Redesigning Education: Why Can’t We Be in Kindergarten for Life?

Trung Le:

The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind–creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people–artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers–will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” –Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
I remember when my twins entered kindergarten at our community public school. All of the parents were invited to the school for an introductory presentation on the teachers’ goals for learning in the upcoming year. Everything sounded wonderful. The 25 children in the classroom would be organized into small groups. Creating art would introduce them to science and math concepts. They would be exposed to different cultures by learning songs in different languages. Time would be allotted for daily storytelling followed by discussion. The teachers described an interdisciplinary, imaginative and stimulating year ahead, complete with field trips and physical, active play.
While listening to the teachers’ presentation at my twins’ school, I had a moment of clarity: The kindergarten classroom is the design studio. All of the learning activities that take place inside the kindergarten classroom are freakishly similar to the everyday environment of my design studio in the “real world.” In an architectural design studio, we work as an interdisciplinary global team to solve the complex problems of the built environment in a variety of different cultural contexts. We do this most effectively through storytelling–sharing personal experiences–with the support of digital media and tools. A variety of activities–reflective and collaborative, right-brain and left-brain–happen simultaneously in an open environment. Like the design studio, the kindergarten environment places human interaction above all else.

Cooking Transcripts

Erin O’Connor:

Loyola law students are having trouble getting jobs. The economy, it would seem, is bad. So administrators and faculty are on the case. They care about their students. They are going to make everything right. They are going to retroactively raise every grade on every transcript by one third (a “B-” become a “B”; a “B” becomes a “B+”; etc.). Because cooking the transcripts is just the sort of thing that’s called for in these tough economic times.
Here’s how Loyola law dean Victor Gold spins it:

Teachers worry as education reform decision looms

Don Coleman:

Just over a week. That’s all the time the Colorado state house has to get a controversial education bill to the Governor’s office– or to stop it.
The legislative session is set to end next Wednesday.
Teachers aren’t very happy with the bill many are saying will only help students.
“What we’re out to ensure is that every child across Colorado has access to the most effective teachers and principals possible,” said Lindsay Neil with Stand for Children Colorado.
But is eliminating teacher tenure the answer?
A spokesman for District 51 teachers says ‘No.’
“It’s not fair,” Jim Smyth with the Mesa Valley Education Association.

DeKalb schools looking to hire PR firm

Megan Matteucci:

As DeKalb County’s school system is cutting $115 million from its budget, it’s looking to hire a public relations firm to help improve the troubled district’s image.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned that the school board is soliciting bids for a company to provide “professional communication services” starting on July 1.
“The district is looking to retain a public relations specialist to be used as needed in critical situations which go beyond what a public school system is equipped to handle,” board Chairman Tom Bowen told the AJC on Tuesday. “All large organizations, including school districts, need to be able to quickly and properly communicate critical information internally to employees and externally to the public.”

Seattle’s “Education Directors”

Charlie Mas:

There are five education directors who have all been laid off. The elimination of their positions are part of the reduction of central administration staff and expenses. Please, dry your eyes. Their jobs will be slightly re-defined and brought back. It is disingenuous of the Superintendent to claim that the jobs were cut in the first place.
Right now the five Education Director positions include one for high schools, one for middle schools and K-8s, and three for elementaries. My understanding is that when the jobs come back they will be re-organized geographically instead. So there will be an Education Director for West Seattle, for the south-end, for the Central Region, and two for the north-end. The divisions are likely to be along the lines of the old middle school regions.
Personally, I think this is a stupid idea. How can we believe that there is parity across the District if the people responsible for it are regionalized? Will you believe that the north-end schools and the south-end schools offer similar academic opportunities if they don’t share administrators? In addition, the issues of high schools are sufficiently different from those of middle schools and elementary schools that specialization is called for. Right now there is one person to turn to for high school credit or high school graduation issues. To whom will they turn in future?

Teachers union should shift focus

Jay Lassman:

To show good faith, teachers throughout New Jersey needed to agree to a wage freeze as proposed by Gov. Chris Christie. It’s time the New Jersey Education Association started functioning less like a labor union and more like a professional organization committed to partnering with school districts to improve the quality of education and reduce wasteful spending.
However, teachers are only part of the education system. As someone who has worked with numerous school administrators and board of education members, I know many have big egos and lack the qualifications to fulfill the requirements of their respective positions.

Why Charter Schools Fail the Test

Charles Murray:

THE latest evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest and most extensive system of vouchers and charter schools in America, came out last month, and most advocates of school choice were disheartened by the results.
The evaluation by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a national research group that matched more than 3,000 students from the choice program and from regular public schools, found that pupils in the choice program generally had “achievement growth rates that are comparable” to similar Milwaukee public-school students. This is just one of several evaluations of school choice programs that have failed to show major improvements in test scores, but the size and age of the Milwaukee program, combined with the rigor of the study, make these results hard to explain away.
So let’s not try to explain them away. Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype.

Jay Greene:

Murray wants to be clear that he still favors choice, but not to improve test scores. Instead, he favors choice because it satisfies the diversity of preferences about how schools teach and what they teach. Standardized test scores impose a uniform concept of higher achievement on students, and so cannot capture the improved satisfaction of the diversity of tastes that choice can more efficiently satisfy.
There is a kernel of truth in Murray’s argument. We should support school choice simply because it allows us the liberty of providing our children with the kind of education that we prefer.

Field trip for black students sparks controversy at Ann Arbor elementary school

David Jesse:

An Ann Arbor elementary school principal used a letter home to parents tonight to defend a field trip for black students as part of his school’s efforts to close the achievement gap between white and black students.
Dicken Elementary School Principal Mike Madison wrote the letter to parents following several days of controversy at the school after a field trip last week in which black students got to hear a rocket scientist.
“In hindsight, this field trip could have been approached and arranged in a better way,” Madison wrote. “But as I reflect upon the look of excitement, enthusiasm and energy that I saw in these children’s eyes as they stood in the presence of a renowned African American rocket scientist in a very successful position, it gave the kids an opportunity to see this type of achievement is possible for even them.
“It was not a wasted venture for I know one day they might want to aspire to be the first astronaut or scientist standing on the Planet Mars.
“I also think it’s important that you know that I have talked to the children who did not go on the field trip, and I think they have a better understanding of the purpose of the AA Lunch Bunch now, as I hope you do. I’m sorry if any kids were upset by the field trip or my discussion afterwards with them, and I have let them know that.

Saudi School Aims To Save The Planet

Larry Abramson:

How much would it cost to solve some of the world’s biggest problems? King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia says about $10 billion — that’s the endowment he’s given to the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, a huge research facility devoted to solving some of the major problems facing the planet.
The brand new school — it opened just this past fall — rises from the desert north of Jeddah like the secret research lab in a James Bond movie. The desert blooms here, thanks to a private desalination plant and an army of gardeners. With a private Red Sea beach, knock-your-socks-off architecture and world-class labs, KAUST hopes to lure the world’s brainiest scientists to this Xanadu for nerds.
This isn’t a university in the traditional sense, says KAUST President Choon Fong Shih.

What does your five-year-old model?

The Economist:

Via Chris Lydon at Open Source, Thomas Oboe Lee, a conductor on faculty at Boston College and a founding member of Composers in Red Sneakers, has filmed his own five-year-old conducting Rite of Spring. The kid has clearly seen some conductors at work; his body language is all in his knees and at the center of his tiny frame, not waving around in his hands. Sometimes he’ll casually bring a section in without looking. He may need a sturdy rail at the back of his podium, as you can see if you scroll forward to 2:10 or so.

Speak Out for Dane County Transitional High School

via a Judy Reed email:

Dear Alternative Supporters,
Although DCTS is an option, we need more alternative programs! DCTS is only one RESOURCE that works for students’ at-promise. With 700 to 900 dropouts a year in Dane County, we need to do something. Because of all those students whose needs are not being met by the traditional school, we are holding a SPEAK OUT. The Speak Out will be held in Madison at the top of State Street on the Capitol steps to give everyone the opportunity to voice their thoughts. All who would like to speak will be given 2 to 5 minutes.
We are very excited to have this opportunity to voice our concerns about the direction our schools have taken and continue to take. Please share this event with others who are concerned too.
Place: The STEPS of the CAPITOL – STATE Street Corner
Time: 12:00
Date: Saturday, May 15, 2010
RSVP: please email us at:
Check in will be at the STATE Street Corner. We will start the speaker list at 11:30 EVEN if you have RSVP’d! You will receive a t-shirt and number upon signing up.
Every 26 seconds, a student in our nation drops out of school. Let’s change this number by getting active and taking a stand for non-traditional education.
Please send all interests, inquiries and responses to Also, check out our blog at, and our website,
DCTS Students and Staff

27 Madison area seniors selected for National Merit Scholarships

Gayle Worland:

Nearly one-third of the 54 scholarships awarded to Wisconsin students went to seniors at Madison public high schools. Those scholars include Nelson Auner of East High School; Laurel Hamers, Lindsey Hughes, Jane Lee, Sarah Prescott, Valerie Shen and Hyeari Shin of Memorial High School; and Timothy Choi, Bryna Godar, Samuel Greene, Benjamin Klug, Sarah Maslin, Bennett Mortensen, Eric Swaney, Xinhui Wang, Jacob Wolbert and Zachary Wood-Doughty of West High School.
Other area honorees include Miranda Torkelson of Middleton High School; Justin Bloesch, Bethany Flaherty and Robert Rice of Monona Grove High School; Daniel Kitson and Jakob Olandt of Verona High School; Jacob Steiner of Lodi High School; Madeline Arnold of Monroe High School; Haley Hunt of Sauk Prairie High School and Axel Adams of Waterloo High School.


School Reform: What Jaime Escalante Taught Us That Hollywood Left Out

Heather Kirn Lanier, via a kind reader’s email:

“Serious reform like Escalante’s cannot be accomplished single-handedly in one isolated classroom; it requires change throughout a department and even in neighboring schools.”
In real life, though, Escalante didn’t teach the calculus course until his fifth year. In his first attempt, five students completed the course and two passed the AP test. A critic might write “just five students” or “only two,” though anyone familiar with both the difficulty of the exam and the extent of math deficiencies in an underperforming school recognizes this as a laudable feat.
Still, it took Escalante eight years to build the math program that achieved what “Stand and Deliver” shows: a class of 18 who pass with flying colors. During this time, he convinced the principal, Henry Gradillas, to raise the school’s math requirements; he designed a pipeline of courses to prepare Garfield’s students for AP calculus; he became department head and hand-selected top teachers for his feeder courses; he and Gradillas even influenced the area junior high schools to offer algebra. In other words, to achieve his AP students’ success, he transformed the school’s math department. Escalante himself emphasized in interviews that no student went the way of the film’s Angel: from basic math in one year to AP calculus in the next.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Sector Pay Outpaces Private Pay

Mike Mandel, via a kind reader:

The top line tracks the real compensation of all state and local government workers-wages and benefits, adjusted for inflation. The lower line tracks the real compensation of all private sector workers. The data comes from the Employment Cost Index data published by the BLS.
The chart shows that public and private sector pay rose in parallel from 2001 to 2004. Then the lines diverged. Since early 2005, public sector pay has risen by 5% in real terms. Meanwhile, private sector pay has been flat.

Coaching of Teachers Found to Boost Student Reading

Debra Viadero:

An innovative study of 17 schools along the East Coast suggests that putting literacy coaches in schools can help boost students’ reading skills by as much as 32 percent over three years.
The study, which was presented here on May 1 during the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, is as notable for its methods as for its results. It’s among the first of what many scholars hope will be a new generation of studies that offer solid clues not only to what works but also when, under what conditions, and to some extent, why.
The study finds that reading gains are greatest in schools where teachers receive a larger amount of coaching. It also finds that the amount of coaching that teachers receive varies widely and is influenced by an array of factors, including relationships among staff members and how teachers envision their roles.

Ariz. college to position sensors to check class attendance Devices would be installed in underclassmen lecture halls; some say infringes on privacy

David Brazy:

Students at Northern Arizona University will have a hard time skipping large classes next fall because of a new attendance monitoring system.
The new system will use sensors to detect students’ university identification cards when they enter classrooms, according to NAU spokesperson Tom Bauer. The data will be recorded and available for professors to examine.
Bauer said the university’s main goal with the sensor system is to increase attendance and student performance.
“People are saying we are using surveillance or Orwellian [tactics] and, boy, I’m like ‘wow,’ I didn’t know taking attendance qualified as surveillance,” Bauer said.
University President John Haeger is encouraging professors to have attendance be a part of students’ grades, but he added it is not mandatory and up to each professor to decide, Bauer said.

Bring Your Questions on Grade Inflation

Catherine Rampell:

We recently wrote about a new study on grade inflation, and how it has been especially rampant at private colleges. The post prompted a lot of interesting questions and comments about the reasons behind changing G.P.A.’s.
Stuart Rojstaczer, an author of the study, responded to some of the reader reaction on his blog. He has agreed to take your questions, which you can submit below.

The Pink Floyd Night School

Mark Edmundson:

“SO, what are you doing after graduation?”
In the spring of my last year in college I posed that question to at least a dozen fellow graduates-to-be at my little out-of-the-way school in Vermont. The answers they gave me were satisfying in the extreme: not very much, just kick back, hang out, look things over, take it slow. It was 1974. That’s what you were supposed to say.
My classmates weren’t, strictly speaking, telling the truth. They were, one might even say, lying outrageously. By graduation day, it was clear that most of my contemporaries would be trotting off to law school and graduate school and to cool and unusual internships in New York and San Francisco.
But I did take it slow. After graduation, I spent five years wandering around doing nothing — or getting as close to it as I could manage. I was a cab driver, an obsessed moviegoer, a wanderer in the mountains of Colorado, a teacher at a crazy grand hippie school in Vermont, the manager of a movie house (who didn’t do much managing), a crewman on a ship and a doorman at a disco.

The Future of America: Financial Literacy Education

The White House:

Ed Note: Aaron Moore was the winner of the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program announced in December by Treasury Secretary Geithner and Education Secretary Duncan, designed to promote financial education among high school students across the country. He has made several speaking engagements and national media appearances discussing the topic of financial literacy and serves as the president of Future Business Leaders of America for the state of Maryland. He will enter Villanova University in the fall to study Business Administration.
Students are given opportunities and choices; I was given an opportunity like no other, to speak at the Treasury Department along side of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. From beginning to end I was engaged, enlightened, and excited. The halls of the Treasury truly represented what it means to be American, full of marble, wood, and gold, the building materials of our founding fathers.

Again: What is the SPS Policy on Anything that Looks Like a Gun?

Melissa Westbrook:

The PI had an interesting story this morning about an incident at Washington Middle School in early April. Apparently 3 students were expelled for 15-days for aiming/having a toy gun at school. However, none of the staff told the Seattle Police School Emphasis Officer about the incident and she found out when she saw one student riding a bike during school hours. He told her about the expulsion.
From the story:
In an April 21 meeting with a school staff member, in which the officer asked why she was not contacted and the incident was not reported, the staff member did not have an answer, according to a police incident report. About 15 minutes later, the staff member “stated to me it wasn’t reported because ‘it was a clear, plastic gun and not used with malice,'” School Emphasis Officer Erin Rodriguez wrote in the report.

Madison School board votes to save jobs, but doesn’t finalize budget yet; $250,000 home to see a $224.46 increase in property taxes, above the $2186.35 paid in 2009 (roughly 10%)

Gayle Worland:

The owner of a $250,000 Madison home would pay $224.46 more in school property taxes next winter under a budget still under discussion by the Madison School Board.
In what many — including three board members — thought would be a wrap-up Tuesday night of the board’s two-month process to close an initial $30 million budget gap, the board voted to save most of the district jobs still on the chopping block, largely with the help of $794,491 in employee health insurance savings.
But it left several items on the table until a final vote on the preliminary budget June 1, including:

A Madison home assessed at $257,000 paid 2186.35 in Madison School District taxes last year. A $224.46 increase is about 10%……
Much more on the 2010-2011 budget here.
The next school board election is in April, 2011, when the seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot.
November, 2010 elections that affect K-12 taxes & spending include the governor and assembly races.

Do Teachers Get To Vote on Salary Freezes?

New Jersey Left Behind:

No disrespect intended towards the 71,000 members of the facebook page “New Jersey Teachers United Against Gov. Christie’s Pay Freeze,” but the zeitgeist of NJ seems to be in step with Gov. Christie, Ed Sec Schundler, and the New Jersey School Boards Association’s call for local unions to agree to salary concessions. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that only 28% of New Jersey residents oppose pay freezes, not to mention that school budgets failed two weeks ago at an unprecedented rate; however, 2/3 of school districts that won salary freezes won budget approval. (Here’s a complete list).
There is no doubt a cadre of teachers out that who would happily accept pay freezes, especially with the added incentive that agreements signed within the month will delay implementation of the 1.5% base pay contribution towards health benefits. (Translation: a one-year pay freeze adopted before May 22nd is really a 1.5% pay increase.) However, we’re starting to hear reports of districts where local union leadership is bypassing membership and declining to put such an agreement to a vote. One example: in Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, a large Somerset County district with a 1,360 member teacher union, the president of BREA explained to the Star-Ledger why he didn’t allow a formal vote after the School Board asked for one: “We truly believe that the executive committee(s) has a handle on how members feel. We talked to people and teachers and we listened.”

Verona Superintendent’s Incident Notification: Student Charged with Murder

via a kind reader:

Following is a message from the Superintendent of VASD, Dean Gorrell. Any inquiries should be directed to Superintendent Gorrell.
Dear Verona Area School District Parents,
A Verona Area High School student has been charged today with First Degree Intentional Homicide – Party to a crime in connection with the murder of Antonio Perez. The student, Victor Prado-Velasquez, is currently incarcerated in the Dane County jail. While we have no information of potential issues with students at the Verona Area High school, we have taken and will continue to take measures to increase security and surveillance. This includes:
Working with the Verona Police Department (VPD) and our VPD Police School Liaison to increase patrols in and around campus throughout the school day.
Having members of the VAHS administrative team increase their presence outside the school building during the school day.
Working with VAHS staff to make sure that they are vigilant and report any suspicious activities at once to the Administration and the VPD Police School Liaison.
Again, we have no reason to believe any Verona Area High School student was or is at risk related to this incident. We will continue these measures until such time as all suspects have been apprehended or until we receive notification from the Police that we can discontinue these measures.
We are providing you this information so that you are informed. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact me by email at or by phone at 608-845-4310.
Most Sincerely,
Dean Gorrell

Gifted students shortchanged as schools push low achievers

Jill Tucker

As California’s public schools have increasingly poured attention and resources into the state’s struggling students, high academic learners – the so-called gifted students – have been getting the short shrift, a policy decision that some worry could leave the United States at a competitive disadvantage.
Critics see courses tailored for exceptional students as elitist and not much of an issue when compared with the vast number of students who are lagging grades behind their peers or dropping out of school. But a growing chorus of parents and advocates is asking the contentious question: What about the smart kids?
“We have countries like India, Singapore, China, and they realize the future productivity of their country is an investment in their intellectual and creative resources,” said gifted education expert Joseph Renzulli.


Caryolyn Lochhead:

Slow food stirs up battle in heartland.
Agricultural establishment fighting back at movement.
From Pennsylvania church ladies to Iowa dairymen, the locavore, small-is-good, organic food movement born in Northern California has penetrated America’s heartland, where it is waging a pitchfork rebellion, much of it on the Internet, against the agricultural establishment.
After long dismissing the new food movement as a San Francisco annoyance, the establishment is fighting back.
“Alice should drown in her own waters,” said High Plains Journal’s Larry Dreiling of Berkeley food guru Alice Waters.

Seattle Public Schools Budget Feedback

Melissa Westbrook:

I was asked recently, by a leader up the food chain, what I would do to improve community engagement. Here’s what I would do but do let us know what you would like to see.

  • I would go with the George Costanza method. Do the opposite of what you are currently doing.
  • Shorter but more specific presentations.
  • Take ALL questions from the general audience. (I do believe there is a place for small group discussions but not on every subject.)
  • As long as it is within the topic, lead but don’t tell people what they can and can’t discuss .
  • Have the meetings not all in one week but over a series of weeks.

OpenCourseWare: Opportunities for the EdTech Entrepreneur

Audrey Watters:

The Instructional Technology Council recently released a report on the trends in distance education and online learning at community colleges. Among its findings: Enrollment in distance education courses increased by over 20%, while overall community college enrollment increased by less than 2%. Clearly online learning offers many opportunities to students, teachers and academic institutions. But what are the opportunities for entrepreneurs?
The Case for OpenCourseWare
Of course, entrepreneurs can benefit themselves from taking online classes. As Bill Gates said in a recent speech at M.I.T., he’s a “super happy user” of the university’s OpenCourseWare program, which offers free online courses, noting that he “retook physics” along with over a dozen of the other online offerings. Gates praised OpenCourseWare for offering a blend of the best of video technology, professional instruction and testing, and argued that accreditation too should be separated from place-based learning. Gates stated that “What’s been done so far has had very modest funding. This is an area we need more resources, more bright minds, and certainly one that I want to see how the foundation could make a contribution to this.”

The 21st Century Classroom – Alfie Kohn


As a former administrator, I have had the good fortune to visit a significant number of classrooms over the years. Because I have been witness to bad or indifferent teaching, there has always been a special feeling of excitement during those times I was able to witness the talents of a true professional at work in the classroom. It also has encouraged me to be reflective on my years in the classroom.
Having begun teaching in the 1970’s at the high school level, my approach in the early years was very traditional. My classroom would have been best described as teacher-centered and my organizational skills combined with my ability to relate to students created a room that earned me high marks from my administrators.
In the early nineties though, it became increasingly clear that my methods were growing less popular with students. In addition, I found myself less and less successful on the most important element, student achievement. My classroom was well-managed and discipline issues seldom arose, but my students seemed to be losing interest in the subjects that I taught.

Filmmaker takes aim at ‘Cartel’ of education

Dana Barbuto:

Journalist-turned-documentarian Bob Bowdon saw something very wrong with the New Jersey public education system. More than $400,000 of public money was earmarked for each classroom, yet an alarming rate of students were not proficient in reading or math.
Once he dug deeper, Bowdon found a flawed system that embraced cronyism, squandered money and frowned upon alternative education options such as charter schools. Bowdon spent three years pointing his camera at New Jersey administrators, teachers, unions, students and parents and the result is the documentary “The Cartel,” opening at Kendall Square in Cambridge today. The film focuses on his home state of New Jersey, but Bowdon assures it is a case study likely evident across the country. As the film points out, in 12 percent of U.S. schools, less than 60 percent of freshmen make it to senior year.
Q: Did you ever think you’d be a documentary filmmaker?
A: Well, it wasn’t some sort of lifelong dream. I got a film certificate from New York University, but it really wasn’t to become a filmmaker. This issue wasn’t well covered by traditional media. Education is an emerging national disaster and that story needed long-form treatment.

Class Divide? More Teacher Absences in Poorer Districts

Barbara Martinez:

New York City teachers get 10 sick days during their 184-day school year, and most stick to that number. But 20% of teachers take more than that amount — and a small percentage take 30 or more days off, according to Department of Education figures.
The data show that for some of the poorest districts, like the South Bronx and Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, more than 20% of the teachers are out two weeks or more during the school year. The teachers union cautions that the absence data includes all types of absences, including things like professional development and jury duty over which teachers have no control. And not all poor districts have high-absentee teachers.
Still, in districts like the one that contains the Upper East Side, the percentage of teachers absent two weeks or more is below the average.

Ron Isaac:

The Wall Street Journal, attack dog for the righteous marketplace, apostle of “bang for the buck” for civil servants, and conscience of the all-day businessman’s lunch for dividends gluttons, decried in an April 28 piece the alleged statistic that public school teachers tend to exhaust their annual ten-day “sick bank,” especially in poorer areas of the city.
They suspect that teachers’ claim of sickness is often a ploy and mask for their contemptuous attitude towards professional duty. They see teachers who get sick as slackers who if they cared about kids would have immune systems better able to repel microbes. They plainly feel that unions are the enablers of teachers’ audacity.
Perhaps it’s true about teachers burning through their ten days over ten months. But a fragment of truth without context is no truth at all, but as an instrument to exploit the public’s gullibility, it’s more serviceable than an out and out lie.

Grade-A ideas From virtual-reality science instruction to meditation for teachers, these approaches aim to reinvigorate education for all ages.

Patti Hartigan:

Art From the Start The current rage in education is STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But creative types are working valiantly to turn STEM into STEAM – with the A standing for the arts. At the Boston Arts Academy, for instance, the arts are infused in every subject. While creative pursuits are often the first to go when budgets are cut, this high school continues to innovate as it engages students through the arts. The ninth grade just wrapped up a unit on African civilization with a multimedia celebration called “Africa Lives.” The students got their hands dirty. And they mastered the material.
“High school shouldn’t be a preparation for life,” says co-headmaster Linda Nathan. “It should be life.”
Nathan is not alone in her belief that the arts foster deep learning. Young Audiences of Massachusetts, a nonprofit that brings artists into schools, is inaugurating an arts integration program at the Salemwood Elementary School in Malden this fall. Visiting artists will help teachers incorporate the arts into the literacy and social studies curriculums. If the pilot program takes off, Young Audiences hopes to make it a model for other Extended Learning Time schools like Salemwood. Explains executive director Diane Michalowski Freedland: “We need to think big.”

School’s footprint can’t be missed

Laurel Walker:

If someone asked you for a memory from elementary school, what would come to mind?
Fourth-grader Maggie Lombardi remembers way back to first grade at Randall Elementary School in Waukesha. PJ Day. Popcorn and reading. She got to bring a blanket and a stuffed animal and watch “Finding Nemo.” Even her teacher wore pajamas.
“It was super cool,” she wrote.
Maggie’s dad, Jim Lombardi, an electrical engineer who attended the same school between 1969 and 1976, has memories, too, if a bit more vague. Happiness. A great learning experience from great teachers. Fun times with friends.
He still stays in touch with some of those friends who’ve settled in the same diverse neighborhood around Carroll University. Now his kids go to school with some of their kids, he wrote.
Maggie’s grandmother, former Waukesha mayor Carol Lombardi, walked the same hallways as a student in the early 1940s.
“I was a very good student, and usually the teacher’s pet,” she said. “I got to ring the bell in the morning. I got to answer the school phone. A lot of the kids hated me because I was doing all those things, but I learned so much responsibility.”

No Grading, More Learning

Scott Jaschik:

When Duke University’s Cathy Davidson announced her grading plan for a seminar she would be offering this semester, she attracted attention nationwide. Some professors cheered, others tut-tutted, and others asked “Can she do that?”
Her plan? Turn over grading to the students in the course, and get out of the grading business herself.
Now that the course is finished, Davidson is giving an A+ to the concept. “It was spectacular, far exceeding my expectations,” she said. “It would take a lot to get me back to a conventional form of grading ever again.”
Davidson is becoming a scholar of grading. She’s been observing grading systems at other colleges and in elementary and secondary schools, and she’s immersed herself in the history of grading. (If you want to know who invented the multiple choice test, she’ll brief you on how Frederick J. Kelly did so at Emporia State University and how he later renounced his technique.)
But it was her own course this semester — called “Your Brain on the Internet” — that Davidson used to test her ideas. And she found that it inspired students to do more work, and more creative work than she sees in courses with traditional grading.

Education status quo unacceptable

Arne Duncan:

If education reform was easy, we would have done it long ago and, like the mythical Lake Wobegon, all of our children would be performing above average. In the real world, reform happens when adults put aside differences, embrace the challenge of educating all children, and work together toward a common vision of success.
The theory behind the Race to the Top competition is that with the right financial incentives and sensible goals, states, districts and other stakeholders will forge new partnerships, revise outmoded laws and practices, and fashion far-reaching reforms. Despite the fact that the $4 billion Race to the Top program represents less than 1 percent of overall K-12 funding in America, it has been working.
Since the competition was announced last summer, more than a dozen states changed laws around issues like teacher evaluation, use of student data and charter schools. Meanwhile, 48 governors and chief state school officers raised learning standards, and a number of school districts announced progressive, new collective bargaining agreements that are shaking up the labor-management status quo.

End Nears in L. Merion School Redistricting Court Battle

Brad Segall:

Closing arguments were expected on Monday morning in federal court in Philadelphia in a redistricting lawsuit brought against the Lower Merion School District.
US District Judge Michael Baylson is hearing from both sides on Monday and says he will render a quick verdict, although he says that decision may not come on Monday.
Nine parents from South Ardmore are suing the school district alleging that Lower Merion used race as a factor in a redistricting plan.

Saving money now on education will cost lots later

Cynthia Tucker:

When you see a cluster of elementary schoolchildren at a bus stop or street-crossing, struggling with bristling backpacks full of textbooks and school papers, it’s hard to imagine that kids in distant lands are carrying even weightier tomes, slogging through more homework and spending longer hours in class. But many of them are. That’s among the reasons that American children consistently post lower test scores than children in several other countries.
Education activists — from mega-wealthy wise men such as Bill Gates to policy experts such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan — believe the nation’s economic competitiveness depends on lifting our academic standards. Some even worry that the current generation of schoolchildren may be the first whose level of educational attainment falls below that of their parents.
Given widespread fears about the nation’s ability to maintain its leadership in a world growing smaller and flatter, should we allow school systems to go broke as a result of the recession? Is this any time for widespread teacher layoffs, overcrowded classrooms and shorter school days?

Teacher Caught On Video Stealing From Lockers


Students sick of getting their lockers broken into and having their money disappear set up a cell phone camera to hopefully catch the crook in the act.
Deputies said the video showed the crook was Steven Simmons, 49, their PE teacher.
It’s news that spread quickly at North Marion High School.
“There’s videos going around and forwarded messages of his mug shot, and it’s crazy,” said Shelby Revels, a North Marion High student.
Deputies said at first Simmons denied going into the lockers.
However, when confronted with the video, they said he confessed to stealing money from students for years.
This year, it totaled around $400.

Boards should not shortchange brightest students

StarNews Online:

As school systems grapple with almost certain budget cuts, they should passionately resist taking significant bites out of programs that challenge bright students to reach higher.
New Hanover County school officials are considering cuts to the county’s program for academically gifted students as one way to cope with a dire budget outlook. One proposal, if adopted, would force small schools to share gifted-education teachers. A few years ago, the board took the bold step of insisting that each school have its own specialized teacher for students identified as Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG, not to be confused with the bailed-out insurance giant).
Parents and some teachers naturally fear that changes could affect the quality and the reach of gifted education.
No Child Left Behind and other accountability mandates focus mainly on bringing all students to an acceptable minimum level. When a teacher’s time is consumed with bringing students up to grade level, often the quick learners go unchallenged.

HOMESCHOOL TO HARVARD: A Remarkable Education Story!

Wayne Allen Root:

This is the story the teachers unions wish never happened. This is the story that proves all their hysterical demands for more money are nothing but a sham. This is the story that makes the unions and education bureaucrats sick to their stomachs. This is the personal story of my daughter Dakota Root.
In each of the books I’ve written, I’ve taken great care to acknowledge my beautiful and brilliant little girl, Dakota. I often noted that Dakota and her parents were aiming for her acceptance at either Harvard or Stanford and would accept nothing less. The easy part is aiming for gold. The hard part is achieving it. “Homeschool to Harvard” is a story about turning dreams into reality.
Dakota has been home-schooled since birth. While other kids spent their school days being indoctrinated to believe competition and winning are unimportant, and that others are to blame for their shortcomings and failures, Dakota was learning the value of work ethic, discipline, sacrifice and personal responsibility. While other kids were becoming experts at partying, Dakota and her dad debated current events at the dinner table. While other kids shopped and gossiped, Dakota was devouring books on science, math, history, literature, politics and business. I often traveled to business events and political speeches with my home-schooled daughter in tow. While other kids came home to empty homes, Dakota’s mom, dad, or both were there every day to share meals and a bedtime kiss and prayer. Despite a crazy schedule of business and politics, I’m proud to report that I’ve missed very few bedtime kisses with my four home-schooled kids.

Math: I might not be smarter than a third-grader

Ben Bromley, via a kind reader:

It’s 6:30 p.m., that after-dinner time slot when my daughter and I play our least-favorite game show, “Are You Smarter Than A Third-Grader?”
Claire’s homework often consists of a page of math problems. And when a math-averse third-grader teams with her writer father to tackle the evening’s homework, what typically results is math problems.
My daughter is a bookworm and, like her father, a bit of a right-brainer. We are the type of people who can conjugate verbs in multiple languages, sketch the image of a long-lost friend from memory, or summarize the day’s events in haiku. But we couldn’t balance a checkbook if the Earth’s fate depended on it.
A sheet of math problems gives us a cold chill, like when someone walks over your grave, or you accidentally walk in on your grandmother in the bathtub. Claire already is being asked to multiply and divide double-digit figures, and last week she brought home a worksheet requiring her to compute the area and volume of prisms. I don’t remember being asked to handle such concepts in third grade. But maybe I blocked it out, just like the mental image of Grandma in the tub.

Speech at the University of Michigan School of Education

Detroit Public Schools’ Robert Bobb:

Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the prestigious University of Michigan, Dr. Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Deborah Loewenberg Ball, dean of the School of Education, faculty, students, family, and friends of the graduating class of 2010. I am most grateful and honored to address the 2010 graduating class on the 88th commencement celebration of the school of education. I applaud you for your tenacity, endurance, stamina, and perseverance in commanding the intellectual rigor, knowledge, and skills to fulfill the requirements for the degree that you are about to receive. This commencement celebration culminates the final milestone of a long and arduous journey in preparation for your career as educators, practitioners, researchers, analysts, and advocates in the field of education. When the jubilation of this moment ends, and the last farewell is bided, brace yourself for the dawning challenges that tomorrow holds for you in the practice of your profession. The struggle and fortitude to mold, shape, cultivate, motivate, and invigorate young inquiring minds are surmountable challenges that you must endure to guarantee our children the right of passage to a well-rounded education. I know you are eager with anticipation and enthusiasm to meet the challenges of helping our children reach their greatest potential in mastering the art, science, knowledge, and skills of learning. Your zeal, passion, and ardent interest to make a difference in meeting the educational needs of children are admirable; and, I laud you for choosing a career path in education. Allow me to be among the first to congratulate you for your dedication, preparation, and commitment to tackle the myriad of problems that plague our educational system. This commencement exercise serves to remind you of your accomplishments and the challenges in the field of education that await you.

Clusty Search: Robert Bobb.

Replacing the teacher replacements

Beatrice Motamedi:

There’s a Shakespearean echo in the reform-minded pronouncements about education emanating from the media these days.
“Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers,” urged a headline in the March 15 issue of Newsweek. A secondary headline observed: “In no other profession are workers so insulated from accountability.” Another thundered: “Bad Teachers: Reform Them or Retire Them?” The story pondered whether “educators are born or made.”
Although I’m a teacher, I can’t claim to know the answer to that question. But it does remind me of the moment in “Henry VI” in which Jack Cade, a pretender to the throne, boasts about the utopia he’ll create if he becomes king, saying he’ll slash the price of bread and encourage the drinking of beer.

The Death of Local Control

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:

A Republican lawmaker put out a news release at the end of this year’s legislative session boasting that lawmakers approved more local control and funding flexibility for schools.
Just try to convince members of your local school board that’s the case.
In the wake of a $297 million reduction in education spending statewide, school districts struggle to cut costs without laying off teachers, eliminating programs or shuttering schools. But the minimal leeway they once enjoyed is gone – stripped along with the small percentage of local property tax levy they controlled and handed over to the state in exchange for an increase in the sales-tax rate.
“What local control?” quips Diana Showalter, superintendent of Manchester Community Schools. “When the state assumed control of the general fund, they took control of the major financial source for the schools. … When we can’t control our own destiny through the collection of property taxes, we are setting ourselves up for a difficult time.”

Top 20 of the Most Hilarious Spelling Mistakes on Resumes and Cover Letters March 19th, 2010 by Andrew Kucheriavy Posted in Humor, Most Popular, Resumark News, Resume Writing

Andrew Kucheriavy:

Most employers and recruiters agree that the top reason that makes them reject a resume is spelling mistakes. Some mistakes are so funny that we couldn’t let recruiters have all the fun and put together this list for your enjoyment.
If you don’t want to end up on this list, there is a simple rule to follow: proofread, proofread again, and then have someone else proofread your resume and your cover letter. For more tips, make sure to read Resume Tips Everyone Needs to Know and Cover Letter for Your Resume – How to Write One that Doesn’t Get Thrown Away?

Principal Urges Parents to Nix Facebook

Paul McNamara:

Reasonable people may disagree as to whether it’s appropriate for middle-school-age children to have a Facebook page or belong to any other online social network.
Anthony Orsini, principal at the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J., does not seem to be a reasonable person, at least not based upon my reading of an e-mail he sent to parents that all but accuses them of child abuse should they allow their youngsters to use such networks. From a local CBS television station’s Web site:
“It is time for every single member of the BF Community to take a stand! There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! … Let me repeat that – there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None.”

State leadership lacking

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

School reform: D-
Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democratic-run Legislature failed to overhaul an outdated and unfair school financing system. And they made school budgets harder to balance in the future by lifting limits on teacher pay hikes. Even with Sen. Mark Miller, D-Madison, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, chairing the state budget committee, Madison schools were stung by a huge and unforeseen cut in state aid.
Wisconsin was out of shape and finished way behind the pack in the first round of President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition, which is steering billions of dollars for education innovation to other states.
Despite Doyle’s best efforts, the Legislature also failed to shake up failing Milwaukee Public Schools. A meager bill giving the state schools superintendent some additional but limited power to force change in Milwaukee saves our leaders from an “F.”

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Future Of Public Debt, Bank for International Settlements Debt Projections

John Mauldin:

“Seeing that the status quo is untenable, countries are embarking on fiscal consolidation plans. In the United States, the aim is to bring the total federal budget deficit down from 11% to 4% of GDP by 2015. In the United Kingdom, the consolidation plan envisages reducing budget deficits by 1.3 percentage points of GDP each year from 2010 to 2013 (see eg OECD (2009a)).
“To examine the long-run implications of a gradual fiscal adjustment similar to the ones being proposed, we project the debt ratio assuming that the primary balance improves by 1 percentage point of GDP in each year for five years starting in 2012. The results are presented as the green line in Graph 4. Although such an adjustment path would slow the rate of debt accumulation compared with our baseline scenario, it would leave several major industrial economies with substantial debt ratios in the next decade.
“This suggests that consolidations along the lines currently being discussed will not be sufficient to ensure that debt levels remain within reasonable bounds over the next several decades.
“An alternative to traditional spending cuts and revenue increases is to change the promises that are as yet unmet. Here, that means embarking on the politically treacherous task of cutting future age-related liabilities. With this possibility in mind, we construct a third scenario that combines gradual fiscal improvement with a freezing of age-related spending-to-GDP at the projected level for 2011. The blue line in Graph 4 shows the consequences of this draconian policy. Given its severity, the result is no surprise: what was a rising debt/GDP ratio reverses course and starts heading down in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. In several others, the policy yields a significant slowdown in debt accumulation. Interestingly, in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, even this policy is not sufficient to bring rising debt under contro
[And yet, many countries, including the US, will have to contemplate something along these lines. We simply cannot fund entitlement growth at expected levels. Note that in the US, even by “draconian” estimates, debt-to-GDP still grows to 200% in 30 years. That shows you just how out of whack our entitlement programs are.
Sidebar: This also means that if we – the US – decide as a matter of national policy that we do indeed want these entitlements, it will most likely mean a substantial VAT tax, as we will need vast sums to cover the costs, but with that will come slower growth.]

TJ Mertz reflects on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget and discusses increased spending via property tax increases:

I was at a meeting of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools people yesterday. Some of the people there were amazed at the hundreds of Madisonians who came out to tell the Board of Education that they preferred tax increases to further cuts. Some of the people were also perplexed that with this kind of support the Board of Education is cutting and considering cutting at the levels they are. I’m perplexed too. I’m also disappointed.

We’ll likely not see significant increases in redistributed state and federal tax dollars for K-12. This means that additional spending growth will depend on local property tax increases, a challenging topic given current taxes.
Walter Russell Mead on Greece’s financial restructuring:

What worries investors now is whether the Greeks will stand for it. Will Greek society resist the imposition of savage cuts in salaries and public services, and will the government’s efforts to reform the public administration and improve tax collection (while raising taxes) actually work?
The answer at this point is that nobody knows. On the plus side, the current Greek government is led by the left-wing PASOK party. The trade unions and civil service unions not only support PASOK; in a very real way they are the party. Although the party’s leader George Papandreou is something of a Tony Blair style ‘third way’ politician who is more comfortable at Davos than in a union hall, the party itself is one of Europe’s more old fashioned left wing political groups, where chain-smoking dependency theorists debate the shifting fortunes of the international class war. The protesters are protesting decisions made by their own political leadership; this may help keep a lid on things. If a conservative government had proposed these cuts, Greece would be much nearer to some kind of explosion.
On the minus side, the cuts are genuinely harsh, with pay cuts for civil servants of about 15% and the total package of government spending cuts set at 10 percent of GDP. (In the United States, that would amount to federal and state budget cuts totaling more than $1.4 trillion, almost one quarter of the total spending of all state and local governments plus the federal government combined.) The impact on Greek lifestyles will be even more severe; spending cuts that severe will almost certainly deepen Greece’s recession. Many Greeks stand to lose their jobs and, as credit conditions tighten, may face losing their homes and businesses as well.

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

Despite Push, Success at Charter Schools Is Mixed

Trip Gabriel:

In the world of education, it was the equivalent of the cool kids’ table in the cafeteria.
Executives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McKinsey consultants and scholars from Stanford and Harvard mingled at an invitation-only meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund at a luxury hotel in Pasadena, Calif. Founded by investors who helped start Google and Amazon, this philanthropy seeks to raise the academic achievement of poor black and Hispanic students, largely through charter schools.
Many of those at the meeting last May had worried that the Obama administration would reflect the general hostility of teachers’ unions toward charters, publicly financed schools that are independently run and free to experiment in classrooms. But all doubts were dispelled when the image of Arne Duncan, the new education secretary, filled a large video screen from Washington. He pledged to combine “your ideas with our dollars” from the federal government. “What you have created,” he said, “is a real movement.”

What the next Wisconsin governor could do on education

Alan Borsuk:

Reading the information released Thursday about the Milwaukee Public Schools budget for next year, with its grim warnings about hundreds of job cuts and swelling benefit costs, my mind wandered.
I had a vision of the new governor of Wisconsin unveiling his budget proposals in February and deciding (this is the most fanciful part) that he was going to break with established positions of whichever political party he represents. He decided to give a speech to the Legislature like this:

Folks, we need to stop posturing, and we all know that’s one of our most striking talents here in the Capitol. Man, the legislators the last two years should have made commercials for Posturepedic. Lots of talk, little dealing with the real issues. No more, people. Things are too serious.
From Superior to Kenosha – and especially in Milwaukee – we’ve got a really deep education problem. That goes in some serious ways for just plain education. But it goes especially for paying for education. If the school system in your hometown isn’t financially broken, it’s under huge stress and it’s going to be broken soon. Show me figures that say I’m wrong.

Texas education schools need to do a better job preparing teachers

William McKenzie:

The National Council on Teacher Quality has come out with an assessment of how Texas’ schools of education prepare instructors for the classroom. The bottom line is some of our schools need a lot of work.
In this Viewpoints piece, David Chard, dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, is honest about the shortcomings of his program, which actually does okay on this survey. As we talk here about quality teachers, I hope we have more voices like Chard’s saying this is what we need to do to improve. Better that, than defensive reactions.
If you have time over the weekend, I encourage you to read Chard’s piece and this accompanying DMN story. The way in which teachers are prepared – or not prepared – directly affects the classroom.

Just How Many Bad Teachers Does Houston Have

Ericka Mallon:

Not very many — if you believe the principals’ evaluations, which even teachers concede aren’t very good. The Houston school board heard a presentation Thursday from the New Teacher Project, and it included some fascinating data — from HISD’s own records and from surveys of teachers and principals. One slide (No. 14 below) particularly stood out: It showed that only 3.4 percent of teachers in the Houston Independent School District were rated “below expectations” or “unsatisfactory” on any domain on their appraisals between the 2005-06 school year and last school year. Looking at the domain ratings on all the evaluations from that time period, only 1 percent were below proficient.


A Boston High School Senior, Chrismaldy Morgado, writing an Op-Ed in The Boston Globe today, has claimed that students have some responsibility for their own academic achievement.
The Boston Globe may be forgiven for printing such a heretical claim, because it is trying to give a “voice” to young people, and the high school student may not be aware that his suggestion goes against the settled wisdom of the vast majority of U.S. Edupundits.
Our Edupundits are in substantial agreement, often repeated, that “the principal variable in student academic achievement is teacher quality.” I have nowhere found much interest in my own argument that the principal variable in student academic achievement is student academic work.
Yet here is a high school Senior, writing that: “students seem to socialize more than they should. In hallways, stairwells, and bathrooms, students sit and talk to their friends after the late bell rang for classes.” He adds that: “My friends agree that new teachers alone are not going to solve the problems at Burke [Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston is one of 35 schools in the state that is asking its staff to re-apply for their jobs]. Jussara Sequeira, a Junior, said: “Some of us students are not trying hard enough and I don’t think the school’s teachers should pay the consequences.”
Paul Zoch, a high school Latin teacher, in Doomed to Fail [2004] points out that: “the United States looks to its teachers and their efforts, but not to its students and their efforts, for success in education. That being the accepted wisdom, students are free to do nothing more than wait for the teachers to create success for them. Education reform literature rarely contains the thought that our students are primarily failing because they do not study enough.” Another heretic!
Many thanks to Paul Zoch, Diane Ravitch, Chrismaldy Morgado, and Jussara Sequeira for pointing out the egregious folly of leaving student effort out of the analysis of those things which make for academic success in the schools.
It is hard to understand how so many Edupundits miss this essential sine qua non of good learning outcomes for our schools. One possibility is that their view is so lofty and unfocused that they never take the academic work of mere students into account.
Tony Wagner at Harvard has found that only three high schools in the country, for instance, ever sit down in a focus group with their graduates and ask them for their thoughts about their education while they were at the school.
This still does not completely explain why students’ academic responsibility gets so routinely overlooked in all the multi-billion-dollar efforts at school reform.
Paul Zoch writes: “In reading about Japanese education, one is repeatedly struck by the expectation that the students must work hard for success, in contrast to the United States, where the teacher is expected to work hard to find a way for the students to succeed…Effort and self-discipline are considered by the Japanese to be essential bases for accomplishment. Lack of achievement, then, is attributed to the failure to work hard.”
What chance is there that the voices of Chirsmaldy Morgado and Jussara Sequeira will be heard in their call for more student academic effort in Boston high schools? It is hard to say. So much attention and concern, on the part of parents and the rest of us, seems to be on whether our students have friends and are having a good time in school, rather than whether they are working as hard as they can academically. It is far easier to blame teachers if student academic achievement is too low.
If we listened to those two public high school students, we should surely inform our students at the start of every school year, that they have the responsibility to pay attention, do their homework, read books and write papers, and in general give their very best efforts to making the most out of the free public education which has been provided them. Let’s tell them that their academic success is their job. It is up to them how much they learn and how much they grow in competence through their own work in school.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
Consortium for Varsity Academics® [2007]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

Lessons From Catholic Schools for Public Educators

Samuel Freedman:

ithin the 242 pages of Diane Ravitch’s lightning rod of a book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” there appear exactly three references to Catholic education. Which makes sense, given that Ms. Ravitch is addressing and deploring recent efforts to reform public schools with extensive testing and increasing privatization.
Yet what subtly informs both her critique and her recommendations for improving public schools is, in significant measure, her long study of and admiration for Roman Catholic education, especially in serving low-income black and Hispanic students.
In that respect, Ms. Ravitch and her book offer evidence of how some public-education scholars and reformers have been learning from what Catholic education is doing right. What one might call the Catholic-school model is perhaps the most unappreciated influence on the nation’s public-education debate.

Fact-Checking Linda Darling-Hammond

New Jersey Left Behind:

Bob Braun at the Star-Ledger writes of renowned education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond’s lecture in New Brunswick this week in which she lauds New Jersey’s success in closing the achievement gap among White, Black, and Hispanic students. “She listed measures of success in New Jersey — higher graduation rates, higher test scores, higher national rankings. Darling-Hammond drew gasps of appreciation by noting that, on one national exam, the average scores of black and Latino students in New Jersey were as high as the average scores of all students in her home state, California.”

Let’s put aside graduation rates for the moment (though just for the moment) and look more closely at the data that Darling-Hammond cites. There’s only one national test that NJ and California students take: the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fondly known as the NAEP. And while it’s true that average scores in California for all 4th and 8th graders (the two age groups tested by NAEP) are comparable to average scores for Black and Latino students in NJ, there’s one piece of data missing from Dr. Darling-Hammond’s analysis: 53% of California’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, the metric for establishing economic disadvantage.


Jacqueline Byrne:

Jacqueline Byrne developed the creative teaching techniques that form the basis of the academic and verbal test prep curricula at Ivy Educational Services. Her SAT prep book, “SAT Vocabulary Express” (McGraw Hill, 2004), introduces students to a new strategy for improving their functional vocabulary and raising their SAT and ACT verbal scores. In addition, Ms. Byrne designed Ivy Educational Services’ college essay writing program.
ACT scores came out this week, and sophomores are starting to think about college tests for next year, so this is a good time to talk about options.
Every college in the United States accepts the ACT (with the optional essay) and the SAT equally, so students now have a choice about which test to take. While the choice is wonderful, it can create more stress for families because there are more options:
Option One
Take both tests in alternating months: February ACT, March SAT, April ACT, May SAT, June SAT and ACT.

A Bill of Goods

Arthur Goldstein:

Bill Gates is amazed at what he sees happening at KIPP charter schools. Bill has no idea those same things happen at Francis Lewis High School, and countless other public schools, each and every day. Because Bill believes in the very same “reforms” that have caused Francis Lewis, my school, to balloon to 250 percent capacity, he surreptitiously funded the Learn NY campaign to preserve mayoral control (in practice, mayoral dictatorship). So I don’t trust him, and I don’t think he knows much about education, despite the millions he throws around imposing his pet projects on us. Still, I withheld judgment when he sent his new program to my school. I did not participate, but I said nothing to those who chose otherwise.

The Measures of Effective Teaching program, sponsored by the Gates Foundation, is now at my school and many others across the city. Teachers were told this study would show what worked and did not work in the classroom. They hoped it would give them ideas on how to reach their students more effectively. How long should you pause after posing a question? Did certain seat arrangements promote more interaction? Is group work always more effective than lecturing?