All ready for school. Can I go too, please?

Susie Boyt:

Although obsessed with all things theatrical, this column tries to eschew any mention of celebrities. But when out of the blue Barry Manilow invites you to lunch because he likes something you’ve written, it’s not so easy keeping it under your hat.
We sat for a few hours in the pink and gold dining room of a fancy hotel, talking about our passions. He said something I’ve never heard anyone say before: “I think it’s a great idea if you end up doing for a living what you were happiest doing at 14.” He was happiest writing songs and singing, he said, and me? I was happiest doing my homework, sitting at a trestle table looking longingly and with great approval at my collection of pencils and glue sticks, rattling my little cough sweet tin filled with ink cartridges, joyfully greeting each fresh white sheet of my preferred Oxford file paper (the one with narrow grey lines and sky-blue margins) with a mild frisson and then filling it with writing. Sixty per cent carthorse, 40 per cent thoroughbred, I got results. I put so much into my homework. I think it even got the teachers down a little bit.

A Private Matter: Am I hurting my local public schools – and hurting America–by sending my kids to expensive private schools?

Patty & Standy Stonesifer:

My family lives on the west side of Los Angeles. I face the same choice as many urban families: Will the kids attend public or private schools? Should one minimize opportunities for one’s own child in service to the greater good?
In our desire to protect our children physically and academically, we send them to very expensive schools that are inherently segregated ethnically and economically. We, being white, educated, and comparatively affluent, are the agenda-setters in society. The agenda does not include fierce protection of the public school system we value in general terms but abandon in our own specific cases.

Sustaining a Great Public University

Mike Knetter & Gwen Eudey:

Wisconsin faces a conundrum: Just when thestate and its citizens need a research universitymost to attract outside funding, fuel job growth, equip individuals to compete in a more knowledge-intensive labor market, and help spawn our own technology-intensive companies– the state is finding it harder to fund the university. There is, however, a logical solution.
Precisely because research universities are able to create much more economic value in today’s economy, they have the potential to be more self-reliant. This essay describes the value of a great research university to the state and the regulatory changes needed to enable the growth of that asset without imposing a greater burden on taxpayers.
The ability of UW -Madison to maximize its contribution to Wisconsin’s economy will require a new partnership between the university, the state, students, and alumni. The state and university will need to reduce regulations and increase flexibility in order to reduce costs and improve quality and efficiency.
UW-Madison students and alumni, who, because of their skills and education, are among the main beneficiaries of the recent economic trends, will need to assume greater responsibility for the operating costs in the future through higher tuition and philanthropy. UW-Madison will need greater autonomy to set and retain tuition and manage enrollment, while being held accountable for preserving the core values of educational and research quality, access and affordability that are vital to a public university.

Three years after landmark court decision, Louisville still struggles with school desegregation

Robert Barnes:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made it sound so simple that day in 2007, when he and four other members of the Supreme Court declared that this city’s efforts to desegregate its schools violated the Constitution.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
But life has been anything but simple for school officials here. They have steadfastly – or stubbornly, depending on the point of view – tried to maintain integrated classrooms despite the court’s command that officials not consider race when assigning children to schools.
Consultants were hired, lawyers retained, census data scrubbed, boundaries redrawn, more buses bought, more routes proposed, new school choices offered and more lawsuits defended.

UC Berkeley’s sports dilemma

San Francisco Chronicle:

Credit Cal with taking up a third-rail topic: the runaway costs of college sports. After trimming academics, the campus heeded an outcry and ordered up a study on its athletic department.
The fix-it suggestions include the usual: more fundraising, better management and a call for thrift in the face of a $10 million-and-rising yearly deficit. There’s another idea in the report written by alumni and faculty leaders: Consider cutting five to seven teams from Berkeley’s roster of 27 sports squads.
Campus higher-ups may make a decision within the next two weeks on cutting teams. If it happens, it will be an emotional, complicated but necessary calculation. Sports knit the campus together. Headlines and broadcasts give Cal visibility. Check-writing alums start out donating to athletics, but later contribute bigger sums to academic causes and building projects. These benefits can’t be ignored.

Program boosts community college transfers

Daniel de Vise:

A Community College Transfer Initiative launched four years ago by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation greatly increased the volume of students transferring from community colleges to eight selective four-year colleges.
By supporting the transfer process at receiving schools, the initiative dramatically boosted community college transfers to some of the nation’s most prestigious schools: Amherst College, Bucknell University, Cornell University, Mount Holyoke College, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California. A report on the initiative, “Partnerships that Promote Success,” was released this month.
Among the eight schools, the initiative yielded 550 transfers in the 2007-08 academic year. By 2009-10, transfer enrollment had risen to 1,723.
The University of Michigan enrolled 1,104 community college transfers as of 2009-10; Mount Holyoke, 275; Berkeley, 245; Cornell, 113.

5 Madison School Board Goals

Madison School Board (6/21/2010 consensus vote):

  1. We need an improved, ongoing process to develop a five-year budget plan that focuses on key issues and considers worst-case possibilities. Encourage more participation of teachers & staff in decision-making.
  2. We need to study post-secondary outcomes of all our students. Determine successful practices for meeting the needs of struggling students, high- achieving students, and students with special needs. Determine better student assessments and retaining more families. Study the approach at Shabazz (reaching students) especially when looking at transitions.
    Improve the MMSD diversity situation. MMSD should recruit locally or within midwestern region. Success is measured by relationship to eLF data. White men should always help develop this goal.

  3. Board and administration need to build a culture of accuracy and accountability. The board relies on administration for accurate information to make decisions. Board needs to make clear, respectful and timely requestsandexpectresults. Administrationneedstoacknowledge,clarify intent, check for accuracy, and respond with accurate, appropriate, complete datal information.
  4. Program and Services Evaluations
    Need to develop sound methods for evaluating programs and business services and implement plans to improve professional performance, evaluations could be external. Those evaluations should yield information and data that can be used to make decisions.

A useful, succinct one page set of priorities.

Memo to the Media on Open Enrollment: When We (The Madison School Board) Unanimously Reject a Proposal, That Means We Don’t Support It

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

The Board discussed the issue. Individual members expressed concern about the 3% cap, suggesting that this wasn’t the way for us to deal with the open enrollment issue. I was one of those who spoke against the proposal. The Board voted unanimously to support the other two proposed changes to WASB policy, but not the 3% cap. This amounted to a unanimous rejection of the 3% limit. (A video of the Board meeting can be found here. The WASB discussion begins about 48 minutes in.)
From the Board’s perspective, the endorsement of the proposal regarding financial stability wasn’t seen as one that had much bearing on our district. But we’d like support from other districts on our push for a fiscally neutral exchange of state dollars, and so we were willing to support proposals important to other districts, like this one, as a way of building a coalition for fresh consideration of open enrollment issues by the WASB.
The “financial stability” proposal certainly wasn’t intended by us as a dagger to the heart of the open enrollment policy; I don’t suppose that it was ever the intent of the legislators who supported the open enrollment statute that the policy could render school districts financially unstable.
The State Journal never reported that the Board rejected the 3% cap proposal. It ran letters to the editor on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that all seemed premised on the assumption that we had in fact supported such a cap. The Wednesday letter said in part, “[T]he Madison School District’s answer to its shortcomings is to build a Berlin wall, preventing students from leaving.” From the Thursday letter, “Unfortunately, instead of looking inward to address the problems and issues causing flight from Madison schools, the School Board would rather maintain the status quo and use the coercive force of government to prevent its customers from fleeing for what they think is a better value.” From Friday’s letter: “So the way you stem the tide of students wanting to leave the Madison School District is to change the rules so that not so many can leave? That makes perfect Madison School Board logic.” (The State Journal also ran a letter to the editor on Friday that was more supportive of the district.)

Much more on outbound open enrollment and the Madison School Board here.
I’m glad Ed continues to write online. I continue to have reservations about the “financial stability” angle since it can be interpreted (assuming it becomes law…. what are the odds?) any way the Board deems necessary. Further, I agree with Ed that there are certainly more pressing matters at hand.

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity:

With concern about rising deficits and debt taking center stage in Washington right now, President Obama has formed the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, led by Republican former Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, to make its own recommendations on how to ensure a sound fiscal future for our country. As the Commission deliberates between now and the release of its recommendations on December 1,Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity believes that one critical issue for the Commission and policymakers to consider is how efforts to rein in deficits and manage the budget will impact low-income and poor people.

That’s why, over the coming months, Spotlight will present a diversity of views from policymakers, economists, and many others from across the spectrum to discuss the work of the Commission and how its recommendations will (or should) affect low-income individuals. Entitled “Poverty, Opportunity, and the Deficit,” the series will include the following commentaries:

Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning from Florida’s Reforms

Matthew Ladner & Lindsey Burke, via a kind reader’s email:

Abstract: An education gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers is something to which most Americans have become accustomed. But this racial division of education–and hence of prospects for the future– is nothing less than tragic. The good news is that the racial divide in learning is a problem that can be fixed. Of course, it can only be fixed if education reform is approached in a common sense and innovative way. Continuing to repeat the largely failed national policies and ever-increasing spending of the past decades is surely not commonsense. One state, Florida, has demonstrated that meaningful academic improvement–for students of all races and economic backgrounds–is possible. In 1999, Florida enacted far-reaching K-12 education reform that includes public and private school choice, charter schools, virtual education, performance-based pay for teachers, grading of schools and districts, annual tests, curbing social promotion, and alternative teacher certification. As a result of parental choice, higher standards, accountability, and flexibility, Florida’s Hispanic students are now outperforming or tied with the overall average for all students in 31 states. It is vital that national and state policymakers take the lessons of Florida’s success to heart. The future of millions of American children depends on it.
For years, policymakers around the country have looked for ways to address the racial achievement gap in K-12 education. Despite significant increases in education spending at all levels and the federal government’s ever-increasing role in education, national academic achievement has remained relatively flat, graduation rates have stagnated around 70 percent, and racial disparities persist. Many states have enacted policies to address racial disparities in academic achievement and attainment, but the changes have been largely piecemeal.
One state, however, has demonstrated that meaningful improvement is possible. In 1999, Florida enacted a series of far-reaching K-12 education reforms that have increased academic achievement for all students and substantially narrowed the racial achievement gap. Today, Florida’s Hispanic and black students outscore many statewide reading averages for all students.

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom

Sara Corbett:

One morning last winter I watched a middle-school teacher named Al Doyle give a lesson, though not your typical lesson. This was New York City, a noncharter public school in an old building on a nondescript street near Gramercy Park, inside an ordinary room that looked a lot like all the other rooms around it, with fluorescent lights and linoleum floors and steam-driven radiators that hissed and clanked endlessly.
Doyle was, at 54, a veteran teacher and had logged 32 years in schools all over Manhattan, where he primarily taught art and computer graphics. In the school, which was called Quest to Learn, he was teaching a class, Sports for the Mind, which every student attended three times a week. It was described in a jargony flourish on the school’s Web site as “a primary space of practice attuned to new media literacies, which are multimodal and multicultural, operating as they do within specific contexts for specific purposes.” What it was, really, was a class in technology and game design.
The lesson that day was on enemy movement, and the enemy was a dastardly collection of spiky-headed robots roving inside a computer game. The students — a pack of about 20 boisterous sixth graders — were meant to observe how the robots moved, then chart any patterns they saw on pieces of graph paper. Later in the class period, working on laptops, they would design their own games. For the moment, though, they were spectators.

To combat poverty, get Africa’s children to school

Gordon Brown:

As developed countries strive for post-crisis growth, Africa is on the verge of an economic leap forward. A $1,500bn economy, the continent is ready to leave the third world. Its resources, both natural and human, are untapped. Foreign investment is at last beginning to flow. Its leading nations are even competing to join the fast-developing “Bric” countries. But as will be clear at today’s millennium development goals summit in New York, while Africa is close to a breakthrough it has not happened yet.
Any African advance will depend on three crucial factors. First, a wider opening to trade, given that 80 per cent of current exports remains in oil and agriculture. Second, a new African common market is needed. Only regional integration can overcome the fact that only a 10th of Africa’s trade is within Africa itself. Finally, better infrastructure: African road capacity is half that of Latin America and less than a third of Asia’s.

Schooling the next Minnsesota governor on education We need to find stable funding and look to experts no matter their politics.

Craig Roen:

In 20 years, will Minnesota’s public school system be among the best in the world, or will it be an also-ran? In 20 years, will Minnesota’s next governor be remembered as a courageous visionary, or as a partisan who presided over the decline of our highly educated workforce?
Make no mistake: We are at a historic crossroads. The Minnesota Miracle, with its legacy of a world-class public school system and workforce, is on its way to becoming part of a bygone era. The world is ever more competitive, and a well-educated workforce is our only assurance that Minnesota will prosper in the future. Bumper-sticker slogans and rigid ideologies are no substitute for a well-informed and well-thought-out set of education policies. The next governor must rise above petty politics and the “reform du jour” in order to lead the state to higher ground.

Tacoma middle-schoolers all in uniforms

Associated Press:

All nine middle schools in the Tacoma School District now have something in common – their students were school uniforms.
The News Tribune says this fall Jason Lee Middle School became the last to require uniforms. Most schools require polo shirts or school-logo sweat shirts – some allow jeans, others don’t.
Many parents say the uniforms make life easier – there’s no drama about what to wear, costs are lower and there’s no peer pressure to wear expensive, popular brands. Others say the uniforms limit the kids’ personal freedom.

Furious father confronts daughter’s school bus bullies

Erin Migdol:

The father of an 11-year-old bullying victim threatened to kill his daughter’s tormenters after joining her on her Florida school bus.
James Jones took his daughter, who has cerebral palsy, onto her school bus and told her to point out the bullies. Then, he said he would kill them.
“I’m gonna (expletive) you up — this is my daughter, and I will kill the (expletive) who fought her,” Jones said.

Madison School Board’s vote (to limit Outbound Open Enrollment) hurts kids — and the city

Chris Rickert:

Open enrollment allows students to go to schools outside their district. If “school choice” and “vouchers” are the buzz words popping into your head right now, you’re probably not alone. When the legislation passed in 1997, it was in the same ballpark as those two old Republican saws. Open enrollment supposedly introduces choice to the public education “marketplace,” forcing districts to compete and get better.
Democrats typically see such policies as the first step toward balkanizing the public schools into the haves and have-nots, when they should be a hallmark of a society in which any kid can become president.
Open enrollment has not shown a particularly good light on Madison in recent years. More kids have been transferring out than in, with the net loss last year 435 students. The resolution the school board passed Monday calls on the state to allow districts to limit the students that could leave under open enrollment “if the school board believes the fiscal stability of the district is threatened.”
Clearly, district leaders feel open enrollment is a fiscal threat; their analysis shows it created about a $2.7 million hole in the district budget last school year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s attempt to limit outbound open enrollment here.

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking

Steve Stecklow:

A Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy has found that popular children’s websites install more tracking technologies on personal computers than do the top websites aimed at adults.
The Journal examined 50 sites popular with U.S. teens and children to see what tracking tools they installed on a test computer. As a group, the sites placed 4,123 “cookies,” “beacons” and other pieces of tracking technology. That is 30% more than were found in an analysis of the 50 most popular U.S. sites overall, which are generally aimed at adults.
The most prolific site:, which helps teens customize their social-networking pages, installed 248 tracking tools. Its operator described the site as a “hobby” and said the tracking tools come from advertisers., an education site for young children, installed the fewest, five.
The research is part of a Journal investigation into the expanding business of tracking people’s activities online and selling details about their behavior and personal interests.
The tiny tracking tools are used by data-collection companies to follow people as they surf the Internet and to build profiles detailing their online activities, which advertisers and others buy. The profiles don’t include names, but can include age, tastes, hobbies, shopping habits, race, likelihood to post comments and general location, such as city.

Check your Google “preferences” here.

California needs more charter schools

Alan Bonsteel:

The California Department of Education issued a news release Monday touting 10 years of uninterrupted progress on the Academic Performance Index. By contrast, on the test that researchers use to evaluate real performance, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, California students’ scores have been flat during that same time.
Why the big difference? The main test on which the API is based, the STAR, has never been secure, and teachers can teach to the exact questions on it, or even hand out the correct answers in test sessions that are not proctored by outside authorities. By contrast, the NAEP is a secure test, and because it carries no financial incentives, there is no motivation to game the system.

Philadelphia’s District and charter high schools: How are they doing?

The Notebook:

The Notebook gathered data including enrollment, student demographics, attendance, and test scores. You can sort through the information in an Excel sheet or view a PDF of the center spread of data from the print edition.
Key to data for District schools
SAT, PSSA scores: for 2009 from Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Graduation rates: Rates are as determined in 2009 for entering 9th graders from fall 2005, from School District of Philadelphia. Students are attributed to their 9th grade school.
All other data are reported by the School District of Philadelphia for the 2009-10 school year.


Learning from the Fenty Loss: $1M Spent By Teacher Unions to Defeat Him

Michael Lomax, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund:

There’s a lesson here for education reformers in other cities. Real education reform is disruptive. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Beloved teachers lose their jobs. Neighborhood schools that have anchored communities are closed or reconstituted. But with the disruption comes a rebirth of education, a rising tide that lifts all parts of the community.

Education reformers need to make that case. They need to make it to the parents who have the largest stake in quality education: their children’s futures. They need to make it not only to foundations and editorial writers but also to neighborhood leaders, small-business entrepreneurs, and ministers and their flocks. In other words, they need to make it to the people with whose support reform will not only succeed but take root.

Michelle Rhee in Politico:

Yesterday’s election results were devastating – devastating. Not for me, because I’ll be fine. And not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, too. It was devastating for the children of Washington, D.C.,” Rhee said during the discussion. “The biggest tragedy that could come from [the] election results is if the lesson that people take from this is that we should pull back. … That is not the right lesson for this reform movement. We cannot retreat now. If anything, what the reform community needs to take out of yesterday’s election is: Now is the time to lean forward, be more aggressive, and be more adamant about what we’re doing.

via New Jersey Left Behind.

Adrian Fenty loss worries education reformers

Kendra Marr:

Mayor Adrian Fenty staked his career on overhauling the District of Columbia’s education system with Obama-style reforms — closing dozens of failing schools and firing hundreds of teachers.
Then the teachers struck back.
Fenty’s defeat this week — due in no small part to community and teachers union resistance to his education push — is emerging as a cautionary tale for education reformers, who fear that it could cause others to back away from aggressive reform programs swept into the mainstream by President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top.”
His downfall, observers fret, serves notice to officeholders coast to coast that they could suffer Fenty’s fate if they embark on that ambitious brand of school reform championed by Fenty and his controversial schools chief Michelle Rhee.
“This is a real wake-up call for the Obama administration,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who studies teachers unions. “The emphasis on firing teachers which was central to Rhee’s approach — she stood in a picture on the cover of Time magazine with a broom. That doesn’t seem to resonate with voters.”

John Legend surprises class with lesson on race, education

Mary Beth Marklein

Students enrolled this semester in “Education in Black America” at Howard University got their reward Thursday morning for slogging to campus instead of sleeping in: About 10 minutes into class, singer-songwriter John Legend strode in. No introduction needed.
“Surprise, surprise,” Legend said, as cellphones came out and cameras flashed. “I’m glad you didn’t skip class today.”
Legend, 31, was guest professor as part of an mtvU program called Stand In, in which big names such as Bill Gates and Madonna show up unannounced and teach a class on a subject they care about.
For Legend, a Grammy Award winner who grew up in poverty, that subject is education reform — a key theme of the just-released Waiting for Superman documentary, for which he wrote a song. So it made sense to arrange with professor Greg Carr to appear in Carr’s class, which was discussing the education of ex-slaves when the knock at the door came.


10 Things I Wish a Teacher Had Told Me

Miss Brave:

Happy back to school! In honor of my officially becoming a tenured teacher (take that, new value-added teacher data reports to determine tenure), I present to you 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Teaching.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You put your students’ names on everything in your room only to find out that some of them are spelled wrong on your class list. Or some of them moved away and you’re getting three more instead. And now you don’t have enough little birthday cakes to complete your class chart! Something like this will inevitably happen in the first week of school. But the truth is, the only person who will notice is you — and if you resent the fact that you’re going to stay at school until 6 pm redoing it, you’re just going to make yourself miserable.
2. If you can put off until tomorrow what you planned on doing today…you might want to think about it.
I realize this sounds an awful lot like procrastination, which to most teachers is a dirty, dirty word. But as a new teacher, you’re going to be staying in your classroom until nightfall anyway. Your classroom is going to become a time-sucking vacuum of dry erase markers and despair. (That was poetic, no?) So if you really, really wanted to plan out your entire week’s worth of math lessons, but it’s after 5 pm and you’ve got at least an inkling of what you’re going to do tomorrow — go home. You’ll take care of tomorrow tomorrow; tonight, you have to take care of you.

Brain Teasers for Gifted Kids

Carol Fertig:

Looking for a puzzles to exercise the minds of your students? Are you in search of interactive puzzles for your kids at home? Post a puzzle a day or a puzzle a week in your classroom. Present a puzzle to your kids while driving in the car. Create a puzzle corner at home or at school.
The Internet is full of games and puzzles that work the brain and help kids think outside the box. Just search on such terms as “brainteasers” or “puzzles.” Here are just a few sites that will keep you and your gifted kids occupied for a good long time.

‘Times Higher Education’ Releases New Rankings, but Will They Appease Skeptics?

Aisha Labi:

On Thursday the London-based Times Higher Education releases its new, and heavily hyped, World University Rankings. Nearly a year in the making, the rankings have been highly anticipated, if only to determine whether the magazine has truly delivered on its promise: to create an evaluation system based primarily on reliable, and quantifiable, measures of quality rather than on subjective values, such as reputational surveys.
Times Higher Education produced rankings for the first time this year without the collaboration of Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. Along with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings, the World University Rankings that Times Higher Education and QS published together from 2004 until last year have become the most closely watched and influential university rankings in the world.
Quacquarelli Symonds has continued to produce those rankings, now called the QS World University Rankings, and is partnering with U.S. News and World Report for their publication in the United States.

The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped

Paul Barton & Richard Coley, via a Richard Askey email:

There is widespread awareness that there is a very substantial gap between the educational achievement of the White and the Black population in our nation, and that the gap is as old as the nation itself.
This report is about changes in the size of that gap, beginning with the first signs of a narrowing that occurred at the start of the last century, and continuing on to the end of the first decade of the present century. In tracking the gap in test scores, the report begins with the 1970s and 1980s, when the new National Assessment of Educational Progress began to give us our first national data on student achievement.
That period is important because it witnessed a substantial narrowing of the gap in the subjects of reading and mathematics. This period of progress in closing the achievement gap received much attention from some of the nation’s top researchers, driven by the idea that perhaps we could learn some lessons that
could be repeated.
Next, there are the decades since the late 1980s, in which there has been no clear trend in the gap, or sustained period of change in the gap, one way or another. While there has been considerable investigation of the gap that remained, little advance in knowledge has occurred as attention was directed to alternating small declines and small gains, interspersed with periods of no change.
Paul Barton and Richard Coley drop back in time to the beginning of the 20th century when the gap in educational attainment started to narrow, and bring us to the startling and ironic conclusion that progress generally halted for those born around the mid-1960s, a time when landmark legislative victories heralded an end to racial discrimination. Had those things that were helping to close the gap stopped, or had they been overshadowed by new adversities that were not remedied by gaining equality before the law? Unfortunately, no comprehensive modeling by researchers is available that might identify and quantify the culprits, nor is it likely that there will ever be. The authors draw on the knowledge base that is available, from whatever schools of scholarship that have made relevant investigations, whether they be historians, or sociologists, or economists, or practitioners. Barton and Coley explore topics that remain sensitive in public discussion in their search for answers.
A lot of suspects are rounded up, and their pictures are posted for public view. Ultimately, readers will have to turn to their own good judgment. The report informs the judgments that have to be made, for there is no escaping the fact that failure to re-start progress is an unacceptable and dangerous prospect for the nation.
Michael T. Nettles.
Senior Vice President .
Policy Evaluation and Research Center
The nation’s attention has been — and remains — riveted on the persistent Black-White gap in the achievement of our elementary and secondary school students. Each year when the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) releases “the nation’s report card,” the front-page news focuses on whether scores are rising or falling and whether the achievement gap is changing. Speculation is rife as to whether any change is some indication of either the success or failure of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and other efforts in our local-state-federal education system.
The nation’s efforts to address the achievement gap have a long history. Expectations increased with the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision in 1954 and with passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965, which focused on the inequality of school resources. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 spiked optimism for progress in education and in society at large. And most recently, NCLB was purposeful in its requirement to “disaggregate” the average achievement scores of state accountability programs to expose the inequality that had to be addressed.
This report is about understanding the periods of progress and the periods of stagnation in changes in the achievement gap that have occurred over the past several decades. We try to understand what might have contributed to the progress as well as probe the reasons that may account for the progress halting, in the hope of finding some clues and possible directions for moving forward in narrowing the achievement gap.

The report can also be downloaded here.

Serious ideas from State of Education speech. Seriously.

Susan Troller:

For instance, he’s the only state elected official to actually and seriously float a proposal to repair the broken state funding system for schools. He promises the proposal for his “Funding for Our Future” will be ready to introduce to lawmakers this fall and will include details on its impact on the state’s 424 school districts.
Evers also is interested in the potential of charter schools. Let’s be open and supportive about education alternatives, he says, but mindful of what’s already working well in public schools.
And he says qualified 11th and 12th graders should be allowed to move directly on to post-secondary education or training if they wish. Dual enrollment opportunites for high school age students attending college and technical schools will require a shift in thinking that shares turf and breaks down barriers, making seamless education — pre-K through post-secondary — a reality instead of some distant dream, according to Evers.
As to Evers’ comments on teacher testing, he joins a national conversation that has been sparked, in part, by the Obama administration as well as research that shows the single universal element in improved student performance is teacher quality. We recently featured a story about concerns over teacher evaluation based on student performance and test scores, and the issue has been a potent topic elsewhere, as well.

The proof, as always, is in the pudding, or substance.
Melissa Westbrook wrote a very useful and timely article on education reform:

I think many ed reformers rightly say, “Kids can’t wait.” I agree.
There is nothing more depressing than realizing that any change that might be good will likely come AFTER your child ages out of elementary, middle or high school. Not to say that we don’t do things for the greater good or the future greater good but as a parent, you want for your child now. Of course, we are told that change needs to happen now but the reality is what it might or might not produce in results is years off. (Which matters not to Bill Gates or President Obama because their children are in private schools.)
All this leads to wonder about our teachers and what this change will mean. A reader, Lendlees, passed on a link to a story that appeared in the LA Times about their teacher ratings. (You may recall that the LA Times got the classroom test scores for every single teacher in Los Angeles and published them in ranked order.)

Susan Troller notes that Wisconsin’s oft criticized WKCE (on which Madison’s value added assessment program is based) will be replaced – by 2014:

Evers also promised that the much maligned Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, used to test student proficiency in 3rd through 6th, 8th and 10th grades, is on its way out. By 2014, there will be a much better assessment of student proficiency to take its place, Evers says, and he should know. He’s become a leading figure in the push for national core education standards, and for effective means for measuring student progress.

Money Is Not What Schools Need Competition is the answer.

John Stossel:

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: “Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone … .”
Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years?
Give me a break!
Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That’s a fraction of 1 percent in each case.
Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year’s allocation. But that’s not what bureaucrats mean.

Missouri auditor affirms KC district’s drastic steps

Joe Robertson:

After two dozen school closings and more than 1,000 job cuts in the Kansas City School District, Missouri Auditor Susan Montee issued a reassuring message Thursday night.
Drastic measures were indeed necessary.
Without them, the district would have been in a “financially distressed position,” Montee said.
In a prelude to a full audit report, the state retraced the old ground of poor financial decisions.
Many people, aware of the ongoing audit, had been asking the auditor’s office if the wholesale cuts were necessary, Montee said.
She jumped out early with a partial report, she said, “because it might help people’s confidence in the district.”

Complete auditor’s report; 223K PDF.

Harlem Children’s Zone Gets $20 Million Gift

Sharon Otterman:

Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone is having a good month.
Already one of the best known charter school operators in the nation, his schools and community service projects are about to move even more to center stage with the release next week of a documentary about the need for change in American education, “Waiting for Superman,” that highlights his efforts. (An Oprah appearance also is planned.)
From Washington, President Obama and the federal education department will soon announce 20 $500,000 start-up grants to communities around the country to replicate the best-practices of Mr. Canada’s approach. Called Promise Neighborhoods, their goal is to create integrated networks of educational and social services for adults and children.
And the Harlem Children’s Zone — which raised about $50 million last year — just received a $20 million contribution from Goldman Sachs Gives, a fund supported by the investment company and its partners, to build a new school building in a public housing project in Harlem, the organization announced on Thursday.

Goldman Sachs and its employees live today because of the massive taxpayer Wall Street bailout.

Teachers union helped unseat Washington, DC Mayor Fenty

Ben Smith:

The American Federation of Teachers spent heavily to unseat Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and to put the brakes on his aggressive efforts to shake up the city’s schools system.
The national union spent roughly $1 million in contributions to a labor-backed independent expenditure campaign — also supported by the public workers union AFSCME — and on its own extensive political operation, a Democratic political consultant familiar with the details of the spending told POLITICO. The spending suggests that the vote — while not a referendum on Fenty’s attempt to shake up the school system — was deeply shaped by that policy. And while the teachers union has been careful not to claim the scalps of Fenty and his schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, the election may serve as a political shot across the bows of other urban officials considering similar policies.
The union’s president, Randi Weingarten, sought to downplay its role in the election, and denied that the union had targeted Rhee.
“For our members in Washington, it was what it was for other Washingtonians – about jobs, about the economy, about the city,” said Weingarten. “This was not a proxy vote on Michelle Rhee.”

Struggling students + best teachers = success

David Permutt:

Dignitaries rarely come to Sterling Elementary School.
It’s at the end of the Lynx light rail line off South Boulevard, a 7-year-old building near Pineville sprawled among a smattering of small houses. All but five students are African-American or Latino; 91 percent receive free or reduced-price lunches.
Yet it is the transformation inside that brought U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Gov. Bev Perdue to Sterling Elementary on Wednesday.
Three years ago, only 34.6 percent of Sterling’s students passed end-of-grade reading tests. A year later, after a plan to improve poorly performing schools took effect, 58.9 percent passed. Math scores were more dramatic: 52.4 percent passed three years ago; 83.7 percent a year later.

Hartland shuffles school grades

Amy Hetzner:

Some quick one-liners from Hartland North Elementary School Principal Pat Thome can sum up the difference between his school now and one year ago.
“There’s nobody over 3½ feet tall,” he said. “I’m the only guy who comes to work, and there’s 450 people wanting to give you a hug every day.”
Over the summer, both elementary schools in the Hartland-Lakeside School District transitioned from serving students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to serving half those grades. North got the students in pre-kindergarten through second grade while Hartland South Elementary School, less than two miles away, now has students in only third through fifth grades.
It’s a structure that other southeastern Wisconsin school districts have studied – most recently the Whitnall School District – but few have adopted. Among the obstacles to such changes are concerns voiced by parents about losing their neighborhood schools and the addition of a transition between school buildings in the middle of a child’s elementary years.

Madison schools produce more National Merit semifinalists than any other district in state

Wisconsin State Journal:

Madison public schools produced more National Merit Scholarship semifinalists than any other school district in the state again this year.
Thirty-nine students from Madison East, West, La Follette and Memorial high schools, along with 10 other Madison seniors who receive home schooling or attend Edgewood High or Abundant Life Christian School, are among 16,000 students nationwide to receive the honor. The semifinalists, who represent fewer than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, will continue to compete for some 8,400 National Merit scholarships worth more than $36 million to be announced next spring.

View individual state cut scores, by year here. In 2010, Minnesota’s cut score was 215, Illinois’ 214, Iowa 209 and Michigan 209. Wisconsin’s was 207.
Congratulations all around!

Harsh lesson for charter school supporters

Erik Engquist & Jeremy Smerd:

Tuesday’s primary was a disaster for charter school proponents and their hedge fund backers. They funded three insurgent state Senate candidates, only to see them lose by huge margins to incumbents viewed as hostile to charter schools: Sen. Bill Perkins in Manhattan, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery in Brooklyn and Sen. Shirley Huntley in Queens.
“If you’re going to make a statement, you have to either win or be competitive, because if you get crushed it sends the opposite message,” one legislator says. “People are going to believe that this is a paper tiger.”
Wall Street and the financial services industry made a similar gamble by investing in insurgent Reshma Saujani against Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who supported the sweeping financial regulation bill and won passage of credit card reforms that will curb banks’ profits. Saujani raised more than $1.3 million but won only 19% of the vote in an Upper East Side district where support for Wall Street is thought to be greater than elsewhere.

Worcester Teachers seek contract

Jacqueline Reis:

A short time after approximately 150 teachers chanted at full volume last night that they wanted a contract NOW, Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien announced that the School Committee will ask the state Labor Relations Board to appoint a mediator.
The city’s approximately 3,000 teachers have been without a contract since school started in fall 2009, and they filled last night’s School Committee meeting to hear the union’s president, Leonard A. Zalauskas, speak to the committee. “We are eager to participate in a solution, but we don’t want to take a pay cut,” he said.
He said teachers asked to work extended hours should be paid their same hourly rate, but noted that the group’s demands are not all about money. The union, the Educational Association of Worcester, also wants a “safe and healthy learning environment” for its members, including environmental health and an effective disciplinary system for students, and a say in teachers’ own professional development, he said.

Wisconsin School Finance Reform Climate: 16% Health Care Spending Growth & Local Lobbying

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

The state health department is requesting $675 million more from state taxpayers in the next two-year budget to maintain services such as Wisconsin’s health care programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, according to budget estimates released Thursday.
That figure, included in a budget request by the state Department of Health Services, shows how difficult it will be for the next governor to balance a budget that already faces a $2.7 billion projected shortfall over two years.
One of the chief reasons the state faces the steep increase in costs is because federal economic stimulus money for health care programs will dry up before the 2011-’13 budget starts July 1.
That scheduled decrease in funding would come even as high unemployment lingers, driving many families into poverty and keeping enrollment in the programs relatively high. State Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake said the state needs to find a way to keep health care for those who need it.
“People need this program in a way many of them never expected to,” she said.
But maintaining health programs at existing levels could cost even more than the $675 million increase over two years – a 16% jump – now projected in the budget request, which will be handled by the next governor and Legislature.

Dane County Board Urges State Action on School Reform 194K PDF via a TJ Mertz email:

This evening the Dane County Board of Supervisors enthusiastically approved a resolution urging the Wisconsin Legislature to make comprehensive changes in the way schools are funded. The Board encouraged the Legislature to consider revenue sources other than the local property tax to support the diverse needs of students and school districts.

“I hear over and over again from Dane County residents that investing in education is a priority, said County Board Supervisor Melissa Sargent, District 18, the primary sponsor of the resolution. “However, people tell me they do not like the overreliance on property taxes to fund education – pitting homeowners against children,” she added.

For the last 17 years, the state funding formula has produced annual shortfalls resulting in program cuts to schools. In 2009-2010, cuts in state aid resulted in a net loss of over $14 million in state support for students in Dane County, shifting the cost of education increasingly to property taxpayers. More and more districts are forced to rely on either program cuts or sometimes divisive referenda. In fact, voters rejected school referendums in five districts Tuesday, while just two were approved.

“The future of our children and our community is dependent on the development of an equitable system for funding public education; a system the recognizes the diverse needs of our children and does not put the funding burden on the backs of our taxpayers, said Madison Metropolitan School
Board member Arlene Silvera. “I appreciate the leadership of the County Board in raising awareness of this critical need and in lobbying our state legislators to make this happen,” she said.

Jeffery Ziegler a Member of the Marshall Public School District Board of Education and Jim Cavanaugh, President of the South Central Federation of Labor, both emphasized the need to get the attention of state officials in statements supporting the resolution. Ziegler described how state inaction has forced Board Members to make decisions that harm education.

State legislators can apparently decide to just not make the tough decisions that need to be made. School boards have a responsibility to keep our schools functioning and delivering the best education they can under the circumstances, knowing full well that those decisions will have a negative effect on the education of the children in their community.

Cavanaugh observed that the consensus that reform is needed has not led to action and pointed to the important role local governmental bodies can play in changing this by following the lead of the Dane County Board

“Legislators of all political stripes acknowledge that Wisconsin’s system for funding public schools is broken. Yet, there doesn’t appear to be the political will to address this very complicated issue. Perhaps they need a nudge from the various local units of government.”

In passing this resolution, Dane County is taking the lead on a critical statewide issue. Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) board member Thomas J. Mertz said that WAES thanked the Dane County Board and said that WAES will seek similar resolutions from communities around the state in the coming months.

“All around Wisconsin districts are hurting and we’ve been working hard to bring the need for reform to the attention of state officials,” said WAES board member Thomas J. Mertz. “Hearing from local officials might do the trick,” he concluded.

Gubernertorial candidates Tom Barrett (Clusty) and Scott Walker (Clusty) on education.
The current economic climate certainly requires that choices be made.
Perhaps this is part of the problem.
Finally, The Economist on taxes.

13 Writing Tips

Chuck Palahniuk:

Twenty years ago, a friend and I walked around downtown Portland at Christmas. The big department stores: Meier and Frank… Fredrick and Nelson… Nordstroms… their big display windows each held a simple, pretty scene: a mannequin wearing clothes or a perfume bottle sitting in fake snow. But the windows at the J.J. Newberry’s store, damn, they were crammed with dolls and tinsel and spatulas and screwdriver sets and pillows, vacuum cleaners, plastic hangers, gerbils, silk flowers, candy – you get the point. Each of the hundreds of different objects was priced with a faded circle of red cardboard. And walking past, my friend, Laurie, took a long look and said, “Their window-dressing philosophy must be: ‘If the window doesn’t look quite right – put more in’.”
She said the perfect comment at the perfect moment, and I remember it two decades later because it made me laugh. Those other, pretty display windows… I’m sure they were stylist and tasteful, but I have no real memory of how they looked.
For this essay, my goal is to put more in. To put together a kind-of Christmas stocking of ideas, with the hope that something will be useful. Or like packing the gift boxes for readers, putting in candy and a squirrel and a book and some toys and a necklace, I’m hoping that enough variety will guarantee that something here will occur as completely asinine, but something else might be perfect.

California School Boards Association reveals exec’s severance deal

Melody Gutierrez:

Nearly two months after the California School Boards Association faced public scrutiny over its top executive’s pay, the non-profit released details this week of its severance agreement with Scott Plotkin.
CSBA paid $43,000 to cut ties with Plotkin and recognize him for “his long years of service” to the organization, according to a statement Tuesday by the CSBA board of directors.
Plotkin retired Sept. 1 after admitting to using a company credit card to withdraw cash at area casinos.
He earned $403,955 in 2009 — much more than executive directors at similar nonprofits — including nearly $75,000 in bonuses and other compensation.
CSBA is not a government agency but is indirectly funded by taxpayers. Much of its budget comes from membership dues and other fees paid by public school districts.

Evaluate teachers so we can pay them what they’re worth

Dick Startz:

Teachers are seriously underpaid, but the public won’t support paying the good teachers more without tools to evaluate them. Teachers ought to be leading the way in designing fair evaluation systems.
Linking teacher evaluation to pay is an increasingly hot button issue in Washington state and around the nation. Too much talk is about evaluation and too little about compensation. Sure, teacher evaluation is important. But it’s the wagging tail, not the dog. Evaluation schemes won’t attract and keep great people in front of the class unless positive evaluations bring meaningful financial rewards.
Teachers make an enormous difference in what children learn. Every parent knows teachers matter. Extensive scientific evidence backs up the importance of teachers to education outcomes. One oft-cited statistic is that a good teacher moves students up one-and-a-half grade levels in a single year. Students of a poor teacher learn only half a year’s material.
To reward good teachers we need to identify them. Evaluation should focus on measuring what students learn and then associating student learning measurements with the teachers who taught them.

Charlie Mas comments on Startz’s (who has a book on the way) article.

UW-Madison students, faculty struggle with plagiarism in Internet era

Todd Finkelmeyer:

When UW-Madison chemistry lecturer Jeanine Batterton accused 42 students last fall of plagiarism on a written lab assignment in Chem 104, she was floored by the range of “bizarre excuses” offered by the undergraduates.
Some contended that cutting and pasting information out of Wikipedia — the Web-based, user-generated encyclopedia — was OK because no single author writes the entries.
Others argued that since the assignment was a group project, and since they didn’t write the part of the report in question, how could she punish them for any wrongdoing?
One student even told Batterton that when he was caught copying homework answers in another class, the professor let him re-do the assignment — so why couldn’t she do the same?

A College Closes for Good as Rescue Plan Is Rejected

Luaren Etter:

As colleges open for the fall semester, the Lutheran school on a grassy hill overlooking town will sit empty for the first time in 126 years.
Dana College closed abruptly in June after a long financial struggle. The fate of the private, 600-student liberal-arts school mirrors that of many small colleges whose challenges became more pronounced during the recession. But some officials at Dana think the school was also an innocent victim of a crackdown on for-profit colleges.
Investors proposed to buy Dana and turn it into a profitable operation. But an accrediting agency effectively pulled the lifeline away by denying the college’s application to change ownership. Such accrediting agencies were facing pressure from federal education officials, who accused some of being too lenient in certifying for-profit schools with lax standards. Officials said such schools often pushed students to take on heavy debt loads without preparing them for careers.

California Board of Education addresses teacher evaluation issue

Teresa Watanabe:

The state Board of Education took up the controversial issue of teacher evaluations Wednesday, unanimously voting to create an online database to share information about local, state and national efforts to measure educators’ effectiveness.
The board also asked the Los Angeles, Long Beach and Fresno school districts to propose specific ways the state can support local efforts to create more meaningful evaluation tools, including the value-added method of using students’ test scores to rate teacher performance.
“This is a huge step forward,” said board member Ben Austin, who proposed the resolution at the Sacramento meeting. “Including value-added as a component is just common sense, if we take seriously the notion that education is about kids and not grownups.”

Helena-West Helena (Arkansas) School District deemed financially distressed

John Lyon:

The state Board of Education voted unanimously today to add the Helena-West Helena School District to the state’s list of fiscally distressed districts.
The board took the action because of declining fund balances and internal control problems that were identified in an audit. Declining enrollment has reduced the state funding the district receives, but expenditures have not been reduced accordingly, state education officials said.
“From 2007 to 2010 they’ve lost about 564 students,” said Bill Goff, the state Education Department’s assistant commissioner fiscal and administrative services. “A $6,000 per student, that’s about $3.4 million.”
The state Department of Education notified the district in July that it would be recommended for fiscal distress status. The district did not appeal.
Superintendent Willie Williams told the board the district is working with a financial consultant to reorganize personnel and make other changes to reduce expenditures. He said the district also is addressing the audit findings, which included reimbursement to school board members for non-business-related travel, restaurant bills and alcoholic beverages.

Monona Grove School District’s Teacher Contract Negotiations (Since 2009)

Peter Sobol:

What are the sticking points in the current negotiations?
Post-employment benefits and the salary-benefit package are two big items on which there is no agreement. Current post-employment benefits for teachers include a payment of a stipend (Teacher Emeritus Program (TEP)) which is equal to a teacher’s highest annual salary and is paid out over a period of three years in equal installments. In addition to this and to the regular monthly pension benefit received by the teacher from WRS, full health insurance and the major share of the cost of dental insurance are paid by the District until the retired teacher reaches the age of 70. In the event of the death of the retiree prior to reaching the age of 70, the surviving spouse continues to be eligible for the District’s group health insurance coverage until the date the retiree would have reached age 70 at the retiree’s spouse expense.
The School Board’s current proposal for post-employment benefits is proposal #6 in the Initial Board of Education Proposals to the Monona Grove Education Association (linked here). There is no corresponding initial or counter-proposal from the MGEA; its position is to maintain the existing benefits described in the previous paragraph.
The School Board’s current salary and benefit package proposal is an increase of 3.9% for 2009-10 and 3.7% for 2010-11. The MGEA’s current total package proposal is an increase of 5.4% for 2009-10 and 5.3% for 2010-11 and includes an average teacher salary increase of 4.2% for 2009-10 and 4.1% for 2010-11. These percentages reflect what’s known as “cast forward” costing and do not include the cost of horizontal lane movement on the salary schedule or the post-employment benefit costs of retirees.

A Look at Madison’s Use of Value Added Assessment

Lynn Welch:

In the two years Madison has collected and shared value-added numbers, it has seen some patterns emerging in elementary school math learning. But when compared with other districts, such as Milwaukee, Kiefer says there’s much less variation in the value- added scores of schools within the Madison district.
“You don’t see the variation because we do a fairly good job at making sure all staff has the same professional development,” he says.
Proponents of the value-added approach agree the data would be more useful if the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction were to establish a statewide value-added system. DPI is instead developing an assessment system to look at school-wide trends and improve instruction for individual students.
But some question whether value-added data truly benefits all students, or is geared toward closing the gap between high- and low-performing students.
“Will the MMSD use new assessments…of students’ progress to match instruction levels with demonstrated learning levels?” asks Lorie Raihala, a Madison parent who is part of a group seeking better programming for high-achieving ninth- and 10th-graders at West High School. “So far the district has not done this.”
Others are leery of adding another measurement tool. David Wasserman, a teacher at Sennett Middle School and part of a planning group pushing to open Badger Rock Middle School, a green charter (see sidebar), made national news a few years ago when he refused to administer a mandatory statewide test. He still feels that a broad, student-centered evaluation model that takes multiple assessments into account gives the best picture.
“Assessment,” he says, “shouldn’t drive learning.”

Notes and links on “Value Added Assessment“, and the oft-criticized WKCE, on which it is based, here.

Madison’s Attempts to Limit Outbound Open Enrollment: A Discussion with Vicki McKenna & Don Severson

two mp3 audio files, via a kind reader’s email: 30mb. The open enrollment conversation begins at about 19:40 in this first mp3 file and continues in the second (33mb) mp3 file.
Much more on outbound open enrollment here.

New Jersey’s Interdistrict School Choice Program

New Jersey Left Behind:

Give a round of applause to the Assembly for passing A-355, which makes the pilot Interdistrict School Choice program permanent. What’s not to like? Kids in failing schools can cross district lines to attend a more successful school (see NJ Left Behind previous coverage here and here). And those more successful schools, according to a report from Rutgers, are almost unanimous in their support of the Program and their reports of its positive fiscal and educational impact.

Related: Outbound open enrollment in the Madison School District.

Report: More women than men in U.S. earned doctorates last year for first time

Daniel de Vise:

For the first time, more women than men in the United States received doctoral degrees last year, the culmination of decades of change in the status of women at colleges nationwide.
The number of women at every level of academia has been rising for decades. Women now hold a nearly 3-to-2 majority in undergraduate and graduate education. Doctoral study was the last holdout – the only remaining area of higher education that still had an enduring male majority.

Cheating Charter Schools Some teachers are apparently more deserving than others

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made charter schools a big part of their reform agenda, but the pushback from unions has been fierce. Perhaps that explains why the new $10 billion federal teacher bailout will be dispensed in a way that discriminates against charters.
The Administration’s initial guidance excluded many charter school teachers, even though charters are public schools. The Department of Education said money from the Education Jobs Fund could go only to teachers and others employed by a local education agency or school district.
“A charter school,” says the department, “may not use Ed Jobs funds to pay for the compensation and benefits of employees of a charter management organization or an educational management organization who provide school-level educational and related services in the charter school.” Many charter school teachers are employees of management firms rather than the school district, so the guidelines would have excluded more than 1,000 charters nationwide (serving around 400,000 students) from the cash.

Lancaster Teacher Union Negotiations

Brian Wallace:

Teachers and school district officials are bracing for what could be a bruising year of negotiations over new contracts for about 3,000 teachers.
Both sides say the weak economy and increasing financial pressures on schools will likely make contract talks more challenging in 2010-11 than in years past.
“It will be very difficult,” said Paul Gottlieb, a negotiator for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “The economic situation puts pressure on everybody on both sides.”
Gottlieb is the PSEA representative for Octorara School District, one of four districts — along with Warwick, Penn Manor and School District of Lancaster — that soon will begin negotiations to replace or extend teacher contracts that expire at the end of the school year.
Teachers with Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 and Lancaster County Career & Technology Center also are working under contracts that expire June 30, 2011.
Two other school districts — Manheim Central and Solanco — have been negotiating since last school year to replace or extend contracts that expired over the summer.

Houston School Board to vote on tighter conflict of interest rules

Ericka Mellon:

The Houston school board plans to vote Thursday on a stricter conflict of interest policy that would apply to all employees, rather than just higher-paid administrative staff. The proposal would forbid all employees from accepting any “gift, favor, loan, service, entertainment or anything of more than token value” from any HISD vendor or someone seeking to do business with the district. Allowed are coffee mugs, key chains, caps and other “trinkets.”
Employees also are prohibited from accepting meals exceeding $100 in a year from any vendor or prospective vendor. Employees must report meals that exceed $50 per year. In addition, employees must report to the district any personal financial or business interests that “in any way creates a substantial conflict with the proper discharge of assigned duties and responsibilities or that creates a conflict with the best of the District.”
HISD’s current conflict of interest policy is similar except that it applies only to administrative employees above pay grade 14. (I’m checking with the district on that salary amount.) Ann Best, the district’s chief human resources officer, told the school board Monday that the change was designed to ensure “that we’re holding every single person accountable to the same standard.”

Digital books engage students during test drive

Jill Tucker:

The drudgery of solving for X flew out the door of a Presidio Middle School classroom Friday as the giddy students traded in their back-breaking algebra textbooks for an iPad touch screen filled with integers and equations that came to life with the flick of a finger.
The San Francisco eighth-graders are among 400 California middle school students participating in a pilot study funded by textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on the use of digital textbooks. The results will help determine whether the high-tech version educates schoolchildren as well or better than its wood-pulp predecessors.
While it’s not hard to imagine classrooms full of such devices in the not-so-distant future, the novelty was not lost on many of the adults in the classroom Friday.
Remember this day, district officials told the students.

California Online School Seeks Students, Tax Dollars

Ben Adler:

A school district near Sacramento, Calif., is looking outside the box for new revenue sources in these harsh budget times. Elk Grove Unified has opened up its own Virtual Academy offering complete online curricula for grades kindergarten through 12.
Officials hope to attract home-school students and children from other districts, plus the state tax dollars that come with them. But this kind of online education is also raising some red flags.
The New Virtual Academy

Managing Expectations of Costly Kids

Sue Shellenbarger:

At 10, Grace Morgan is a young fashionista and takes pains to dress in the latest styles. But her mom, Amy, works part-time and her husband was recently laid off, leaving little room in the family budget for designer-brand clothes.
So Grace didn’t ask her mom to open her wallet this fall to buy clothes. Instead, she sold a stack of her own old jeans and shirts at a rummage sale and paired the proceeds with discount coupons to get the stylish jeggings and tops she wanted for school, says her mother, of Lake in the Hills, Ill. Grace is learning “we have to make choices with our money,” she says.
The cost of raising kids is continuing to rise. A middle-income family can expect to shell out nearly a quarter of a million dollars, or $222,360, to raise a baby born in 2009 to age 18, according to the Department of Agriculture. That is up about 1.4% from 2007, before the recession began–and it doesn’t include college costs.

A Mixed Welcome For Chinese-Americans, a long road to acceptance–even to public schooling.

Melanie Kirkpatrick:

In the 1960s, when she was in her 90s, Mamie Tape Lowe liked to tell her great-grandchildren the story of her first day of school in San Francisco in 1884. On a warm day in September, Mamie’s mother dressed her in a checkered pinafore, tied a ribbon in her hair and took her to the Spring Valley Primary School on Union Street. When they arrived, the principal, Jennie Hurley, refused to let her in. In Mamie’s telling, “they said all the ‘pigtails’ would be coming” if they admitted Mamie. But her father “fought like heck” and sued the board of education. Mamie’s great-grandchildren, who were fifth- generation Americans, marveled that there was a time when Chinese-American children were denied an education or had to attend a separate school for “Orientals.”
The lawsuit filed by her father on Mamie’s behalf–eventually decided by the California Supreme Court a year later–is a little-known landmark in the history of Chinese in America, but it is at the center of the most interesting chapter in “The Lucky Ones” by Columbia University historian Mae Ngai. “The Lucky Ones” follows three generations of the Tape family, from the 1860s, when Mamie’s parents arrived in San Francisco from China, to 1943, when the exclusion laws were lifted and Chinese in America achieved full democratic rights. Ms. Ngai uses the Tape family’s history as a vehicle to describe the emergence of a Chinese-American middle class in an era when the vast majority of Chinese immigrants were illiterate male “coolies.”

Politics Lesson for D.C. Schools Chief?

Louise Radnofsky:

Vincent Gray’s victory in Washington, D.C.’s mayoral contest means an uncertain future the highest-profile figure in District politics: schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who became a national symbol of school reform.
Rhee was appointed by the current mayor, Adrian Fenty, and her overhaul of the education system became a main issue in the Fenty-Gray race. Last night’s victory means that Gray, who faces no Republican opposition in heavily Democratic Washington, has a virtual lock on the November election.
She campaigned for Fenty, telling voters that a vote for him was a vote for her staying in her job. During the campaign, Gray said that if he won, he would talk to Rhee and consider whether they can work together, and early today promised to move forward with school reform. “Make no mistake: school reform will move forward in a Gray administration,” Gray said.

Mitch Henck Discusses Madison’s Attempts to Restrict Open Enrollment

15.8MB mp3 audio file, via a kind reader.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US military chief warns on Federal spending

Edward Luce & Daniel Dombey:

The Pentagon needs to take prompt action to bring its spending under control to stave off the kind of “drastic” defence cuts afflicting Britain and Germany, according to Mike Mullen, the most senior US military official.
Referring to the 20 per cent or more cuts recently announced by America’s key European allies, Admiral Mullen said the Pentagon only had a limited time in which to act before similar changes would be imposed upon the country, given the sharply rising level of US national debt.
“If we do not figure out how to manage ourselves inside this growing challenge [of fiscal austerity] then I do worry that it won’t be too long before those kinds of cuts will be part of our future as well, and that would be very dangerous,” Admiral Mullen said in a View from DC video interview with the Financial Times.

The Pentagon raising a flag on debt and spending is rather remarkable. Related: State and company officials should heed message from Harley vote.

The Bubble: Higher Education’s Precarious Hold on Consumer Confidence

Peter Wood:

Is American higher education caught in the 21st century equivalent of the Dutch tulip mania? On February 3, 1636, the contract price of tulip bulbs traded in Haarlem collapsed. The prices for the fancier multi-colored varieties had been driven up to crazy heights by futures speculators. The reckoning that followed has, of course, become everyone’s favorite metaphor for subsequent “bubbles”–those aberrations of the market in which people vastly overvalue a good because they believe its price will only continue to soar. We have had in recent memory a tech bubble and a real estate bubble, both on a scale to make seventeenth century Dutch tulips blush for shame.
Could American higher education be in the same fix? In the last few years an increasing number of observers speaking from distinct perspectives have converged on this idea. The outlines are simple. The price of attaining a college degree has skyrocketed while the rewards of attaining a college degree have slumped. Sooner or later, people will notice that they are being asked to spend a great deal of money for a meager result. If enough people notice this and consequently decide not to spend at comparable levels and to seek lower priced alternatives–daisies instead of tulips–the bubble will burst.
Defenders of the current system point to reasons why this won’t happen. My own view is that we are indeed facing a bubble, but before turning to that prognosis, it helps to start with the counter-arguments. There are many in higher ed who see no bubble and who read the tulip leaves differently.

Heed lesson on education reform from Massachusetts

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin has showed little muscle when it comes to motivating students, teachers or schools to achieve ambitious academic goals.
Massachusetts provides a particularly striking comparison to Wisconsin. Just 15 to 20 years ago, Massachusetts and Wisconsin were fairly even. Since then, Massachusetts has moved forward substantially. The state has led the nation in reading and math scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress in recent years. A recent New York Times article said, “Many regard (Massachusetts) as having the nation’s best education system.” And Boston is widely regarded as a leader in tackling urban school issues.
So what explains the successes in Massachusetts and Boston?
There is nearly universal agreement that the key is “the grand bargain” struck in the Bay State’s legislature in 1993. At heart, it was a simple deal: Give schools more money and demand better results.
A multibillion-dollar infusion of state aid to schools righted inequities between have- and have-not school districts. But along with the money came one of the nation’s most rigorous sets of standards for what children were expected to learn, and a demanding state testing system, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

Interest in Texas school contests fired up Curriculum disputes raise board’s profile

Gary Sharrer:

Cesar Chavez is not on the fall election ballot. Neither is Thomas Jefferson. And Texans will not actually get a say in the teaching of evolution in public schools or how to handle sex education.
Voters, however, will help shape the State Board of Education. And nearly everyone agrees that Texans are paying closer attention to the once low-profile board after the 15 members attracted state and national attention for their controversial pursuit of new science and social studies curriculum standards.
Two key contested races in the Nov. 2 general election will determine whether Texans prefer traditional values as seen by supporters of Republican incumbent Ken Mercer, of San Antonio, and candidate Marsha Farney, of Georgetown. Democrats in those races are looking for voters to reject what they call the politicization of education for nearly 5 million public school children.
The board in recent years has been divided largely among seven Republican social conservatives voting as a bloc, five Democrats and three Republicans often considered swing votes.

Despite Rhee’s missteps, her egalitarian vision for schools inspires

Courtland Milloy:

From its birth in 1790, the District has inspired grand visions of a more perfect union among diverse peoples. Even the landscape has been infused with our common striving; a design by French architect Pierre L’Enfant intended “principally to connect each part of the city,” as he put it, “by making the real distance less from place to place.”
On the eve of Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the District, I’d like to revisit one of the more compelling visions of what a city of knitted souls might look like. The question for voters: How do we get there?
From a commentary by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee that appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of Spotlight on Poverty and Education:

Battle Over Class Room As a $578 Million City School Opens in Los Angeles, Charters Press For More Space

Tamara Audi:

The scruffy rooftop basketball court of the Larchmont School, a small charter school packed into one floor of an 83-year-old building, offers a breathtaking view of the city’s priciest new gem: the $578 million Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” said Larchmont’s executive director Brian Johnson, gazing at the gleaming green rectangular structure surrounded by pristine athletic fields and rows of stately palm trees.
The new public-school complex has drawn criticism for its cost at a time when Los Angeles city schools have laid off thousands of teachers to help plug its $640 million budget gap.

New teacher applauds Michelle Rhee’s quick response to problem

Jay Matthews:

Anthony Priest is one of those personnel office surprises — a 44-year-old just starting as a teacher. He has two degrees in engineering from Georgia Tech and a master’s in business administration. He does marathons and triathlons. In 2008, he was project manager for the redevelopment of a 300,000-square-foot D.C. office building.
But he decided it would be more interesting to teach math, so he accepted an assignment at one of the most chaotic public schools in the region, Spingarn High in Northeast Washington. Since then, he says, he has had many adventures, including a first-hand look at the inspiring and results-oriented (at least to him) management practices of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.
His first contact with Rhee concerned the broken lock on his classroom door. Spingarn has hall walkers, students and non-students who stroll its long corridors and rarely go to class. Every day they would open the door to Priest’s classroom, walk in, and yell at his students or him. There were threats, thefts, even assaults. The school’s security guards were ineffective. He asked the principal several times to have the door fixed so he that could control his students better.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public workers’ generous benefits come at a price State law makes it difficult to make any changes in health benefits without approval of the unions

Guy Boulton & Jason Stein:

The rich health benefits enjoyed by workers in the public sector are becoming an increasingly inviting target as cities, counties and school districts struggle with continual budget deficits.
The numbers explain why:
The Milwaukee Public Schools district spends as much as $26,846 a year to provide family coverage for a teacher. The City of Milwaukee spends a bit less than $21,000, and Milwaukee County spends $17,800 to $19,400. The state’s cost is slightly less than $20,000 a year for employees in the Milwaukee area.
That’s after subtracting the employee’s share of the premium, which can range from nothing to $2,160 a year.
In contrast, family coverage from private and public employers costs $13,770 on average nationally and workers on average pay nearly $4,000 of that.
Several forces contribute to the gap between public and private sectors. For one, state law prohibits many public employees from striking and that prohibition comes at a price of ensuring fairness for those employees. In addition, many public workers accept lower salaries in exchange for generous health care benefits.
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, each have proposals to lower health benefit costs.

Oscar Winner Guggenheim Fights Malaise in “Superman”

Brian Brooks:

Guggenheim at moments became emotional, choking up as he spoke about one of the girls, Daisy, he profiles in his latest film, “Waiting for Superman,” which exposes the breakdown in American education.
“I’ve watched this movie 40 times and I watch Daisy in East Los Angeles and she’s motivated, smart and her father works as a truck driver, while her mother cleans hospital rooms. She wants to be a doctor and her parents have hope. They believe that if they do their part that America will do its part.”
At the core of “Superman” is whether America has the will and courage to face up to its spiraling public education system. While it has been generally accepted that education in America has faced a frightening decline, with statistics to back up that fear, Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) hopes that the film will motivate people to believe that a crisis that may appear intractable can be reformed and improved despite the perception that it is a system stymied by entrenched paralysis.

“They have the power, but I don’t think anyone has looked at this. So [once again], I’m the angry black man.” interviews Kaleem Caire about the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy, via a kind reader:

In Caire’s mind, kids can’t wait. Consider the data he cites from the ACT District Profile Report for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s 2010 graduating class:

Of students taking the ACT, average test scores differed significantly between African Americans and white students:

English Math Reading Science Composite
African Americans 16.3 18.0 17.1 18.4 17.6
Caucasian/White 25.1 25.6 25.8 24.8 25.4

The percent of students meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores, broken out by ethnicity, for the 2010 graduating class seems more alarming:

Total Tested English (18) Math (22) Reading (21) Science (24)
All Students 1,122 81% 68% 71% 51%
African Americans 76 38% 24% 25% 9%
Caucasian/White 733 90% 77% 79% 60%
Hispanic 71 59% 39% 45% 18%
Asian/Pacific Isl. 119 67% 65% 61% 45%

Numbers like these fuel Caire’s fire, and his vision for The Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. “I’m amazed that [the primarily white leadership in the city] hasn’t looked at this data and said, ‘wow!’ They have the power, but I don’t think anyone has looked at this. So [once again], I’m the angry black man.”

Caire understands the challenges that lie ahead. By November, he needs to formally propose the idea to the School Board, after which he will seek a planning grant from the Department of Public Instruction. He anticipates other hurdles along the way. Among them, a misconstrued conception. “Madison believes it’s creative, but the reality is, it’s not innovative.” Will the community accept this idea, or sit back and wait, he wonders.
Second: The resources to do it. “We can survive largely on what the school system can give us [once we’re up and running], but there’s seed money you need to get to that point.”
Third: The teacher’s union response. “No one knows what that will be,” Caire said. “The school board and district are so influenced by the teacher’s union, which represents teachers. We represent kids. To me, it’s not, ‘teachers at all costs,’ it’s ‘kids first.’ We’ll see where our philosophies line up.” He added that the Urban League and those behind the Charter School idea are not at all opposed to the teacher’s union, but the Prep School’s design includes, for example, a school day longer than the teacher’s contract allows. “This isn’t about compensation,” he said of the contract, “it’s about commitment. We don’t want red tape caught up in this, and we want to guarantee long-term success.”

Related: “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT! and outbound open enrollment.

Time for a FREEZE! Janesville teacher contract.

John Eyster:

Time for a FREEZE! Janesville teacher contract.
ONE ALSO OUGHT TO READ VERY CAREFULLY the report on COMPENSATION settlement negotiated! First and foremost, even a FREEZE on salary would NOT BE A TRUE FREEZE on compensation! While a freeze would impact an across the board increase in the salary schedule, it would NOT impact two other factors which INCREASE teacher compensation year-by-year.
First, the “seniority” or “experience” move on the salary schedule and second, the pay provided when “they hit continuing-education milestones.” The Gazette article reports that about 57% of the teachers would get the longevity increase. There is no data cited on “continuing-education milestone” increases.
Where is the data about the significant increase in FRINGE BENEFITS for teachers with the increase in HEALTH INSURANCE COSTS for the District? The District is self-insured. The shocking announcement of $2 million in UNexpected costs with $1 million coming from the teacher COMPENSATION package in the new contract and $1 million coming from increase in costs for health insurance. Is this $1 million NOT an increase in TOTAL COMPENSATION for teachers? WHY is it NOT reported in the Gazette article? WHY has it NOT been clarified by the district? How much compensation increase is that for each teacher?

Teacher turnover is a disadvantaged school problem, not a charter school problem

Betheny Gross, Michael DeArmond, via a Deb Britt email:

Recent research and media reports have raised serious concerns about teacher turnover rates in charter schools. But it isn’t exactly clear why teacher turnover rates might be high in charter schools: is it a consequence of their less regulated labor market, or is it the types of students and neighborhoods where they tend to operate?
This study tracked the careers of 956 newly hired charter school teachers and 19,695 newly hired traditional public school teachers in Wisconsin between 1998 and 2006. Although not representative of the charter school sector overall, the study’s analysis of Wisconsin’s charter school sector provides some important clues about the nature of teacher turnover in charter schools: (1) high teacher turnover rates in Wisconsin’s charter schools are mostly a function of teacher characteristics (young and inexperienced) and school contexts (poor and urban), rather than a “charter effect,” and (2) teachers in Wisconsin’s urban charter schools are less likely to leave their schools than similar teachers in urban traditional public schools.
To better understand teachers’ motivations for leaving and staying, researchers turned to national data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 1999-00 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and 2000-01 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS). The SASS-TFS asked traditional public school teachers and charter school teachers who left their schools why they left. In response, teachers in both sectors pointed to a lack of administrative support, poor working conditions, and low salaries. However, compared to traditional public school teachers, charter school teachers were more likely to say that they left because of a lack of job security and the expansive nature of their work.

Model preschool program emphasizes inclusion for children with disabilities

Shawn Doherty:

It is 8:30 on a crisp September morning, the start of a busy day for preschoolers at the Waisman Center’s Early Childhood Program, a nationally renowned laboratory school.
At a piano in the gym, a teacher holds a 4-year-old named Michael in her lap and helps him tap out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” She speaks to him using both sign language and a singsong voice. Several other boys driving toy cars swerve around another teacher doing duty as traffic cop. A student teacher is coloring at a table with students. In a corner of the gym, two girls are playing house. “This is your bed, Baby Kitty. Go to sleep right NOW!” one of them says. A tiny child with big brown eyes, named Caroline, curls up on a mat and pretends to sleep.
Michael, distracted by the noisy traffic behind him, wriggles out of Kerri Lynch’s lap and runs up to the boys in cars, making guttural sounds. The boys ignore him and continue to whiz past. Lynch waves down an especially energetic driver in a red T-shirt who has snagged the school’s popular police car. “Michael is talking to you,” she says, holding Michael, who is clearly becoming frustrated. She puts Michael’s face between her hands gently so that he makes eye contact with the other child and encourages him to try to speak again. The other boy listens carefully as the teacher translates: “Michael is wondering when he can have a turn?”

City schools’ trust problem

Jack Stollsteimer:

The recent news that the Philadelphia School District has seen its number of “persistently dangerous” schools drop by 20 percent should be cause for optimism. Disciplinary policy changes that I advocated while I was the state safe schools advocate, which were implemented with the strong support of Mayor Nutter and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman in 2008, may be having the hoped-for effect.
With most matters in the school district, however, every step forward is accompanied by at least one step backward. While the superintendent once stood up to members of the School Reform Commission who had long abetted the violence, she has since failed to back up her antiviolence policies with concrete action.
Ackerman’s ham-handed reaction to the victimization of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School is only the most obvious example. Continued cuts in alternative education programs for disruptive students are equally disappointing, as was the elimination of order-enforcing “climate managers” in neighborhood schools that need more capable adults, not fewer.
It’s hard for longtime observers of the district to believe the data and trust that it’s turned the corner on violence, partly because we’ve been lied to before. The district has supposedly had a “zero tolerance” policy on violence since 2002, but it failed to expel anyone for any offense between 2005 and 2009. The district reported school violence was on the decline from 2001 to 2006, but The Inquirer found that it had vastly underreported the data.

Testing, the Chinese Way

Elisabeth Rosenthal

When my children were 6 and 8, taking tests was as much a part of the rhythm of their school day as tag at recess or listening to stories at circle time. There were the “mad minute” math quizzes twice each week, with the results elaborately graphed. There were regular spelling quizzes. Even today I have my daughter’s minutely graded third-grade science exams, with grades like 23/25 or A minus.
We were living in China, where their school blended a mostly Western elementary school curriculum with the emphasis on discipline and testing that typifies Asian educational styles. In Asia, such a march of tests for young children was regarded as normal, and not evil or particularly anxiety provoking. That made for some interesting culture clashes. I remember nearly constant tension between the Asian parents, who wanted still more tests and homework, and the Western parents, who were more concerned with whether their kids were having fun — and wanted less.
I still have occasional nightmares about a miserable summer vacation spent force-feeding flash cards into the brain of my 5-year-old son — who was clearly not “ready” to read, but through herculean effort and tears, learned anyway. Reading was simply a requirement for progressing from kindergarten to first grade. How could he take tests and do worksheets if he couldn’t read the questions?

Companies Favor Big State Schools With One-Stop Shopping for Graduates With Necessary Skills

Teri Evans

State universities have become the favorite of companies recruiting new hires because their big student populations and focus on teaching practical skills gives the companies more bang for their recruiting buck.
Under pressure to cut costs and streamline their hiring efforts, recruiting managers find it’s more efficient to focus on fewer large schools and forge deeper relationships with them, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of top corporate recruiters whose companies last year hired 43,000 new graduates. Big state schools Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were the top three picks among recruiters surveyed.
Recruiters say graduates of top public universities are often among the most prepared and well-rounded academically, and companies have found they fit well into their corporate cultures and over time have the best track record in their firms.
Employers also like schools where they can form partnerships that allow them to work with professors and their students, giving them an inside track when it comes time to make offers for internships and jobs.

RTTT Scoring is Distorted by Politics

Jay Greene

No one should be shocked that the “peer-review” process for Race to the Top is distorted by political considerations, especially since we at JPGB (among others) have been warning about it for months. But it is nice to see someone actually document the existence and magnitude of the distortion.
One of my students at the University of Arkansas, Dan Bowen, conducted an analysis that was featured in AEI’s Education Stimulus Watch. It predicted each state’s RTTT “peer-review” score based on independent ratings of state reform efforts by Education Week’s Quality Counts and others. It then also considered whether political considerations were systematically related to a state doing significantly better or worse in the “peer-review” process than would be predicted by those independent ratings. Dan found that states with hotly contested Senate or gubernatorial contests received significantly higher scores:

Handwriting program worth writing home about

The handwriting workshop at Meriter Hospital is much more than penmanship drills.
The 8-week program for elementary students focuses on areas such as upper body strength and stability and eye-hand coordination. Some students took the hour-long class, which was held once a week, in the summer to be more prepared for school this fall. Two more evening workshops for students grades second through fifth will start Sept. 28.
“Handwriting is really important,” said Noah Walker, 7, a second grader at Cottage Grove Elementary School. “It won’t be all scribbly.”
At a recent session, Noah practiced throwing animal-shaped bean bags against the wall. Later he practiced writing with a vibrating pen to work on grip strength and to make the task more enjoyable.

D.C. schools unveil teacher-pay bonus plan

Michael Birnbaum

D.C. schools officials detailed for the first time Friday how teachers can qualify for the performance-based pay increases that could vault them into the ranks of the country’s best-paid public school educators.
The increases, which come in two forms, are targeted toward teachers who receive the best evaluations. The programs are voluntary, and teachers who participate give up certain job protections.
Those ranked highly effective may be eligible for as much as $25,000 in one-time bonuses, with the amount determined by student performance and other factors. Those ranked highly effective for two years in a row could see their base pay rise by as much as $26,000 a year.

Black Male Grad Rates: Despair, And A Ray Of Hope


In the past few weeks, more than 400,000 young black men entered American high schools as freshmen. Four years from now, fewer than half of them will get diplomas.
That’s according to a new study from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. It found that only 47 percent of black male students entering high school in 2003 graduated in 2008. For white males, the graduation rate was 78 percent.
Dr. John Jackson, the foundation’s president and CEO, tells NPR’s Guy Raz that those numbers are dismal largely because of the lack of resources in schools with high black populations. He says that when young black men are given opportunities to learn in schools with more resources, they perform well.
Not Necessarily Black And White

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Next Wisconsin governor faces big deficit Candidates promise tax cuts amid $2.7 billion shortfall

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley

The state faces a looming $2.7 billion budget shortfall, but that hasn’t kept candidates for governor from piling on with what are likely to be hundreds of millions of dollars in new commitments to cut taxes or increase spending.
All the major candidates have put forward plans to rein in spending, but by making added pledges like tax cuts, the candidates are adding to the challenge they’ll face as the state’s top executive.
The most aggressive are the two Republican candidates, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker who, without specific figures, are promising hefty tax cuts in their first budget as governor and some possible increases in spending on roads and bridges.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, has made more modest pledges totaling at least tens of millions of dollars in the form of targeted tax cuts and spending to create jobs. So far, he has offered the most detailed plans about his proposed spending cuts, although serious questions have been raised about some of that proposed saving.

Asian-American Students Show Gains on SAT

Stephanie Banchero:

High-school students’ performance last year on the SAT college-entrance exam remained generally unchanged from the previous year, except for Asian-American students who continue to post notable gains and outperform all other students.
Overall, the average scores for the class of 2010 in critical reading remained at 501, in math it climbed from 515 to 516, in writing it dropped from 493 to 492. The combined scores match last year’s tally, which was the lowest total since the writing exam was added to the SAT in 2006.
The only bright spot was the performance of the nation’s Asian-American students. They posted a three-point gain in reading, four-point jump in math and six-point gain in writing over their 2009 scores.
The SAT news comes a few weeks after the results of the other college entrance exam, the ACT, revealed that only one-quarter of the nation’s high-school students possessed the academic skills necessary to pass entry-level college courses. Taken together, the test scores suggest a continued stagnation of high-school performance and highlight the challenge the Obama administration faces in its efforts to boost the nation’s college-graduation total.

Shaking Up Higher Ed

Tom Ashbrook:

Is it time to remake American higher education? Columbia University’s Mark Taylor says it’s time to end tenure and bring on a revolution. He joins us.
American higher education – with its vigorous colleges and universities – has long been the pride of the nation, the engine of the economy, the envy of the world.
Now, it’s got issues. Soaring costs, structural questions, competition abroad. We had a Wall Street bubble and bust. A housing bubble and bust.

Hong Kong pupils shine in top Asian maths contest

Lana Lam

Two primary school pupils from Hong Kong won the top awards in one of Asia’s most prestigious maths competitions.
It’s the first time that any Hong Kong pupil has won a grand champion award at the International Mathematics Contest which was held in Singapore last month. About 1,000 pupils competed in the event which sees teams from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand battling it out in algebra, geometry, statistics and measurements.
Nine-year-old boy Li Ka-wing scored the highest marks in the Primary Three category and 11-year-old girl Lam Ho-yan was the best pupil for the Primary Five exams.
They both train at the Hong Kong Mathematical Olympiad School in Kowloon which offers intensive maths coaching.
“Each year, there are good results. However this year, it was very special,” the school’s principal, Pinky Lam Sui-ping, said. Every year, thousands of Hong Kong pupils applied to compete in the event by sitting online tests, she said.

America’s Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.
When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Bill Gates Stirs Up the Education Debate in Toronto

Michael Cieply

Mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and beaming broadly, the Microsoft chairman Bill Gates looked every bit the benevolent businessman as he took the stage at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday evening, to help plug the education-reform documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Mr. Gates appears in the film, and, with his wife Melinda, heads a foundation that has invested heavily in improvements to education. But his aw-shucks manner couldn’t hide the fact that some of the proposals he tossed off on stage at the Winter Garden theater here were volatile stuff. “We’re investing in building these evaluation systems,” Mr. Gates said. He was referring to systems that would evaluate the performance of public school teachers, with an eye toward ending the current tenure system under which many teachers now work, and providing a way to weed out the worst teachers, while, perhaps, rewarding the best. He also mentioned, at least twice, changes to teacher pension systems.

Changing schools from the bottom up, and top down

Alan Borsuk

I was never into the 1970s British TV series “Upstairs, Downstairs,” where the big shots lived upstairs, the servants lived downstairs, and there was all this dramatic interaction. (I preferred the “Sesame Street” version, where one of the Muppets ran up and down the stairs, loudly proclaiming what he was doing.)
But it sure does seem like we’re having vivid episodes of “Upstairs, Downstairs” when it comes to education now. An increasing and huge amount of the action is occurring upstairs, on the federal and state levels, while local control of schools by folks downstairs, like school board members, counts for less and less. The vitality of local control, a Wisconsin tradition for decades, is seeping away. And the staff downstairs – teachers, in other words – are feeling more than a bit put upon.
A few years ago, you would not have expected what is going on now. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan came close to succeeding in eliminating the U.S. Department of Education on the grounds that the federal government shouldn’t have much role in that area. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton suggested national tests in reading and math so children across the country were measured by the same standards. The idea went nowhere.

New Superintendent: Taking on Milwaukee Public Schools

Erin Richards:

He’s got their attention, but only for a few minutes. A few precious minutes to teach in a position that is otherwise layers removed from teaching. Right now, these are his students.
The adults in the room are also intrigued. The new superintendent is an outsider leading a district where staff morale and student achievement are at an all-time low. He arrived on the heels of a fierce debate about mayoral control that polarized the city. His predecessors – including the last superintendent of eight years – have found little success. He’s inherited reports that show the district’s financial operations and human resource practices need serious improvement.
In addition, there’s a $55 million hole in the budget, hundreds of teachers on layoff, 40,000 empty seats in mothballed buildings and a union committed to health care benefits the district can’t afford. Teachers are working under a contract that expired in 2009.
And then there are the children. At Starms, all of them on the floor are black, like Thornton, and they are facing tremendous odds. The achievement gap in Wisconsin between white and black students is one of the highest in the nation. African-American fourth-graders in MPS have lower reading scores than their peers anywhere else in the country, even lower than kids in rural Mississippi or Alabama.

Candidates for governor debate what ails education

Mike Kaszuba & Corey Mitchell:

Debating education for the first time, Minnesota’s three major candidates for governor on Friday differed significantly over how to repair what they described as an ailing system.
Republican Tom Emmer, using the occasion to disclose more of his overall budget plan, said he would hold education spending to existing levels and move funds used for child care programs to those that would prepare children for kindergarten. Emmer said he would delay repaying $1.4 billion owed to the state’s public schools until 2014.
DFL candidate Mark Dayton, in contrast, pledged to increase education money every year as governor and repay the funds owed, while the Independence Party’s Tom Horner stressed the need for innovation.

Colleges: Where the money goes

Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus

At Pomona College, a top-flight liberal arts school, this year’s sticker price for tuition and fees is a hefty $38,394 (not including room and board). Even after adjusting for inflation, that comes to 2.9 times what Pomona was charging a generation ago, in 1980.
This kind of massive tuition increase is the norm. In New England, Williams College charges $41,434, or an inflation-adjusted 3.2 times what it did 30 years ago. USC’s current tab of $41,022 is a 3.6 multiple of its 1980 bill.
Tuition at public universities, in a time of ailing state budgets, has risen at an even faster rate. The University of Illinois’ current $13,658 is six times its 1980 rate after adjusting for inflation. San Jose State’s $6,250 is a whopping 11 times more.

Lucky breaks as juvenile kept Latin Kings leader free Barragan, a homicide suspect on the lam, was convicted in Children’s Court but sentence was stayed

John Diedrich:

When it came to violent crime, Armando Barragan started young, shooting up a van of rival gang members at age 14 and, eight months later, attacking a Milwaukee police officer, trying to grab his gun.
The crimes landed Barragan in the juvenile justice system, but he got breaks that kept him on the street, where he committed new crimes, according to Children’s Court records and police reports reviewed by the Journal Sentinel.
Barragan quickly rose to become a leader of the Latin Kings and was charged with ordering the execution of a man who tried to stop a fight outside a Cudahy gas station in 2003 – one of six homicides or attempted homicides he was investigated for by the time he was 18.
The Journal Sentinel reported in July that miscommunication between federal and state authorities resulted in missing a chance to arrest Barragan in a courtroom before he fled to Mexico and became one of the U.S. Marshals Service’s most wanted fugitives.
Court documents show Barragan could have – and probably should have – been behind bars in April 2003, when Kevin Hirschfield was shot to death outside the gas station. He was free because of breaks he received, first from a judge and later from police, according to court records and interviews.

Bay View students bringing history to life

Tom Tolan

In days gone by, before Milwaukee Public Schools undertook the busing of its students to promote racial integration, just about everybody in Bay View went to Bay View High School.
Today, the school has students from all over town, and so for area old-timers, it’s lost its identity with their neighborhood.
“People who fondly remember Bay View High School have been in mourning that their school no longer exists,” says Kathy Mulvey, president of the Bay View Historical Society.
That’s why she is so enthusiastic about a special course at the high school, created by staff from Discovery World science museum – a program that has four students this weekend collecting stories and artifacts from old Bay View at the Beulah Brinton House, the historical society’s headquarters.

No Nonfiction Books, No Research Papers

From the Ed.Gov Toolbox Executive Summary (C. Adelman)
“The academic intensity of the student’s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor’s degree. At the highest level of a 31-level scale describing this academic intensity (see Appendix F), one finds students who, through grade 12 in1992, had accumulated:
3.75 or more Carnegie units of English
3.75 or more Carnegie units of mathematics
highest mathematics of either calculus, precalculus, or trigonometry
2.5 or more Carnegie units of science or more than 2.0 Carnegie units of core
laboratory science (biology, chemistry, and physics)
more than 2.0 Carnegie Units of foreign languages
more than 2.0 Carnegie Units of history and social studies
1.0 or more Carnegie Units of computer science
more than one Advanced Placement course
no remedial English; no remedial mathematics
These are minimums. In fact, students who reached this level of academic curriculum intensity accumulated much more than these threshold criteria (see table F1), and 95 percent of these students earned bachelor’s degrees (41 also percent earned master’s, first professional, or doctoral degrees) by December 2000.
Provided that high schools offer these courses, students are encouraged or required to take them, and, in the case of electives, students choose to take them, just about everybody could accumulate this portfolio…..”
[How is it that the reading of complete nonfiction books (which will be asked for in college) and
the writing of serious research papers (which will be asked for in college), never seem to penetrate
these maxims about Recommended Curriculum for College and Career Readiness? (At least the International
Baccalaureate Curriculum requires an Extended Essay for the Diploma…)
The world wonders.
Will Fitzhugh
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007;
Varsity Academics®

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Urban Plight: Vanishing Upward Mobility

Joel Kotkin:

Boosters still maintain that big cities remain unique centers for social uplift, but evidence suggests this is increasingly no longer the case.
Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the seventeenth century, represented “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.
What characterized great cities such as Amsterdam–and, later, places such as London, New York , Chicago, and Tokyo–was the size of their property-owning middle class. This was a class whose roots, for the most part, lay in the peasantry or artisan class, and later among industrial workers. Their ascension into the ranks of the bourgeoisie, petit or haute, epitomized the opportunities for social advancement created uniquely by cities.
In the twenty-first century–the first in which the majority of people will live in cities–this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility is under threat. Urban boosters still maintain that big cities remain unique centers for social uplift, but evidence suggests this is increasingly no longer the case.

It’s Time To Listen To Teachers On Issues Of Education

John Ostenburg

Why is it that the last people listened to regarding problems in public education are the ones who deal with it on the front line day after day?
Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 education plan came onto the charts back in 2004. Immediately, classroom teachers pointed out its many flaws. Were they listened to? Of course not. Instead, Mayor Richard M. Daley and now U.S. Secretary of Education — then Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer — Arne Duncan pushed ahead with a program that had come not from the educational community, but rather from the business community.
Lest anyone forget, that’s the same business community that has demonstrated questionable wisdom in the world of finance, ultimately leading the United States into its current economic crisis.

Some say bypassing a higher education is smarter than paying for a degree

Sarah Kaufman

Across the region and around the country, parents are kissing their college-bound kids — and potentially up to $200,000 in tuition, room and board — goodbye.
Especially in the supremely well-educated Washington area, this is expected. It’s a rite of passage, part of an orderly progression toward success.
Or is it . . . herd mentality?
Hear this, high achievers: If you crunch the numbers, some experts say, college is a bad investment.
“You’ve been fooled into thinking there’s no other way for my kid to get a job . . . or learn critical thinking or make social connections,” hedge fund manager James Altucher says.
Altucher, president of Formula Capital, says he sees people making bad investment decisions all the time — and one of them is paying for college.

2 Sides on Charter Schools Add Cash to New York Races

Javier Hernandez

Mark H. Pollard was a little-known candidate for New York State Senate in Brooklyn facing the herculean feat of ousting a 26-year incumbent. But then he got an unexpected telephone call saying that a group of wealthy investors who supported charter schools wanted to meet with him.
So in June, Mr. Pollard, a Democrat, found himself in Manhattan, sipping wine on a Park Avenue patio with people whose names he can no longer recall. Then “the checks started rolling in,” he said, and by July he had received more than $100,000.
“They made my campaign viable,” said Mr. Pollard, a lawyer who supports the charter school movement. The windfall has made him a legitimate contender, allowing him to hire a veteran campaign manager and print thousands of pamphlets.

Misguided use of microchip technology

San Francisco Chronicle

Officials with Contra Costa County’s Head Start program were frustrated. In order to meet federal requirements, they had to take attendance every hour.
These and other administrative tasks were taking up a lot of teachers’ time – between one and three hours a day per teacher – and using up a lot of the program’s limited funds.
We sympathize with their pain. An hourly attendance requirement is indeed burdensome, and it’s a useless distraction from the very important work that Head Start does – preparing low-income preschoolers for school. But we can’t support what those officials did next, which was to implement a microchip tracking program for those very young children.

Where do graduates end up doing unskilled work? And earning most?

The Economist:

ACADEMIC qualifications’ value in the workplace is a big issue for students, policymakers and taxpayers, especially as the rising numbers of students in higher education make them less distinctive. In the latest annual report on education by the OECD, a rich-country think-tank, the answer is clear: the pay-off from tertiary education is still good, both for the individual and the economy. Most graduates take jobs fitting their qualifications, earn more than non-graduates, and thus tend to pay more in taxes.
The workforce is smartening up. In the OECD 35% of the 25- to 34-year-old workforce has completed tertiary education, compared with 20% of the cohort approaching retirement. Countries such as Japan and South Korea have invested so heavily in educating their young that more than half now hold post-school qualifications. Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands are close behind. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s chief of education research, reckons that these countries may well become more competitive as a result.

Korean Education chief vows fair opportunities

Kang Shin-who:

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-ho said Friday he will give top priority to creating a fairer education environment for the second half of the Lee Myung-bak government.
“I believe every student should have an equal opportunity to learn. I am not talking about uniform equal society. I mean children from poor families also should have the chance to receive quality education,” Lee said.
Mentioning the college admission system, the lawmaker-turned-minister said he plans to order an investigation into universities to confirm whether children of professors or school staff have been given special treatment in the process.
“In order to fix a holistic admission system at colleges, we need three important values: trust, fairness and the specialty of admissions officers. On top of this, we will seek student diversity,” he said.