Inquiry uncovers Head Start fraud

Greg Toppo:

Undercover investigators trying to enroll a handful of fictitious children in federally funded Head Start child care centers found that in about half of the cases, workers fraudulently misrepresented parents’ incomes, addresses and other information to allow kids to qualify for a slot.
In one instance, according to the investigators’ report, a Head Start worker in New Jersey handed back one of two pay stubs and told an investigator posing as a parent, “Now you see it, now you don’t.”
Prompted by anonymous tips to a fraud hotline, investigators with the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at centers in six states — California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia. In 13 of 15 cases, they tried to enroll children whose family incomes made them ineligible. In two more, families qualified but GAO wanted to find out if Head Start would count children as enrolled even if they never attended the program. In all, investigators found fraud in eight cases.

How Schools Can Achieve Obama’s Lofty Education Goals

Richard Whitmire , Andrew J. Rotherham:

Finding depressing education news is easy. The recession, combined with the waning of federal stimulus money, is about to trigger hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs–an “education catastrophe,” warns Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The layoffs will play out against a background of flat national reading scores and mediocre showings on international education rankings. Looming behind everything: the country’s much-debated school reform law, No Child Left Behind, has fallen into disrepute.
None of this can be sugarcoated; yet dwelling on the negatives masks some significant education breakthroughs that promise to pay dividends for years to come. Together they represent the country’s best shot at achieving President Obama’s ambitious goal of pushing the country back to the top of international education rankings–measured by college graduations by 2020.
These developments include breakthroughs on answering these questions:

A Very Bright Idea: What if you could get kids to complete two years of college by the time they finish high school?

Bob Herbert:

We hear a lot of talk about the importance of educational achievement and the knee-buckling costs of college. What if you could get kids to complete two years of college by the time they finish high school?
That is happening in New York City. I had breakfast a few weeks ago with Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, to talk about Bard High School Early College, a school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that gives highly motivated students the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and a two-year associate of arts degree in the four years that are usually devoted to just high school.
When these kids sail into college, they are fully prepared to handle the course loads of sophomores or juniors. Essentially, the students complete their high school education by the end of the 10th grade and spend the 11th and 12th grades mastering a rigorous two-year college curriculum.
The school, a fascinating collaboration between Bard College and the city’s Department of Education, was founded in 2001 as a way of dealing, at least in part, with the systemic failures of the education system. American kids drop out of high school at a rate of one every 26 seconds. And, as Dr. Botstein noted, completion rates at community colleges have been extremely disappointing.

Related: Credit for Non-Madison School District Courses.

On Teachers’ Unions, Accountability and School Reform


Education reform is “moving into prime time,” writes Steven Brill in the Times Magazine article “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand.” He looks at how Race to the Top, the charter-school movement and other factors are coming together to overhaul public education in the United States — and why teachers’ unions are resisting many of these reforms.
…[Race to the Top] has turned a relatively modest federal program (the $4.3 billion budget represents less than 1 percent of all federal, state and local education spending) into high-yield leverage that could end up overshadowing health care reform in its impact and that is already upending traditional Democratic Party politics. The activity set off by the contest has enabled [the school-reform network New Leaders for New Schools] to press as never before its frontal challenge to the teachers’ unions: they argue that a country that spends more per pupil than any other but whose student performance ranks in the bottom third among developed nations isn’t failing its children for lack of resources but for lack of trained, motivated, accountable talent at the front of the class.

Florida’s Class Size Amendment: Did it help students learn?

Paul Peterson:

If a state mandates that every school reduce class sizes, will students learn more? Since reducing class size is very expensive, that is a question state legislatures are asking themselves at a time when fiscal deficits are looming nearly everywhere. To that question, a just released study of the Florida Class Size Amendment says “No.” Telling schools they must reduce class size yields no benefit, it reports.
Florida is an interesting place to explore this issue, because students there have been improving at a faster rate than any other state in the union, according to Matt Ladner at the Goldwater Institute. Using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Ladner shows that student performance in 4th and 8th grade reading and math has leaped forward in Florida while it has remained stagnant in many other states.
Some have attributed the spectacular Florida gains to the state’s accountability system, its Just Read initiative, or the state’s school choice programs. But others have attributed the Florida gains to an amendment to the Florida Constitution, adopted by the voters in 2002, which requires every school district to reduce its average class size. To fulfill the purposes of the amendment, the Florida state legislature has in recent years allocated state funds that must be used for class size reduction in those districts not yet at the limit. The remaining districts have received comparable amounts to be used for any educational purpose they see fit.

Is education research all dreck

Daniel Willingham:

Sharon Begley, science editor at Newsweek, doesn’t have anything nice to say about education research. In a recent article, she refers to it as “second-class science” and “so flimsy as to be a national scandal.”
I agree that there is a problem, but I don’t think she’s diagnosed it correctly.
There is a lot of excellent research in education. I spend most of my time reading basic scientific work and trying to understand what it means for classrooms and for policy, and much of what I draw on is education research.
There is, however, also a good deal of dreck.
There is a certain amount of poor science in other fields as well. Go to the psychology section of a large book store and you’ll see plenty of nonsense. Books with crazy suggestions on dieting, love, self-actualization, and so on.
The difference between psychology and education is that psychology, as a field, is more vigilant in its self-regulation, particularly through its professional societies.

How Student Loans Helped Destroy America

ZenCollege Life:

On March 30 2010, President Obama signed “historic student loan legislation” into law. The Education Reconciliation Act is intended to generate $61 billion in savings, by streamlining the student loan program and reinvesting the money to make college more affordable. Sadly, it is too little, too late.
Once a Great Nation
The student loan burden on today´s working population has already destroyed the economy, practically removed any last semblance of freedom in our workplace and just served to fatten the wallets of the bankers, lawyers and corporate suits that now run the country. The virtues that once made America a great nation have been abused by those entrusted with its care, and even $61 billion will not reverse the situation that we now find ourselves in.
The History
In 1944, the GI Bill (“Servicemen´s Readjustment Act”) was enacted to help war veterans further their educations and, in turn, increase the number of employable persons in order to strengthen the U.S. economy. Throughout the next twenty years, improvements were made to this system through the National Defence Student Loan Program (1958 – aka Perkins Loan Program) and the Higher Education Act of 1965 – creating the Guaranteed Student Loan Program.
Sallie Mae
Although it would be easy to say that the rot set in with the founding of Sallie Mae in 1972, you have to acknowledge that they only exasperated later problems through their incompetence and greed. In 1972, people still worked their way through college, and Sallie Mae was established to simply facilitate loans to those who needed them, rather than lend any funds themselves.
No. The cause of all today´s problems are those pillars of education – the colleges.

Student’s Arrest Tests Immigration Policy

Robbie Brown:

Jessica Colotl, a 21-year-old college student and illegal Mexican immigrant at the center of a contentious immigration case, surrendered to a Georgia sheriff on Friday but continued to deny wrongdoing.
Ms. Colotl was arrested in March for driving without a license and could face deportation next year. On Wednesday the sheriff filed a felony charge against her for providing a false address to the police.
The case has become a flash point in the national debate over whether federal immigration laws should be enforced by local and state officials. And like Arizona’s tough new immigration law, it has highlighted a rift between the federal government and local politicians over how illegal immigrants should be detected and prosecuted.
“I never thought that I’d be caught up in this messed-up system,” Ms. Colotl said Friday at a news conference after being released on $2,500 bail. “I was treated like a criminal, like a threat to the nation.”

Did you cheat in high school?

Amy Graff:

I can remember once when my eyes started to wander, ever so slightly, over to my neighboring classmate’s desk in a high school math class.
“Amy Graff keep your eyes on your own paper, and go sit in the back of the class,” my teacher screamed.
The school’s football coach was also my math teacher so you can only imagine the harsh tone he used when he said those words.
I was humiliated and my eyes never wandered again.

Citing Individualism, Arizona Tries to Rein in Ethnic Studies in School

Tamar Lewin:

Less than a month after signing the nation’s toughest law on illegal immigration, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona has again upset the state’s large Hispanic population, signing a bill aimed at ending ethnic studies in Tucson schools.
Under the law signed on Tuesday, any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people would risk losing 10 percent of its state financing.
“Governor Brewer signed the bill because she believes, and the legislation states, that public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people,” Paul Senseman, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement on Thursday.
Judy Burns, president of the governing board of the Tucson schools, said the district’s ethnic studies courses did not violate any of the provisions of the new law and would be continued because they were valuable to the students.

Salaries of N.J. school superintendents may be next on chopping block

Lisa Fleisher, Claire Heininger & Sean Esposito:

During the angry debate over teacher pay, little has been said about the higher salaries of New Jersey school administrators. On the contrary, Gov. Chris Christie praises many of them for taking wage freezes while most teachers are refusing.
Don’t expect that to last long.
“I’m sure that at some point the governor is going to push obviously with administrators as well,” said Boonton superintendent Christine Johnson, singled out by Christie for freezing her salary. “I would think that writing is on the wall.”
One reason: six-figure salaries are common among administrators, who include superintendents, assistant superintendents and principals. A Star-Ledger analysis of data from the state Department of Education for 2008-09 found:

  • The median salary for full-time school administrators in New Jersey — the salary figure that half of them exceed, and half do not — was $113,083.
  • In more than 425 districts, the median salary for an administrator was at least $100,000. Less than 2 percent of teachers — 1.6 percent — made $100,000 or more.
  • Christie’s $175,000 salary is less than the pay of 235 school administrators from 184 districts.

A 2008 report commissioned by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators found the average superintendent salary in New Jersey was $154,409, about $9,000 higher than the national average. That compared with $152,782 in New York and $146,906 in Connecticut.

RI school district agrees to rehire fired teachers

Eric Tucker:

A school district that gained the support of President Barack Obama for promoting accountability after it fired all its teachers from a struggling school announced on Sunday it had reached an agreement with the union to return the current staffers to their jobs.
The two sides said a transformation plan for Central Falls High School for the coming school year would allow the roughly 87 teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and other staffers who were to lose their jobs at the end of this year to return without having to reapply. More than 700 people had already applied for the positions.
The agreement calls for a longer school day, more after-school tutoring and other changes.
“What this means is that they have come to an agreement about a reform effort and that will change the quality” of the education program at Central Falls, said Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who applauded both sides for working together.

Plan B: Skip College

Jacques Steinberg:

WHAT’S the key to success in the United States?
Short of becoming a reality TV star, the answer is rote and, some would argue, rather knee-jerk: Earn a college degree.
The idea that four years of higher education will translate into a better job, higher earnings and a happier life — a refrain sure to be repeated this month at graduation ceremonies across the country — has been pounded into the heads of schoolchildren, parents and educators. But there’s an underside to that conventional wisdom. Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. (The figures don’t include transfer students, who aren’t tracked.)
For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree.

Know Your Madisonian: Richard Scott Retires as minority services coordinator at Madison’s East High School

Ken Singletary:

Richard Scott, 58, has been minority services coordinator at Madison’s East High School for 34 years. He retires in June and will focus more on his artistic endeavors, including playwrighting, performing in musical groups and coordinating a step-dance group.
Will you miss the students?
Absolutely. I’m going to miss their energy. I’m going to miss their spontaneity. I’m going to miss their youthfulness. I receive their energy.
What do students want?
They need attention. They need respect. They need opportunities to express themselves … Not all minority students come from one point of reference. I look at them individually. I tell them ‘I love you all, but I love you all differently.’
You focus a lot on conflict resolution. How do you do that?
I try to initiate a discussion based on commonalities … If you have a conflict with someone, you have a commonality, something to build on. … I try not to solve problems for students but give them the tools by which they can transform conflicts into something positive. I’m not saying ‘You’re going to forget what happened, but you’re going to go beyond what happened.’… A lot of young people are very emotional, very reactive in their processes, and I want them to think about it. … I truly enjoy when students who are very, very angry see a situation differently. If they can be something else, something else than what people have told them they are, then we’ve done our job.

Milwaukee Public Schools makes the most of data sessions

Alan Borsuk:

the intensive use of data to guide decisions on daily policing – is a hot strategy when it comes to law enforcement, including in Milwaukee.
If used well, data can make police work more precise and effective and leaders can be more effective in determining what works and even in determining who is getting the job done.
This is education’s version of CrimeStat: Rooms filled with round tables, each table surrounded by a team of people from one school poring over data to try to figure out what they can do to get better results at their school.
In fact, Milwaukee Public Schools calls its program EdStat. Two-day “data retreats” are becoming centerpieces of how to run an MPS school, and the wealth of data available at the click of a mouse at any time to principals and others is growing quickly. A variety of test scores, attendance records, discipline records, and information on what teaching techniques are being used in each classroom, some of it updated every day – it’s impressive.
The concept is simple: Find out all you can about what is going on in a school and put it to the smartest, best use you can in moving forward. The mountain of information can be just an impenetrable mass or a gold mine of insight.
The burst of interest in data use may be one of the less exciting, but most important trends in American education. Good data use is high on the list of priorities of education advocates who might otherwise differ on just about everything.

School district adding 5th grade to middle school

Erin Snelgrove:

Itzie Duarte is glad her children are enrolled in the West Valley School District. But she is far from happy with the school board’s decision to move fifth-graders to the middle school this fall.
“A fifth-grader isn’t mentally capable of being in a school where there is no recess,” said Duarte, who will have one child entering kindergarten and another entering third grade. “If we need the space, turn the middle school into an elementary school.”
But district officials say next year’s grade reconfiguration – which includes sending ninth-graders to the old high school – is needed to help with overcrowding.
Much of the growth is in the elementary schools. In the past three years, about 300 additional students – including about 60 this year – have entered the district.
The middle school, officials added, is built to accommodate students traveling throughout the building and is not designed for instructing young children.

Obama’s education czar charters a course to Brooklyn

Carl Campanile & David Seifman:

In a dramatic show of White House support, President Obama’s education czar will visit a Brooklyn charter school Tuesday to help persuade the foot-dragging state Assembly to lift the cap on the number of charters, The Post has learned.
The timing of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s trip is significant since New York has just two weeks to revamp its charter-school law ahead of the June 1 deadline for the state to submit its application for $700 million in federal education funds.
“I hope the Legislature will do the right thing by children,” Duncan told The Post yesterday.

Bud Selig Wins Award for PED Education, Destroys Concept of Irony

Andy Hutchins:

If I were looking for people who had done much to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs, I think I might take Arnold Schwarzenegger over Bud Selig. Apparently, the Taylor Hooton Foundation thinks differently.

NEW YORK — Commissioner Bud Selig was named the first recipient of Taylor’s Award, presented by the Taylor Hooton Foundation to an individual who has made a major impact on efforts to educate and protect American youth from the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs.

“The key impediment to improving public education is not lack of money, but the organizational structure of public schools”

Liv Finne:

As an education policy analyst, I am very concerned about the quality of education our children are receiving. My research has led me to conclude that the key impediment to improving public education is not lack of money, but the organizational structure of public schools. Private schools in Washington and public charter schools in other states are given the advantage of operating free of public education’s centralized and highly regulated superstructure. As a result, private and public charter schools can better direct resources to the classroom, more reliably place effective teachers in every classroom, and offer better life prospects to children through higher-quality education. Cutting central bureaucracies and putting qualified principals in charge of their schools would help make sure that education dollars actually reach the classroom.
Recently, I turned my attention to a restrictive policy that applies to public schools but not to private or public charter schools: mandatory collective bargaining agreements. Here is a link to our full study of Seattle’s current collective bargaining agreement [563K PDF], and below is a summary of our findings.
School district salaries and benefits

  • Teachers in Seattle receive an average of $70,850 in total salary (base pay and other pay), plus average insurance benefits of $9,855. These figures apply to a ten-month work year.
  • Teachers in Seattle public schools can earn up to $88,463 in total base and other pay for a ten-month work year, or $98,318 including benefits.
  • Seattle Schools employ 371 people as “educational staff associates,” who receive an average of $76,339 for a ten-month year, or $86,194 including benefits.
  • Seattle Schools employs 193 non-teachers, mostly senior administrators, who each receive more than $100,000 in total pay.

Milwaukee School District Seeks Health Care Changes to Save Jobs

Erin Richards:

Though shrouded in the overly formal language of district documents, new amendments to the proposed 2010-’11 Milwaukee Public Schools budget signal an ultimatum to unions from the Milwaukee School Board: Accept changes to your health care and be open to a furlough, or watch your colleagues be laid off next year.
In a Strategic Planning and Budget Committee meeting Thursday night that carried into Friday morning, the board got its first chance to discuss and act on amendments to the administration’s proposed $1.3 billion budget, which calls for an estimated 150 to 200 teacher layoffs and hundreds of other staff job eliminations.
Amendments that direct changes to the health-care plan and the implementation of furloughs would require an agreement with labor unions that represent certain employees. But the board’s amendments could set the ball in motion for those discussions.
One of those included restoring about a third of the positions set to be eliminated for teachers, paraprofessionals and general education aides, but only if those bargaining units – namely, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association – agree to accept the less expensive health care plan.

This is not a new topic. Some elements of the Madison School District have sought similar changes.

School officials question early-retirement deal for Michigan teachers

Paula Davis:

Despite Lansing politicians touting projected savings through the school employee retirement incentive plan that passed the Legislature Friday, some area school officials say the measure leaves unanswered questions and they wonder how much of a savings it truly will hold for their districts.
“We’ve just taken a major step in the right direction to provide support for schools around the state,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester. The bill passed the Republican-led Senate by a 21-14 vote and the Democratic House, 56-45.
Proponents of the legislation, which the governor says she will sign, contend it could save school systems more than $670 million in the next fiscal year.
But that will depend on how many of the 57,000 school employees eligible to retire actually choose to do so. They must decide by Sept. 1.

Bye-bye baby face

Jan Uebelherr:

It’s a question that can make most any mom stop in her tracks: “Can I wear makeup?”
In a world where little girls of 5 or 6 get spa treatments and mega-birthday parties, can lip gloss and mascara be such a leap?
What’s the right age? What’s the right “starter makeup”? Why can’t she wait just a little while?
It’s a question that’s popping up sooner than it once did. Little girls whose ages have not yet reached the double-digits are wanting to wear makeup more and more.
A new report by the NPD Group, which researches consumer trends, finds that makeup usage is going up in the fresh-faced group known as tweens (ages 8 to 12).

Why Liberal Education Matters

Peter Berkowitz:

The true aim of the humanities is to prepare citizens for exercising their freedom responsibly.
In 1867, when he discharged his main responsibility as honorary rector of St. Andrews University by delivering an address on liberal education to the students, the philosopher and civil servant John Stuart Mill felt compelled to defend the place of the sciences alongside the humanities. Today it is the connection of the humanities to a free mind and citizenship in a free society that requires defense.
For years, an array of influential voices has been calling for our nation’s schools and universities to improve science and math education. Given the globalized and high-tech world, the prize, pundits everywhere argue, goes to the nations that summon the foresight and discipline to educate scientists and engineers capable of developing tomorrow’s ideas.
No doubt science and math are vital. But all of the attention being paid to these disciplines obscures a more serious problem: the urgent need to reform liberal education.

US Education Secretary Duncan Addresses UW-Madison Graduates

Nick Penzenstadler:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he’s taller than Barack Obama and has a better jump shot than Sen. John McCain but stopped short of challenging the commander-in-chief’s own skills on the court.
Duncan, speaking Saturday to University of Wisconsin-Madison spring graduates at the Kohl Center, joked about his credentials over other notable speakers, referencing a student newspaper article chiding officials for taking so long to invite someone with “somewhat” the same speaking prowess as the president, who spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor two weeks ago.
Like most graduation speeches this spring, Duncan referenced the tough job market facing graduates but offered advice for adapting to the new age of employment. He spoke at one of UW’s five ceremonies that add up to about 6,000 graduates this spring.
“Rather than telling you about time-honored truths, I want to talk about skillfully managing uncertainty and serendipity as the defining elements of the 21st century education,” Duncan said. “It’s not just knowledge and subject mastery; your ability to adapt, be creative and pursue your passion will determine how you fare in the job market.”
Citing the “hallmarks of a great progressive education,” Duncan told graduates they need to focus on their ability to work both independently and in teams and be creative in a global job market.

Can schools be free and accountable?

Mike Baker:

Welcome to the new age of school autonomy and teacher freedom.
At least that is what has been promised: fewer directives and targets, less guidance and prescription.
However, there are conflicting messages on English education policy from the new coalition government.
They can be summed up by two consecutive sentences in the “coalition agreement”, which has become the working handbook for the new government.
First, it promises that all schools will have “greater freedom over the curriculum”. Then, it adds that all schools will be held “properly accountable”.

No Tackling, but a Girls’ Sport Takes Some Hits

Katie Thomas:

Flag football, long relegated to family picnics and gym class, has quietly become one of the fastest-growing varsity sports for high school girls in Florida. A decade after it was introduced, nearly 5,000 girls play statewide — a welcome development in a state that, like others, has struggled to close the gender gap in high school athletics.
Jupiter High School’s Megan Higgins facing Dwyer High School in a game in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Flag football has become one of the fastest-growing varsity sports in Florida.
But rather than applaud the new opportunities, some women’s sports advocates call it a dead-end activity. Flag football is played only at the club and intramural level in colleges, and unless one counts the Lingerie Football League, no professional outlets exist. Alaska is the only other state that considers it a varsity sport.
“No one is saying flag football isn’t a great sport to play,” said Neena Chaudhry, the senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has brought several cases against high schools alleging violations of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. “But I do think it’s relevant to ask questions about whether girls are getting the same kind of educational opportunities as boys.”

‘Everything for the children’

Tatiana Pina:

The moment of truth for Ivan and Olga Rojas came in 2008, when their son Esteban finished his sophomore year at the Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket and told his parents he wanted to transfer to Central Falls High School. The thought alarmed them. The high school had been under-performing for years, and Esteban’s mother feared there were gangs and drugs at the school.
For Blanca Giraldo the reckoning came in February 2009, when Central Falls High School Principal Elizabeth Legault sent a letter asking her to come to the school. Legault told Giraldo that her daughter Valerie Florez was failing: she was frequently late, skipping class and not doing her work.
For Jackie Wilson, a random act of violence forced her to uproot her daughter Sakira during her junior year at Central Falls High.

Literacy kudzu

Will Fitzhugh via Valerie Strauss:

Kudzu, (Pueraria lobata), I learn from Wikipedia, was “… introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant.
From 1935 to the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion…. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years.
It was subsequently discovered that the southeastern United States has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control–hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, and temperate winters with few hard freezes…As such, the once-promoted plant was named a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1953.”
We now have, I suggest, an analogous risk from the widespread application of “the evidence-based techniques and processes of literacy instruction, K-12.”
At least one major foundation and one very old and influential college for teachers are now promoting what I have described as “guidelines, parameters, checklists, techniques, processes and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something that they have learned.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California Shortfall Now $19.1 Billion

Stu Woo:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a revised spending plan Friday that pegged the state’s budget shortfall at $19.1 billion and called for deep cuts to welfare and health programs–but no tax increases–to close the gap.
The new shortfall estimate is higher than the previous projection of $18.6 billion partly because the state collected less tax revenue than expected in April for the 2009 tax year. Court decisions challenging some of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s cuts also added to the budget gap.
This will be the third straight year that Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed deep spending cuts. Tax revenue in California has plunged because of the collapse of the real-estate and financial markets. Legislators closed a $60 billion budget gap last year, but not before state officials had to issue IOUs to creditors to keep the state solvent.

Wisconsin Democrat Representative Ron Kind (D-3) Introduces Legislation Requiring Government Tracking of Children’s Body Mass

Penny Starr:

A bill introduced this month in Congress would put the federal and state governments in the business of tracking how fat, or skinny, American children are.
States receiving federal grants provided for in the bill would be required to annually track the Body Mass Index of all children ages 2 through 18. The grant-receiving states would be required to mandate that all health care providers in the state determine the Body Mass Index of all their patients in the 2-to-18 age bracket and then report that information to the state government. The state government, in turn, would be required to report the information to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for analysis.
The Healthy Choices Act–introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee–would establish and fund a wide range of programs and regulations aimed at reducing obesity rates by such means as putting nutritional labels on the front of food products, subsidizing businesses that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and collecting BMI measurements of patients and counseling those that are overweight or obese.

Qatar Rewrites ABCs of Mideast Education

Margaret Coker:

A seven-year school revamp spearheaded by this gas-rich emirate’s first lady is emerging as test case for radical education overhauls in the Mideast.
The United Nations and World Bank have long blamed low educational standards for contributing to economic stagnation and instability across the region, which faces the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world and the threat of growing religious extremism.
Schoolteachers across the region have been bound by entrenched programs that emphasize religion and rote learning, often from outdated textbooks. Qatar, with a tiny population and outsize natural-gas export revenue, launched a new system in 2004 that stresses problem-solving, math, science, computer skills and foreign-language study. The final slate of new schools in the program was approved last month, giving Qataris over 160 new schools to choose from when the next school year begins in September.
“The old system churned out obedient but passive citizens. What good is that for a global economy?” says first lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned.

Madison School District Online Survey: “Embedded Honors” High School Courses

via a kind reader’s email. The survey is apparently available via the District’s “Infinite Campus” system:

1. The Embedded Honors option provided work that was challenging for my child.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
2. Please provide an explanation to Question 1.
(empty box)
3. The Embedded Honors work allowed my child to go more in-depth into the content of the course.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
4. Please provide an explanation to Question 3.
(empty box)
5. For Embedded Honors, my child had to do more work than other students.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
6. For Embedded Honors, my child had to do more challenging work than other students.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree
7. Mark the following learning options that were part of your child’s experience in the Embedded Honors for this corse.
o extension opportunities of class activities
o class discussions and labs to enhance my learning
o flexible pace of instruction
o access to right level of challenge in coursework
o opportunities to focus on my personal interests
o independent work (projects)
o opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge
o opportunities to explore a field of study
o additional reading assignments
o more challenging reading assignments
o additional writing assignments
o helpful teacher feedback on my work
o activities with other Embedded Honors students
o more higher-level thinking, less memorization
8. My child benefited from the Embedded Honors option for the course(s) for which he/she took, compared to courses without Embedded Honors.
o Strongly disagree
o Disagree
o Neither agree nor disagree
o Agree
o Strongly agree

After autism intervention, boy is now gifted student, musician

Susan Troller:

When Christopher Xu turned 2, his mother’s worst fears were confirmed. The other babies at her son’s birthday party babbled, gestured and used simple words as they played and interacted with their parents and each other. But Christopher was different.
“He was locked in his own world,” Sophia Sun recalls. “No eye contact. No pointing. No laughing at cartoons or looking at me when I talk to him.”
In fact, Sun says, she and her husband, Yingchun Xu, both Chinese-born computer engineers who earned their graduate degrees in Vancouver, British Columbia, had never known anyone with this kind of remote, inaccessible child.
The couple were living with their older daughters, Iris and Laura, in a Chicago suburb when Christopher was born. Both girls were interactive, affectionate babies, but Christopher paid little attention to his mother, his family or his surroundings. As a toddler he spent most of his time lining up his favorite toys in order or spinning himself in circles — over and over again. When the Xu family went to an air show, his mother pointed to the planes roaring overhead, saying, “Christopher, look at that! Look up!” but the little boy just spun around and around, oblivious to the noise or the world surrounding him.
Now Christopher is 11, and he will soon graduate from the fifth grade at Madison’s John Muir Elementary to head off to middle school. Thanks to the love and persistence of his family, powerful early training, insightful teachers and accepting classmates, his story has changed dramatically, and his remarkable abilities are increasingly apparent.

Much more on autism here and via Wolfram Alpha.

Unique Schools Serving Unique Students: Charter Schools and Children with Special Needs

Robin Lake, via a Deb Britt email:

The book can be purchased, using a credit card, from the print-on-demand service CreateSpace (an affiliate) or by check or purchase order directly from CRPE.
Unique Schools Serving Unique Students (Robin Lake, editor) offers a pioneering look at the role of charter schools in meeting the needs of special education students. The book addresses choices made at the intersection of two very important policy arenas in education: special education and charter schools.
Drawing lessons from parent surveys and case studies, this volume poses and addresses a number of important questions that have received limited attention to date: How many students with disabilities attend charter schools? How do parents choose schools for their children with special needs and how satisfied are they with their choices? What innovations are coming out of the charter school sector that might be models for public education writ large? Finally, what challenges and opportunities do charter schools bring to special education?

China’s spate of school violence

The Economist:

ALL month schools in China have been on what the state-controlled press calls a “red alert” for possible attacks on pupils by intruders. In one city police have orders to shoot perpetrators on sight. Yet a spate of mass killings and injuries by knife or hammer-wielding assailants has continued. To the government’s consternation, some Chinese have been wondering aloud whether the country’s repressive politics might be at least partly to blame.
In the latest reported incident, on May 12th, seven children and two adults were hacked to death at a rural kindergarten in the northern province of Shaanxi. Eleven other children were injured. It was one of half a dozen such cases at schools across China in less than two months. Three attacks occurred on successive days in late April, when more than 50 children were injured. The previous deadliest attack killed eight children in the southern province of Fujian on March 23rd. The killer was executed on April 28th.
This has been embarrassing for a leadership fond of trumpeting its goal of a “harmonious society”. In 2004, two years after Hu Jintao became China’s top leader, he and his colleagues called for better security at schools. But occasional attacks continued. Assailants were often said to be lone, deranged, men venting their frustrations on the weak. A report last year in the Lancet, a British medical journal, said that of 173m Chinese it estimated were suffering from mental illness, fewer than 10% had seen a mental-health professional (see article). Knives are the weapons of choice in China, where firearms are hard to obtain.

Huge College Degree Gap for Class of 2010

Mark Perry:

WILX-TV LANSING, MI — For last year’s graduating Class of 2009, women dominated at every level of higher education. Here’s the national breakdown: for every 100 men, 142 women graduated with a bachelor’s, 159 women completed a master’s and 107 women got a doctoral degree. University of Michigan Economics Professor Dr. Mark Perry says similar numbers are in tow this year (see chart above for the Class of 2010).
“What’s happening is historic and unprecedented and we’re seeing this huge structural change in higher education,” says Perry. “When it happens year by year, we just don’t pay as close attention.” But Perry says attention now must be paid. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 1971, the percentage of men outnumbered women in degrees conferred 61 to 39, but by 2017, expect a complete reversal.

Executive education and the over-55s

The Economist:

“LIFELONG learning” is a phrase beloved by business schools. But not, it seems, by their clients. According to a recent survey by Mannaz, a management-development firm, the number of professionals taking part in formal corporate training drops rapidly after the age of 55. Are these wise, old heads being overlooked?
It is tempting to conclude that older executives are falling victim to age discrimination, as firms focus resources on younger talent. But according to Jorgen Thorsell, Mannaz’s vice-president, this is not the case. Reticence, he says, comes not from the organisations but from the employees themselves.
Mr Thorsell believes that conventional training simply no longer serves their needs. Formal programmes are often seen as a repetition of lessons already learned and become increasingly irrelevant in the light of experience and expertise. The resulting “training fatigue” is resistant to most incentives.

Education Reform in Wisconsin Cannot Penetrate a Thick Padding of Insulation

George Lightbourn:

Thanks largely to the efforts of President Obama, more Americans are paying attention to education reform. In Wisconsin, many people were forced out of their comfort zone (we are pleased about ranking either #1 or #2 in ACT scores) when the Obama administration snubbed our request for federal “Race to the Top” money.
Just as the public is coming to understand the vulnerability of the Wisconsin economy, they are beginning to see the vulnerability of our K-12 school system. Dropouts are up, test scores are down, and we have never spent more on education. Increasingly, people are beginning to demand more performance from their education dollar.
In education, like so many aspects of our lives, we look for success stories. Today’s rock star of education reform is the diminutive head of the Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee. She is shaking up the world of education based on her passion around one simple concept; performance. Enabled by changes in federal and city laws, Rhee has put in place a teacher evaluation system, 50% of which is based on teachers’ impact on student learning. Using this tool, Rhee laid off dozens of teachers. If they were not performing, they were gone.

Don’t lose sight of why we have public schools

Marj Passman:

The need to succeed at teaching children is at the basic core of everything we do in Madison schools.
So why did the very society that depends on us to educate their most precious beings, their children, come to be so apprehensive about us? How did this happen? When did our state Legislature and many of our fellow citizens decide that an increase and/or a change in public financing of education was not in their interest?
Perhaps we all need to calm down and ask ourselves the very basic question of why we have public schools. The following tenets are a good start:
1. To provide universal access to free education.
2. To guarantee equal opportunities for all children.
3. To unify a diverse population.
4. To prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society.
5. To prepare people to become economically self-sufficient.
6. To improve social conditions.
7. To pass knowledge from one generation to the next.
8. To share the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
9. To instill in our young people a love for a lifetime of learning.
10. To bring a richness and depth to life.
Many Americans have either forgotten, disregard, or no longer view public schools as needed to achieve the above. Some, not all, view the public schools in a much more narrow and self-indulgent way — “What are the public schools going to do for me and my child?” — and do not look at what the schools so richly provide for everyone in a democratic society.

There are many reasons that public education institutions face credibility challenges, including:

Having said that, there are certainly some remarkable people teaching our children, in many cases resisting curriculum reduction schemes and going the extra mile. In my view, our vital public school climate would be far richer and, overall, more effective with less bureaucracy, more charters (diffused governance) and a more open collaborative approach with nearby education institutions.
Madison taxpayers have long supported spending policies far above those of many other communities. The current economic situation requires a hard look at all expenditures, particularly those that cannot be seen as effective for the core school mission: educating our children. Reading scores would be a great place to start.
The two Madison School Board seats occupied by Marj Passman and Ed Hughes are up for election in April, 2011. Interested parties should contact the Madison City Clerk’s office for nomination paper deadlines.

DCTS Speak Out & Two Sisters

Via a Judy Reed email:

“We have failed our African American kids, and hence we have failed our schools and all our kids… efforts at reform have been a joke. Its time for outrage”. – Neil Heinen Editorial –
March 30, 2010
Dane County Transition School is sponsoring a Speak Out, the invitation is attached [PDF]. We are hoping those (students, parents, community members, educators…) who are passionate use this opportunity to voice their thoughts, ideas, and/or concerns for the need for more educational alternatives.
We are having the television stations, and the newspapers cover the Speak Out.
We are asking anyone who would like to speak to RSVP so we can order enough t-shirts, and plan the time accordingly.
Looking forward to seeing you at the Speak Out!
Judy & DCTS Community
* We have also attached a true story about two sisters; one who attends DCTS, and the other who…

Sisters-Two Different Journeys… One Given the Opportunity to Succeed…One Not…
A student approached me and said that she had a sudden revelation the evening before. She could not discuss this revelation in a public space, and requested that we talk in private. Her brows were slightly furrowed, but she had energy about her; like she had discovered her dream career, or that she had fallen in love with the boy next door. When we sat down in a small classroom, alone, I realized that she was not going to tell me about the love of her life, or that she wanted to travel the world to discover her spirituality; no, she was going to tell me something bad.
The dark side of a teacher’s career is getting to know the bad things about kids. In many circumstances, these bad things aren’t pleasant; they make us feel uncomfortable, angry, sad, or depressed. Nevertheless, it is our duty to not just instruct students on mathematics and science, but to be role models; or, individuals who understand and listen to other people. What may have been a revelation to this student, or a sudden explanation for so many things that have gone wrong in her life, was not parallel to my own feelings on the matter. Hearing the news that this student, Sara, remembered that she had been sexually abused as a child by a close family member, was completely disheartening. Her younger sister, Teresa, was also a victim of this heinous act.
According to the American Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth, “children and youths suffer more victimization than do adults in virtually every category, including physical abuse, sibling assault, bullying, sexual abuse, and rape.” In addition to this statistic, “long term effects of child abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor self esteem, tendency toward substance abuse and difficulty with close relationships.” (Browne & Finkelhor).
Despite Sara’s realization that many of her troubles in life may be results of being a victim of sexual abuse as a child, she has made a lot of progress. Sara was given the opportunity to attend an alternative school, DCTS, for 2.5 years. During her time at DCTS, Sara has learned a variety of skills, from academics to social and emotional growth. She is now employed at a nursing home, is planning on earning her C.N.A license, and is taking the steps to enroll in college. Her sister, on the other hand, is in a different place. Teresa has been expelled from her home district 3 times; each expulsion occurred for different reasons. Teresa is currently not going to school, and her district has refused her access to the alternative school of her choice. Both Sara and Teresa have struggled with self-esteem issues (that at times were self-destructive), drug and alcohol abuse, cutting, and have experienced bouts of psychological symptoms related to depression. The difference between these girls is that there is no difference. Both were brought up in the same home, and experienced the same trauma. Both endured hardships related to their childhood. The difference lies in the system; Teresa has been denied the right to be educated in an environment deemed safe by her. Teresa deserves to learn, grow, and become a productive person; she deserves the right to attend an alternative school like DCTS. While Sara has learned to grow from trauma, Teresa is being pushed further into a dark, desolate hole.
It is shameful that our society forgets to place an emphasis on the needs of students; we say that we do, but when it comes down to it, we don’t. We don’t allow our students to learn from their mistakes, to learn how to be strong people, to learn how to advocate for themselves. The educational system has victimized Teresa in the same way that she was victimized as a child; she does not have a choice, does not have a voice, and her opinion is stifled. The miraculous thing about Teresa is that she has hope, a personality, and motivation. She is fighting the district to give her the school placement she deserves. The devastating factor is that Teresa has to keep fighting for something that our country perceives as a given right: an education.

Pennsylvania Kids Deserve School Choice

Anthony Hardy Williams:

Under President Obama’s new $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, states can compete for funds by creating programs that improve the quality of their schools. The idea of rewarding school reform initiatives is good, but one-time grants from the federal government will not improve our public education system by itself.
Why? Because the $400 million grant Pennsylvania now seeks represents less than half of 1% of the $23 billion spent annually in my state’s public school system. Given the thousands of dollars already being spent per student, an additional $56 per child will be insignificant–unless it is accompanied by comprehensive school-choice reform.
Pennsylvania should adopt reform based on the same premise as the Race to the Top initiative: that competition for taxpayer dollars improves the quality of education.

Mr. Williams is a state senator from Pennsylvania and a candidate in the May 18 Democratic primary for governor.

A High-Powered Exchange on Public Education

Steve Novick:

“I hope we will criticize the many reform ideas that rest upon false assumptions about the differences between “us” (especially middle- and upper-class whites) and “them” … spouted by folks … whose solutions support the continuation of schools with a test-prep curriculum and military/prison-style behavioral norms … I want all kids to have a chance to go to schools of the sort where Arne Duncan and President Obama send their own kids.” – Deborah Meier
If you’re interested in public education, take a look at this exchange between reknowned inner-city principal and writer Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, author most recently of The Death and Life of the Great American School System. It’s a terrific back-and-forth. Meier, by the way, had this to say about the selection of Arne Duncan in a discussion that occurred right after he was picked:

Madison School District Should “Stop Stonewalling”

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

The public has a right to know if Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, 21, attended West High School or any other Madison schools and for how long.
School district officials are stubbornly refusing to say.
Nor will they disclose if the district followed its own policies for screening new students when (or if) Mateo-Lozenzo enrolled at West using a fake name and age.
Police say Mateo-Lozenzo pulled the trigger in the shooting death of gang rival Antonio Perez, 19, on Madison’s East Side late last month.
Mateo-Lozenzo was an illegal immigrant from Mexico. But that’s not the central issue here because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that school districts can’t withhold public education because of immigration status.
The real issue here is school safety.

NJEA: “Every Teacher is Meritorious.”

New Jersey Left Behind:

NJEA’s website has a new feature: an analysis NJ’s RTTT application. While its censorious tone is no surprise, there’s a few factual misrepresentations. As a public service, we offer these annotations.
1) The proposal will call “for more and more testing, in all subject areas, in all grades.” Actually, the DOE is most likely going to eliminate statewide assessments in all grades except for 4th, 8th, 11th. New district assessments will be web-based and easily integrated into classroom instruction. (By the way, anyone want to figure out how much time and money was spent on developing our new grade 3, 5,6,7, and 9 assessments?)
2) “while NJEA was vilified for weeks by Christie when the poorly conceived and hastily written Phase RTTT application was rejected by the Obama Administration, Schundler told reporters he didn’t think NJEA’s support was central to approval in Phase II.” Actually, Schundler is echoing U.S. Ed Sec. Arne Duncan, who has explained that he prefers strong reforms without buy-in over weak reforms with union support.

Teacher Evaluation And Improvement Plan: Frequently Asked Questions

Leo Casey:

On May 11, the UFT, NYSUT and the State Education Department reached a new agreement — subject to legislative approval — to create a teacher evaluation and improvement plan. Under the new agreement, which would take effect in September 2011, the evaluation process will be more objective, be based mostly on qualitative measures and limit the role of test scores.
How will the teacher evaluation system change?
The current evaluation system doesn’t work for us as a profession. It is totally subjective and too dependent on the whims of administrators. The new system, which would move us forward as a profession, will establish specific criteria that incorporate multiple measures of evaluating teacher performance. The new system embeds professional development in the evaluation system. Teacher evaluation was never meant to be a gotcha system. It was supposed to allow teachers to grow and develop professionally throughout their careers.
How will teachers be judged under the new system?

Even with lure of money, some Minn. schools balk at ‘turnaround’ effort

Tom Weber:

The 34 schools deemed Minnesota’s persistently lowest performing are working with state officials on plans to turn them around.
Each school stands to gain a lot of money for that effort. But the leaders of some of those schools say they don’t want to be on the list, no matter how much money they stand to receive.
A prime example is tranquil Butterfield School, which stands across the street from a poultry processing plant. Every now and then, a chicken escapes from the plant, and crosses the road to wander through the school hallways.

Pennsylvania Kids Deserve School Choice

Anthony Hardy Williams:

Under President Obama’s new $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, states can compete for funds by creating programs that improve the quality of their schools. The idea of rewarding school reform initiatives is good, but one-time grants from the federal government will not improve our public education system by itself.
Why? Because the $400 million grant Pennsylvania now seeks represents less than half of 1% of the $23 billion spent annually in my state’s public school system. Given the thousands of dollars already being spent per student, an additional $56 per child will be insignificant–unless it is accompanied by comprehensive school-choice reform.
Pennsylvania should adopt reform based on the same premise as the Race to the Top initiative: that competition for taxpayer dollars improves the quality of education.

It’s time for schools of education to embrace new routes to teacher certification

Jonathan Zimmerman:

Let’s suppose you have spent your career as a professor at an American education school, training future teachers. Then suppose that your state decided that teachers could get certified without attending an education school at all.
That’s called “alternative certification,” and most of my school of education colleagues are outraged by it.
I take a different view. These new routes into teaching could transform the profession, by attracting the type of student that has eluded education schools for far too long. We should extend an olive branch to our competitors, instead of circling the wagons against them.
The biggest challenger at the moment is Teach for America (TFA), which recruits graduating seniors, mostly from elite colleges, and places them as teachers in public schools following a five-week training course. Last year, a whopping 11% of all Ivy League seniors applied to TFA. It was the No. 1 employer at several other top colleges, including Georgetown and the University of Chicago.

Psychologist argues that school districts are too quick to label students with childhood “disorders”

John Rosemond:

Over the past 40 years or so, child advocates have given a good amount of lip service to the view that adults, especially educators, should respect children’s “individual differences.”
In theory, this recognizes the fact that every trait is distributed in the general population in a manner represented by the bell-shaped curve. Whether the issue is general intelligence, sociability, optimism, musical aptitude, artistic ability, or mechanical skill (to mention but a few), relatively few people are “gifted” and relatively few people are disadvantaged.
Whatever the characteristic, most folks are statistically “normal.” That is, they possess an adequate amount, enough to get by.
People gifted in more than a couple of areas are rare, and people gifted in one area but lacking in another are not unusual. A person with outstanding musical aptitude, for example, may be noticeably lacking in social skills, and a person with outstanding verbal skills may be mechanically inept.

Mt. Diablo trustees to review plans for low-achieving schools

Theresa Harrington:

Four of the Mt. Diablo school district’s lowest-achieving schools will present their plans Tuesday for boosting student performance by applying for federal grants of up to $2 million a year to reform their campuses.
“It really could be an opportunity to make big changes,” said Tom Carman, principal of Bel Air Elementary in Bay Point, among the schools that will apply for the money.
“A lot of what the teachers are going to be talking about is looking at data and finding out the best way to teach ‘x, y or z,'” said Carman, who will retire this year. “So, we’re going to be better educators.”
Six district schools landed on that state’s list of low-achieving campuses, identified as testing among the bottom 5 percent statewide.

How English erased its roots to become the global tongue of the 21st century

Robert McCrum:

‘Throw away your dictionaries!’ is the battle cry as a simplified global hybrid of English conquers cultures and continents. In this extract from his new book, Globish, Robert McCrum tells the story of a linguistic phenomenon – and its links to big money.
Globalisation is a word that first slipped into its current usage during the 1960s; and the globalisation of English, and English literature, law, money and values, is the cultural revolution of my generation. Combined with the biggest IT innovations since Gutenberg, it continues to inspire the most comprehensive transformation of our society in 500, even 1,000, years. This is a story I have followed, and contributed to, in a modest way, ever since I wrote the BBC and PBS television series The Story of English, with William Cran and Robert MacNeil, in the early 1980s. When Bill Gates was still an obscure Seattle software nerd, and the latest cool invention to transform international telephone lines was the fax, we believed we were providing a snapshot of the English language at the peak of its power and influence, a reflection of the Anglo-American hegemony. Naturally, we saw our efforts as ephemeral. Language and culture, we knew, are in flux. Any attempts to pin them down would be antiquarianism at best, doomed at worst. Besides, some of the experts we talked to believed that English, like Latin before it, was already showing signs of breaking up into mutually unintelligible variants. The Story of English might turn out to be a last hurrah.

D.C. teachers contract paid for through budget cuts, reallocation of funding

Bill Turque:

After nearly five weeks of interagency finger-pointing and discord, District officials announced late Monday that they have found a way to finance the proposed teachers contract, paving the way for a vote by union rank-and-file on the $140 million pact.
Appearing together on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building on Monday evening, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi said they had devised a $38.8 million package of budget cuts and reallocations to close the $10.7 million funding gap in the contract and $28 million in projected overspending in other parts of the school budget.
The funding package delivers exactly what Gandhi had insisted upon in D.C. Council testimony and private deliberations with Rhee and Fenty before he would certify the pact as fiscally sound: a contract funded exclusively by public funds available without condition.

School to Parents: Volunteer or Else!

Katharine Miexzkowski:

Students are not the only ones at Adelante Dual Language Academy in San Jose who are graded on their classroom participation. Parents are, too.
Parents of children attending the public elementary school receive a check, plus or minus based on how much they volunteer in class. If mom and dad slack off they even might get a call from the principal.
Inspired by Adelante, now San Jose’s Alum Rock Union Elementary School District is at work on a proposal to require the families of all its 13,000 students to do 30 hours of volunteering per school year. Many of the schools in the district, where 88 percent of the students are poor, do not even have a Parent-Teachers Association.
“We are trying to create a culture of strong parent-guardian-family participation,” trustee Gustavo Gonzalez, whose children attend Adelante, told The San Jose Mercury News.

Republicans Sell Out Chicago Schoolkids

William McGurn:

In the 19th century, Illinois was the land of Lincoln. In the 20th, it was the birthplace of Ronald Reagan. In the 21st, Illinois has given us a new breed of Republican: Roger Eddy.
Mr. Eddy is what they call a downstater, an assemblyman who serves an east-central Illinois district hugging the Indiana border. His day job turns out to be in government as well, as a public schools superintendent.
Last week Mr. Eddy became the face of the Republican failure to get a voucher bill through the Illinois assembly. The bill had passed the Senate. Yet despite being pushed by a remarkable coalition involving fellow Republicans, a free-market state think tank, and a prominent African-American leader, only 25 Republicans in the House voted yes. That was 12 votes short. Mr. Eddy was one of 23 Republicans who killed it by voting no.
“Last week was a missed opportunity for children in Chicago’s worst and most overcrowded schools, and it was a missed opportunity for Republicans,” says Collin Hitt, who handles education issues for the Illinois Policy Institute. “It’s not often that a minority Republican party has the chance to advance cornerstone policy with key African-American support. The good news is that the legislation remains alive, and this bill has another chance.”

Middleton, WI Superintendent Message to Parents & Guardians on Enrollment Policies (in light of a recent Student’s arrest on murder charges)

via a kind reader:

Dear Parents and Guardians,
Last week we informed you of the heightened security measure at Middleton High School due to the gang-related homicide in Madison. The Middleton High School student involved in the incident was last seen in Texas and police do not believe he will return to the Madison area. As a result, security will be back to normal at the high school on Monday.
You have also likely seen the news in the media regarding the true identity and age of the student involved in the incident. The individual attending Middleton High School as Arain Gutierrez was later identified by police as 21-year old Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo. Once we were made aware of the suspect’s identity and age we immediately began to investigate how he was enrolled at Middleton High School. Federal privacy laws prevent us from releasing the specific information or documents that are provided for an individual student. It does appear that our enrollment policies and procedures were correctly followed for his admission to our school district. To enroll in our school district the following must be provided for the student:
– A completed enrollment form
– Proof of residency in our district, such as a MGE or Alliant Energy bill, a signed apartment lease or accepted offer to purchase a home
– Proof of age is asked for but only required for children entering kindergarten
– Immunization record, if available
– Transfer of records request from the previous school district, if applicable
We also rely on information in the Wisconsin Student Locator system. This is a database with information on every student who has attended public school in Wisconsin. Arain Gutierrez was in this system as he previously attended Madison West High School before coming to Middleton. School districts throughout the state use this database to transfer student information from one district to another for thousands of students. There would be no reason to question the legitimacy of a student name or date of birth. We also have no record of an adult ever falsifying documents to gain entrance in our school district as a minor.
As a result of this incident, we are reviewing our current policies and procedures to determine what, if any, changes will be made to our enrollment process. We also continue to work with law enforcement to assess the impact this student may have had on others in the school district. The security of our schools is our highest priority. We will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
Dr. Don Johnson

I’ve not seen any additional comments from the Madison School District beyond this brief statement from Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Still, Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district will review its enrollment policies.
“I cannot tell you where this will lead, but we will have conversations about it,” Nerad said.

Bathroom Fire at Madison West High School

via a kind reader:

At 12:03:50 on 05/10/10 firefighters were dispatched for fire alarm at West high school.
On location, students had evacuated. Staff directed firefighters to a bathroom on the 3rd floor of the building where rolls of toilet paper had been burned.
Strobes were operating; alarm had been silenced. Firefighters found a moderate haze of smoke in the area and there was an odor of burned plastics. The fire was out, the toilet roll dispenser was smoldering and melted.
A fan was used from Engine 4 to start clearing the smoke.
The fire had been reported to a staff member by a student. The staff member used an extinguisher to put the fire out. Another student had been attempting to extinguish the fire with water from the sink.
The scene was turned over to a fire investigator.

Several readers noted that there have been a number of recent incidents in and around West High School:

April 26
1 Block Ash St.
Identifier: 201000110451
Time: 15:00
Battery (under general heading “Assault”)
The fight outside the school last week was:
April 28
Chadbourne Av and Ash St
Identifier: 201000112346
Time: 12:47 (lunchtime)
Fight Call (under general heading “Disorder”)
April 20
1 Block Ash St. (looks like this one was in the school)
Identifier: 201000104558
Time: 13:31
Battery (Assault)
April 28
Chadbourne and Allen
Identifier: 201000112447
Time: 14:35
Battery (Assault)
April 22
2100 Block Regent
Identifier: 201000106686
Time: 15:11
Battery (Assault)

User’s may wish to search local high school addresses on the website. The site supports date range searching. You must enter an address and enter a date range (see below) as the site only links to zip code area searches. The data is provided by the City of Madison, UW-Madison and the Madison Police Department. I don’t know if all incidents are provided to this site.
Madison East High
2222 E. Washington Ave.
Madison WI 53704
Madison Edgewood High School
2219 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711-1999
Madison LaFollette High School
702 Pflaum Rd.
Madison WI 53716
Madison Memorial High School
201 S. Gammon Rd
Madison, WI 53717
Madison West High School
30 Ash Street
Madison, WI 53726

14 Quirky College Donations (and the Strings Attached)

Ethan Trex:

For most of us, college donations entail little more than occasionally dropping a small check in the mail after receiving repeated pleas for cash from our alma maters. Some people, though, tend to be a bit more individualistic with their generosity. Let’s take a look at some of the quirkier donations schools have received:
1. Bequest Puts Jocks on the Ropes
swarthmoreIn 1907, fledgling Swarthmore College received a bequest that was estimated to be worth somewhere between $1 and $3 million. If the school wanted the cash, though, it would have to stop participating in intercollegiate sports. Swarthmore badly needed the cash–its entire endowment was only in the $1 million range–but in the end, the school turned down the gift and the sports survived.

Success or just smoke and mirrors?
Expert says it is misleading to say HISD school has turned around

Ericka Mellon:

The reform efforts at Sam Houston High School, once the worst-ranked campus in Texas, have drawn high-profile praise, from Gov. Rick Perry to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
“Sam Houston is proof that positive change is possible,” Perry said at a celebratory news conference in October. “After six years of underperformance, this school has not only met state standards, it is now a recognized campus.”
Perry is correct: Sam Houston last year did break its streak of “academically unacceptable” ratings from the state, but that is only part of the statistical picture. Duncan’s visit last month to Sam Houston — where he applauded the turnaround efforts — has reignited debate about the high school’s transformation: Is it the success story that Houston ISD and elected officials claim?
The answer is complicated. But in the final analysis, one thing is clear: Despite an improvement in student test scores, Sam Houston benefited from the state’s easier rating system last year.
In the summer of 2008, the Houston Independent School District was under orders from Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to make major changes at Sam Houston, which was the longest-running unacceptable school in the state. State guidelines required HISD to replace the principal and rename the school. In addition, at least 75 percent of the teaching staff had to be replaced, and half the students were supposed to be new.

“The Other Wes Moore”: The felon and the Rhodes scholar

Thomas Rogers:

In late 2000, Wes Moore, an ex-military officer and soon-to-be Rhodes scholar, came across a series of articles in the Baltimore Sun that caught his attention. They chronicled the aftermath of a robbery gone awry: A few months earlier a group of armed men had broken into a Baltimore jewelry store, and in the process of making their escape, shot and killed an off-duty police officer named Bruce Prothero. It wasn’t just the violence of the act that shocked Moore, it was the name of one of the suspects: Wes Moore.
Several years later, when Moore (the Rhodes scholar) returned from his studies at Oxford, the story continued to haunt him. Here were two men with the same name, from the same city, even the same age, and two dramatically different trajectories. In the hopes of finding out why, Moore began writing and visiting the man (who had since been sentenced to life in prison). The result is “The Other Wes Moore,” Moore’s vivid and richly detailed new book about both men’s childhoods in Baltimore and the Bronx.

Infant sensitivity to negative emotional expressions develops at around 6 months


Infants aged 5 months react very differently to a fearful face than those aged 7 months. “At the age of 7 months babies will watch a fearful face for longer than a happy face, and their attentiveness level as measured by EEG is higher after seeing a fearful than a happy face. By contrast, infants aged 5 months watch both faces, when they are shown side by side, for just as long, and there is no difference in the intensity of attention in favour of the fearful face,” said Mikko Peltola, researcher at the University of Tampere, at the Academy’s Science Breakfast this week.
It seems that at age 6 months, important developmental changes take place in the way that infants process significant emotional expressions. A fearful face attracts intense attention by the age of 7 months. In addition, it takes longer for infants to shift their attention away from fearful than from happy and neutral faces.
“Our interpretation of this is to suggest that the brain mechanisms that specialise in emotional response and especially in processing threatening stimuli regulate and intensify the processing of facial expressions by age 7 months,” Peltola said.

Charter Schools’ New Cheerleaders: Financiers

Trip Gabriel & Jennifer Medina:

When Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to meet certain members of the hedge fund crowd, seeking donors for his all-but-certain run for governor, what he heard was this: Talk to Joe.
That would be Joe Williams, executive director of a political action committee that advances what has become a favorite cause of many of the wealthy founders of New York hedge funds: charter schools.
Wall Street has always put its money where its interests and beliefs lie. But it is far less common that so many financial heavyweights would adopt a social cause like charter schools and advance it with a laserlike focus in the political realm.

Revelations about alleged shooter prompt policy review in Madison Area school districts

Gena Kittner & Gayle Worland:

The Madison and Middleton-Cross Plains school districts are reviewing their enrollment policies after a 21-year-old man who police said shot and killed a rival gang member successfully enrolled this fall as a Middleton High School student under an alias.
“As a result of this incident, we are reviewing our current policies and procedures to determine what, if any, changes will be made to our enrollment process,” said district spokeswoman Michelle Larson.
Middleton records show the man, Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, had previously attended West High School in Madison. But Madison district officials last week would not confirm he ever attended the school.
Still, Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad said the district will review its enrollment policies.
“I cannot tell you where this will lead, but we will have conversations about it,” Nerad said.

Final Exam Formats

Dean Dad:

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that my college uses one format for final exams, and is considering switching to another in a couple of years.
I’ve been thinking about the relative advantages of different formats, and would love to hear from my wise and worldly readers about their experiences with the different schedules. I’ll admit being pretty agnostic on this one.
The various formats I’ve seen:
1. Run the regular class schedule right up to the bitter end; let each class schedule its own final, if any.
Advantages: No schedule conflicts, no issue with some classes preferring papers or projects instead of exams.*
Disadvantages: Doing ‘common’ finals across multiple sections of the same class becomes impossible, and exams are limited to the length of a class period.

Congratulations to Jill Jokela

Madison School District:

Anyone who has worked with Jill Jokela during her fifteen years as a parent of children in the Madison schools would agree that this Distinguished Service Award is long overdue. Administrators, teachers, parents and fellow concerned citizens hold Jill Jokela in the highest regard for her deep and altruistic commitment to our public schools.
Since 1995 when her first child entered kindergarten, Jill has been a generous PTO leader at Mendota Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and East High Schools. Her ability to ask very tough questions, closely examine data and work constructively through challenging issues such as school equity, boundary changes, funding and curriculum have demonstrated, time and time again, the invaluable role of the effective parent activist in a great school district.

4 initiatives seek to raise student proficiencies

Alan Borsuk:

Leaders and backers of the handful of high-energy “no excuses” schools in Milwaukee are launching efforts aimed at tripling the number of children attending such schools in the city.
The goal proclaimed by leaders of four efforts that have sprung up almost simultaneously is to raise the number of students in such demanding schools from about 6,000 now to 20,000 by 2020.
If the efforts succeed, they will dramatically change the education landscape in Milwaukee and, backers hope, make widespread the high achievement levels of the schools that are at the center of the new effort.
But for the effort to succeed, major political, institutional and financial hurdles will need to be jumped. People on both sides of the longstanding, giant chasm between partisans for Milwaukee Public Schools and partisans for charter schools and private voucher schools will need to cooperate and focus on matters of improving the quality of education where they might actually find common ground.

Tweens and cosmetics: Cosmetics use is rising among tweens – and parents are divided on how to handle it

Douglas Quenqua:

It began for Alyssa Pometta, as these habits so often do, with the soft stuff. We are talking, of course, about lip gloss. She began wearing it in fourth grade – Bonne Bell’s Lip Smackers, a girl’s rite of passage – after yearsof wearing ChapStick and pretending it was Revlon. But the thrill of flavoured lip gloss was fleeting, and in January, 11-year-old Alyssa asked her mother, Phyllis Pometta, if she could graduate to the hard stuff: lipstick, eyeliner and mascara.
Pometta’s first instinct was to send her daughter to her room, but she reconsidered. Instead, she took her for a makeover.
“I’m using the choose-your-battles kind of parenting,” Pometta, an independent publicist, reasons. “I figured, better that she’s informed and has the right tools than she goes into it blindly with her friends in the bathroom and comes out looking like a clown.”

Editorial: Texas education schools failing at basic prep

Dallas Morning News:

In any profession, you need a flow of ideas so the conversation around any particular subject doesn’t become stale. But we also need a common understanding of the profession’s fundamentals. For example, who wouldn’t want our doctors and pilots to understand the basics of medicine and flying? If they don’t, we’re all in a heap of trouble.
A new National Council of Teacher Quality study suggests that Texas education schools are approaching the heap-of-trouble designation in teaching fundamentals. The report takes a look at 67 schools across the state in such areas as preparing teachers to instruct students in math and reading.
The study finds that the only consistency among them is their inconsistency.

Teachers’ contract awaits Anchorage School Board approval

Megan Holland:

Three-year contract likely to be accepted for $1,800 raise in first year.
The contract raises the school district’s wage and benefit costs by:
• $12.7 million, or 4.1 percent, the first year.
• $10.4 million, or 3.2 percent, the second year.
• $11.7 million, or 3.4 percent, the third year.
The School District plans to decrease its budget next year by about 5 percent to $789 million and is expected to make more cuts the year after that.
Approving the contract gives the School District a better ability to budget for the next three years, Comeau said.

Anchorage Education Association.

Winona School Board’s Budget Reductions

Jerome Christenson:

The district faced a $3 million revenue shortfall for the coming fiscal year when it began. The board elected to cover the shortage by taking $2 million out of the district’s $5.5 million fund balance and the remaining $1 million through spending cuts.
“Every decision at this point is tougher than the last,” superintendent Paul Durand told the board as it began weighing the fate of historically popular and successful programs and student activities.
Most of the cuts came $2,000 or $3,000 at a time from a list of programs prepared by district administrators.
Challenged to find a way to reduce the music budget without doing away with fourth-grade orchestra, music department staff and district principals managed to trim more than $13,000 by cutting travel and other expenses from the marching and pep band programs. The savings still put the marching bands on the street for local parades and the Minnesota State Fair and puts the pep band in the stands for sporting events.

Four in ten babies are born outside marriage in the U.S.

UK Daily Mail:

The number of children born outside marriage in the United States has increased dramatically to four out of ten of all births.
Figures show that 41 per cent of children born in 2008 did not have married parents – up from 28 per cent in 1990.
Researchers have concluded that although Christian values still play an important role in American society, public attitudes have changed.
Having a child out of wedlock does not carry the stigma and shame it once did, they say.
The study also found that in America there is a declining number of teenage mothers and rising numbers of older parents.

University of Wisconsin-Parkside considers dissolving teacher education department


The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is considering suspending admission to the school’s teacher certification program and dissolving the teacher education department.
The Journal Times in Racine reports that Chancellor Deborah Ford is recommending the action.
If the proposal passes the Faculty Senate next week, officials say students enrolled in the certification program would be able to finish their degrees and student teaching, but no new students would be admitted.
Ford said she hopes a new education program will be in place in three years. Her announcement comes about a year after a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction investigation found that the university’s education program had “serious deficiencies and noncompliance issues.”

Celebrity English tutor K.Oten arrested; Customs raids see eight people detained over alleged exam copyright infringements

Elaine Yau, Tanna Chong & Phyllis Tsang:

Celebrity English tutor Karson Oten Fan Karno, also known as K. Oten, was arrested for suspected infringement of copyright of public examination papers along with seven people in a raid by customs officers on tutorial centres.
K. Oten and the tutorial company through which he delivered video lessons both denied they had breached copyright rules in offering lessons to around 60 Form Six students at two centres in Admiralty and Yau Ma Tei.
The tutorial firm, Advanced Contemporary Education Centre, said yesterday it had never copied exam papers. “The handouts used in tutorial classes offered by us were written, printed and distributed to students by the tutors themselves,” it said.
It had suspended classes taught by Oten and refunded cash to students. It said it would reserve the right to pursue damages.


Kudzu, (Pueraria lobata), I learn from Wikipedia, was “…introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant. From 1935 to the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion… The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years. It was subsequently discovered that the southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control–hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, and temperate winters with few hard freezes…As such, the once-promoted plant was named a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1953.”
We now have, I suggest, an analogous risk from the widespread application of “the evidence-based techniques and processes of literacy instruction, k-12.” At least one major foundation and one very old and influential college for teachers are now promoting what I have described as “guidelines, parameters, checklists, techniques, rubrics, processes and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something that they have learned.”
Most of these literacy experts are psychologists and educators, rather than historians or authors of literature. Samuel Johnson, an 18th century author some may remember, once wrote that “an author will turn over half a library to produce one book.” A recent major foundation report suggests that Dr. Johnson didn’t know what he was talking about when it comes to adolescents:
“Some educators feel that the ‘adolescent literacy crisis’ can be resolved simply by having adolescents read more books. This idea is based on the misconception that the source of the problem is ‘illiteracy.’ The truth is that adolescents–even those who have already ‘learned how to read’–need systematic support to learn how to ‘read to learn’ across a wide variety of contexts and content.” So, no need for adolescents to read books, just give them lots of literacy kudzu classes in “rubrics, guidelines, parameters, checklists, techniques, and processes…”
Other literacy kudzu specialists also suggest that reading books is not so important, instead that: (to quote a recent Washington Post article by Psychologist Dolores Perin of Teachers College, Columbia) “many students cannot learn well from a content curriculum because they have difficulty reading assigned text and fulfilling subject-area writing assignments. Secondary content teachers need to understand literacy processes and become aware of evidence-based reading and writing techniques to promote learners’ understanding of the content material being taught. Extended school-based professional development should be provided through collaborations between literacy and content-area specialists.”
E.D. Hirsch has called this “technique” philosophy of literacy instruction, “How-To-Ism” and says that it quite uselessly tries to substitute methods and skills for the knowledge that students must have in order to read well and often, and to write on academic subjects in school.
Literacy Kudzu has been with us for a long time, but it has received new fertilizer from large private foundation and now federal standards grants which will only help it choke, where it can, attention to the reading of complete books and the writing of serious academic papers by the students in our schools.
Writing in, Lisa Roney recently said: “But let me also point out that the rise of Composition Studies over the past 30 or 40 years does not seem to have led to a populace that writes better.”
Educrat Professors and Educrat Psychologists who have, perhaps, missed learning much about history and literature during their own educations, and have not made any obvious attempt to study their value in their education research, of course fall back on what they feel they can do: teach processes, skills, methods, rubrics, parameters, and techniques of literacy instruction. Their efforts, wherever they are successful, will be a disaster, in my view, for teachers and students who care about academic writing and about history and literature in the schools.
In a recent issue of Harvard Magazine an alum wrote: “Dad ( a professional writer) used to tell us what he felt was the best advice he ever had on good writing. One of his professors was the legendary Charles Townsend Copeland, A.B. 1882, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. Copeland didn’t collect themes and grade them. Rather, he made an appointment with each student to come to his quarters in Hollis Hall to read his theme and receive comments from the Master…”Dad started reading his offering and heard occasional groans and sighs of anguish from various locations in the (room). Finally, Copeland said in pained tones, ‘Stop, Mr. Duncan, stop.’ Dad stopped. After several seconds of deep silence, Copeland asked, ‘Mr. Duncan, what are you trying to say?’ Dad explained what he was trying to say. Said Copeland, ‘Why didn’t you write it down?'”
This is the sort of advice, completely foreign to the literacy kudzu community, which understands that in writing one first must have something to say (knowledge) and then one must work to express that knowledge so it may be understood. That may not play to the literacy kudzu community’s perception of their strengths, but it has a lot more to do with academic reading and writing than anything they are working to inflict on our teachers and students.
I hope they, including the foundations and the university consultant world, may before too long pause to re-consider their approach to literacy instruction, before we experience the damage from this pest-weed which they are presently, perhaps unwittingly, in the method-technique-process of spreading in our schools.

Duncan Orders Study of Restrictive Transfer Policies

The Chronicle:

Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of education, has asked the National Center for Education Statistics and the Office of Postsecondary Education to conduct a study of “restrictive” policies that make it more difficult for students to transfer credits from one institution to another. Higher-education experts have argued that loosening such policies would help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of increasing the number of college graduates.

Republicans take issue with Dems’ push for a Michigan health care trust

Chris Christoff:

The hastened retirement of thousands of Michigan teachers and other school employees hung in the balance Thursday, but lawmakers again failed to agree on legislation to allow it.
That pushed a possible agreement on a retirement incentive plan to next week at the earliest, leaving school districts and teachers wondering how — or if — they would cope with a summer surge of retirements and new hires.
And it left unresolved a $415-million shortfall next year in the state School Aid Fund that largely pays for public schools. The retirement plan could save school districts more than $680 million next year, and $3.1 billion over 10 years. School employees who don’t retire would pay an additional 3% of wages into the retirement system.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Illinois Budget Woes Come to a Boil

Amy Merrick:

Illinois lawmakers were in disarray Thursday as they groped for stopgap measures to address a $13 billion deficit equaling nearly half of the state’s general-fund revenue.
The state faces one of the nation’s worst budget crises, spilled over in part from the broader national economic crunch, and its current bond ratings lag only California’s. But the confusion in the legislature indicates that serious steps to fix state finances won’t be taken until after the November elections–if then.
Most states have addressed or still face gaps in their budgets totaling $196 billion for fiscal year 2010, while tax revenue declined in the final quarter of 2009 in 39 of the states for which data is available.
Illinois lawmakers have little appetite for drastic spending cuts. An income-tax increase proposed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is going nowhere. Even temporary steps, such as borrowing to make pension payments, have stalled. Illinois is months late on many of its bills and has no plan for catching up.
The legislature may push the problem to the governor’s office by granting Mr. Quinn emergency budget powers and adjourning Friday, about three weeks earlier than usual. A bill under consideration in the state House would give Mr. Quinn greater leeway to shift money among state funds and to require agencies to set aside part of their budgets now in case of future cuts.

Related: How States Fail (Fiscally).

Students of the Great Recession

David Leonhardt:

The Great Depression did not have too many silver linings, but it did change the way Americans thought about education, clearly for the better. In 1930, only 30 percent of teenagers graduated from high school. By 1940, after a decade in which there often was nothing better to do than stay in school, the number had jumped to 50 percent. The Depression didn’t just make Americans tougher. It made them smarter.
In the years that followed, these newly skilled workers helped create an economic colossus. They were the factory workers, office clerks and managers who built up General Motors, U.S. Steel, R.C.A. and I.B.M. So when our own Great Recession began more than two years ago, it was reasonable to hope that something similar, if less extreme, might take place.

Math Geek Mom: A Meeting 140 Years in the Making

Rosemarie Emanuele:

The idea of a tangent line is central to many aspects of mathematics. In geometry, we study when a line rests on another figure at just one point, the point of tangency. In calculus, the slope of the line tangent to a curve at a point becomes the “derivative” of that curve at that point. One can even think of tangencies in more than one dimension. Imagine an (x,y) plane drawn on a table with a three dimensional object resting on it. One can therefore find a point of tangency in the x direction, and also one in the y direction. I found myself thinking of this recently when two dates almost coincided this past week. This past week, I celebrated my birthday and in a few days I will celebrate Mother’s Day. In many ways, these two dates are tangential in two dimensions.
They are tangential in the sense that this year they both appear in the same week, with my birthday on Tuesday and Mother’s Day on Sunday. In the years in which we wanted to be parents but could not, Mother’s Day was a painful day that I often wished would just go away. I was most disturbed when the church I went to focused on mothers and Mother’s Day, leaving those of us without children feeling like second class citizens. I would often leave crying, with my heart even more broken.
It was during those years that I discovered the true history of Mother’s Day, which made the pain of the day seem less stinging. For, despite what the people at the greeting card companies want us to believe, Mother’s Day began as a day of Peace, with a call to all mothers to pause for a minute to work to create a world in which peace could thrive. I have a copy of the original declaration of Mother’s Day, written in 1870 by Juliet Ward Howe, hanging on my office door. It invites mothers to take a day away from their chores to help build a better world for all of our children. The celebration on Sunday is therefore much more than an excuse to buy flowers or chocolate (but I will still happily take the chocolate, thank you!)

Rhee adding senior managers to help raise school standards

Bill Turque:

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is more than doubling the number of senior managers who oversee the city’s 123 public schools, a move intended to put more muscle behind her efforts to raise teacher quality and student achievement.
Openings for 13 new “instructional superintendents” were posted on the D.C. schools Web site last week, at annual salaries of $120,000 to $150,000. Instructional superintendents directly supervise school principals, overseeing academic performance while troubleshooting personnel and student discipline issues.
The move comes as the school system deals with serious budget pressures. Rhee and District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi continue to search for an additional $10.7 million to fully fund the proposed $135.6 million teachers’ contract. Rhee also faces, according to Gandhi, about $30 million in projected overspending, some of it produced by salaries of school-based special education aides, overtime and severance payments.


Inside Higher Ed:

“Medical school is the wrong place to train psychiatrists,” writes Daniel Carlat in his new book, Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry – A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis. In place of the sort of education that makes psychiatrists fifteen-minutes-per-patient pill dispensers, and gives them little in the way of slower, psychotherapeutic skills, he proposes something like a “doctor of mental health” program: Perhaps “two years of combined medical and psychological courses, followed by three years of psychiatric residency.”
An ego- and money-driven need to be the equal of other MD’s will, as Carlat knows, probably keep this from happening any time soon; indeed, a need to feel that one’s clinical activity has the same empirical warrant as a heart surgeon’s will also keep the pills flowing.
Yet I lost track of the number of times Carlat, in the course of this book, cautions the reader that
new diagnoses are based on votes of committees of psychiatrists, rather than neurobiological testing. Because diagnosis in psychiatry is more art than science, the field is vulnerable to ‘disease-mongering,’ the expansion of disease definitions in order to pump up the market for medication treatment.

Ann Arbor school district ends controversial program only open to black students

David Jesse:

The Ann Arbor school district has ended a controversial black-student only program at Dicken Elementary School.
“Lunch Bunch is no longer,” district spokeswoman Liz Margolis said in an e-mail to “It will be discussed among staff and some parents and be reworked. It has a valuable goal of assisting children who are not performing well on the MEAP, and this effort will continue.”
Dicken Principal Mike Madison drew criticism from parents following his decision last week to take members of the African-American Lunch Bunch on a field trip to hear a black rocket scientist at the University of Michigan speak. Only black students were invited on the trip.
After the trip, classmates who were excluded booed those who went. Madison went into the class, and parents have complained he berated the students. District officials have said he was just having a “passionate” discussion about race issues.

Bloody Urban Landscapes

Bob Herbert:

Driving through some of this city’s neighborhoods is like driving through an alternate, horrifying universe, a place where no one thinks it’s safe to be a child.
You follow a map in which the coordinates are laid out in blood. Over there, in front of that convenience store, is where Fred Couch, 16, was shot to death last December. The Couch boy went to the same school, Christian Fenger Academy, as Derrion Albert, an honor student who was beaten with wooden planks and kicked to death three months earlier in a broad daylight attack that was recorded on a cellphone by an onlooker.
Right there, on South Manistee Avenue, is where a 7-year-old girl riding her scooter was shot in the head and critically injured a few weeks ago.
And here, on East 92nd Street, is where a toddler, just 20 months old, was shot in the head and killed in the back seat of her father’s car.

Socioeconomics Replacing Race in School Assignments

Mary Ann Zehr:

A growing number of school districts are trying to break up concentrations of poverty on their campuses by taking students’ family income into consideration in school assignments.
Some of the districts replaced race with socioeconomic status as a determining indicator after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that using race as the primary factor in assigning students to schools violates the Constitution. Other districts that take family income into account never included race as a factor.

Why “Writing”?

Lisa Roney:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
These lines from Romeo and Juliet are often quoted to indicate the triviality of naming. But anyone who has read or seen the play through to its end knows that the names Montague and Capulet indicate a complex web of family relationships and enmities that end up bringing about the tragic deaths of our protagonists.
Lore also has it that Shakespeare’s lines were perhaps a coy slam against the Rose Theatre, a rival of his own Globe Theatre, and that with these lines he was poking fun at the stench caused by less-than-sanitary arrangements at the Rose.

Rhode Island is the only state that does not have an education funding formula

East Bay RI:

Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) is cosponsoring legislation developed by the Department of Education to enact a formula that will determine each school district’s state funding. She said education aid from the state must be equitable, predictable and reflect the needs of students and their communities.
The legislation (2010-H 8094), which was introduced Wednesday, May 5 by House Finance Chairman Steven M. Costantino, would put an end to Rhode Island’s status as the only state without a statewide education funding formula, where state aid is usually based on the previous year’s amount and does not reflect changes in districts’ student populations and needs.
“School funding is far too important for the state to be apportioning it arbitrarily or politically. Rhode Island has limited funding. We aren’t spending it wisely if we aren’t carefully sending it where the students and the needs are today. This formula will help the state get the most value for its education dollar while finally treating students equitably,” said Rep. Hearn, who has pushed for the formula throughout her freshman term in the Rhode Island General Assembly.

How Obama should set literacy goals

Dolores Perin:

The release of every new national literacy report is a cause for the heart to sink.
Although there are small gains here and there, the reading and writing levels among our nation’s schoolchildren are very low for an advanced industrial society (now an information society) that not only provides twelve years of publicly-funded education but requires postsecondary course work.
The educational system is rich in its teaching workforce. Most teachers are dedicated to the needs of children, and willing to work in the trenches where it really matters.
However, these strengths are often undermined by a lack of understanding of the reading and writing process, and strategies to teach students how to perform the intricate procedures needed to comprehend written text and produce meaningful writing.
The Obama administration’s proposal for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, A Blueprint for Reform, is on the right track in its literacy goals.

Transforming (NJ’s) Urban Schools

New Jersey Left Behind:

a href=””>Yesterday’s conference at Princeton University,“Crisis and Hope: Transforming America’s Urban Schools,” featured a star-studded roster of speakers: Ed. Comm. Bret Schundler, Martin Perez (President of the Latino Leadership Alliance of NJ), Rev. Reginald Jackson (Black Ministers Council of NJ), Dr. Marcus Winters of The Manhattan Institute, Dana Rone, Joe Williams (Democrats for Education Reform), Dr. Marc Porter Magee (ConnCan), Lisa Graham Keegan (Former Superintendent of the State of Arizona), Ryan Hill (Founder of TEAM Charter Schools), Patricia Bombelyn (Co-Counsel for the plaintiffs in Crawford v. Davy). The conference was sponsored by Excellent Education for Everyone, Citizens for Successful Schools, and

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Huge National Debts Could Push Euro Zone into Bankruptcy

Der Spiegel:

Greece is only the beginning. The world’s leading economies have long lived beyond their means, and the financial crisis caused government debt to swell dramatically. Now the bill is coming due, but not all countries will be able to pay it. By SPIEGEL staff.
Savvas Robolis is one of Greece’s most distinguished economics professors. He advises cabinet ministers and union bosses. He is also a successful author and a frequent guest on the country’s highest-rated talk shows. But for several days now, it has been clear to Robolis, 64, the elder statesman of Greece’s left-wing academia, that he no longer has any influence.
His opposite number, Poul Thomsen, the Danish chief negotiator for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is currently something of a chief debt inspector in the virtually bankrupt Mediterranean country. He recently took three-quarters of an hour to meet with Robolis and Giannis Panagopoulos, the president of the powerful trade union confederation GSEE. At 9 a.m. on Tuesday of last week, the men met behind closed doors in a conference room in the basement of the Grande Bretagne, a luxury hotel in Athens. The mood, says Robolis, was “icy.”

Accused 21 Year Old Attended Middleton and Madison West High Schools

Gayle Worland & Gena Kittner:

Ivan Mateo-Lozenzo, the man Madison police say shot and killed a gang rival last week, is known to local authorities as a 21-year-old illegal immigrant from Veracruz, Mexico, who worked as an area roofer in 2008.
Middleton High School officials thought he was an 18-year-old junior named Arain Gutierrez who had previously attended West High School in Madison.
So how did the man police still have not captured enroll in area schools?
Criteria for enrollment
The Madison School District requires the parents or guardians of a student present a utility bill, a mortgage document or a lease with their address to enroll their child in school. Under district policy, school officials are directed to “verify age and name” of a student using a birth certificate or “other documentation provided by parent.”
The policy states that if a student’s previous school was in a foreign country, school officials should ask to see a visa. If the student doesn’t have a visa, the student is still enrolled and given an “undocumented visa notice.”
Middleton-Cross Plains also requires a parent or guardian to show residency through a utility bill, lease or mortgage document, said district spokeswoman Michelle Larson. The district requires proof of age and identification through a birth certificate or passport when a student enrolls in kindergarten, but does not require it for later grades, she said.

Teachers’ Union Divided Over Colorado Effectiveness Legislation

Peter Marcus:

A rift has developed between teachers’ unions over a controversial bill that aims to improve teacher effectiveness.
The American Federation of Teachers Colorado signed onto Sen. Michael Johnston’s, D-Denver, Senate Bill 191 yesterday, arguing that amendments expected to be introduced today in the House Education Committee send the bill in a “new direction.”
The amendments include providing for a due process system in which teachers would be able to appeal evaluations that result in an educator being returned to probationary status; providing laid off teachers with preference in rehiring; and providing for a system in which two teachers would provide input on so-called “mutual consent” hiring decisions when a teacher applies to transfer between schools.
But the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 40,000 teachers, does not put much stock in the approval given by the AFT of Colorado. They argue that the AFT Colorado is a much smaller union that represents mostly Douglas County teachers, and therefore does not have the interest of teachers across the state in mind.

New era for Madison’s Edgewood High: Enrollment climbs during Judd Schemmel’s tenure

Susan Troller:

The recession has not been kind to many private schools.
Nationally, public school enrollment is rising as the recession has forced many parents to pull their kids from private schools. In Wisconsin, the number of students enrolled in private schools fell more than 2 percent from 2007 to 2009, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.
But Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, under the leadership of President Judd Schemmel, seems to be bucking the trend. Enrollment at the nearly 130-year-old school during Schemmel’s five-year tenure has risen a little over 5 percent, from 626 to 660 this year; Schemmel has his eye on an optimal enrollment of between 700 and 725 students.
The school, not traditionally known as an academic powerhouse, has also seen improved academic performance under Schemmel; elite universities from Harvard to Stanford and Princeton to Yale accepted Edgewood students from the class of 2009. It is also on more stable financial footing than it was five years ago, with its debt shrinking from just under $1 million to about $335,000 today, despite a number of building improvements and classroom renovations.

Harvard study gives Race to Top winners bad grades on academic standards

Valerie Strauss:

One of the two states chosen by Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a winner in the first round of the $4 billion Race to the Top competition has academic standards that earned the grade of ‘F’ in a new study by Harvard University researchers, while the other state got a ‘C minus.’

The Education Next report by researchers Paul E. Peterson and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadón also shows that standards in most states remain far below the proficiency standard set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is known as the nation’s report card because it tests students across the country by the same measure and is considered the testing gold standard. States have their own individual student assessments designed to test students’ knowledge of state academic standards, which are all different.

This study, available on the Education Next website, comes on the heels of another analysis done by the Washington D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, which concluded that the two first-round winning states, Tennessee and Delaware, were chosen through “arbitrary criteria” rather than through a rigorous scientific process.

Kaplan University: A For-Profit Take On Education

NPR Staff:

The Washington Post Co. announced Wednesday that it’s putting Newsweek up for sale. The magazine is losing money, and its paid weekly subscriptions have dropped below 2 million.
But although the Washington Post Co.’s flagship newspaper is also losing money, the company is surprisingly profitable because of a shrewd acquisition it made more than 20 years ago in a growing sector of the economy: for-profit higher education.
What Is Kaplan University?
In 1984, Stanley Kaplan – who pioneered standardized test prep courses — sold his business to The Washington Post Co. In 2000, Kaplan Higher Education bought a company called Quest. One of Quest’s properties was Hagerstown Business College in Hagerstown, Md., which then became Kaplan College and later part of Kaplan University.

Brown v. Board at Fifty

Library of Congress:

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, three Constitutional amendments were passed to grant newly freed African Americans legal status: the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth provided citizenship, and the Fifteenth guaranteed the right to vote. In spite of these amendments and civil rights acts to enforce the amendments, between 1873 and 1883 the Supreme Court handed down a series of decisions that virtually nullified the work of Congress during Reconstruction. Regarded by many as second-class citizens, blacks were separated from whites by law and by private action in transportation, public accommodations, recreational facilities, prisons, armed forces, and schools in both Northern and Southern states. In 1896 the Supreme Court sanctioned legal separation of the races by its ruling in H.A. Plessy v. J.H. Ferguson, which held that separate but equal facilities did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.
Beginning in 1909, a small group of activists organized and founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They waged a long struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation from American life. By the middle of the twentieth century their focus was on legal challenges to public-school segregation. Two major victories before the Supreme Court in 1950 led the NAACP toward a direct assault on Plessy and the so-called “separate-but-equal” doctrine.

PowerPoint: When bullets miss their targets

Boston Globe Editorial:

The issue:

  • Ubiquitous Microsoft presentation software now a fixture of high-level military planning efforts. Junior officers spend hours distilling complex issues into PowerPoint. Top commanders skeptical, NYT reports.
  • Pentagon = tip of iceberg. Military’s use of PowerPoint pales next to corporate America’s.

The case for PowerPoint:

  • Radically simplifies decision-making.
  • Offers ready alternative when elegant prose, hard numbers, clear thinking are in short supply.
  • Ideal format for identifying “paradigm shifts,” “synergies,” “value-adds.’

Private School Screening Test Loses Some Clout

Jenny Anderson:

For legions of 4- and 5-year-olds and their parents, the test known as the E.R.B. is the entree into the world of private schooling, its pressure and price a taste of the expensive years to come.
Gabriella Rowe, head of the Mandell School, which has dropped the test. “None of us can truly trust the E.R.B. results because the prepping materials are so accessible,” she said.
But parents who grumble about a test that they fear could determine their children’s educational future now have company: some of the private schools themselves.
At least two schools in Manhattan have dropped the exam as a requirement for admission starting this fall, bucking a trend of more widespread use of such tests. More broadly, a powerful coalition of New York schools is contending that pretest preparation, which they believe skews the results, has become so widespread as to cast doubt on the value of the test.