Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation

John McWhorter:

In 2000, in a book called Losing the Race, I argued that much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with “acting white.” I knew that a book which did not focus on racism’s role in this problem would attract bitter criticism. I was hardly surprised to be called a “sell-out” and “not really black” because I grew up middle class and thus had no understanding of black culture. But one of the few criticisms that I had not anticipated was that the “acting white” slam did not even exist.
I was hardly the first to bring up the “acting white” problem. An early description of the phenomenon comes from a paper by John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham in 1986, and their work was less a revelation of the counterintuitive than an airing of dirty laundry. You cannot grow up black in America and avoid the “acting white” notion, unless you by chance grow up around only white kids. Yet in the wake of Losing the Race, a leading scholar/activist on minority education insisted that he had never encountered the “acting white” slander–while shortly thereafter describing his own son doing poorly in school because of precisely what Ogbu, Fordham, myself, and others had written about. Jack White, formerly of Time, roasted me in a review for making up the notion out of whole cloth. Ogbu (with Astrid Davis) published an ethnological survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio describing the “acting white” problem’s effects there in detail, while a documentary on race and education in that town explicitly showed black students attesting to it. Both book and documentary have largely been ignored by the usual suspects.
Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the “acting white” charge is a fiction or just pointless marginal static. The other slain myth, equally important, is that black kids reject school as alien out of some sort of ingrained stupidity; the fear of this conclusion lies at the root of the studious dismissal of the issue by so many black thinkers concerned about black children. Buck conclusively argues that the phenomenon is a recent and understandable outgrowth of a particular facet of black people’s unusual social history in America–and that facet is neither slavery nor Jim Crow.

Clusty Search: Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation, by Stuart Buck.
Related: Madison Teachers’ Harlem trip’s aim is to aid ‘culturally relevant’ teaching.

The Retention Guru

Jennifer Epstein:

Two decades ago, Xavier University could only count on three of every four freshmen returning for sophomore year. Even fewer made it to graduation.
Today, though, close to 9 of every 10 students who start freshman year at the Jesuit university in Cincinnati makes it back the next fall. Seven in 10 will graduate in four years, and another one will likely graduate in the two years after that.
The quality of students Xavier admits hasn’t changed, nor have its academic standards. The biggest difference is one man – Adrian A. Schiess, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel — and his day-in, day-out devotion to keeping students at Xavier.
Since 1990, Schiess, a former professor of military science at Xavier, has been the university’s full-time director for student success and retention, an on-campus guru whose job responsibilities all lead to the same goal: helping any student who wants to be at Xavier stay at Xavier.
“There’s no magic to retention,” he says. “The key is hard work and a position like mine — having someone who has focused responsibility from the university to guide and steer efforts to keep students here.”
At other colleges, Schiess says, retention is an afterthought. “All the enrollment management people are really thinking about is admissions and financial aid. They might say, ‘You get them, you pay for them and you keep them,’ but they end up taking the third part as a given — but it really isn’t.”

Bill Gates touts charter schools, accountability

Caryn Rousseau:

Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Tuesday that charter schools can revolutionize education, but that the charter school movement also must hold itself accountable for low-performing schools.
“We need breakthroughs,” Gates said at the National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago. “And your charters are showing that breakthroughs are possible.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a big player in the school reform movement, spending about $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education. Gates said charter schools and their ability to innovate are a key part of the foundation’s education strategy.
“I really think that charters have the potential to revolutionize the way students are educated,” Gates said.
Charter schools receive taxpayer money but have more freedom than traditional public schools to map out how they’ll meet federal education benchmarks.

Tribute to High School Musicals

Marshall Heyman:

There are jimmies and Jimmy Choos, and as of last year, Jimmy Awards. Monday night, the National High School Musical Theater Awards hosted its second annual Jimmy Awards at the Marquis Theatre. Don’t let your mind take you anywhere funny: The Jimmy (which is trademarked, by the way) is named after producer James M. Nederlander.
After five coaching and master classes at NYU’s Tisch, 44 competitors, representing 22 regional award programs, competed for The Jimmy. Monday night they each performed brief vocal selections as the character that won them their regional awards.
“It’s more Miss America than ‘American Idol’,” said Nick Scandalios, Executive Vice President of The Nederlander Organization, who was one of the judges. “The public isn’t voting.”

Worried About a Moody Teen?

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Everyone warns parents about the drama of the teen years–the self-righteous tears, slamming doors, inexplicable fashion choices, appalling romances.
But what happens when typical teen angst starts to look like something much darker and more troubling? How can parents tell if a moody teenager is simply normal–or is spinning out of control? This may be one of the most difficult dilemmas parents will ever face.
Studies show that about 20% of teenagers have a psychiatric illness with depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder being among the most prevalent. Yet parents of teens are often blind-sided by a child’s mental illness. Some are unaware that mental illnesses typically appear for the first time during adolescence. Or they may confuse the symptoms of an actual disorder with more normal teen moodiness or anxiety.

The Trouble With Charter Schools

Clarence Page:

Charter schools receive a lot of well-deserved attention this time of year when they appear to be performing miracles. But what about the ones that don’t?
The Obama administration believes, as did the Bush administration, in taking harsh action against “failing” schools, such as firing staff, closing the school or turning over control to the state or private charters.
Much of the news has been encouraging, especially in schools where graduates outnumber dropouts for a change.
It was exciting to hear that Urban Prep Academies, a charter school on Chicago’s South Side, is sending 100 percent of this year’s 107 graduates to college. That’s particularly impressive for a school where only 4 percent of its original 150 students were reading at or above grade level when it opened four years ago.

School Vouchers in DC Produce Gains in Both Test Scores and Graduation Rates

Paul Peterson:

One should not under-estimate the impact of the DC school voucher program on student achievement. According to the official announcement and the executive summary of the report, school vouchers lifted high school graduation rates but it could not be conclusively determined that it had a positive impact on student achievement.
Something about those findings sounds like a bell striking thirteen. Not only is the clock wrong, but the mechanism seems out of whack. How can more students graduate from private schools if they weren’t learning more? Are expectations so low in the private sector that any one can graduate?
Peering beneath the press release and the executive summary into the bowels of the study itself one can get some, if not all the answers, to these questions.
Let’s begin with the most important–and perfectly uncontested–result: If one uses a voucher to go to school, the impact on the percentage of students with a high school diploma increases by 21 percentage points (Table 3-5), an effect size of no less than 0.46 standard deviations. Seventy percent of those who were not offered a school voucher made it through high school. That is close to the national average in high school graduation rates among those entering 9th grade four years earlier. As compared to that 70 percent rate among those who wanted a voucher but didn’t get one, 91 percent of those who used vouchers to go to private school eventually received a high school diploma.

Branchburg, NJ School District in turmoil

Amanda Peterka:

After five rounds of meetings, the Branchburg teachers union and the board of education have declared an impasse, saying they could not come to an agreement on a salary freeze and a switch to the state’s public health insurance plan.
A state moderator will now preside over negotiations. If an agreement cannot be reached over both, the school board will have to come up with those savings elsewhere because the school board budgeted the salary freeze already, and the Township Committee included the health insurance plan in its recommendations when it decided the school board needs to cut $1.5 million from its budget.
Tensions over these negotiations bubbled over on Thursday, June 24, at the same time that the school board approved new cuts that bring the number of laid-off school employees to approximately 55.

More California School Districts on the Financial Brink

Howard Blume:

An increasing number of California school districts are edging closer to financial insolvency, state officials reported Tuesday.
One immediate effect has been the layoff of teachers — probably in the thousands, although neither state officials nor the California Teachers Assn. has final numbers.
Since the beginning of 2010, the number of school systems that may be “unable to meet future financial obligations” has increased by 38%, according to the state Department of Education.
“Schools on this list are now forced to make terrible decisions to cut programs and services that students need or face bankruptcy,” said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

Retired, then rehired: How college workers use loophole to boost pay

Nick Perry & Justin Mayo:

Greg Royer ranks among the state’s top-paid employees, with a salary of $304,000. But that’s just part of his income. For nearly seven years, he’s also collected an annual pension of $105,000.
Royer, the vice president for business and finance at Washington State University, tops a long list of college administrative staff members who’ve been able to boost their incomes by up to 60 percent by exploiting a loophole in state retirement laws.
A Seattle Times investigation has found that at least 40 university or community-college employees retired and were rehired within weeks, often returning to the same job without the position ever being advertised. That has allowed them to double dip by collecting both a salary and a pension.
The pattern of quickie retirements has continued despite the Legislature’s efforts to crack down.

Madison Teachers’ Harlem trip’s aim is to aid ‘culturally relevant’ teaching

Susan Troller:

Lanyon, Grams, and fellow Hawthorne teachers Julie Olsen and Abby Miller received a grant from the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers that allowed them to travel to Harlem to learn about the art, music, poetry, literary history and drama of this hub of African-American life. They all agree that they now have a new appreciation for the richness of black culture and its profound impact on American life and culture as a whole.
For these four, plus a dozen more local educators whose travel was covered by a couple of additional grants, the experience was part of a wider effort to help them better teach in what’s known as a culturally relevant way.
Culturally relevant practice” is a relatively new movement in education that recognizes that learning, for all of us, is related to our cultural background and what we know from our daily living. Research shows that effectively bridging the gaps between a teacher’s background and student’s experience can improve academic performance.
Andreal Davis is one of two district administrators in charge of helping to create culturally relevant practices in local classrooms. A former elementary school teacher at Lincoln, Davis, who is black, now helps colleagues recognize that different groups of children bring their different backgrounds, expectations and even communication styles to the classroom.
She says teachers sometimes need help learning to translate different ways their students learn, or what kind of interactions make sense to different groups of children.
“Communication styles for all of us can vary a great deal. It can be like the difference between listening to conventional music, or listening to jazz, where the narrative doesn’t just go in a straight line,” she explains. “If that flow is what you’re used to, it’s what you know how to follow in a conversation, or in a class.”
Given Hawthorne’s demographics — 70 percent of the students are poor, with a diverse population that includes 18 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian, 32 percent black and 28 percent white — the school has respectable, rising test scores.

People who saw the recent Madison screening of The Lottery saw another part of the Harlem world: the battle between the traditional public school system and charters, specifically the Harlem Success Academy.

New York Tops Nation in Per-Pupil School Spending, Says U.S. Census Bureau

Cara Matthews:

New York spent $17,173 per student for public education in 2007-08, more than any other state and 67 percent higher than the national average, according to Census Bureau statistics released Monday (lots of data here).
The $10,259 average nationally was a 6.1 percent increase over 2006-07, the Census Bureau said. New York’s spending went up 7.4 percent over the two years. Public education is the single largest category of all state and local spending.
New York’s per-student spending was highest in 2006-07 too at $15,981 per student, compared to an average of $9,666 across the country.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia spent more than $10,259 and 32 spent less in the 2007-08 school year. States that came close to New York that year included New Jersey ($16,491 per student) and Alaska ($14,630). At the other end of the spectrum were Utah ($5,765), Idaho ($6,931) and Arizona ($7,608).

Madison spends $15,241 per student.

The National Study of Charter Management Organization (CMO) Effectiveness: Report on Interim Findings

Robin Lake, Brianna Dusseault, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, Paul Hill, via a Deb Britt email:

Charter management organizations (CMOs), nonprofit entities that directly manage public charter schools, are a significant force in today’s public K-12 charter school landscape.
CMOs were developed to solve serious problems limiting the numbers and quality of charter schools. The CMO model is meant to meld the benefits of school districts–including economies of scale, collaboration among similar schools, and support structures–with the autonomies and entrepreneurial drive of the charter sector.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the major philanthropies funding charter schools invested heavily in CMOs and similar organizations, spending an estimated total of $500 million between 1999 and 2009. Ultimately, those who invest in CMOs want to achieve a significantly higher number of high-quality schools in the charter school sector. Their investments in CMO growth have been targeted to specific urban school districts that have been considered difficult, if not impossible, to reform.

Responsible non-teaching careers in education

Mrim Boutia:

If you are interested in building a responsible career that successfully blends financial return with social impact and environmental responsibility, you might be interested in looking into opportunities in education.
You might think that building a career in education means being a teacher. Well, there are a number of other positions available in the education field that does not involve teaching, or even interacting with children. Furthermore, if you live in the US, you have certainly noted that in many states, recent changes in teachers’ tenure terms are increasingly tying teachers’ performance reviews to the performance of their students. Many of these changes are driven to compete for the Race To The Top Education Fund of $4.35 billion that was introduced by the Obama Administration to increase the effectiveness of public education in the US. The Obama Administration has sent a clear signal regarding the requirements states have to follow to qualify for funding. For the first phase of the fund deployment, forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications. However, only Delaware and Tennessee were awarded grants. It is anticipated that, given how selectively these funds were distributed the first time around, states will want to revamp their approaches to increase their chance to compete for the $3.4billion still available. Beyond public education reform, a number of opportunities are available to support supplemental programs focused on after school programs, youth empowerment programs and college preparation programs.

New Diploma Standard in New York Becomes a Multiple-Question Choice

Jennifer Medina:

When the State Education Department announced five years ago that all students would soon be required to pass five tests to earn high school diplomas in New York, officials applauded themselves for raising standards.
The new requirements do not take full effect until the class of 2012 graduates. What is clear is that if they were in place today, New York City’s graduation rate would almost certainly drop after years of climbing steadily.
What is not so evident, educators and testing experts say, is whether the higher bar will inspire students and schools to greatness, or merely make them lean more heavily on test-taking strategies. Nor is there agreement on whether it will actually make a difference in how students perform in high school and beyond.

Judge: Minimum Grade Ban Applies To Report Cards

Associated Press:

Students in Texas must get the grades they earn and not an inflated score on report cards under a new state law that bans minimum grade policies, a judge decided Monday in a ruling that backed arguments from state education officials.
Eleven school districts sued Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott over his interpretation of the law, which he said should apply to class assignments and report cards. The districts, most of them in the Houston area, said it should only apply to classroom assignments.
Some districts have long had policies that establish minimum grades of 50, 60 or even 70. That means if a student failed and earned a zero, his or her grade would be automatically brought up to the minimum score.

Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray

Jan Hoffman:

The girl’s parents, wild with outrage and fear, showed the principal the text messages: a dozen shocking, sexually explicit threats, sent to their daughter the previous Saturday night from the cellphone of a 12-year-old boy. Both children were sixth graders at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J.
“I said, ‘This occurred out of school, on a weekend,’ ” recalled the principal, Tony Orsini. “We can’t discipline him.”
Had they contacted the boy’s family, he asked.
Too awkward, they replied. The fathers coach sports together.
What about the police, Mr. Orsini asked.
A criminal investigation would be protracted, the parents had decided, its outcome uncertain. They wanted immediate action.
They pleaded: “Help us.”

Support for Summer Writers: Why Aren’t You Writing?

Kerry Ann Rockquemore:

Last month, I was contacted by a faculty member I had met several years ago at a conference (I’ll call her Claire). Our conversation began like many I’ve had recently, with tears in response to a negative and critical annual review. Claire is a brilliant social scientist, incredibly hard-working, and passionately committed to her scholarship, her institution and her students. While Claire is an award-winning teacher, and far exceeded her college’s service expectations, her publication record was significantly below her department’s standards. Her chair was clear that her lack of publications was problematic and she left the meeting feeling an almost desperate sense of urgency to move several manuscripts forward this summer.
Of course, I suggested she make a summer plan and join a writing group that would motivate and support her throughout the summer. Last week, when I was writing about resistance to writing I couldn’t help but think of Claire, so I decided to give her a call. Unfortunately, she had done very little writing: only three short sessions in the 30 days since we last spoke. When I asked Claire what was holding her back, she had difficulty identifying anything specific. She readily acknowledged having more free time and fewer responsibilities than she did during the academic year. But despite knowing that this was an important summer for her to be productive and having a general sense that she should try to write every day, somehow her days kept flying by without any progress on her manuscripts.

Quality, not seniority, of teachers should be considered

Alan Borsuk:

I’m going to turn 60 soon and my job title at Marquette Law School these days is “senior fellow,” so I have a disposition to respect seniority. Especially when other things are equal, you should earn some standing by dint of long service.
But do you think Trevor Hoffman should be sent out to pitch the ninth inning for the Brewers just because he has seniority over everyone else on the team? Of course not. Put in the best pitcher.
I may be in a minority, but I regard baseball as a game, as entertainment.
Education is not a game. It’s as crucial a matter as any facing Milwaukee.
So why don’t schools follow this simple lesson from sports: You stand your best chance of winning when you field your best players?
Milwaukee is well on its way this summer to a vivid lesson in seniority in action. Milwaukee Public Schools administrators have given layoff notices to 482 teachers, as well as 816 other employees.

Related: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Summer school is a great tool, if only more students would use it

Jay Matthews:

This Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Brent Elementary School at 301 North Carolina Ave. SE, the D.C. public schools will hold a chancellor’s forum on how to add useful learning to your child’s summer. Several groups, such as the D.C. Public Library, the University of the District of Columbia Science and Engineering Center, and even Madame Tussaud’s, will have booths about their summer programs.
But the District, like other urban districts, will have a summer school that includes only about a fifth of its students. Many people laugh that off: Who in their right mind wants to go to summer school? Give the poor kids a break.

Is New Hampshire’s Anti-Tax Stance Hurting Schools? A Quick Look at NAEP Scores Does Not Indicate that Spending is a Problem

Jim Zarroli:

State and local tax burdens vary greatly from state to state. New Hampshire, for instance, has no income or sales tax — but its neighbor Vermont has both. Fiscal conservatives say New Hampshire’s long history of low taxes has forced the state to keep spending in line. But New Hampshire residents say that tradition of fiscal austerity has exacted a price on the state’s schools.

NAEP 4th grade average math scale score: New Hampshire: 251; Wisconsin 244; Vermont 248, Massachusetts 252, Minnesota 249, Iowa 243. Low income: New Hampshire: 237; Wisconsin 229; Vermont 235, Massachusetts 237, Minnesota 234, Iowa 232.
NAEP 4th grade average reading scale score (national average is 220): New Hampshire: 229; Wisconsin 220; Vermont 229, Massachusetts 234, Minnesota 223, Iowa 221. Low income (national average is 206): New Hampshire: 213; Wisconsin 202; Vermont 215, Massachusetts 215, Minnesota 203, Iowa 208.
NAEP 8th grade average reading scale score (national average is 262): New Hampshire: 271; Wisconsin 266; Vermont 272, Massachusetts 274, Minnesota 271, Iowa 265. Low income (national average is 249): New Hampshire: 257; Wisconsin 249; Vermont 260, Massachusetts 254, Minnesota 252, Iowa 253.
NAEP 2005 Science Assessment is here

Do You Have the Ox Factor?

Susie Boyt:

I was standing on what used to be the stage on what used to be called the Old Hall at the school I used to attend. It was a stage on which I’d won minor acclaim as Dame Crammer (“Girls! Girls! Cease this vulgar brawl at once!”) and Lady Lucre (“Hark! Here comes Sir Jaspar, your first cousin once removed and twice convicted”). My Mother Abbess from The Sound of Music had done her mountain climbing in the New Hall round the corner, and my “When the Lord closes a door somewhere he opens a window” had brought the house down for some reason. It wasn’t even meant to get a laugh.
I had been invited to my old school to fire the pupils up about Oxford University. I’d sent round a warning in advance. “I had quite a mixed time,” I wrote, “but I will try to stay positive.”
I dressed smartly, but not luxuriously, for my talk. My schooldays had had a shabby, down-at-heel flavour due to slender means, so I was eager to make a fresh impression. When I was there the establishment had boasted girls so shiny it was pointless trying to keep up, let alone compete. The girls with curls had their hair straightened on Saturday mornings at their mothers’ beauty parlours, and the girls with straight hair had theirs curled. This evening my hair was newly cut and freshly curled, my nails short and neat, my outlook springy and optimistic.
My shoes and handbag very nearly matched. In fact, there was nothing about me that was remotely macabre. Apart from the 3cm thread hanging from the hem of my pencil skirt, I was damn near immaculate.
The room, containing about 60 teenagers and their parents, crackled with anxiety. It felt as though the souls in the Old Hall wanted Oxford almost more than life itself. Various experts spoke before me.

W.Va. education spending audit may prove daunting

The Associated Press:

A proposed audit of West Virginia’s education spending enjoys widespread support, but that may not make its undertaking any less tricky.
Officials have yet to decide who would conduct the in-depth review, or even how to authorize it. Then there’s the scope. An estimated 14 cents of every dollar spent by the state goes to public education, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia included an audit in its wish list for next month’s special legislative session focused on education.
“We are not aware of any recent or ongoing investigation regarding the spending practices by governmental departments, agencies and boards of education funded with public education dollars and whether the funds are being used for the intended purpose,” the group said in its outline of the proposal, one of eight it wants lawmakers to consider.

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

KIPP Considers Purchase of an Abandoned Gary, Indiana School

Chelsea Schneider Kirk & Christin Nancy Lazerus:

The windows to Beckman Middle School are boarded and the grass has turned into weeds, but Taiwane Payne sees potential for the school that the Gary Community School Corp. closed and is now selling.
Payne came to an open house at the shuttered school on Thursday eager to see if it would be an ideal building for his not-for-profit venture. Payne wants to revitalize a Gary school into a technical center that would teach the unemployed green technology.
But that’s as long as the price is right.
“It’s up to the city of Gary and the school corporation not to try to get as much money out of them as possible,” Payne said. “It would be great to see the building being used and not abandoned.”
From the outside, Payne surmised Beckman, which closed in 2004, would need some work.
“I need to get in and find out exactly what needs to be done,” Payne said pulling on his work gloves and carrying an industrial flashlight.
Gary Community Schools is in the process of selling 11 of its vacant school buildings, but Gov. Mitch Daniels thinks some of the structures should be given to charter schools.

Success and Scrutiny at Hebrew Charter School

Jennifer Medina:

Every so often, Aalim Moody, 5, and his twin sister, Aalima, break into a kind of secret code, chatting in a language their father does not understand.
Walking along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, they make out the lettering on kosher food shops and yeshiva buses, showing off all they learn at the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Midwood, where they both attend kindergarten.
Ask Aalim his favorite song and he will happily belt out:
“Eretz Yisrael sheli yaffa v’gam porachat!” — My land of Israel is beautiful and blossoming! — and then he continues in Hebrew:
Who built it and who cultivated it?
All of us together!
I built a house in the land of Israel.

How Many Graduates Does It Take to Be No. 1?

Winnie Hu:

There will be no valedictory speech at Jericho High School’s graduation on Sunday. With seven seniors laying claim to the title by compiling A-plus averages, no one wanted to sit through a solid half-hour of inspirational quotations and sappy memories.
Instead, the seven will perform a 10-minute skit titled “2010: A Jericho Odyssey,” about their collective experience at this high-achieving Long Island high school, finishing up with 30 seconds each to say a few words to their classmates and families.
“When did we start saying that we should limit the honors so only one person gets the glory?” asked Joe Prisinzano, the Jericho principal.

Medical School Acceptance Rates, 2007-2009

Mark Perry:

Here’s a new chart (click to enlarge) with updated data from the Association of American Medical Colleges on medical school acceptance rates for Asians (data here), whites (data), Hispanics (data) and blacks (data) during the period 2007-2009, based on various combinations of MCAT scores (24-26 and 27-29) and GPAs (from 3.00 to 3.59).

What’s holding up the FCAT scores?

Cara Fitzpatrick:

For students and their parents, the wait for FCAT scores has been endless.
Results of this year’s writing tests were due in April, but the state Department of Education has yet to release them.
The same goes for the reading, math and science scores that the state had expected to release by late May for fourth graders through high school juniors. So far, only third graders have received their math and reading results.
Even with the DOE finally planning to issue the scores early next week, people want to know: What went wrong?
The answer centers on Pearson Plc., a giant London-based media and education company that last year won a $254 million, multiyear contract with the state to handle Florida’s high-stakes standardized test.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Gets Unwelcomed at Foothill College

E. Wentworth:

Union buster and privatizer Arne Duncan is the US Secretary Of Education. He has supported the mass firing of teachers and is working with privateers to destroy public education. Demonstrators protested at Foothill Community College where Duncan was the keynote speaker yesterday. Duncan is scheduled to speak again at DeAnza College graduation ceremony in Cupertino this morning.
United Public Workers for Action (UPWA) called for a demonstration when it was announced that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be the keynote speaker at Foothill Community College’s graduation ceremony on June 25. After receiving permission from the college administration early this week to stage a peaceful protest, Skyline Community College instructor George Wright received calls from Foothill College president Judy Miner asking that he cancel the planned demonstration. He also received calls from Arne Duncan’s counsel trying to convince George that Duncan should not be the target of protesters.

School Is Turned Around, but Cost Gives Pause

Sam Dillon:

As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation’s worst failing schools, and drew national attention for its hallway beatings, bathroom rapes and rooftop parties held by gangs. For every student who graduated, four others dropped out.
Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward. Newly planted olive trees in Locke’s central plaza have helped transform the school’s concrete quadrangle into a place where students congregate and do homework.
“It’s changed a lot,” said Leslie Maya, a senior. “Before, kids were ditching school, you’d see constant fights, the lunches were nasty, the garden looked disgusting. Now there’s security, the garden looks prettier, the teachers help us more.”

Milwaukee Teacher’s Union Eats Its Young

Bruce Murphy:

In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen the dispiriting spectacle of layoff notices going to nearly 500 Milwaukee Public Schools teachers. This includes some excellent ones let go simply because they have less seniority. This will mean even bigger average class sizes – and further declines in quality – for a district already struggling badly. And a clear culprit is the teachers union.
The union has always been more concerned about its veteran teachers, more worried about pensions than starting salaries for new teachers. Union officials have argued that this “career ladder” will attract new teachers, but that’s nonsense: What twentysomething teacher is thinking about a retirement that is at least 30 years away? Milwaukee teachers were already part of the excellent state pension system, yet back in the late 1990s, the union successfully pushed for an unneeded, supplementary plan that used local tax dollars to sweeten the pension for a select group of long-term teachers.
MPS officials argue that none of the recent layoffs would have been necessary if the union would agree to switch from its Aetna insurance plan to a lower-cost plan offered through United Healthcare. This could save the district some $48 million, enough to prevent any job layoffs for teachers, school board president Michael Bonds claims. “I’m not aware of any place in the nation that pays 100 percent of teachers’ health care benefits and doesn’t require a contribution from those who choose to take a more expensive plan,” Bonds told the press.

Scary things in U.S. report on school vouchers: “The Program significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school”

Valerie Strauss:

This isn’t actually about vouchers. It’s about a new government report (pdf) on a school vouchers program in Washington, D.C., that reveals just how perversely narrow our view of “student achievement” has become.
Issued this week by the Education Department, the report is the final evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program ordered by Congress.
The program was the first federally funded private school voucher program in the country. Since 2004, more than 3,700 students — most of them black or Hispanic — have been awarded scholarships, each worth up to $7,500 tuition. Since Congress refused to reauthorize the program, no new students are being accepted.
The new evaluation of the program is remarkable for how it describes student achievement. It says: “There is no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement.”
What is student achievement? In this report it is all about standardized test scores. The evaluation says:
“On average, after at least four years students who were offered (or used) scholarships had reading and math test scores that were statistically similar to those who were not offered scholarships.”

I wonder how much was spent per student in the voucher schools vs the traditional public districts?
Somewhat related: Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold voted to kill the DC Voucher program, along with the Democrat majority.

U.S. education chief talks change at Mill Valley event

Rob Rogers:

America needs to make “fundamental, dramatic change” to the kind of education called for in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Friday in a meeting with local educators in Mill Valley.
The nation’s education chief said the federal government should reward rather than punish struggling schools, that it should support art, music and physical education classes in addition to math and science and that it should encourage reforms that come from the local level, rather than imposing them from on high.
“The law needs to be less punitive. Right now, there are 50 ways for schools to fail for every way there is for them to succeed,” Duncan said. “And we have to make sure students have a more well-rounded education, not just in high school, but in the first and second grade.”
But Duncan had few specific examples of those changes, which he outlined before a crowd of Marin and Sonoma teachers, administrators and school board members at an event hosted by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, at Tamalpais High School.

Ed. Secretary Duncan: Black Male Teachers Needed


He’s the head of education for the entire United States and he’s calling all black men to the front- of the classroom- that is.
This fall, Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans on touring historically black colleges and universities in hopes of increasing the number of black men teaching in America’s public schools- which is currently less than 2 percent.
Is placing black men in the classroom the answer to solving some of the problems in the black community such as gang violence, high school drop out rates, and fatherless homes? Secretary Duncan thinks so. Do you agree, or disagree?


The Milwaukee Drum:

Look at this video and tell me where the hell are the teachers? WHOEVER the principal is at this school (video is from ’07) needs to be fired. The teacher should be fired as well. Look closely at the 2:26 mark of this video clip and see the teacher (or some adult) sitting up against some counter watching this ish. Is this man getting thrills watching these adolescent, Black Kids grind on each other? No excuse MPS, this is why WE cannot read, write or do math with any competency at many of the public schools.

Google Moves Encrypted Search to New Domain

Audrey Watters:

Google announced today that it was moving domains for its encrypted search from to
In May Google launched an encrypted version of its Web search, allowing users to enable a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection to encrypt their information as they searched.
As ReadWriteWeb reported, this move ran afoul of some school districts’ web filtering requirements, forcing them to possibly block access to other parts of the Google secure domain.

There is certainly a message in this change.

Fox Valley leaders take wait, see approach on school funding overhaul

Ben Jones:

“The devil is in the details, obviously,” Paul Hauffe, director of business services in the Neenah Joint School District, said Friday. “And how will it affect one district versus another, and what actually is the change going to be? We’re keeping an eye on it.”
Wisconsin education leaders on Thursday praised the proposed plan, which would do away with $900 million in property tax credits for homeowners and instead give the money directly to schools.

Special Needs Voucher Program passes in Louisiana

Matthew Ladner:

A bipartisan group of legislators in Louisiana have passed a pilot voucher program for children with special needs in Louisiana.
I think this makes Louisiana the sixth state to pass a private choice program for special needs children (Florida, Ohio, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma having already done so).

Vancouver School Board’s Budget pain is not unique

Gary Mason:

Name-calling going on in the city belies reality that education budgets being slashed across Western Canada
For weeks now there has been an entertaining fight going on between the Vancouver School Board and the B.C. Education Ministry. It has often devolved into petty name-calling. There have been public tears, accusations and counter-accusations.
The public doesn’t quite know who to believe.
Boards in B.C. have to balance their budgets by law. The Vancouver board says it has a $17-million shortfall, mostly because the province doesn’t give it enough money to operate. Balancing its budget will mean closing schools, the board chair has said, which will be a blow to many parents and their children.
The government blames the problem on the incompetence of the board. It remains to be seen just how long Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid will allow the current group of trustees to continue running the show.
Such drama.

Dreyfuss says civics education can save democracy

Associated Press:

Actor Richard Dreyfuss wants students to take on a project bigger than “Jaws.”
Dreyfuss, speaking Thursday in Lexington to the annual Student Congress of the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, told about 60 students and teachers from around the country that improving civics education in schools is the way to save American democracy.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Dreyfuss, 62, said, “We have to learn how to use the tools given to us in 1787” in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Common Core Math Standards: When Understanding is Overrated

Barry Garelick, via email:

Earlier this month, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)–a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)–issued the final version of its math standards for K-12.
The draft standards were released in March and CCSSI allowed the public to submit comments on the draft via their website. Over 10,000 comments were received. The U.S. Coalition for World Class Math was one of the commenter’s and I had a hand in drafting comments. We were concerned with the draft standards’ use of the word “understand” and pointed out that the use of this verb results in an interpretation by different people for different purposes. I am pleased to see that the final version of the standards has greatly reduced the use of the word “understand”, but I remain concerned that 1) it still is used for some standards, resulting in the same problems we raised in our comments, and 2) the word “understand” in some instances has been replaced with “explain”.
I am not against teaching students the conceptual underpinnings of procedures. I do not believe, however, that it is necessary to require students to then be able to recite the reasons why a particular procedure or algorithm works; i.e., to provide justification. At lower grade levels, some students will understand such explanations, but many will not. And even those who do may have trouble articulating the reasons. The key is whether they understand how such procedure is to be applied, and what the particular procedure represents. For example, does a student know how to figure out how many 2/3 ounce servings of yogurt are in a ¾ ounce container? If the student knows that the solution is to divide ¾ by 2/3, that should provide evidence that the student understands what fractional division means, without having to ask them to explain what the relationship is between multiplication and division and to show why the “invert and multiply” rule works each and every time.

Education innovation in the slums

Charles Leadbeater:

Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education — and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.

The Political Assault on Art Education

Michelle Marder Kamhi:

A few years ago a “contemporary artist” named Judi Werthein made headlines when she distributed specially designed and equipped sneakers to Mexicans waiting to cross the U. S. border. She called her piece “Brinco,” from the Spanish word for “jump.” Sneakers are also apt here. Ms. Werthein’s shoes–equipped with a compass, map, flashlight, and medication–were intended to assist people engaging in illegal immigration.
Dipti Desai, who directs the art education program at New York University’s Steinhardt School, thinks that “Brinco” should be studied in America’s art classrooms. At the National Art Education Association (NAEA) convention in April, she praised contemporary artists who use “a wide range of practices” to criticize U. S. immigration policy. If like-minded NAEA members can persuade Congress, your children may soon be studying works like “Brinco” in school.

Some Wisdom For Juniors and Sophomores, Before Moving On

Omosefe Aiyevbomwan:

If you’d asked me a year ago whether or not I would be sad to graduate, I probably would’ve broken out in an uproar of laughter.
But as I stood in my bedroom hours before the ceremony, clad in my cap and gown, I was completely overwhelmed. Senior year has come to an end, and with it, a new chapter of life has begun.
Needless to say, I am extremely excited to begin my life at NYU, but parting ways with Stuyvesant High School is harder than I thought it would be. As I cleared out my locker a few days ago, I found little pieces of memorabilia (my choral music folder, old math notes, gym clothes, the Stuyvesant Spectator newspaper) and instantly it hit me: this is it.
And I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I almost cried (well, it was more of an “awww” moment than a full out cry of agony).

Secret girls schools emerge in Afghanistan

Matthew Green & Kate Holt:

Hidden in the maze of mud-walled alleys in the Loy Wiyala district of Kandahar, Amina, 16, is taking her first, secretive steps towards becoming a teacher.
Banned by her father Abdul from making the short walk to school, she uses a clandestine classroom to impart her smattering of knowledge to younger sisters poring over textbooks scattered across a rug.
This is not a tale of a conservative parent depriving his daughter of an education, but an Afghan family braving the risk of Taliban violence to give their girls the chance to learn.
Abdul is one of a number of anxious fathers who have set up underground schools to allow his daughters to continue studying in defiance of an escalating campaign of insurgent attacks designed to thwart a major Nato operation to secure the city.
“I went to school in Kandahar city for a while, but now we are too scared,” said Amina. “I think it is important that we all learn as much as we can at home until the situation for us improves. I want to be a teacher one day and go to teacher training college.”
Gains in promoting female education, which was banned under the Taliban, have often been cited by Western politicians seeking to buoy support for the nine-year war among increasingly sceptical publics. But some of the initial progress has been eroded by a surge in violence, particularly in the south.

Mathematica Study on KIPP Middle Schools

Mathematica Policy Research:

To understand our impact and communicate it to the public, KIPP has commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to conduct a rigorous, third-party evaluation that will examine how KIPP students fare over the long term. The Atlantic Philanthropies, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provided the lead support for the Mathematica evaluation of KIPP middle schools.
The Mathematica study will help us understand the degree to which KIPP schools make a difference for our students in both academic and non-academic outcomes, including achievement and motivation. The first report from the Mathematica study of KIPP middle schools was published on June 22, 2010. The next report is due to be released in late 2012.
Key Findings:
1. KIPP does not attract more able students (as compared to neighboring public schools).
2. KIPP schools typically have a statistically significant impact on student achievement.
3. Academic gains at many KIPP schools are large enough to substantially reduce race and income-based achievement gaps.
4. Most KIPP schools do not have higher levels of attrition than nearby district schools.

The Case for Having more Kids

Bryan Caplan:

Amid the Father’s Day festivities, many of us are privately asking a Scroogely question: “Having kids–what’s in it for me?” An economic perspective on happiness, nature and nurture provides an answer: Parents’ sacrifice is much smaller than it looks, and much larger than it has to be.
Most of us believe that kids used to be a valuable economic asset. They worked the farm, and supported you in retirement. In the modern world, the story goes, the economic benefits of having kids seem to have faded away. While parents today make massive personal and financial sacrifices, children barely reciprocate. When they’re young, kids monopolize the remote and complain about the food, but do little to help around the house; when you’re old, kids forget to return your calls and ignore your advice, but take it for granted that you’ll continue to pay your own bills.
Many conclude that if you value your happiness and spending money, the only way to win the modern parenting game is not to play. Low fertility looks like a sign that we’ve finally grasped the winning strategy. In almost all developed nations, the total fertility rate–the number of children the average woman can expect to have in her lifetime–is well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children. (The U.S. is a bit of an outlier, with a rate just around replacement.) Empirical happiness research seems to validate this pessimism about parenting: All else equal, people with kids are indeed less happy than people without.

A Proposal To Rewrite Wisconsin’s $5,200,000,00 in Redistributed State Tax Dollars for K-12 Districts

Scott Bauer:

The school levy credit shows up as a reduction on property tax bills mailed in December, and killing it would be difficult politically.
But according to Dale Knapp of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the proposal would simply move money around and would have little effect on the problems schools face.
“Some districts will pay less, some will pay slightly more, but the schools will be in the same boat they were before,” he said.
The state uses the school levy tax credit to help reduce property taxes that provide local money for schools. It was created in 1996 and it has grown by more than 400 percent since.
Evers stressed that putting the tax credit money into the aid formula, then redistributing it to schools under a reworked formula, would not result in a net increase statewide in property taxes. It would, however, mean higher or lower taxes for individuals, depending on their school district.

Study: N.Y. Soda Tax Would Curb Obesity, Diabetes

R.M. Schneiderman:

New Yorkers seem to oppose Gov. Paterson’s proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But over the next decade, the tax could curb soda consumption and prevent tens of thousands of cases of adult obesity and Type 2 diabetes, a change that would save state residents an estimated $2.1 billion in related medical expenditures, according to a new study commissioned by the New York City Health Department.
The study, conducted by Dr. Claire Wang, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, analyzed various surveys on sugary drink consumption, related health risks and the effects of price on consumer choices. The findings: a soda tax would reduce consumption of sugary beverages by 15% to 20%. It would also prevent an estimated 37,000 or more cases of Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 145,000 or more cases of adult obesity over the next decade.

Bloomberg: Obama’s Greatest Challenge is Education

Keren Blankfeld:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just spent 20 minutes speaking with New York Times’ chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. at the New York Forum.
Following are some of the highlights from that conversation:
– The government’s first job is to promote economic activity. Give people the ability to enjoy life, keep food on plate, roof on head.
– The big problem NY State faces is that its number one industry is finance. Washington has forgotten that the economic engine for the United States is finance. Nothing works without it. Credit derivative swaps don’t sound good, so the government decided to go after the banks. That is potentially very damaging to the country. If you want to create jobs you have to have banks willing to provide loans. You can’t have it both ways.

Winner Take All Incentives And Teacher/Student Cheating

Bob Sutton:

Steve Levitt of Freakonomics fame has shown that, when teacher’s pay is linked to the the performance of their students on standardized tests, they are prone to cheat — I mean the teacher’s cheat. Levitt’s data from Chicago suggest that about 5% of teachers cheated to get bonuses and other goodies. A recent New York Times article shows that this problem persists, and tells a rather discouraging story of a principal from Georgia who “erased bubbles on the multiple-choice answer sheets and filled in the right answers.” And if you look check out the Freakonomics blog, there is evidence that Australian teachers cheat too.
The kind of pressures that educators face aren’t just financial incentives (although that alone is plenty of pressure as many systems reward only the top performers no matter how well everyone else does), they also risk being fired, demoted, or their schools may lose accreditation, be put on probation, and in some cases, closed for poor performance
The Times article offers an interesting quote that has implications beyond education:

Nashville mayor: Education is key to attracting tech jobs

G. Chambers Williams:

Improving public education remains the top goal of Mayor Karl Dean as his administration and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce begin work on a new five-year economic development plan.
Education is the key to bringing higher-paying technology jobs to Nashville, a key focus of the so-called Partnership 2020 initiative outlined at a chamber gathering Monday afternoon.
It’s a new take on the program the city and the chamber first launched in 1990, which most recently has been known as Partnership 2010 and has been credited with bringing more than 600 new companies to the area over those two decades.
“Our focus has changed,” the mayor said before addressing chamber members. “There will be more of an emphasis on facets of our economy such as music, where a lot of the technology jobs will be created. But education is the single biggest thing we need to get right.”

Ottawa-Carleton School board passes two-year budget (C$10,829/student)

Matthew Pearson:

Committing a future board to making cuts — particularly when this is an election year — was difficult for some trustees to swallow, but the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board passed a balanced budget late Tuesday night.
Weary applause broke out after the final vote was tallied and board chair Cathy Curry declared the process over for another year.
“Superintendent Clarke, your blood pressure can go right back down to normal levels,” she joked.
With the public school board facing a $14.9-million deficit, it was Michael Clarke, the board’s chief financial
officer, who devised a two-year plan that would see trustees approve some cuts for the 2010-2011 school year and some for the following year.
Otherwise, Clarke said, a year from now, the board could face even tougher challenges and have less money to address them.
But with a school board election in the fall and fears the proposed cuts could cause unnecessary grief for the public, some trustees opposed the idea of a two-year plan.

The Ottawa-Carleton proposed budget was C$731,100,000 for 67,511 students (C$10,829/student). Madison spends US$15,241 per student.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Chancellor Merkel Rebuffs President Obama’s Call to Boost Spending (and deficits)

Marcus Walker & Matthew Karnitschnig:

Chancellor Angela Merkel roundly rebuffed U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for Germans to aid the global recovery by spending more and relying less on exports, even as she warned that Europe’s own financial crisis is far from over.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in her Berlin chancellery, an unapologetic Ms. Merkel said the nations that share the beleaguered euro have merely bought some time to fix the flaws in their monetary union. She called on the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations meeting in Toronto this weekend to send a signal that tougher financial-market regulation is on its way to dispel the impression that momentum is fading amid resistance by big banks.
She took aim at an idea voiced by France, the U.S. and others that Germany could help global producers by spurring its persistently weak consumer demand. The latest call came in a letter last Friday from Mr. Obama to the G-20, in which he asked big exporters–Germany, China and Japan–to rebalance global demand by boosting consumer spending rather than exports.

HP to sell $300 netbook for heavy-duty classroom use

Frank Michael Russell:

Palo Alto computer and printer giant Hewlett-Packard is introducing a $300 netbook PC for heavy-duty classroom use.
The HP Mini 100e Education Edition is designed “to close the digital divide by offering students and teachers an interactive learning experience at an affordable price,” HP said in a statement Wednesday.
“HP is committed to helping schools adapt to students’ changing needs and to creating solutions that provide better interactivity, connectivity and learning,” Dan Forlenza, vice president and general manager of business notebooks in HP’s personal systems group, said in the statement.

In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That

Catherine Rampell:

One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.
But it’s not because they are all working harder.
The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.
In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.

Moody’s downgrades Waukesha School District credit rating

Amy Hetzner:

For the second time in two years, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of the Waukesha School District, the latest time after the School Board voted to not allocate any money toward a $47.5 million debt owed to a European bank.
According to a Moody’s report, the amount owed represents about 35% of the district’s annual operating budget.
As a rule, lower credit ratings translate into higher interest rates for borrowing. However, Waukesha School Board President Daniel Warren said Monday that the credit rating drop should not have an immediate effect.
“When Moody’s does a downgrade, it primarily affects long-term borrowing, and we don’t have any long-term borrowing on our horizon,” he said.
The A1 rating given to the district, which has a substantial tax base and relatively wealthy residents, is the lowest rating given by the service to school districts in the state, according to information from Moody’s Investors Service.
Warren said his board decided not to allocate any money toward resolving the debt to DEPFA Bank because “the school district was not in a position to afford an additional $48 million in next year’s budget.”

Madison’s current Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Erik Kass, previously worked for the Waukesha School District.

Grockit offers online tutoring, test prep

Douglas MacMillan:

Think of it as summer school for the Facebook generation.
That’s the idea behind Grockit Inc., a San Francisco startup that offers tutoring and test prep online. The company aims to take on companies like Kaplan and the Princeton Review Inc. by undercutting their prices, offering more custom features and using social networking to appeal to students.
The site lets users collaborate and socialize while studying, giving them more reasons to keep coming back. The challenge is winning the trust of parents, who may be more comfortable relying on established names to get their kids into top colleges. A handful of players dominate test preparation and course supplements, a market worth more than $1 billion, according to research firm Outsell Inc.

Beyond Madrasas: Assessing the Links Between Education and Militancy in Pakistan

Rebecca Winthrop & Corinne Graff:

Increasing educational attainment is likely to reduce conflict risk, especially in countries like Pakistan that have very low levels of primary and secondary school enrollment. Education quality, relevance and content also have a role to play in mitigating violence. Education reform must therefore be a higher priority for all stakeholders interested in a more peaceful and stable Pakistan. Debate within the country about education reform should not be left only to education policymakers and experts, but ought to figure front and center in national dialogues about how to foster security. The price of ignoring Pakistan’s education challenges is simply too great in a country where half the population is under the age of 17.
There has been much debate concerning the roots of militancy in Pakistan, and multiple factors clearly come into play. One risk factor that has attracted much attention both inside Pakistan and abroad is the dismal state of the national education sector. Despite recent progress, current school attainment and literacy levels remain strikingly low, as does education spending. The Pakistani education sector, like much of the country’s public infrastructure, has been in decline over recent decades. The question of how limited access to quality education may contribute to militancy in Pakistan is more salient now than ever, given the rising national and international security implications of continued violence.

D.C. school vouchers — the last word?

Mike DeBonis:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education issued its final evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program — aka school vouchers.
To review, the federally funded voucher program is on life support. The Democratic Congress has thus far resisted attempts to reauthorize the program. The Obama administration last year budgeted enough money to allow current voucher holders to complete their high school educations, but not enough to allow new applicants; Congress has maintained that approach since.
So will the study move the ball? Here’s what it found: (a) “There is no conclusive evidence that the [voucher program] affected student achievement.” (b) The program “significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school” — by 12 percent. And (c), the program “raised parents’, but not students’, ratings of school safety and satisfaction.”
An initial glance at those results — no rise in test scores, but a significant rise in graduation rates — would fall into the category of mixed results. And mixed results, given the heated political climate under which the voucher program operates, means plenty of room for spin.

‘Rebundling’ Liberal Education

Eric Jansson:

In 2009 a group of 42 researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs met together at the invitation of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm, to discuss how the Web could transform education. A major theme of the daylong discussion, which took place under the theme “Hacking Education,” was “unbundling,” the process through which online distribution of digital media and information breaks apart and erodes existing industries. At the center of “unbundling” are new technologically-enabled relationships that democratize access to the means of production and collectively create plenty where scarcity once existed.
An often-cited example of “unbundling” is newspapers: with blogs and other online tools, one no longer needs a printing press or fleet of delivery vehicles to be heard. The newspaper editorial room competes with an army of bloggers and other online media outlets. Craigslist emerges as the marketplace for used household items, local job listings, and community announcements, replacing the advertising function of the traditional print newspaper. The combination is a perfect storm leading to a steady, nationwide stream of newspaper closures.

Fulton school board adopts $803 million budget (About $8,922 per student. Madison Spends $15,241 Per Student)

Gracie Bonds Staples:

The Fulton County Board of Education gave final approval Tuesday to a $803.1 million budget for the 2011 school year.
Although the district is still waiting on numbers from the tax assessor’s office, the final tally was based on increasing the millage rate by 1 mill.
“This has been the must difficult budget year that I’ve ever seen,” said Superintendent Cindy Loe.
The board is expected to tentatively adopt the millage rate at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the district’s administrative center. It will then hold three public hearings: on July 6 at 11 a.m. at the administrative center and at 6 p.m. at Dunwoody Springs Elementary Charter School in Sandy Springs; and 10:30 a.m. July 15 at the administrative center.

Fulton County Schools statistics. Notes and links on Madison’s per student spending here.

Demographer says Texas must do more pre-K prep

Associated Press:

A former head of the U.S. Census Bureau said Texas must do more to prepare preschool-age children before they enter kindergarten so they won’t drop out later.
Steve Murdock, the former state demographer, also said Texas needs to boost its grant program for college students. Murdock realized current trends show that by 2040, three of every 10 workers may not have a high school education.
“Clearly, with the dismal levels that we have in terms of education right now, that’s clearly where we’re headed,” Murdock said.
Murdock also said the trend of higher dropout rates in the state’s public schools with more low-income students could also mean more Texans will depend on food stamps, Medicaid and CHIP as well as higher incarceration rates.

Scaling the Digital Divide Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement

Jacob Vigdor & Helen Ladd:

Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? The authors use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use. Using within‐student variation in home computer access, and across‐ ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high‐speed internet service, the authors demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high‐speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.
Is this a wise investment of public funds? Very little evidence exists to support a positive relationship between student computer access at home and academic outcomes.

DC Vouchers Boost Graduation Rate

Matthew Ladner:

The Department of Education released the final report of the evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program today. The major finding of this report, and it is MAJOR, is that students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate. That’s 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn’t receive vouchers. Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher. Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren’t offered vouchers-and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!
This is a huge finding. The sorry state of graduation rates, especially for disadvantaged students, has been the single largest indicator that America’s schools are failing to give every student an equal chance at success in life. Graduating high school is associated with a number of critical life outcomes, ranging from lifetime earnings to incarceration rates. And, despite countless efforts and attempts at reform, changing the dismal state of graduation rates has been an uphill battle.
Of course, the uphill battle will continue. As most are aware, Congress voted to kill the DC voucher program last year, despite evidence that the program had significantly improved reading achievement for students who received scholarships. That evidence didn’t count for much when faced with opposition from teachers’ unions.

Growth of AP in Seattle – sort of

Charlie Mas:

In the Advanced Learning work session there was a slide that showed the growth of AP and IB in the District. It is true that many more students are taking AP classes than ever before. But it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.
Take, for example, Roosevelt High School. At Roosevelt about half of the 10th grade students used to take AP European History. This is typically the first AP available to students, one of the few open to 10th grade students on the typical pathway. The class is challenging for 10th grade students and the fact that about half of the students took it is a testament to Roosevelt’s academic strength. The other half of the students took a history class similar to the one that students all across district and the state take in the 10th grade.

Reader complains about Hispanic students who take AP Spanish

Jay Matthews:

Early last Monday , while I was still in bed and wondering why the “Today” show had gotten so tabloidish, I was slammed on my blog by a reader who did not like my column about Doris Jackson, the principal at Wakefield High School in Arlington County.
It wasn’t Jackson who bothered the commenter, but my praise of the school’s strong performance on Advanced Placement tests. He had a complaint that has often puzzled me: Hispanic students who take AP Spanish, and the schools that let them, are getting away with something, he suggested.
“It is because of the Internet that we know that about half the students in Wakefield are Hispanic,” he said. “We also know that the AP test that they are taking, which has falsely massaged these stats, is the Spanish Advanced Placement test. Take away that fabrication of academic performance, and the true percentage of AP tests passed plummets.”

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Stanley Fish:

A number of responses to my column about the education I received at Classical High (a public school in Providence, RI) rehearsed a story of late-flowering gratitude after an earlier period of frustration and resentment. “I had a high school (or a college) experience like yours,” the poster typically said, “and I hated it and complained all the time about the homework, the demands and the discipline; but now I am so pleased that I stayed the course and acquired skills that have served me well throughout my entire life.”
Now suppose those who wrote in to me had been asked when they were young if they were satisfied with the instruction they were receiving? Were they getting their money’s worth? Would they recommend the renewal of their teachers’ contracts? I suspect the answers would have been “no,” “no” and “no,” and if their answers had been taken seriously and the curriculum they felt oppressed by had been altered accordingly, they would not have had the rich intellectual lives they now happily report, or acquired some of the skills that have stood them in good stead all these years.

ACI inmates receive degrees and recognition / Photo

Jennifer Jordan:

In this graduation season, Rhode Island’s two top education officials made it a point Monday morning to attend a recognition ceremony held in an unlikely place — the state prison.
Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist and Higher Education Commissioner Ray Di Pasquale went to the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility to congratulate more than 100 inmates who were enrolled in General Equivalency Degree or college-level classes, and to shake hands with the two dozen men who received degrees of completion.
“The fact that you are here means you have made mistakes along the way and you have had difficulties,” Gist said. “But the fact that you are here means you are lifting yourself above those circumstances. We’ve all made mistakes. You’ve decided to better your education. You’ve made a very important decision.”
It was the first time in memory that prison officials could recall both education officials attending the ceremony. Di Pasquale, who also serves as president of the Community College of Rhode Island, has attended in recent years to confer associates degrees from CCRI.
Monday, he handed out two associates’ degrees and praised the recipients for their persistence. He encouraged the inmates to continue their education to “change your lives for the future.”

Reduced Grade 6-12 Class Time in the Madison School District?

Susan Troller:

What’s one sure-fire way to stress out parents? Shorten the school day.
And that’s exactly what the Madison school district is proposing, starting next year, for grades six to 12. According to a letter recently sent to middle school staff by Pam Nash, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary schools, ending school early on Wednesdays would allow time for teachers to meet to discuss professional practices and share ideas for helping students succeed in school.
“I am pleased to announce that as a result of your hard work, investment and commitment, as well as the support of central administration and Metro busing, together we will implement Professional Collaboration Time for the 10-11 school year!” Nash wrote enthusiastically.
Despite Nash’s letter, district administrators appeared to backpedal on Monday on whether the plan is actually a done deal. Thus far there has not been public discussion of the proposal, and some teachers are expressing reservations.
Some middle school teachers, however, who also happen to be parents in the district, say they have some serious concerns about shortening the day for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Not only will there be less time spent on academics each week, they say, but the additional unsupervised hours will pose a problem for parents already struggling to keep tabs on their adolescent kids.

This expenditure appears to continue the trend of increased adult to adult expenditures, which, in this case, is at the expense of classroom (adult to student) time.
Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Competition boosts public schools

The Tampa Tribune:

During a debate last February in Tallahassee on a proposal to expand a scholarship program that allows poor children to go to private schools, state Sen. Frederica Wilson decried the legislation.
“We’re taking children out of the public schools and making them weaker,” the Miami Democrat said. “This is not America.”
A recent study by a highly regarded Northwestern University researcher shows how wrong Wilson was. Florida voters are fortunate that the Legislature passed the bill and Gov. Charlie Crist signed it into law.
The study found public schools’ performance improved when they were faced with the possibility of losing students to private schools.
At issue is the Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, which provide vouchers to children from poor families.

Birthplace of charter schools tightens controls and increases accountability of sponsors

Maureen Downey:

One thing that remains murky to me is how accountable the state Charter Schools Commission – which a Fulton County judge recently ruled is constitutional – is for the schools that it approves over the objections of local boards of education. The commission is here in Atlanta, but it is approving schools across the state.
As the authorizer of the schools, how is the commission held accountable if one goes bad or if parents are unhappy and can’t go to the local school board to complain since the local folks had nothing to do with the school’s approval?
At a media briefing earlier this year, Charter Schools Commission member Jennifer Rippner surprised me when I asked whether parents of students in a commission charter school could ultimately turn to the charter commission with complaints that they felt were not being dealt with by the school itself or its board of directors.

San Francisco Schools $578,572,407 Budget Discussions ($10,331 per student, 47% less than Madison)

Jill Tucker:

The San Francisco school board will face the unsavory task Tuesday of approving a budget that cuts virtually every program offered to the city’s schoolchildren.
Art would be cut. Music too. Counselors. Physical education. Books. Summer school. Teachers. Custodians. Administrators.
All cut by a little or a lot.
The 444-page budget document up for a vote Tuesday, the board’s last meeting before summer break, has been months in the works as district officials struggled to figure out how to balance the books despite a $113 million budget shortfall expected over the next two years.
“It’s not a good budget,” said board member Rachel Norton. “How could you say that cutting 20 percent of the programs is a good budget? But it really could have been so much worse.”
The $578 million spending plan includes $255 million in restricted money that has to be spent on specific programs, including special education, school meals and facilities. The rest pays for salaries and the day-to-day costs of educating the district’s nearly 50,000 students and running its 105 schools, 34 preschool sites and nine charter schools.

Madison’s 2009-2010 budget was $370,287,471, according to the Citizen’s Budget, $15,241 per student (24,295 students). More here.
San Francisco’s 3.4MB budget document includes detailed per school allocations (numbered page 51, document page 55)

Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Neumann Wants To Get Rid Of Teacher Certification, via a kind reader:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann is proposing to get rid of state certification for teachers as part of an education reform plan.
Neumann also is proposing a series of incentives that will encourage private schools and public charter schools to compete with and replace failing public schools.
Neumann is outlining his plans during news conferences in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay.
In a phone interview, he said the state should provide suggested qualifications for educators, but actual hiring decisions should be left up to local school boards, superintendents and principals.
Neumann acknowledges that many of his proposals would need approval from the Legislature.

Related: Janet Mertz: An Email to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad on Math Teacher Hiring Criteria.

New York U.’s Abu Dhabi Campus to Start With Academically Elite Class

Andrew Mills:

Having accepted just 2.1 percent of applicants for its first freshman class, the liberal-arts college that New York University plans to open in Abu Dhabi this fall has positioned itself as one of the world’s most selective undergraduate colleges.
NYU Abu Dhabi, which its administrators like to call the “world’s honors college,” announced on Monday that its first class would be made up of 150 students who speak 43 different languages in all and hail from 39 countries.
The 63 women and 87 men, forming a female-to-male ratio of 42 percent to 58 percent, have met high standards.
Their SAT critical-reading scores are projected to be 770 at the class’s 75th percentile. Their 75th-percentile scores for SAT mathematics are projected to be 780, according to statistics released by NYU Abu Dhabi.

Protecting Georgia schools 
is Porter’s passion

Bill Rankin:

In the Legislature, Porter chaired key education committees and proved to be a quick study who mastered the intricacies of complex legislation. As then-Gov. Zell Miller’s floor leader, he sponsored the HOPE scholarship bill that has paid college tuition for Georgia students and funded voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.
Last year, Porter popped into a third-grade classroom at Saxon Heights Elementary School when he saw a teacher giving a lesson on Thurgood Marshall. Porter, a longtime lawmaker, newspaper publisher and lawyer, sat down and observed before finally asking, “May I?”
With the teacher’s permission, he then recounted the life and times of the groundbreaking NAACP lawyer and first African-American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice

A Struggle to Educate the Severely Disabled

Sharon Otterman:

Donovan Forde was dozing when the teacher came around to his end of the table. Pale winter light filtered in through the grated classroom window, and the warm room filled softly with jazz. It fell to his teacher’s aide to wake him up from his mid-morning nap.
She shined a small flashlight back and forth in his eyes like a dockworker signaling a ship, and called his name. Then she put her hand on his cheek, steering his head forward as he focused his eyes.
The teacher, Ricardo Torres, placed a red apple against Donovan’s closed left hand, and then held it near his nose so he could smell it. “Donovan, the fruit holds the seeds of the plant,” he said.
Then Mr. Torres held a plastic container of apple seeds to Donovan’s ear, shaking it, and placed Donovan’s hand inside so he could feel them. “And these are the seeds,” Mr. Torres said.

Pupils sent overseas to avoid HK A-levels

Elaine Yau:

The daughter of businesswoman Winnie Tsoi is studying in the economics and finance programme at the University of Hong Kong. The price she paid to get a quality degree education for her eldest daughter was HK$900,000.
The world-renowned HKU has not become a mercenary diploma mill selling degrees to the rich – it was more a case of Tsoi sending her daughter overseas on a pricey education detour to skip the gruelling local A-levels exams, but still secure the required grades.
The HK$900,000 became the “entrance ticket” to the hotly contested programme at HKU. A student seeking admission had to score a minimum of two Bs and credits for two languages in the local A-levels last year. With a less-than-brilliant score of 21 (out of 30) in the Form Five public exam in 2007, Tsoi figured that the odds of her daughter passing the Hong Kong A-levels with flying colours and gaining entry to the HKU degree course would be very low.

Indian Education Reform Discussion


A meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), the highest advisory body in the sector, here Saturday formed consensus on a bill for an apex regulator, considered a panel to remove hurdles to implemeting the right to education act and decided on a common curriculum for science and mathematics students across the country.
The CABE met in the national capital Saturday with the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) topping its agenda.
In a step ahead towards creating an apex regulator for higher education, a broad consensus on the issue appeared for the first time among the states.
“There is a broad consensus, not just on the structure but also on the purpose of the bill,” Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal said.

Free education costs in Burma

Marwaan Macan-Markar:

Once again, parents in military-ruled Myanmar are counting the cost of a primary education for their children in public schools. It is an annual ritual that comes with the beginning of the new school year, which coincides with the onset of the monsoon rains in June.
Although the Southeast Asian nation has laws affirming that primary school education is free and compulsory, the economic headaches parents have to cope with at this time of the year suggest otherwise, according to a parent from Yangon, the former capital, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Shanghai student to live Harvard dream of many A Harvard-bound Shanghai pupil is the envy of her peers, for whom entry to the Ivy League ranks is a class act

Barbara Demick:

It was just a week after Chang Shui received her acceptance notice from Harvard that the first book offer came.
A publisher approached her father with a detailed outline for an inside guide to how a Shanghai couple prepared their daughter to compete successfully with the best students from America. Local newspapers weighed in with articles about how Shui’s membership in a dance troupe surely helped. “Magical girl ‘danced’ her way into Harvard,” the Shanghai Evening Post headlined its story.
Qibao High School, where Shui is a senior, trumpeted the news on a large electronic billboard at the front gate. The day that she received her acceptance notice – by e-mail at 5am on April 2 – teachers at the high school crowded around to have their picture taken with her.
“She was a celebrity,” her homeroom teacher, Xiong Gongping, boasts.

University of Anarchy and No Consequences

Debra Saunders:

When activists (who are not necessarily students) were able to delay construction of a UC Berkeley sports center by living in trees for 21 months, there was no review of what went wrong.
When protesters with torches vandalized UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s home, there was no review. But when UC police arrested 46 people demonstrating against higher-education cuts by occupying Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, there were complaints that police over-reacted. And so – with authorities, not anarchists in the sights – a review was born.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes New Blog: A Number of Comments on Maintenance Spending & Budgeting

Ed Hughes:

I plan to write in more detail about why I dislike the tradition of explaining property tax levy changes in terms of the impact on the owner of a house assessed at a value of $250,000. The editorial in this morning’s State Journal is evidence of how reliance on the $250,000 house trope can lead to mischief.
Here are the third and fourth paragraphs of the editorial:
“The Madison School Board just agreed to a preliminary budget that will increase the district’s tax on a $250,000 home by about 9 percent to $2,770. The board was dealt a difficult hand by the state. But it didn’t do nearly enough to trim spending.
“Madison Area Technical College is similarly poised to jack up its tax bite by about 8 percent to $348. MATC is at least dealing with higher enrollment. But the 8 percent jump follows a similar increase last year. And MATC is now laying the groundwork for a big building referendum.”

Blog address:, RSS Feed.
I’m glad Ed is writing online. Two Madison School Board seats are open during the spring, 2011 election: the two currently occupied by Ed and Marj Passman.

Double-Dipping: More public-school superintendents in Ohio are collecting pensions and paychecks

Ben Fischer:

Nearly one out of every three public school superintendents in Greater Cincinnati collect taxpayer-subsidized pensions while continuing to work.
This legal practice of “retiring” – thereby triggering pension benefits – and then returning to work within days at a handsome salary has become widespread among top local schools executives in recent years.
Occasionally, the deals make news, as it did for Kevin Bright in Mason and Gary Gellert in North College Hill, two relatively recent “retire-rehires.”
But dozens of other superintendents across the state have simply agreed to a deal with a friendly school board with little fanfare. They’re members in an exclusive club of superintendents who retire and return to their same job or rotate to another school district after signing lucrative contracts.
An analysis by Ohio’s eight largest newspapers found:

Newark Teachers Face Tough Bargaining

Barbara Martinez:

When New Jersey agreed last year to give Newark teachers a 5% raise for working an extra four days, the union announced the news in a memo that included two dollar signs in large type and declared: “no health benefits give-back!!”
One year later, the Newark Teachers Union is back at the negotiating table–and this time things may not work out so favorably. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year implored taxpayers to vote down local budgets that did not freeze teacher pay. Because the Newark schools are controlled by the state, it is one of the few teacher contracts over which Mr. Christie actually has veto power.
Newark Teachers Union Head Supports Merit Pay, Open to Abolishing Seniority
“Certainly, a 4.9% raise is out of the question,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. He said the administration “has established clear guidelines” for the contract negotiations between the state-appointed Newark superintendent and the union of more than 5,000 teachers.

High School Engineers Build Revolutionary Assistive Writing Device


What happens when a group of teenagers sets their minds on making something to help people with disabilities? In Boise, Idaho, a group of aspiring engineers teamed up with Bill Clark, a businessman in their community who suffers from hand tremors that keep him from being able to write legibly. They set about designing an easy-to-use, portable device that would steady Mr. Clark’s hand and, after many hours working with prototypes in their garage, came up with a design they call the PAWD – a Portable Assistive Writing Device.
When the team took their PAWD to the National Engineering Design Challenge in Washington, D.C. and won “Best Design,” they say it was just icing on the cake. Three of the student engineers behind the project spoke with NewsHour Extra about the design process, what it’s like to make something for a client and why they like engineering.

Investment guru Peter Lynch funds US education initiative

Ros Krasny & Svea Herbst-Bayliss:

Legendary investor Peter Lynch is donating $20 million to train school principals in Boston, making him the latest in a growing list of high net worth individuals to publicly champion philanthropy.
Last week, Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N) the two wealthiest Americans, said they were asking hundreds of U.S. billionaires to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth.
Lynch’s fortune is considerably more modest — at an estimated $350 million — but he shares the belief that the wealthy should give back.
“The people who have been luckier than others should give away a lot of money,” Lynch said in an interview.
Lynch, 66, made his fortune running Fidelity Investments’ Magellan Fund. Between 1977 and 1990, when he resigned as a fund manager, the fund grew to Fidelity’s flagship, with more than $14 billion in assets, from a mere $20 million, and averaged a 29.2-percent annual return.
Lynch, now vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research Co.,and his wife, Carolyn, have long funded educational initiatives through the Lynch Foundation, their philanthropic organization.
The new initiative, at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, will be the first to give specific training to principals as a way to raise overall educational attainment.

Colorado education officials ignore law on teacher arrests

Trevor Hughes:

Colorado education officials have been ignoring a law intended to “flag” the arrests of teachers and then alert all school districts and charter schools across the state, a Coloradoan investigation has found.
The 2008 law requires the Colorado Department of Education to issue an alert every time a licensed educator is ar-rested. The arrest information is provided by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
But a Coloradoan investigation shows CDE officials have largely ignored the law since it was passed, arguing that they didn’t have enough money to implement it. Within days of the Coloradoan inquiring about the situation, CDE officials said they planned to start following the law. They couldn’t provide a specific timeline.

N.J. School Boards Association to spend millions on renovations despite cutbacks at schools

Elise Young:

The publicly financed lobby for New Jersey’s school boards is spending millions to renovate its headquarters, even as local districts face massive state aid cuts, defeated budgets and construction proposals, and pending teacher layoffs
The New Jersey School Boards Association collects more than $7 million a year from 588 member districts, which are legally required to join. It has socked away so much in dues and conference fees — $12.3 million, an amount greater than the group’s annual operating budget — that it is paying cash for the improvements.
It also paid $1.6 million in cash for 10 suburban acres where it had hoped to build an $18 million conference center. But the board abandoned that plan and put the land back on the market.
The most recent projected cost for the headquarter’s renovations was $6.3 million. But that figure could grow an additional $600,000 to $1 million, as the contractor decides whether to fix or replace the building’s walls of glass windows, officials said. In the meantime, its 70 employees — including five lobbyists paid to influence legislation — are working in leased office space.

In Praise of Tough Criticism

Jeffrey Di Leo:

Professor Jones is well known for her generosity. She encourages nonconfrontational exchanges of ideas and is always upbeat and positive about her colleagues and their work. She is patient with her graduate students, encouraging them to be patient with one another as well. When a student makes a comment in class that is weak or off base, unlike some other faculty members in her department, Jones will not make a fuss. When the appropriate opportunity presents itself, she will try to work with the student to improve his or her thinking. Jones’s critical credo is, “If you don’t have something positive to say, then it is best not to say anything at all–at least not in public.”
Her colleague Professor Smith is quite the opposite. He has built a successful career by telling people that they are wrong. The goal of criticism, he believes, is to persuade other people to see the world his way, and if they don’t, then he will do everything he can to prove to them–and anyone else who will listen–that they are wrong. Criticism is a competition of ideas, a nasty business in which it is acceptable and sometimes necessary to be a brute. Strong ideas survive, weak ones perish; there is no room for wishy-washy opinions and people. Smith’s assessments are harsh but well argued and persuasive. His critical credo is, “Public criticism is as valid as public praise.”

Teacher: ‘Worst year in the classroom’ in decades

Gary Groth:

As a classroom teacher with 30+ years experience, I just completed the absolute worst year in the classroom I have ever endured (and it was NOT the fault of my students–they were great).
“This year I was told what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, how long to teach, who to teach, who not to teach, and how often to test. My students were assessed with easily more than 120 tests of one shape or another within the first 6 months of the school year.
“My ability to make decisions about what is best for my students was taken away by an overzealous attempt to impose ‘consistency’ within my grade group. My school hired an outside consultant who threatened us with our jobs, demanded that everyone comply, and required us to submit data on test results on a weekly basis. If your class didn’t do well, you were certainly going to be in trouble.
“In addition, my class was visited at least twice a month by the consultant, two superintendents, principal, assistant principal, reading coach, math coach, and sometimes even more people. If I was not teaching exactly what they wanted to see, I was in trouble.

I asked Madison’s 3 Superintendent candidates in 2008 if they believed in either “hiring the best teachers” and essentially setting them free, or a “top down” approach to teaching. Madison continues to expand adult to adult spending (“coaches”, “professional development”).

Andrew Cuomo to New York State School Districts: Drop Dead

David Singer:

Governor-in-Waiting Andrew Cuomo loves how lame duck Governor David Paterson has grown a set of balls and has rammed through nearly half the state budget through the piecemeal passage of budget extenders — daring any legislator who votes no to be accused of voting to shut down state government.
The state fiscal year is nearly one-quarter over — and there’s still no adopted state budget. Governor Paterson has twice rammed through extenders to keep the state government operating — and incorporated components of his budget proposal each time. Next up, supposedly, is the diciest and arguably most important part of the budget; education. On Fred Dicker’s radio show on Friday, Andrew Cuomo suggested that the Governor embed a property tax cap in the next budget extender. What’s that about? A property tax cap has nothing to do with the state budget. A bit of advice to the wanna-be Governor: take the job of being governor seriously. I serve on a school board in Westchester County — and we’ve taken a look at the cost of state mandates on our budget (ergo our school tax burden) and in the aggregate they total over 15% of our entire school budget. Neither the Governor nor the legislature seems to be able to deal with rolling back state mandates (the unfunded costs for which get pushed down to local municipalities and school districts). That’s hard. Advocating for a property tax cap? That’s easy.

Detroit school board head quits after complaint alleging inappropriate behavior

Valerie Strauss:

In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category:
Otis Mathis, the president of the Detroit Board of Education, was accused of fondling himself for 20 minutes in a meeting with the system’s superintendent and quit right after the incident, but now is seeking to take back his resignation, the Detroit Free Press reports.
In this article, the newspaper says that board Vice President Anthony Adams plans to move ahead and post the vacancy.
Superintendent Teresa N. Gueyser filed a detailed complaint addressed to Adams about Mathis, saying he used a handkerchief while masturbating in front of her the entire time she was speaking.
Her complaint says that she has witnessed other unacceptable acts by Mathis and that she had informed him some time ago to have no physical contact with her, including handshaking.

A drastic teacher overhaul at St. Joan Antida High School

Alan Borsuk:

How about this for strong medicine to improve a school: Ask every teacher and administrator to turn in resignations. Tell them they can reapply for their jobs, but there’s going to be higher expectations from now on. Hire back less than half of the staff. Revamp the academic program extensively.
I’ve rarely heard of it actually happening around the country, and never around here. Until now:
“It’s a new day,” the message board outside St. Joan Antida High School, the 300-student, all-girls Catholic school at 1341 N. Cass St., says. It certainly is.
It’s been a difficult few years for the 56-year-old school. Enrollment declined from close to the building’s capacity of 400 to about 300. Competition increased from other private schools, charter schools and even suburban public schools.
The level of academic success at St. Joan Antida wasn’t much different than in Milwaukee Public Schools, which means it wasn’t very good.
Some students who enrolled were far behind grade level and the school wasn’t doing well in accelerating their achievement. The student body had become much less diverse – higher-income and white students had just about all departed, 90% of the students qualified for publicly funded school vouchers, and the student body was about evenly split between African-American and Hispanic.
People involved in the school say discussions about making major changes go back several years. Some teachers at the non-unionized school were not renewed, and there were some other efforts to improve. But the results didn’t amount to much.