) to file its rebuttal. Our attorney tells me that a hearing will be scheduled after all briefs have been filed.

Much more on the initial, successful rollback of Seattle’s Discovery Math program here

An Apology from a Teacher Who, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Know Everything

Mr. Foteah:

Today, when you were supposed to be reading your book, and while I was meeting with another student, I saw you writing something furiously. You are one of the few students in the class who regularly and dutifully records your thoughts on post-its, and, when I excused myself from my conference to come see what you were doing, I expected to see just that. However, when I asked you what you were doing, you told me about your book. I listened, but continued to glance at what you were trying to hide under your arm. When I saw it, I was less than happy. You were doing last night’s homework, and I was livid.
I did not react as I should have. Taking your paper and crumpling it was inappropriate. Had I thought for a moment, instead of reacting instantly, I would have remembered that you are one of the most diligent, hard-working students in the class. I would have realized something was amiss.
I should have asked you why you didn’t do your homework, rather than make rash assumptions. But I didn’t. Instead, I tossed your paper in the trash and returned to the other student, without a word to you or even a glance back, thinking that you’d receive the message of disappointment and disdain I sought to deliver. (Maybe I didn’t want to see the horror that had surely set upon your face).
When I finished with the other student, I called you over to my desk and told you to sit. Again, I seethed, and let my emotions get the best of me. I continued to lecture you and said I was upset with two things: you didn’t do your homework, and you lied to me.

Once struggling to learn English, student now heads for Harvard med

Jim Stingl:

When he moved to Milwaukee from a tiny town in Mexico, Carlos Torres couldn’t speak a word of English. Not even hello or goodbye.
He was a frightened kid, plunked into fifth grade at a south side Milwaukee school. His family – he’s the youngest of 10 children – rented a place near 14th and Lincoln.
Now, a mere dozen years later, Carlos is a standout graduate of Marquette High School and, as of last weekend, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Faced with an enviable choice among four medical schools that accepted him, he has chosen Harvard on a full-tuition scholarship. He’s the first member of his family to graduate from college.
As American dreams go, this one’s pretty vivid.
Carlos became an American citizen, by the way. You may already be wondering about that. We’re living in sensitive times when it comes to immigration issues. Carlos admits he was tempted to wear a shirt to UW graduation saying, “Do I look legal? Want to see my papers?” but he thought better of it.

N.J. taxpayers question school administrators’ pay

James Osborne:

Lately, when Cheryl Gismonde logs onto her Facebook account, she often finds messages that veer wildly from the usual array of restaurant recommendations and photos of other people’s children.
A recent post from one of her friends reads: “Burlington County has 39 school districts!! So let’s figure the average Super makes $150K, maybe an assistant at $100K, and a Business Administrator at $90K. That’s approx. $13 million and some of these Supers have districts with just 2-3 schools. Entirely too much $$ wasted on positions that arent hands-on with the ki. . .ds.”
Similar messages are being posted by friends and fellow parents from around South Jersey on an almost daily basis, said Gismonde, a mother of three living in Cherry Hill.
“People are starting to get angry. They’re asking why we need to give up teachers when we’re floating another $50,000 to an administrator,” she said. “People are posting this person’s salary and that person’s salary. It’s getting pretty crazy.”
With public schools across New Jersey facing historic budget cuts next school year, taxpayers – and the governor’s office – are turning their attention to the matter of school administrator pay.
The average salary for a superintendent in New Jersey is $154,409, about $9,000 above the national average but below that of other states in the region, according a 2008 report commissioned by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA).

Student Sues School for Damages in Sexting Case

Kim Zetter:

A former Pennsylvania high school student has sued school and county officials for damages in a controversial sexting case.
The student alleges a violation of her constitutional rights, in a civil suit filed last week that could serve as a cautionary tale to other officials considering punishing students over risque self-portraits.
In the complaint filed in a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, the former student — identified only as “N.N.” — accuses former District Attorney George P. Skumanick, Jr., principal Gregory Ellsworth, the Tunkhannock School District and Wyoming County of violating her constitutional rights (.pdf). The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The complaint alleges that officials had no probable cause to seize and search her phone, and violated her privacy and her right to free expression by punishing her for storing nude and semi-nude photos of herself on her phone.

KidGrid iPod app tracks local students’ progress

Gayle Worland:

To track how well Johnny could read last week — and the week before that — Gina Tortorice can now drag her finger across the front of an iPod Touch and watch her student’s progress.
The first-grade teacher is one of 11 educators at the adjacent Black Hawk Middle and Gompers Elementary schools using KidGrid, an experimental iPod application designed by UW-Madison researchers to make documenting student progress frequent, instantaneous and high-tech.
“It’s been very powerful for teachers, because they can keep track of data over time to see trends, and they can see specific growth in student learning,” said Anne Schoenemann, an instructional resource teacher at Gompers. “What we really need to be doing is moving into the technology age and supporting teachers with the tools they need to collect data in an efficient manner – and paper and pencil doesn’t always do it.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California’s budget crisis – The largest state is in the largest hole

The Economist:

COMPARISONS between California and the land of Socrates have become frequent recently. They are different, of course. California is nowhere near defaulting on its debts (though rating agencies consider that risk greater in California than in the other 49 states). But California has become America’s symbol of fiscal mismanagement as Greece is now Europe’s.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s lame-duck governor, conceded as much on May 14th, when he updated his budget proposal to the legislature. After several rounds of painful spending cuts, California is now contemplating a budget that is, when adjusted for inflation and population growth, smaller than it was a decade ago. And yet the state still confronts a budget hole estimated at $17.9 billion in the current and coming fiscal years. Mr Schwarzenegger, a Republican in a high-tax state, wants to plug that hole without raising taxes, with more cuts and some federal aid.

Cuts spare highest ranks of central office school staffs

Maureen Downey:

The AJC examined the oft-made charge that schools are not cutting many high-salaried central office while they slash and burn their way through the teacher ranks. Turns out it’s true.
The AJC analysis found that while metro school districts have laid off “central office staff,” most of those cuts are lower-salaried jobs, not high-paid administrators. (Many of these folks function as cabinets to the superintendents, and I think few leaders ever want to get rid of their personal posses.)
In the story, central office staffs are defended as behind-the-scenes lifelines, who help and support schools. But are these folks in “adviser” and “expert” roles any real help to teachers and students? Or do a lot of people at the top only put more pressure on the bottom?
According to the AJC analysis: (This is only an excerpt. Please, read the whole piece.)

More than 1,000 public school administrators in metro Atlanta earn more than $100,000 a year, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of school salary data shows.
The review shows that Atlanta Public Schools, the smallest of metro Atlanta’s major school districts, has the highest administrative costs. Cobb County, while having the second-largest student population in the state, has one of the smallest central-office staffs and some of the lowest costs. DeKalb schools have more people making $100,000-plus a year than any district.
The AJC analysis comes as metro school districts are laying off more than 1,500 teachers, increasing class sizes and cutting budgets by tens of millions of dollars. While districts say they are also cutting “central office staff,” most of those cuts are lower-salaried jobs, not high-paid administrators.
Stuart Bennett, executive director of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, says central office pay is not out of line.
“I don’t think they’ve just pulled these salaries out of thin air,” he said. “A lot of districts have done salary studies with private industry. It looks like a lot of people are making those salaries, but we have a couple of districts whose budgets are around a billion dollars.”
On average in Georgia, the central office accounts for 5 percent of a district’s operating budget. In metro Atlanta, that average increases to 6 percent. But Atlanta Public Schools spends nearly 10 percent of its budget on administration.

Polk County Superintendent of Schools: Let the Selection Proceed

The Ledger:

And then there were two. Friday’s abrupt withdrawal by Robert Schiller from consideration as Polk County school superintendent leaves two candidates to replace Gail McKinzie, who will retire near year’s end.
It also leaves in its wake a big divide between Polk Businesses for World Class Education – which pledged $50,000 to assure a nationwide search for a replacement – and the School Board. The board meets Tuesday to make a selection and to hear a plea from Polk Businesses’ Hunt Berryman, who said the entire process should begin anew.
“The whole thing is a sham and a shame,” Berryman said. He’s particularly upset at School Board member Frank O’Reilly, who asked Schiller if he’d ever applied for another superintendent’s position in Florida.
When Schiller said yes (15 years ago in Palm Beach County), O’Reilly asked a follow-up: “Never applied in Pinellas County?”
Schiller replied, “No, not that I can recall.” Caught by an Internet search (the information was on the St. Petersburg Times’ website), Schiller later told O’Reilly he should have asked the question “in private.”

School hopes to restore music in Afghanistan

Jerry Harmer:

From the outside, it looks like any other school in Kabul. A red two-story building is sealed off from the street by a high wall. A few trees stand in the front yard. Children constantly go in and out.
But listen carefully. When the noise of the traffic dies down, you can hear the gentle sounds of violins being played and the patter of drums. In this city where music was illegal less than a decade ago, a new generation of children is being raised to understand its joys.
“This school is unique in Afghanistan,” said Muhammad Aziz, a 19-year-old student who dreams of becoming one of the world’s greatest players of the tabla, a South Asian drum. “It’s the only professional music school and there are so many good teachers here.”
The new National Institute of Music has been offering some courses for the past several months, but the formal opening will be later in May.

Students tell of a violent side of life

Serinah Ho:

Shocking findings about violence and abuse at schools have been revealed in a survey of secondary students.
About seven in 10 students questioned by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said they have been victims of physical violence and verbal abuse, while a third have been sexually harassed.
More than half of the 1,800 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between December and February, admitted they have bullied schoolmates, though this sort of bad behavior lessens as they grow more mature.
On that, Chen Ji-kang, an assistant professor at the university’s department of social work, said there is a higher incidence of violence among juniors, particularly Form One students, and boys are usually the aggressors.
On positive interaction between students, Chen said support from friends is crucial for victims.

Moonshine or the Kids?

Nicholas Kristof:

There’s an ugly secret of global poverty, one rarely acknowledged by aid groups or U.N. reports. It’s a blunt truth that is politically incorrect, heartbreaking, frustrating and ubiquitous:
It’s that if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.
That probably sounds sanctimonious, haughty and callous, but it’s been on my mind while traveling through central Africa with a college student on my annual win-a-trip journey. Here in this Congolese village of Mont-Belo, we met a bright fourth grader, Jovali Obamza, who is about to be expelled from school because his family is three months behind in paying fees. (In theory, public school is free in the Congo Republic. In fact, every single school we visited charges fees.)

Three puzzles from Martin Gardner (1914-2010)

Philip Yam:

News of Martin Gardner’s death began circulating on Saturday night. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, here’s a taste of the kinds of puzzles he was famous for bringing to the world. Of course, he did much more: 15 years ago, I had the great honor of meeting him and his wife for a profile of him, which you can read here.
I still have the trick pen he gave me as a souvenir, one that I’ll show anyone who comes by my desk. (I’ll try to post a video of the pen.) It brings back fond memories of being shown his stash of magic tricks and gag gifts, his thoughtful comments on irrational beliefs, his experiences with mathematicians like Paul Erdős and the Gardners’ feeding of feral kittens that came to the back deck of the house every afternoon.

Saturation point: Teachers unions must stop trying to hamstring charter schools

New York Daily News Editorial:

The future of charter schools in New York hangs on negotiations between City Hall and teachers union President Michael Mulgrew. This is perverse.
The United Federation of Teachers is fighting to limit the growth of charters even as the state’s application for as much as $700 million in federal Race to the Top money demands letting the number of schools expand.
Mulgrew’s strategy has been to give the nod to upping the charter cap while trying to make it all but impossible for a sponsor to open one of these privately run, publicly funded academies. For example, by creating barriers to moving a charter into unused space in a public school building.
Although the city’s charter schools have almost universally racked up amazing achievement gains, the UFT resists them because most are not unionized. And the more successful charters have become, the greater the resistance has grown

Houston School District Wants Input on Strategic Direction for the District’s Future

Houston Independent School District:

The Houston Independent School District is in the midst of developing a long-term strategic plan that will provide a road map for the future as the district strives to become the best public school system in the nation. To ensure that all key stakeholders are engaged and involved in this process, HISD is inviting any member of the Houston community to give their input at an open discussion on Monday, May 24, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center’s board auditorium (4440 West 18th Street).
To develop a long-term Strategic Direction, HISD is working with the Apollo Consulting Group in a six-month effort that started in February 2010 and will culminate in August with the release of a final plan. The goal is to create a set of core initiatives and key strategies that will allow HISD to build upon the beliefs and visions established by the HISD Board of Education and to provide the children of Houston with the highest quality of primary and secondary education.
Over the past two months, HISD has been gathering input from members of Team HISD, as well as from parents and members of the Houston community, including faith-based groups, non-profit agencies, businesses, and local and state leaders. After analyzing feedback and conducting diagnostic research, a number of core initiatives have emerged. They include placing an effective teacher in every classroom, supporting the principal as the CEO, developing rigorous instructional standards and support, ensuring data driven accountability, and cultivating a culture of trust through action.
“True transformation cannot happen overnight and it cannot happen without the input from everyone at Team HISD and those in our community who hold a stake in the education of Houston’s children,” says Superintendent of Schools Terry B. Grier. “In order for it to be meaningful, we need everyone to lend their voice to the process and help us shape the future direction of HISD.”

Related: Madison School District Strategic Planning Process.

Program helps ex-foster youth navigate college

Nanette Asimov:

Sokhom Mao will do something today that few like him ever do: He’ll graduate from college.
Little about Mao appears unusual, except maybe his waist-length black hair. He’s 23, like many students who will walk the stage today at San Francisco State University. He majored in criminal justice, has applied for the usual summer internships and wants to become a politician.
What’s rare about this graduating senior is that he was raised in a group home since age 12. His mother had died, leaving him in the care of abusive relatives. Just 2 percent of foster youth earn a bachelor’s degree, research shows.
Mao is in that small club because of the Guardian Scholars, a program at San Francisco State that mimics, to the extent possible, the role of parents for students who have none.

Financial Manager Bobb, Detroit school board duke it out in court

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

The Detroit school board and its emergency financial manager battled over money and power in two Wayne County Circuit Court cases on Friday.
Irene Nordé, a math administrator for the Detroit Public Schools, testified Friday that state appointee Robert Bobb made changes to the curriculum that put students in jeopardy of not being able to pass standardized tests.
That’s because, she said, teachers have been instructed to focus on remediation, rather than moving students forward.
Nordé was subpoenaed by attorneys for the school board, which alleges that Bobb is violating state law by making academic decisions and not consulting with the board on financial plans as required by law.
Bobb refuted Nordé’s claim. “We’ll let the data speak for itself,” he said, referring to test scores.
The case, which will continue for another six to eight weeks, could determine who has authority over much-needed reform in a school district where students received the lowest scores on 2009 national math and reading tests.

Colorado gets millions for education data system

Jeremy Meyer:

Colorado won a $17.4 million federal grant to build a statewide data system that will link information about public school students from the time they enter preschool to when they graduate from college.
The grant was announced at noon by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Colorado was one of 20 states to share $250 million in stimulus funds intended to support the development of systems that link data across time and databases, from early childhood into careers, including matching teachers to students, according to the Institute of Education Sciences.
The student data will be kept private.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands applied for the grants. Colorado’s was the fourth largest grant.

Madison Police Department expands gang unit: 40 Gangs in Madison

Sandy Cullen:

Police estimate there are now more than 1,100 confirmed gang members in Madison and about 40 gangs, about 12 of which are the main Latino gangs.
The Dane County Enhanced Youth Gang Prevention Task Force recommended in August 2007 that a countywide gang coordinator’s position be considered. That group’s co-chairman, former Madison police Capt. Luis Yudice, who’s also security coordinator for the Madison School District, first called for a “comprehensive strategy so we can all work in unison” to address gang violence in September 2005.
Since then, Yudice said, staff in Madison schools are recognizing more issues involving gangs among students, which he attributes in part to greater awareness and training.
“We have gang-involved kids in probably most of our high schools and middle schools and some of our elementary schools,” he said. Staff do a good job of keeping gang activity out of the schools, he said, and work closely with students, families, police and social workers in an effort to keep students out of gangs.
Locally, the gang issue is not unique to Madison schools. “We’re seeing more gang activity in the suburban school districts,” Yudice said, as well as the emergence of hate groups targeting blacks and Latinos in Madison, Deerfield, Cottage Grove and DeForest.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio, video & links.

Hawaii’s Race to the Bottom

New York Times Editorial:

Summer vacation for Hawaii’s schoolchildren starts on Wednesday. About 170,000 young people will be hitting the beach, the mall, grandma’s house, the sofa — all the places they have already been spending most Fridays for nearly the entire school year. Seventeen school days were sliced out of their educations by a series of school-closing teacher furloughs to help close a nearly $1 billion state budget gap.
The furloughs were rightly deplored by parents and denounced by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and showed Hawaii’s political and education establishment at its worst. When the first “furlough Friday” happened last October, we didn’t imagine that Hawaii — which has one statewide school district with a lackluster record of achievement — would slouch through the rest of the school year without getting its kids back in their seats.

Know Your Madisonian: Mike Lipp on the teachers’ union, educating and coaching sports in Madison

Ken Singletary:

Mike Lipp is athletic director at Madison’s West High School. Previously, he was a science teacher at the school for 20 years, and coached swimming, soccer and baseball. He also was a science teacher in DeForest for 15 years.
Lipp, 59, this month began a one-year term as president of the teacher unit of Madison Teachers Inc., the union that represents teachers, related professionals and school support personnel. His grandmother and father-in-law were union members and he was in the United Auto Workers during a summer when he was a graduate student.
In your personal finances, what would you do if your expenses exceeded your revenue?
That happens in several levels, when you get a mortgage or when you get a car loan. I have never bought a car with cash. … Personally, you can operate in the red but governments have to operate in the black. It’s a funny system.

Some 2009 Email Messages to Comments @ the Madison School District

These two documents [1MB .txt or 2MB PDF] include some email messages sent to “” from 1/1/2009 through September, 2009.
I requested the messages via an open records request out of concerns expressed to me that public communications to this email address were not always making their way to our elected representatives on the Madison Board of Education. Another email address has since been created for direct public communication to the Board of education:
There has been extensive back and forth on the scope of the District’s response along with the time, effort and expense required to comply with this request. I am thankful for the extensive assistance I received with this request.
I finally am appreciative of Attorney Dan Mallin’s fulfillment (a few items remain to be vetted) and response, included below:

As we last discussed, attached are several hundreds of pages of e-mails (with non-MMSD emails shortened for privacy purposes) that:
(1) Are not SPAM / commercial solicitations / organizational messages directed to “school districts” generally
(2) Are not Pupil Records
(3) Are not auto-generated system messages (out of office; undeliverable, etc.)
(4) Are not inquiries from MMSD employees about how to access their work email via the web when the web site changed (which e-mails typically contained their home email address)
(5) Are not technical web-site related inquiries (e.g., this link is broken, etc.)
(6) Are not random employment inquiries / applications from people who didn’t know to contact the Human Resources department and instead used the comments address (e.g., I’m a teacher and will be moving to Madison, what job’s are open?).
(7) Are not geneology-related inquiries about relatives and/or long-lost friends/teachers/etc.
(8) Are not messages that seek basic and routine information that would be handled clerically(e.g., please tell me where I can find this form; how do I get a flyer approved for distribution; what school is ____ address assigned to; when is summer school enrollment, etc.)
Some of the above may have still slipped in, but the goal was to keep copying costs as low as possible. Once all of the e-mails within your original request were read to determine content, it took over 2 hours to isolate the attached messages electronically from the larger pool that also included obvious pupil records, but you’ve been more than patient with this process and you have made reasonable concessions that saved time for the District in other ways, and there will be no additional copying charge assessed.

It would be good public policy to post all communications sent to the District. Such a simple effort may answer many questions and provide a useful look at our K-12 environment.
I am indebted to Chan Stroman Roll for her never ending assistance on this and other matters.
Related: Vivek Wadhwa: The Open Gov Initiative: Enabling Techies to Solve Government Problems
Read more:

While grandma flips through photo albums on her sleek iPad, government agencies (and most corporations) process mission-critical transactions on cumbersome web-based front ends that function by tricking mainframes into thinking that they are connected to CRT terminals. These systems are written in computer languages like Assembler and COBOL, and cost a fortune to maintain. I’ve written about California’s legacy systems and the billions of dollars that are wasted on maintaining these. Given the short tenure of government officials, lobbying by entrenched government contractors, and slow pace of change in the enterprise-computing world, I’m not optimistic that much will change – even in the next decade. But there is hope on another front: the Open Government Initiative. This provides entrepreneurs with the data and with the APIs they need to solve problems themselves. They don’t need to wait for the government to modernize its legacy systems; they can simply build their own apps.

Dumbing Down the US Military Academies?

Bruce Fleming:

Instead of better officers, the academies produce burned-out midshipmen and cadets. They come to us thinking they’ve entered a military Camelot, and find a maze of petty rules with no visible future application. These rules are applied inconsistently by the administration, and tend to change when a new superintendent is appointed every few years. The students quickly see through assurances that “people die if you do X” (like, “leave mold on your shower curtain,” a favorite claim of one recent administrator). We’re a military Disneyland, beloved by tourists but disillusioning to the young people who came hoping to make a difference.
In my experience, the students who find this most demoralizing are those who have already served as Marines and sailors (usually more than 5 percent of each incoming class), who know how the fleet works and realize that what we do on the military-training side of things is largely make-work. Academics, too, are compromised by the huge time commitment these exercises require. Yes, we still produce some Rhodes, Marshall and Truman Scholars. But mediocrity is the norm.
Meanwhile, the academy’s former pursuit of excellence seems to have been pushed aside by the all-consuming desire to beat Notre Dame at football (as Navy did last year). To keep our teams in the top divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, we fill officer-candidate slots with students who have been recruited primarily for their skills at big-time sports. That means we reject candidates with much higher predictors of military success (and, yes, athletic skills that are more pertinent to military service) in favor of players who, according to many midshipmen who speak candidly to me, often have little commitment to the military itself.

Bruce Fleming website

Parent Survey of Seattle’s Superintendent

Melissa Westbrook:

One absolutely great thing that the folks at CPPS did was to include every single comment. There are pages of them so it takes awhile to read. But it is valuable reading because you start seeing a theme to them even as each one differs somewhat in its issue.
What did people say? If I had to sum it up, it would be two things. One, there is almost zero feeling that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson listens to parents. There were several comments that applauded her strong stance (which many others thought autocratic) or the changes she has made in the district . I didn’t see one comment saying she was approachable or was someone who collaborates well with the community.
Two, is the overwhelming sense that she is hurting the district, either through her lack of ability to engage/motivate/inspire and/or the amount of churn that she has caused in the district with not a lot to show for it in terms of results.

National Assessments Based on Weak “College and Career Readiness Standards”

Sandra Stotsky & Ze’ev Wurman [PDF]:

During the past year, academic experts, educators, and policy makers have waged a confusing and largely invisible war over the content and quality of Common Core’s proposed high school exit and grade-level standards. Some critics see little or no value to national standards, explaining why local or state control is necessary for real innovations in education and why “one size doesn’t fit all” applies as strongly to the school curriculum as it does to the clothing industry. On the other hand, some supporters believe so strongly in the idea of national standards that they appear willing to accept Common Core’s standards no matter how inferior they may be to the best sets of state or international standards so long as they are better than most states’ standards. In contrast, others who believe that national standards may have value have found earlier drafts incapable of making American students competitive with those in the highest-achieving countries. No one knows whether Common Core’s standards will raise student achievement in all performance categories, simply preserve an unacceptable academic status quo, or actually reduce the percentage of high-achieving high school students in states that adopt them.
All these alternatives are possible because of the lack of clarity about what readiness for college and workplace means – the key concept driving the current movement for national standards – and what the implications of this concept are for high school graduation requirements in each state and for current admission and/or placement requirements in its post-secondary institutions. There has been a striking lack of public discussion about the definition of college readiness (e.g., for what kind of college, for what majors, for what kind of credit-bearing freshman courses) and whether workplace readiness is similar to college readiness. According to Common Core’s own draft writers, these college readiness standards are aimed at community colleges, trade schools, and other non-selective colleges, although Common Core hasn’t said so explicitly.

New reading results put MPS near bottom among urban districts

Erin Richards & Amy Hetzner:

A new study comparing reading skills of fourth- and eighth-grade children in 18 urban school systems once again places Milwaukee Public Schools near the bottom of the ladder, a pattern of underachievement that gave voice to worries Thursday about the future of Milwaukee’s children and calls – yet again – for a greater sense of urgency to improve.
In a set of national reading tests, Milwaukee’s fourth-graders outperformed only Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia, while its eighth-graders outperformed only Detroit, Fresno, Calif., and Washington, D.C., according to the results of the Trial Urban District Assessment, a special project of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a periodic national assessment, often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, that allows for state-to-state comparisons in core academic subjects. The urban district study isolates scores among a number of the country’s high-minority, high-poverty school systems to better compare how those students are doing.
All of the voluntary participants in the program are from cities with populations of at least 250,000, ranging from districts serving Fresno, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., to those in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
This is the first time that Milwaukee Public Schools participated in the reading tests for the urban districts. Last year, results from the math tests also carried bad news for MPS, which did better than only Detroit at the eighth-grade level.

New curriculum: Math anxiety for students, teachers

Aileen Dodd & John Perry:

Under the state’s new math curriculum, lower scores plus a quicker pace of instruction equal greater anxiety for both students and their teachers.
“In my classes, I have 60 kids and only 17 are passing. You know how stressful that is on me?” said Donna Aker, a veteran math teacher at South Gwinnett High School.
It’s a problem common to many metro Atlanta schools. Nearly one in five ninth-graders in metro Atlanta last year got an F in Math I — the first year of the state’s new math curriculum in high school.
The math failure rate was more than double that experienced by the same group of kids in the eighth grade the year before.

Books in the home ‘boost children’s education’

Graeme Paton:

Keeping just 20 books in the home can boost children’s chances of doing well at school, according to a major study.
Regular access to books has a direct impact on pupils’ results, irrespective of parents’ own education, occupation and social class, it was claimed.
Researchers said that children coming from a “bookish home” remained in education for around three years longer than young people born into families with empty bookshelves.
The study, led by Nevada University, in the United States, comes despite continuing concerns over a decline in reading at school.
It is feared that some teachers are being forced to dump books – and teach children using basic worksheets – to boost their performance in literacy tests.
Michael Rosen, the former Children’s Laureate, has said that many pupils now go all the way through their formative years at school without reading a single novel.

Ethics of UC Berkeley’s gene testing questioned

Victoria Colliver:

Genetic watchdog groups want UC Berkeley to suspend plans to ask incoming freshmen and transfer students to supply a DNA sample to participate in what is considered the first mass genetic testing by a university.
Next month, about 5,500 first-year students will receive testing kits in the mail and be asked to submit DNA swabs to test three genes. The genes include those related to the ability to break down lactose, metabolize alcohol and absorb folates.
Berkeley officials said the university has followed appropriate privacy and consent procedures and has no intent to changes its plans.
But the Center for Genetics and Society, a Berkeley public interest organization, and the Council for Responsible Genetics, which is based in Cambridge, Mass., say the project disregards the potential harmful use of the information.

2010 Grads on the Job Chase

Tom Ashbrook:

We’re in graduation days for the Class of 2010. 1.6 million bright-faced young men and women getting undergraduate degrees, college diplomas, across the country.
And the job market? Brutal. It was brutal last year, of course. Now it’s brutal stacked on brutal. 19.6 percent unemployment for Americans under 25. The highest since 1948.
Just one in four new college grads who applied for a job has one. Twenty five percent. And many have applied for scores of jobs.
This Hour, On Point: we talk to the Class of 2010 about the job hunt – and survival strategies in the economy of 2010.

Ashbrook included a segment from media “star” Anderson Cooper’s commencement address at Tulane in his show. While not a fan of the generally thin coverage provided by the “Mainstream Media”, Cooper’s story of determination, risk and luck is worth a look:

When I graduated there were hiring freezes at most TV news networks. I tried for months to get an entry-level job at ABC news, answering phones, xeroxing, whatever, but I couldn’t get hired. At the time it was crushing. But in retrospect, not getting that entry-level job, was the best thing that could have happened to me.
After months of waiting, I decided if no one would give me a chance as a reporter, I should take a chance. If no one would give me an opportunity, I would have to make my own opportunity.
I wanted to be a war correspondent, so I decided to just start going to wars. As you can imagine, my mom was thrilled about the plan. I had a friend make a fake press pass for me on a mac, and I borrowed a home video camera… and I snuck into Burma and hooked up with some students fighting the Burmese government… then I moved onto Somalia in the early days of the famine and fighting there.
I figured if I went places that were dangerous, I wouldn’t have as much competition, and because I was willing to sleep on the roofs of buildings, and live on just a few dollars a day, I was able to charge very little for my stories. As ridiculous as it sounds, my plan worked, and after two years on my own shooting stories in war zones, I was hired by ABC news as a correspondent. I was the youngest correspondent they had hired in many years. Had I gotten the entry-level job I’d wanted, I would have never become a network correspondent so quickly, I probably would never have even become one at all. The things which seem like heartbreaking setbacks, sometimes turn out to be lucky breaks.

Colorado District Revolutionizes Salary Schedule, Or Does It?

Rob Manwaring:

For virtually every school district in the country teacher pay depends upon a teacher’s years of experience (steps) and some measure of educational attainment (columns). Harrison School District Two in Colorado made national news when it announced their new salary schedule which moves away from the step and column approach. There proposal appears to be a perfectly rational and balanced approach. See the charts below for more details. The district will conduct evaluations, incorporate outcomes, and consider level of educational experience. This data will annually be assessed to determine whether a teacher advances to the next pay level gets a raise, or advances to the next job description (gets a promotion). Presumably over time, teachers would receive a cost of living adjustment even if they stay at the same salary tier. Teachers will initially be placed on thin the new salary tiers with plenty of room to grow. If a teacher receives three consecutive poor evaluations, the teacher can go down a level.
What is shocking to anyone who doesn’t work in education, is that this a major innovation in teacher compensation. Prior to working for Education Sector, I worked for state government ( for the Legislature in California), and had basically the same type of salary structure being implemented by Harrison. Annually, I was reviewed, and based on the review of the work that I had done that year and an evaluation of my superior, I would either advance a tier or two (we had a few more tiers than this system). Over time, the super stars advanced a little faster than others, the generally effective staff advanced, but more slowly, and a few would remain at the same pay level for several years, and then many of them would decide this was not the profession for them.

Grammatical mistakes

Jeff Bell:

The progressive decline of students’ ability in English worries me as a secondary school teacher. Do people know students are no longer formally tested in grammar?
Instead, it would appear that our curriculum is leaning toward encouraging students to be more creative and expressive. I would argue that this can be beneficial as long as students have a basic understanding of the foundation in the language.
A glaringly clear example of this going wrong is when Chinese medium of instruction students, who cannot demonstrate a clear understanding of the tenses, are asked to have a group discussion about a book or film.

Governance Matters

Chad Alderman:

Nevada has recently been considering whether to change the way its state education agency is run. The governor has asked for the state superintendent to be part of the cabinet and for the power to name the state school chief. The legislature has turned down this request with a political argument, arguing the governor would have too much power under such an arrangement.

Finally — a school funding lawsuit is filed against California

Rachel Norton:

Today is a pretty big day for anyone who cares about school funding in California. This morning a broad coalition of people and organizations–individual students and parents, nine school districts (including SFUSD!), the state PTA, the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)–announced that a school funding adequacy lawsuit has been filed against the state.
The lawsuit, Robles-Wong v. California, requests that the current education finance system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to establish a school finance system that provides all students an equal opportunity to meet the academic goals set by the State.
In a press release, the plaintiffs said:

Speak Up and Celebrate “Eliza Doolittle Day”

Marc Acito
In Act 1 of “My Fair Lady”, Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl learning to speak like a lady, fantasizes about meeting the king. Of course, because it’s a musical, she sings:
One evening the king will say, ‘Oh, Liza, old thing — I want all of England your praises to sing. Next week on the twentieth of May, I proclaim Liza Doolittle Day.

Since I’m not Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn — or Marni Nixon, who sang for Audrey Hepburn in the movie, I’ll spare you the rest. But suffice it to say, Eliza envisions all of England celebrating her glory. The only ones who recognize Eliza Doolittle Day, however, are music theater geeks like me. And while an evening of cocktails and show tunes sounds like fun, it’s insufficient to mark the occasion because Eliza’s message is all too relevant today.
You see, “My Fair Lady” is based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, and both pieces explore the ramifications of learning how to speak properly at a time when elocution was valued as a symbol of education and upward mobility.
Emphasis on the was.
Listen to Franklin Delano Roosevelt say, “The only thing we have to feah is feah itself,” and it’s almost inconceivable that ordinary Americans trusted someone who sounded like Thurston Howell III. We are now in an age when Sarah Palin speaks to a quarter of the electorate, even though she talks like she’s translating into Korean and back again. Even the rhetorically gifted President Obama has felt compelled to drop his g’s while tryin’ to sell health care reform.
Nowadays, soundin’ folksy has become more important than sounding educated. As Eliza’s teacher Henry Higgins says, “Use proper English, you’re regarded as a freak.” But our country’s biggest competitors are learning proper English and, judging from all the Indian call centers, learning it quite well. Our country was built by people striving to move up, not dumbing down. So on this Eliza Doolittle Day, perhaps we should all take a moment to think before we speak.
Marc Acito is the author of How I Paid for College and Attack of the Theater People.

School attacks cut deep at China’s soul

Francesco Sisci:

They are no longer rare, random acts of one or two nutcases far from the rest of the country. A series of knife attacks in kindergartens has become the symptom of a virus lurking deep in the soul of the new China.
Premier Wen Jiabao said as much on May 13, a day after the fifth attack and as the death toll among children as young as three reached 16, with dozens also wounded since the first attack two months ago. “We need to resolve the deep-seated causes that have resulted in these problems,” Wen said in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television. “This includes handling social contradictions, resolving disputes and strengthening mediation at the grassroots level.”
According to The Global Times, a popular newspaper published by the official People’s Daily, police have foiled seven attacks at schools since the first killings. That was at the hands of Zheng Minsheng, an apparently deranged 42-year-old man who hacked eight children to death with a cleaver in the coastal province of Fujian on March 23 [1]. Zheng was convicted and executed on April 28, the day of the second successful attack, when 16 children were stabbed in a primary school in the southern province of Guangdong. The next day, 29 children and three teachers were wounded a kindergarten in Taixing, Jiangsu province, by another cleaver-wielding madman.

Investing in the Poor

Alex Tabarrok:

The Unincorporated Man is a science fiction novel in which shares of each person’s income stream can be bought and sold. (Initial ownership rights are person 75%, parents 20%, government 5%–there are no other taxes–and people typically sell shares to finance education and other training.)
The hero, Justin Cord a recently unfrozen business person from our time, opposes incorporation but has no good arguments against the system; instead he rants on about “liberty” and how bad the idea of owning and being owned makes him feel. The villain, in contrast, offers reasoned arguments in favor of the system. In this scene he asks Cord to remember the starving poor of Cord’s time and how incorporation would have been a vast improvement:

Government as Innovation Catalyst The $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” education program is showing how government can successfully drive systemwide innovation

Saul Kaplan:

The best use of government is as a catalyst for social system innovation. Yes, that’s right: “Innovation bureaucrat” need not be an oxymoron. Leaders should get the innovation reaction started–and then get out of the way.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is showing how it can be done. The “Race to the Top” program offers $4 billion in grants to states committed to reforming their education systems. Duncan outlined a clear goal of restoring the U.S. as a world leader in preparing students to succeed in college and the workplace and announced the first grants on Mar. 29, 2010–$100 million for Delaware and $500 million for Tennessee.

Public Schools Need a Bailout Washington didn’t let Wall Street fail. Why should we do less for our kids?

Randi Weingarten:

A number of sectors of the economy appear to be bouncing back. Housing starts, home foreclosures and job creation all show movement in the right direction. But the fiscal situation in most states will not improve for quite some time. And, for public schools, the coming year promises to be the worst yet of the economic downturn.
Years of budget cuts in the vast majority of school districts already have taken their toll, with sharp reductions in after-school programs, academic enrichment and other so-called extras. Most states have exhausted their federal stimulus funds, and many states long ago tapped out their financial reserves. School districts now are cutting into bone, eliminating classroom teachers and core academic offerings like foreign languages.
According to a survey of more than 80% of school districts by the American Association of School Administrators, 275,000 teachers and other school staff will receive pink slips. It’s not that these schools will educate fewer children, or that students won’t need the personnel and programs that will be cut. But the cuts could rob an entire generation of students of the well-rounded education they need and deserve. Class sizes will swell, and students will lose important classes and programs, such as art, music, physical education, Advanced Placement classes, and counseling and intervention programs for those who need the most help.

Too Cool for School: What the Valley Is Missing in Online Education

Sarah Lacy:

I always tell entrepreneurs outside of the Valley–whether they are in the middle of my country or a developing one–if they want to build the next great social media darling aimed at a Western audience, they’re probably better off moving to the Valley.
It’s not that you can’t do it elsewhere: The right entrepreneur at the right time with the right opportunity can largely build a great company anywhere. But in the Valley it’s easier to get funded, find the right talent and get acquired–which are three things most high-growth startups are going to need. In this new media game, connections matter at least as much as the best features and technology.
So with that in mind, I get excited when I see other countries exploiting holes that the Valley just isn’t going to tackle. One of those is mobile apps for non-smart-phones, as I’ve written about at length. Another is online education.
Online education was tried and mostly failed in the Valley in the late 1990s, with University of Phoenix a rare billion-dollar-plus win. Rosetta Stone is one of a few examples that’s made it big since, and despite some awesome software that approaches language learning in a new way, the company has still floundered since going public in 2009. Its stock is off its lows, but hardly soaring.

Autism’s effect on the ‘normal siblings’

When Gabby Abramowitz was younger, she was cautious about inviting new friends to the house. She wasn’t sure how they would react to her younger brother, Ben, who is autistic. And she didn’t want a repeat of the Simpsons incident. That was the time she had a friend over for dinner, and Ben sat at the table reciting the entire “Treehouse of Horror” Simpsons Halloween special.
Gabby pleaded with him to stop, but he persisted.
“My friend was like, ‘What’s going on?’ and then started laughing,” she said.
At that time, she was in elementary school and lacked the words and understanding to explain her brother’s condition. But with the help of her parents and through her own study, Gabby, now 16 and a sophomore at Tenafly High School, has grown to understand the nuances of autism and often speaks out to teach her peers while growing closer to Ben, 14.
Through her research, she found that her experiences, and those of others like her, often are overlooked. “I think the effect on siblings is underestimated. We get pushed into the background.”

Group links 4th-grade reading proficiency, national success

Greg Toppo:

If educators want to shrink the number of students who drop out of high school each year, they must greatly increase the number who can read proficiently by the time they’re in fourth grade, a key non-profit children’s advocacy group says in a new report.
The findings, out today from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, echoes research on reading proficiency going back decades, but it’s the first to draw a direct line between reading and the nation’s long-term economic well-being.
“The bottom line is that if we don’t get dramatically more children on track as proficient readers, the United States will lose a growing and essential proportion of its human capital to poverty,” the authors say.
Ralph Smith, the foundation’s executive vice president, says recent research shows that dropouts “don’t just happen in high school” but that students give clear indications as early as elementary school that they’re on a “glide path” to dropping out. Among the clearest signs: difficulty reading and understanding basic work that becomes more detail-oriented around fourth grade.

Valerie Strauss has more.

Waukesha Offers Teachers 0.8% and 1.51% Increases over the Next Two Years, Union Counters with 3.52 and 4.66%

Chris Lufter:

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would say that it is time for this community to support the Waukesha School Board. Currently, the Waukesha School Board and the Education Association of Waukesha are seeking arbitration over the latest contract negotiations due to a $5.7 million dollar discrepancy in salary and benefits between the two sides.
A little history is in order here. The qualified economic offer and revenue caps passed the state Legislature back in the early ’90s due to the ever increasing burden of salaries and Cadillac benefits placed on school district budgets and taxpayers. The QEO was designed to limit salary and benefit increases to 3.8 percent to avoid arbitration. Acknowledging that the QEO and revenue caps (the control on school spending) were out of line, the state Legislature eliminated the QEO. This was to help school boards limit or eliminate budget reductions seen every year.
There are several items in dispute between the EAW and the Waukesha School Board: restoring the insurance back to the WEA Trust (the state teachers-owned health insurance), reinstating and making permanent early retirement language and total compensation calculations.
First, the insurance. Traditionally the district has had to use WEA Trust for the teacher’s Cadillac insurance plan. There were minimal outof-pocket expenses to the employee, no contribution to the cost and a whopping $21,000-plus price tag (family plan). For the 2007-09 contract, the board successfully worked in a premium contribution of $20 for a single plan and $40 for a family plan per month from the employee. In addition, a $250/500 outof-pocket was added. The current school board proposal is looking to change this in the new contract to $500 single/$1000 family and a 10 percent premium contribution. These changes reflect what is really happening in the private sector today.

The DNA Assignment

Jennifer Epstein:

The University of California at Berkeley is an experimental place, and sometimes those experiments start as early as the summer before new students set foot on campus.
This summer, the university’s College of Letters and Science — home to three quarters of Berkeley’s 25,000 undergraduates — will ask freshmen and transfers to return a cotton swab covered in cells collected from their inner cheeks in an effort to introduce them to the emerging field of personalized medicine.
Like so many other institutions, the college usually asks students to read a specific book or watch an assigned movie in the weeks before classes start, to inform discussion during orientation and throughout the fall. But a reading assignment didn’t make sense for something as cutting-edge and personalized as genetic analysis.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Need More Union Members? Legislate Them

Jo Egelhoff:

How to increase union membership among non-government workers? Legislate it – and include it as a non-fiscal policy item in your state’s massive budget bill.
Just what the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its supporters did in 2008. And just what the SEIU did in earlier years, first establishing a pilot referral program in Dane County.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign provides the “follow-the-money” history: In 2002,”four SEIU locals made over $750,000 in independent expenditures, mostly on behalf of Dem primary candidate (and not coincidentally, Dane County Executive) Kathleen Falk. Eight SEIU locals inside and outside Wisconsin contributed another $190,000+, with “most of the contributions” going to Falk.
In 2004, SEIU locals contributed $17,500 to Governor Jim Doyle, not up for reelection that year. In 2006, the SEIU Political Education and Action Fund (SEIU PEA) made independent expenditures of $36,651 on behalf of Doyle. They also joined with AFSCME in sponsoring issue ads targeting Doyle opponent Mark Green, with plans to spend about $500,000.