New Jersey Governor Christie: Education tops State of the State speech

Angela Delli Santi:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will lay out his ideas for overhauling teacher tenure, giving parents a choice in where their children attend school and shoring up a teetering public worker pension system in his first State of the State address.
Christie told The Associated Press in an interview that he plans to stick to three themes Tuesday in a speech that will top out at under 30 minutes: education reform; changes to the pension and health benefits funds for government workers, teachers, police and firefighters; and responsible budgeting.
“It’s going to be brisk and direct,” Christie said of the speech, “talking about those things and why they’re so important to the future of the state. We’ll do a little bit of a review of where we’ve been and what we accomplished our first year in office, but the majority of the speech will be talking about those three big issues to me.”

Rhee’s New Group Calls for Changes in Education

Stephanie Banchero:

Michelle Rhee, who gained national attention as the chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., called Monday for giving students government-funded vouchers to attend private schools, rating principals based on student achievement and getting rid of teacher tenure.
The release of the blueprint was the first formal action of Ms. Rhee’s new advocacy group, StudentsFirst, which she launched in December, after leaving her job heading D.C. schools in October. Ms. Rhee said she was in discussions with the governors of Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada and Indiana to adopt part, if not all, of the agenda.
In an interview Monday, Ms. Rhee said she recognized her platform would be controversial and tough to implement but that her group could help push through the changes.
StudentsFirst has attracted 140,000 members, including nearly 20,000 teachers, and collected $1.4 million in contributions, Ms. Rhee said. She has said her group would donate to political campaigns and help school districts fund chosen strategies.

High Tech Help

YOU might say it all started with spell-check. In the 1980s, with the introduction of word processing programs like WordPerfect, it became apparent that computerized proofreaders could come to the rescue of struggling spellers and bad typists. Thirty years later, an ever-growing array of assistive technology is available to help students read, write term papers and take tests. From pens that can remember to text that can talk, such technologies are now being held up as important tools for students with learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia (trouble writing) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“These technologies help level a playing field for individuals who would not be able to demonstrate their capabilities as learners,” says Brant Parker, director of learning and innovation technology for the Calgary Board of Education in Canada. In his district, at least 90 public schools are using Dragon Dictate, a voice-recognition program that does the typing for you.
Take the case of Michael Riccioli, who noticed that his teenage son was not comprehending a novel assigned in class. Mr. Riccioli transformed the book into an MP3 file using software called GhostReader, which scans texts and reads them aloud. His son listened to the file on his iPod while reading along. “All went well with his test on the book,” Mr. Riccioli says.

Madison Schools will press ahead with High School honors classes despite protests

Matthew DeFour:

Despite lingering concerns from some parents, students and teachers, the Madison School District will introduce 9th and 10th grade honors classes next fall at West High School — changes that prompted a student protest last fall.
Superintendent Dan Nerad said he discussed with staff over the weekend the possibility of not introducing the honors classes after school board members and parents raised questions at a meeting Thursday night.
Nerad said the decision comes down to following the district’s talented-and-gifted plan, which called for offering honors classes at all high schools starting in this current school year.
“This has already been put off a year,” Nerad said in an interview Monday. “We have an obligation to move forward with what’s been identified in the TAG plan.”
On Friday, 18 West parents sent a letter to the district asking that the honors classes be delayed.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Verona Chinese immersion classes off to a good start

Pamela Cotant

Leilei Song, who teaches in Mandarin at the state’s first Chinese immersion school, reached back to her own childhood for a recent lesson with a combined kindergarten and first grade class.
She showed a Monkey King video — a favorite of hers when she was growing up in China — to the class at the Verona Area International School. A couple of her students, whose day is split between learning in Mandarin and in English, were very aware of how the video fits into lesson plans.
“We get to watch fun videos like Monkey King but they’re in Chinese,” kindergartener Zane Oshiro, 5, said.
“So we’re learning,” added first grader Mikala Feller, 6.

Video of High School Plan Meeting Now On-line
The high school piece begins c. 9 minutes into the video.
Please note that district staff initially present as if the ACT model is a given. As 1 of 7 board members, I would say that I have not seen the compelling case that this is the only model to use. I did not raise questions at the meeting about the ACT model; other members did. I do not take using the ACT model is a given. I am open to learning more and considering other models.
I found the discussion to be helpful despite my impatience with eduspeak, and came away from the workshop with new questions. I also came away from the workshop seeing the potential for benefits by taking up the proposed changes or perhaps alternatives to those changes.
This is a topic that evokes a great deal of passion among board members, staff, parents, and concerned community members. It is a topic that deserves our attention because we must review and enhance the education that our students receive before they graduate and enter the highly competitive worlds of work and/or higher education.

Brits see Alberta schools as exceptional example

Andrea Sands:

The United Kingdom is looking to Alberta’s education system to see why students here consistently earn top marks in international testing.
A British multimedia company has produced a video series called Lessons from Alberta to examine why Alberta’s public education system is so successful. The two 20-minute videos were released last month by Teachers TV, a free online service that offers educational videos and resources to people working in the British school system.
“Alberta, in Canada, has the highest performing schools in the English-speaking world,” says a summary of one of the videos on the Teachers TV website. “This video explores the roots of the region’s success, accountability, curriculum and teacher professionalism.”

Watch the series here.

Quest to reform education in Oklahoma leads Barresi into state superintendent’s post

Murray Evans:

Sixteen years ago, Janet Barresi wanted to find a better middle school for her two sons. Eventually, she landed at the front of Oklahoma’s charter school movement and took up education reform as a full-time job.
Barresi starts Monday as the new state superintendent of schools, succeeding Sandy Garrett.
In the 1990s, Barresi and other parents persuaded the Oklahoma City school board to create a parent-run “enterprise” middle school, which became one of the state’s charter schools after the Legislature authorized them. She eventually started two charter schools and became president of the Oklahoma Association of Charter Schools.
Barresi spent more time on educational issues and sold her dental practice.

Issues facing MPS could get very ugly Election interest underwhelming

Alan Borsuk:

Less than a year after its impressive victory over those who wanted to put it to sleep, the Milwaukee School Board makes me think of famous moments from show business.
Unfortunately, those moments are Oliver Hardy telling Stan Laurel, “Another nice mess you’ve gotten me into,” and Rodney Dangerfield saying, “I don’t get no respect.” More specifically:
A Nice Mess: The budget. Every school board in Wisconsin could join in this one. But MPS messes are always bigger than everybody else’s. It is highly likely more than 300 jobs will be cut for next year as federal economic stimulus money and other grants dry up. Hundreds more jobs are likely to be lost because of the squeeze on general funds from the state and local property taxes. This could be very ugly, and the board probably will have little it can do about it.
No Respect: The empty school issue and legislative prospects in general. The board has been adamant about not selling the many empty schools MPS holds for use as schools. The board argues, Why help the charter and private school competition? So State Sen. Alberta Darling, now co-chair of the joint finance committee, and Common Council President Willie Hines announced last week they want to take power of these decisions from the board. Who’s going to stop them? Probably nobody, particularly not the board.

100 Extensive University Libraries from Around the World that Anyone Can Access

Mary & Mac:

Universities house an enormous amount of information and their libraries are often the center of it all. You don’t have to be affiliated with any university to take advantage of some of what they have to offer. From digital archives, to religious studies, to national libraries, these university libraries from around the world have plenty of information for you. There are many resources for designers as well. Although this is mainly a blog that caters to designers and artists I have decided to include many other libraries for all to enjoy.

Inside the bullied brain: The alarming neuroscience of taunting

Emily Anthes:

In the wake of several tragedies that have made bullying a high-profile issue, it’s becoming clear that harassment by one’s peers is something more than just a rite of passage. Bullied kids are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They struggle in school — when they decide to show up at all. They are more likely to carry weapons, get in fights, and use drugs.
But when it comes to the actual harm bullying does, the picture grows murkier. The psychological torment that victims feel is real. But perhaps because many of us have experienced this sort of schoolyard cruelty and lived to tell the tale, peer harassment is still commonly written off as a “soft” form of abuse — one that leaves no obvious injuries and that most victims simply get over. It’s easy to imagine that, painful as bullying can be, all it hurts is our feelings.

Florida Education Reforms

STL Today:

As Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush shepherded a series of bold yet divisive school proposals into law.
A-plus Accountability Plan • Requires that students be tested annually, sets A-F letter grades for the state’s schools and allows students in persistently low-performing schools to transfer to higher-performing public schools.
The law — approved about three years before the enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind Act — also originally allowed families of students in persistently struggling schools to obtain vouchers to attend private schools.
Private School Option: Offered students average payments of about $4,200. The option ended when it was deemed unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006. But other voucher-type programs adopted during Bush’s tenure remain, including one that provides vouchers to students with disabilities to attend private schools. Another program, which offers corporations tax credits to cover private school tuition for low-income students, was expanded last year by Florida lawmakers.

Students Who Found New Ways to Give Back

Katie Zezima, Abby Ellin & Inyoung Kang:

A FEW weeks after he took the SAT, Jason Shah realized something more vexing to him than algebraic formulas or word usage problems: that many students can’t afford or access programs to prepare them for the test, and college.
The epiphany came in a West Philadelphia middle-school classroom that his sister ran as part of her Teach for America commitment. Many students had trouble with reading and spelling, and Mr. Shah, then 16, wondered how they would be able to study for the SAT in a few years.
He returned home to New Smyrna Beach, Fla., raised $10,000 from family and friends, found Web developers and began, a Web site that offers free SAT prep, including lessons that use conversational language and sports analogies and full practice exams.

Learning With Disabilities

Abby Goodnough

Ms. Nelson is paying most of her own way at Landmark, a two-year college exclusively for students with learning disabilities and A.D.H.D. She wants to graduate on time this spring, and with tuition and fees alone at $48,000 a year — more than any other college in the nation — she cannot give in to distraction.
“I have a lot riding on this,” says Ms. Nelson, who is also dyslexic. She wants to transfer to a four-year institution and get a bachelor’s degree — a goal that would have been out of reach, she says, had she not found Landmark three years after graduating from high school. If Ms. Nelson gets her associate degree in May after four semesters, she will buck the trend at Landmark.
Only about 30 percent graduate within three years; many others drop out after a semester or two. The numbers suggest that even with all the special help and the ratio of one teacher for every five students, the transition is not easy.

An Update on Madison’s High School Reforms

TJ Mertz:

The issues are the failure of the MMSD Administration to follow basic practices of open inclusive governance and the implementation of segregative policies.
Below (and here) [70K PDF] is an open letter drafted and signed by 18 West High parents on Friday 1/7/2010. Understanding the letter requires some background and context. The background — along with the latest news and some final thoughts -follows.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

Amy Chua:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

‘Daydream’ switch stays on in ADHD

Lindsay Brooke-Nottingham:

New evidence suggests children with ADHD have trouble switching off the “daydreaming” regions in the brain that often interfere with concentration, particularly on tedious tasks.
Using a “Whac-a-Mole” style game, researchers found evidence from brain scans that children with ADHD require either much greater incentives–or their usual stimulant medication–to switch off those regions and focus on a task. The findings are published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
“The results are exciting because for the first time we are beginning to understand how in children with ADHD incentives and stimulant medication work in a similar way to alter patterns of brain activity and enable them to concentrate and focus better,” says Chris Hollis, a professor of health sciences at the University of Nottingham. “It also explains why in children with ADHD their performance is often so variable and inconsistent, depending as it does on their interest in a particular task.”

A critic of the College Board joins forces with it to build a better Web site for students

Jacques Steinberg:

IN the seven years since he quit his job as a college counselor at a private high school in Portland, Ore., Lloyd Thacker has become something of a folk hero in admissions circles. In standing-room-only gatherings in high school auditoriums, he has implored families to take back the college admissions process from those entities that, he says, do not always act in their best interests — whether a magazine seeking to drum up sales for its rankings issue or a college trying to boost applications.
Among his prime targets has been the College Board, the sprawling, nonprofit organization that oversees the SAT and Advanced Placement program.
In the introduction to “College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy,” a collection of essays he edited that was published in 2005, Mr. Thacker lamented the “corporatization” of the board and suggested that its efforts to “compete with other purveyors of college prep services and materials” — referring, in part, to a failed attempt at a for-profit Web site — raised questions about its credibility.
But that was then.
Last spring, Mr. Thacker announced that he and the organization he founded to promote his ideals, the Education Conservancy, were going into partnership with the College Board. Their joint venture: a Web site, free to users, that would provide all manner of advice and perspective on the admissions process.

Rethinking Advanced Placement

Christopher Drew:

WHEN Joan Carlson started teaching high school biology more than 30 years ago, the Advanced Placement textbook was daunting enough, at 36 chapters and 870 pages. But as an explosion of research into cells and genes reshapes our sense of how life evolves, the flood of new material has been staggering. Mrs. Carlson’s A.P. class in Worcester, Mass., now confronts a book with 56 chapters and 1,400 pages, along with a profusion of animated videos and Web-based aids that supplement the text.
And what fuels the panic is that nearly every tongue-twisting term and microscopic fact is fair game for the year-end test that decides who will receive college credit for the course.
“Some of the students look at the book and say, ‘My gosh, it’s just like an encyclopedia,’ ” Mrs. Carlson says. And when new A.P. teachers encounter it, “they almost want to start sobbing.”

A Professor Disagrees with Putting Grades Online

Lisa Phillips:

A FEW weeks after I started a tenure-track job last semester at the State University of New York at New Paltz, an e-mail message landed in faculty in-boxes relaying the news that an online textbook-rental company had requested records for all grades awarded on campus since 2007.
The company,, wanted grade distributions — how many A’s, B’s, C’s, etc., were given — organized by semester, course section and instructor, without individual student information. The request was made under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, which allows the public to access state government records. That definition covers grades at state universities, according to SUNY New Paltz lawyers. So the administration had to give up the goods.
Chegg, a rapidly growing company backed by more than $221 million in venture and debt capital, sent similar requests to 533 colleges and universities, according to Tina Couch, its vice president of public relations. The company is in the process of uploading the grades on, a class planning Web site that Chegg acquired in August. Students who register for CourseRank will be able to take into account a professor’s grade distribution, along with peer reviews and ratings, when deciding whether to take a class.

College’s Value Added: “Large Numbers Don’t Appear to be Learning Very Much”

Amanda Fairbanks:

AT a time when recent graduates, age 24 and under, are experiencing a jobless rate of nearly 10 percent, a new study renews the debate over the value-added component of going to college.
The sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia tracked 2,300 students through four years of college and into the labor market. The first two years are chronicled in their forthcoming book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” (University of Chicago Press).
This interview with Dr. Arum was conducted and condensed by Amanda M. Fairbanks.
Q. What piqued your interest in this topic?
A. For the last several decades, we’ve evaluated learning in K-12 education. But there’s never been a serious attempt to follow kids through college. We conclude that large numbers don’t appear to be learning very much.

Gov. Jerry Brown replaces seven state Board of Education members Several proponents of charter schools are removed. Many see the influence of the teachers union.

Seema Mehta:

n one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s first official acts this week, he sacked the majority of the state Board of Education, replacing several vocal proponents of charter schools, parent empowerment and teacher accountability.
A broad range of educators, policy makers and others say the move was widely believed to be the handiwork of the California Teachers Assn., which heavily supported Brown in his gubernatorial campaign. The union’s support will be vital if he, as expected, places measures on the June ballot to temporarily raise taxes to ease the state’s budget deficit. It also appears to delay a key vote about parents’ power to reshape failing schools — an effort opposed by the union — leading to strong criticism of the governor from fellow Democrats.
“No doubt about it, this is in part looking at the November election first and foremost, and then of course upcoming elections,” said former state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat.

Citing ‘Brainwashing,’ Arizona Declares a Latino Class Illegal

Marc Lacey:

The class began with a Mayan-inspired chant and a vigorous round of coordinated hand clapping. The classroom walls featured protest signs, including one that said “United Together in La Lucha!” — the struggle. Although open to any student at Tucson High Magnet School, nearly all of those attending Curtis Acosta’s Latino literature class on a recent morning were Mexican-American.
For all of that and more, Mr. Acosta’s class and others in the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American program have been declared illegal by the State of Arizona — even while similar programs for black, Asian and American Indian students have been left untouched.
“It’s propagandizing and brainwashing that’s going on there,” Tom Horne, Arizona’s newly elected attorney general, said this week as he officially declared the program in violation of a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1.
Although Shakespeare’s “Tempest” was supposed to be the topic at hand, Mr. Acosta spent most of a recent class discussing the political storm in which he, his students and the entire district have become enmeshed. Mr. Horne’s name came up more than once, and not in a flattering light.

United Teachers Los Angeles dukes it out with Mayor Villaraigosa over education reform

Alexandra Le Tellier:

In a December speech heard around the halls of LAUSD, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa charged that United Teachers Los Angeles was the biggest obstacle to education reform. Ouch. With L.A. schools’ dismal ranking and graduation rates, he implored the teachers union to join the education reform team. Rather than going the “united we stand, divided we fall” route, however, he embarrassed the union. From the full transcript:

The Concord Review Showcases Journal Showcases The Dying Art of the Research Paper

Sam Dillon:

William H. Fitzhugh, the cantankerous publisher of a journal that showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards.
“Most kids don’t know how to write, don’t know any history, and that’s a disgrace,” Mr. Fitzhugh said. “Writing is the most dumbed-down subject in our schools.”
His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations.
The review’s exacting standards have won influential admirers. William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said he keeps a few issues in his Cambridge office to inspire applicants. Harvard considers it “something that’s impressive,” like winning a national math competition, if an applicant’s essay has appeared in the review, he said.

Transparency: Wichita School District Puts Checkbook Online


In an effort to be transparent in the district’s budget transactions, the Wichita Public Schools launched its District Checkbook on its website. Superintendent John Allison made the announcement during the South Central Legislative Delegation meeting at Wichita State University on January 6.
“Many community members ask questions about school budgets, and this is a way to allow taxpayers to review transactions by month for the fiscal year, to see which fund is used, and the function for that transaction,” said Superintendent Allison.
The District Checkbook shows every item the district purchases and what the purchases were for including instruction, support and bond construction. The items are reported by the categories defined by the State of Kansas and the categories are consistent throughout Kansas’ school districts.

Wichita spends $12,631 per student (50,033 students) via a 632,000,000 budget. Madison spent $15,241 per student in 2009-2010.

Q & A: Charter School Proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men

570K PDF:

APPENDIX MMM-7-21 January 31, 2011
Urban League of Greater Madison
On December 6, 2010, the Urban League of Greater Madison presented an initial proposal for the establishment of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (a non-instrumentality all-boys secondary charter school) to the Planning and Development Committee of the MMSD Board of Education. During the discussion that followed, Board members agreed to submit follow-up questions to the Urban Leagne, to which the Urban Leagne would respond before the next meeting of the Planning and Development Committee. Questions were submitted by Ed Hughes and Lucy Mathiak. Furthermore, Arlene Silveira submitted questions presented to her by several connnunity members. Below each numbered Board member question, you will find the ULGM response.
1. Ed Hughes: Do you have a response to the suggestion that your proposal may violate Wis. Stat. sec. 118.40(4)(c) other than that you also intend sometime in the future to develop and operate a school for girls? If so, what is the response?
ULGM: Please refer to our letter to MMSD Board of Education members that responded to the ACLU’s opposition to Madison Prep. The answer to your question is contained in that letter. We have attached the letter to this document for your review.
2. Ed Hughes: To the extent the information is available to you, please list the 37 or so non instrumentality charter schools currently operating in Wisconsin.
ULGM: The following list of non-instrumentality charter schools currently operating in Wisconsin was compiled from the 20 I 0-20 II Charter Schools Yearbook published by the Department of Public Instruction. You can find the complete Yearbook online at:
1. Barron, North Star Academy
2. Cambridge, JEDI Virtual High School
3. City of Milwaukee, Central City Cyberschool
4. City of Milwaukee, Darrell Lynn Hines (DLH) Academy
5. City of Milwaukee, Downtown Montessori Academy
6. City of Milwaukee, King’s Academy
7. City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Academy of Science
8. Grantsburg, Insight School of Wisconsin
9. Hayward, Hayward Center for Individualized Learning
10. Hayward, Waadookodaading Charter School
11. McFarland, Wisconsin Virtual Academy
12. Milwaukee, Carmen High School of Science and Technology
13. Milwaukee, Highland Community School
14. Milwaukee, Hmong American Peace Academy (HAPA)
15. Milwaukee, International Peace Academy
16. Milwaukee, La Causa Charter School
17. Milwaukee, Milwaukee Community Cyber (MC2) High School
18. Milwaukee, Next Door Charter School
19. Milwaukee, Wings Academy
20. Milwaukee, Wisconsin Career Academy
21. Nekoosa, Niikuusra Community School
22. New Lisbon, Juneau County Charter School
23. New Richmond, NR4Kids Charter School
24. Sheboygan, Lake Country Academy
25. UW-Milwaukee, Bruce Guadalupe Community School
26. UW-Milwaukee, Business & Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM)
27. UW-Milwaukee, Capitol West Academy
28. UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee College Preparatory School
29. UW-Milwaukee, Milwaukee Renaissance Academy
30. UW-Milwaukee, School for Early Development & Achievement (SEDA)
31. UW-Milwaukee, Seeds of Health Elementary School
32. UW-Milwaukee, Tenor High School
33. UW-Milwaukee, Urban Day Charter School, Inc
34. UW-Milwaukee, Veritas High School
35. UW-Milwaukee, Woodlands School
36. UW -Milwaukee, YMCA Young Leaders Academy
37. UW-Parkside, 21st Century Preparatory School
38. Weyauwega-Fremont, Waupaca County Charter School
3. Ed Hughes: Do you have copies of any of the contracts Wisconsin non-instrumentality charter schools have entered into with their school districts? If so, please list the contracts and provide a copy of at least one of them.
ULGM: See attached contracts for Lake Country Academy in Sheboygan and the Wisconsin Virtual Academy in McFarland, which are both non-instrumentality charter schools.
4. Ed Hughes: To the extent the information is available to you, please list the amount ofper.student payment each non-instrumentality charter school in Wisconsin is contractually entitled to receive from its sponsoring school district.
ULGM: We have requested information from the DPI on the current per-student payments to each non-instrumentality charter school in Wisconsin, but we understand that DPI does not now have the information consolidated in one database. We expect that the per-student payment information will be available from DPI by January 17, and we will submit that information to the board and administration as soon as it becomes available from the DPI. The per-pupil payment to each district.authorized charter school in Wisconsin, including instrumentality and non-instrumentality charter schools, is determined through negotiations and mutual agreement between the school district, as the charter school authorizer, and the charter school developer/operator.
5. Ed Hughes: Please identify the minimum per-student payment from the school district that would be required for Madison Prep to be financially feasible from your perspective. If you don’t have a specific figure, provide your best estimate of the range in which that figure is likely to fall.
ULGM: The MMSD Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent-Business in agreement with us that more time is needed to present a projected minimum payment from the school district. DPI’s School Finance Data Warehouse indicates that MMSD reported $14,432 in revenue per student and spent $13,881 per student iu 2008-09. We are certain that we will not request more per student than what MMSD spends annually.
6. Lucy Mathiak: Do you know what Madison Prep will cost the district? And do you know where the money will come from?
ULGM: We have an idea ofwhat our school will cost but as stated in the answer to question number 5, we are working through several costs and line items with MMSD’s Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent-Business. In Wisconsin, public charter schools are funded primarily by school districts or the state legislature (non-school district authorized schools). Generally, private funding is limited to 5% of costs during the budgeting process. However we will raise significantly more in private funding during the pre-implementation and implementation years of the school than we will in out years.
7. Lucy Mathiak: How the financial commitment asked of the district compares to the financial commitment to its existing schools?
ULGM: Assuming you mean existing traditional public schools, we will require more information from MMSD’s administration to make this comparison. Given that Madison Prep will be a new school and a non-instrumentality, there will be costs that Madison Prep has that the school system does not, and vice versa. However, we are firmly committed to ensuring our school is operated within the annual per pupil cost MMSD now spends to educate students in middle and high schools.
8. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: First of all, has the funding that is indicated as part of the proposal actually been acquired or promised? The proposal indicates $100,000/ year from the Madison Community Foundation, but I can’t find any information from MCF itself about funding Madison Prep. All I can see is that they donated to the Urban League’s capital and Workforce campaigns. Will you check into this? Also, the proposal indicates $250,000/ year for 3 years from Partners for Developing Futures. Last year, despite having received 25 applications for funding from “education entrepreneurs,” this organization did not fund any of them due to the quality of the applications. How is the Madison Prep planning team able to claim this as a source of funding? Have promises been made?
ULGM: The Madison Community Foundation and Partners for Developing Futures were listed as potential revenue sources; these dollars were not committed. Our business plan followed the same approach as most business plans for start-up initiatives: listing prospective revenue sources. However, we do intend to pursue funding through these and other sources. Our private fundraising goals and needs in our five-year budget plan are reasonable.
9. Lucy Mathiak: What additional resources are needed to make the Madison Prep model work?
ULGM: Our school is designed as a demonstration school to be replicable, in whole or in part, by MMSD and other school systems. Therefore, we will not request more than the district’s own annual costs per pupil at the middle and high school levels.
10. Lucy Mathiak: What resources are in hand and what resources will you need to raise?
ULGM: We presently have $50,000 to support the planning of the school, with the offer of additional support. However, we will secure additional private and public funding once the Board of Education formally approves the DPI planning grant application/detailed proposal for Madison Prep.
11. Lucy Mathiak: Ifthere is a proposed endowment, what is the amount of the endowment in hand, the estimated annual rate of return, and the estimated income available for use?
ULGM: New charter schools generally do not budget for endowment in their first few years of operation. We intend to build an endowment at some point and have line items for this in Madison Prep’s budget, but these issues will be decided by the Board ofDirectors ofthe school, for which we will not begin recruiting until the Board of Education approves our DPI plauning grant application/detailed proposal.
12. Ed Hughes: Which parts of your proposal do you require non-instrumentality status to implement?
ULGM: Non-instrumentality status will be vital to Madison Prep’s ability to offer an extended school day, extended school year, as well as the expectations we have of teachers to serve as mentors and coaches to students. The collective bargaining contract between the Board of Education and Madison Teachers, Inc. would not allow for this added instructional time. Yet this added instructional time will be necessary in order for students to meet Madison Prep’s ambitious achievement goals. In addition, our professional development program will also require more hours of training. We also intend to implement other special activities for students and faculty that would not be allowed under MMSD and MTI’s collective bargaining agreement.
13. Ed Hughes: What will be the school’s admission policy? Please describe any preferences that the admission policy will include. To what extent will students who live outside ofthe Madison school district be considered for admission?
ULGM: Madison Prep will comply with all federal and state regulations relating to charter school admissions. In its inaugural school year (20 12-20 13), Madison Prep will be open to any 61h and 7’h grade male student residing within the boundaries of MMSD.
All interested families will complete an Enrollment Form at the Urban League’s offices, online, during community meetings and outreach activities, through local partners, or during a visit to the school (after it opens). If Madison Prep receives less than 45 enrollment forms for either grade (6 and 7) in the tirst year, all students’ who applied will be admitted. If the school receives more than 45 enrollment forms for either grade level in the first year, or enrollment forms exceed the seats available in subsequent years, Madison Prep will hold a public random lottery at a location that provides enough space for applicant students and families. The lottery will be held in accordance with DPI guidelines for random lotteries. If Madison Prep does not fill all available seats, it will continue its grassroots recruitment efforts until it reaches its enrollment goal.
14. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: We know that Madison Prep won’t accept girls. Will it except boys with Autism or Aspergers? If a boy has a learning disability, will he be allowed to attend? What ifthis learning disability makes it not possible for him to perform above grade level on a standardized test? Will he be allowed in? And can they kick him out if his test scores aren’t advanced/proficient?
ULGM: Please see our answer to question #13. To be clear, Madison Prep will accept students with special learning needs, including students who speak English as a second language. As always, IEP teams will determine on a case-by-case basis if Madison Prep is an appropriate placement for special education students. No Madison Prep student will ever be expelled for academic performance.
15. Ed Hughes: An attraction ofthe proposed school is that it could provide the kind ofiutense academic and other sorts of support that could change the trajectories of its students from failure to success. How will you ensure that your school serves primarily students who require the sort of approach the school will offer in order to be successful?
ULGM: Please see our answer to question #13 and question #16 below. We will go to great lengths to inform parents about Madison Prep as an option for their child, and to recruit students and families to our school. We will over-market our efforts in low-income communities and through media, sports clubs, community centers, churches, employers, and other vehicles that reach these students and their parents. We are also exploring the legality of our ability to set an income goal or threshold for student admissions. Nonetheless, we believe that any young man, regardless of their family background, would be well served by Madison Prep.
16. Ed Hughes: To the extent yon know them, describe what the school’s stndent recruitment and marketing strategies will be.
ULGM: Madison Prep’s marketing plan will support three priorities and goals:
1. Enrollment: Recruiting, retaining, and expanding student enrollment annually -share Madison Prep with as many parents and students as possible and establish a wait-list of at least 20 students at each grade level by June I each year (with the exception of year one).
2. Staffing: Recruiting and retaining a talented, effective, and committed faculty and staff -field qualified applicants for each position in a timeframe that enables us to hire by June 30 each year.
3. Public Image and Support: Building, maintaining, and solidifying a base of support among local leaders, financial contributors, key partners, the media, and the general public.
To ensure the public is well acquainted with the school, Madison Prep, with the support of the Urban League of Greater Madison, will make use of a variety of marketing strategies to accomplish its enrollment, staffing, fundraising, and publicity goals. Each strategy will be phased in, from pre.launch of the school through the first three years of operation. These marketing strategies are less expensive and more sustainable with the budget of a new charter school than television, radio, and popular print advertisements. They also deliver a great return on investment if executed effectively. Each strategy will enable Madison Prep, with its limited staff, to promote itself to the general public and hard-to-reach communities, build relationships, sustain communications and achieve its goals.
A. Image Management: Madison Prep’s logo and images of young men projecting the Madison Prep brand will be featured on the school’.s website, in informational and print materials, and on inexpensive paraphernalia (lapel pins, emblems, ink pens, etc). Students will be required to wear uniforms that include a red or black blazer featuring the Madison Prep emblem, a sweater, a red or black tie, white shirt, black or khaki pants, and black or brown dress shoes. They will also have a gym uniform and athletic team wear that features the Madison Prep emblem. Additionally, Madison Prep will ensure that its school grounds, educational facility, and learning spaces are clean, orderly and well-maintained at all times, and that these physical spaces reflect positive images of Madison Prep students, positive adult males, community leaders, families, and supporters. Madison Prep’s Core Values will be visible through the school as well, and its students, faculty, staff, and Board of Directors will reflect an image in school and in public that is consistent with the school’s Core Values and Leadership Dimensions.
B. Grassroots Engagement: Madison Prep’s founders, Board members, volunteers, and its key staff (once hired) will go door-to-door in target neighborhoods, and other areas within MMSD boundaries where prospective candidates can be found, to build relationships with young men, families, and local community resource persons and advocates to recruit young men to attend Madison Prep. Recruiters will be dressed in the Madison Prep uniform (either a polo shirt, sweater or suit jacket/tie, each showing the Madison emblem, and dress slacks or skirt) and will visit homes in two person teams.
Madison Prep will also partner with City Council members, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and local libraries to host community meetings year-round to promote the school in target neighborhoods and military bases. It will also promote the school to citizens in high traffic residential areas of the city, including metro stops, restaurants, community centers, community health agencies, and at public events. Madison Prep will engage the religious community as well, promoting the school to church leaders and requesting to speak before their congregations or have the church publicize the school during their announcements on Sundays and ministry activities during the week. Area businesses, hospitals, government agencies, foster care agencies, and mentorship programs will be asked to make information available to their patrons, clients, and families. Madison Prep will also seek to form partnerships with the Police Department and Court System to ensure judges, attorneys, neighborhood police officers, and family advocates know about the school and can make referrals of young men they believe will benefit from joining Madison Prep’s school community.
C. Online Presence & Partnerships: Madison Prep will launch a website and update its current Facebook and Twitter pages prior ·to the school opening to expand its public presence. The Facebook page for Madison Prep presently has more than 100 members, has been operational for less than 2 months, and has not yet been widely marketed. The page is used to raise awareness, expand support, communicate progress, announce activities and events, and promote small-donor fundraising campaigns. The website will be used to recruit students, staff, and eventually serve as an entry-point to a member only section on the Internet for faculty, students, and parents. Madison Prep will also seek to establish strategic alliance partnerships with service associations (100 Black Men, Sororities and Fraternities, Civic Clubs or Organizations, etc.), enlisting their participation in the school’s annual events. In addition, Madison Prep will establish partnerships with other public and private schools in the Madison area to recruit students, particularly elementary schools.
D. Viral Marketing: Madison Prep will use email announcements and social networking sites to share its mission, activities, employment opportunities, and successes with its base of supporters and will inspire and encourage them to share the information with their friends, colleagues, parents and young men they know who might be interested in the school. Madison Prep will add to its base of supporters through its other marketing strategies, collecting names and contact information when and where appropriate.
E. Buzz Marketing: Madison Prep will use subtle forms of marketing to recruit students and faculty, increase its donor and support base, and develop a positive public image. The school will maintain an influential board of directors and advisors, will engage notable people and organizations in the school, and will publicize these assets to the general public. The school will also prepare key messages and strategically involve its students, staff, and parents in key events and activities to market its brand -high achieving, thoughtful, forward thinking, confident and empowered young men who are being groomed for leadership and success by equally talented, passionate and committed adults. The messages, images, and quality of interactions that the broader community has with members of the greater Madison community will create a positive buzz about the school, its impact, and the success of its students.
F. School Visits & Activity Participation: Each year, from the week after Thanksgiving through the end of the school year, Madison Prep will invite prospective students and parents, funders, and members of the community to visit the school. A visit program and weekly schedule will be established to ensure that the school day and learning is not interrupted by visitors. Madison Prep will also establish an open visit policy for parents, and will create opportunities for them to leverage their ongoing involvement with the school and their young men. Through nurturing positive relationships with parents, and establishing an enviromnent where they are wanted and respected, Madison Prep will create spokespersons in the community who help grow its student body and community support. Finally, Madison Prep will host an annual community event that engages its school community with the greater Madison community in a day of fun, competitive events for families, and will serve as a resource to parents whose children do not attend Madison Prep by inviting them to participate in its Destination Planning workshops.
G. Popular Media: Madison Prep will allocate resources to market itself on Urban and News Radio during the peak student recruitment season in two phases. Phase I will take place in November 2011 and Phase 2 advertising will take place between Jannary and May 2012. To defray costs, Madison Prep will enlist the support of local and national celebrities for feature interviews, spotlights, and PSAs with Madison Prep’s Leadership to promote the school.
17. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: It looks like the Charter school is aiming for 50% of its population to be low-income. The middle school my children will go to, Sherman, is 71% low income. Blackhawk is at 62%. Wright is 83%. Sennett is 65%. Cherokee is at 63%. Toki is at 51%. Can we, in good conscious, start a new school-designed to help low income students -that has a lower percentage oflow-income students than six of our existing middle schools?
ULGM: The Urban League has set the 50% low-income target as a floor, not as a ceiling. In fact, we expect that more than 50% of Madison Prep students will qualifY for free or reduced lunch.
Furthermore, we have chosen to use the 50% figure to allow us to be conservative in our budgeting process. No matter what the level of low income students at Madison Prep -50% or higher-the student achievement goals and overall program quality will remain unchanged.
18. Ed Hughes: Have you considered limiting admission to students who have scored minimal or basic on their WKCE tests?
ULGM: No. Madison Prep will be open to any male student who wishes to attend, regardless of past academic performance.
19. Ed Hughes: Some have suggested that Madison Prep could skim offthe most academically.motivated African-American students from the District’s middle and high schools, leaving fewer role models and academic peers for the African-American boys who remain in our existing schools. What is your response to that concern?
ULGM: The notion that charter schools skim off the most motivated students is a common misconception. First, this argument is not logical. Parents/caregivers ofchildren who are academically motivated and doing well in traditional public schools have little incentive to change their students’ educational environment. Those kids will likely stay put. When a parent, teacher, social worker, or school counselor recognizes that a child isn’t doing well in the traditional school and seeks an alternative, the charter school that is sought as an alternative does not in this process gain some advantage. In fact, research suggests the opposite. A 2009 study by researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin, and Mathematic Policy Research examined charter schools from across the country to test the “skimming” theory. The researchers found no evidence of skimming. In fact, they found students who go to charter schools typically have LOWER test scores than their counterparts in traditional public schools. (Read the full paper at
20. Ed Hughes: Have you extended preliminary or informal offers of employment at Madison Prep to anyone? If so, identify to whom the preliminary or informal offers were made and for which positions.
21. Ed Hughes: What will he your strategy for recruiting teachers? What qualifications will you establish for teachers? Please describe the general range of salary and benefits you expect to offer to teachers.
ULGM: Teacher Recruitment -The overarching goal of teacher recruitment will be to hire a highly qualified, passionate, hard-working, diverse staff. The recruitment effort will include casting a wide net that allows Madison Prep to draw from the pool oflocal teachers as well as teachers statewide and nationwide who will embrace the opportunity to help build a school from the ground up. We will recruit though typical both typical means (postings on our website, WECAN, charter school association job pages) as well as through recruitment fairs outside of the state. Our hiring process will take place in early and mid spring rather than late spring and summer so that we may have a competitive edge in recruiting the teachers that are the best fit for Madison Prep. While the Head of School will be responsible for the hiring of teachers, he/she will engage a committee of teachers, community members, parents, and students in the process ofselecting teachers and other staff. In addition to a thorough interview, teacher candidates will be required to teach a sample lesson to a group of students, as well as other interview committee members. Teacher Qualifications-All teachers at Madison Prep will be licensed by the Department of Public Instruction.
General Salary Range and Benefits*-For the 2012-2013 school year, the salary for Master Teachers (of which there will be two) is currently projected to be $61,406 with a signing bonus of $2,000 and a maximum performance bonus of $2,750. The salary for general education teachers is currently projected to be $50,055 for the 2012-2013 school year, with a signing bonus of$2,000 and a maximum performance bonus of$1,750. Madison Prep intends to provide a full range of benefits to its teachers. *Salary and bonus figures are subject to change
22. Ed Hughes: MMSD already has a charter middle school with a very diverse student population -James C. Wright Middle School. If the school district chose to continue James C. Wright as an instrumentality charter school but modeled on your Madison Prep proposal, which components of your proposal do yon think could be implemented at the school and which components of your proposal could not?
ULGM: The Urban League is not in a position to determine how the fundamental elements ofthe Madison Prep proposal could or could not be implemented at James C. Wright Middle School. That determination would have to be made by the district administration and c01mnunity at Wright.
23. Community Member, via Arlene Silveira: Here is the annual report from one of the Urban League charter schools that the proposal cites as a model for Madison Prep: This is a report from the school’s lO'” year in existence. Please note the test achievement goals and scores on page 4 and compare them with the extremely overconfident goals of the Madison Prep proposal. IfMadison Prep is serious about attaining the goal of 75% oftheir students scoring 22 or higher on the ACT or 1100 or higher on the SAT, how do they plan to achieve this and what will happen with those students who fail to meet this standard? What will happen to the teachers who don’t meet their quota ofstudent test scores above this level? Please investigate these questions in detail and within the framework of Madison Prep processes from admissions through expulsion.
ULGM: The reference to the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts in the Madison Prep initial proposal was meant to show the precedent for the establishment of charter schools by Urban League affiliates; the New Leadership Charter School is NOT a model for Madison Prep, nor was this ever stated in the initial proposal. That said, Madison Prep IS serious about our student achievement goals related to the ACT and SAT. We plan to meet these goals through-as the proposal states-an all-male student body, the International Baccalaureate Curriculum, college preparatory educational program, Harkness Teaching, an extended school day and year,mentoring and coll1111unity support, and a prep year. Students will be carefully assessed for years leading up to these tests to ensure their preparedness. When formative assessments indicate re-teaching is needed in order to meet the goal, students will receive further individualized instruction. Madison Prep teachers will not have student test score “quotas.”
24. Lucy Mathiak: What would a timeline for the counterpart girls’ school look like?
ULGM: We would like to initiate the process for the girls’ school in the fall of 2012, with an opening aimed at 2014-2015.

I continue to believe that the fate of this initiative will be a defining moment for the Madison School District. If approved and implemented, it will, over time, affect other traditional schools within the District. If it is rejected, a neighboring District will likely step in.
Finally, I found the Urban League’s response to Ed Hughes’ question #5 interesting:

DPI’s School Finance Data Warehouse indicates that MMSD reported $14,432 in revenue per student and spent $13,881 per student iu 2008-09. We are certain that we will not request more per student than what MMSD spends annually.

Madison School District School Safety Recommendations and Tactical Site Assessments

Luis Yudice, Safety/Security Coordinator Madison School District:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has the responsibility to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff. To this end, the district periodically conducts assessments of its facilities and reviews its operating practices to ensure that all that can be done is being done to ensure the safety of our schools.
Following a school shooting in the Weston School District in Cazenovia, Wisconsin in 2006, Superintendent Art Rainwater issued security reminders that included the following:

  • Ensure that building security and door locking procedures are followed.
  • Ensure that all non-employees in a building are identified and registered in the office.
  • Ensure that communication systems, radios and PA’s are functioning.
  • Have employees visibly display their MMSD identification badges.
  • Be aware of the school’s security plan and of their role in security procedures.
  • Communicate with and listen to students.
  • Remind students that they should always communicate with staff and share information regarding any threats to the school or to other persons.
  • Ensure that the school’s crisis team is in place.

Private Schools ‘Counsel Out’ the Unsuccessful

Sarah Maslin Nir:

Thousands of parents trying to get their children into private schools are now busy mailing thank-you cards to admissions offices and biting their nails while waiting for word back.
But for a small number of parents who prevailed through this gantlet in the past, this time of year brings another kind of notice — that their child is on thin ice — as an even more painful process begins: the “counseling out” of students who are not succeeding.
Not discussed on schools’ tours or in their glossy pamphlets, counseling out is nonetheless a matter of practice at many private schools. Unlike the public school system, private schools are not obligated, and often not set up, to handle children having trouble keeping up.

“the Board will choose a level of property tax increase to set a target for (2011-2012) budget reductions and efficiencies”

Erik J Kass, Assistant Superintendent for Business:

The process outlined below is intended to provide adequate and timely information to the Board of Education and Community relative to the development of the 2011-12 Budget. This process will create transparency, credibility around data, and provide options for the Board of Education along the way. This process as you will see, also leans very heavily on the 5 year model worked on and completed by the 5 Year Budget Model Ad Hoc Committee.
The goal of this upcoming budget process is comprised of five phases: planning, preparation, approval/ adoption, implementation, and review I evaluation. The proposed timeline and list of activities below are aimed at meeting the goals for planning, preparation, and approval/adoption. It is important to note that all phases of the process will be completed by utilizing the PMA Model and its summary reports only. The proposed process and timeline are as follows:

The 2010-2011 Madison School District budget raised property taxes by about 9%.
Perhaps program reviews and effectiveness will inform 2011-2012 financial decisions.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: In the grip of a great convergence

Martin Wolf:

Convergent incomes and divergent growth – that is the economic story of our times. We are witnessing the reversal of the 19th and early 20th century era of divergent incomes. In that epoch, the peoples of western Europe and their most successful former colonies achieved a huge economic advantage over the rest of humanity. Now it is being reversed more quickly than it emerged. This is inevitable and desirable. But it also creates huge global challenges.
In an influential book, Kenneth Pomeranz of the University of California, Irvine, wrote of the “great divergence” between China and the west.* He located that divergence in the late 18th and 19th centuries. This is controversial: the late Angus Maddison, doyen of statistical researchers, argued that by 1820 UK output per head was already three times and US output per head twice Chinese levels. Yet of the subsequent far greater divergence there is no doubt whatsoever. By the middle of the 20th century, real incomes per head (measured at purchasing power parity) in China and India had fallen to 5 and 7 per cent of US levels, respectively. Moreover, little had changed by 1980.
What had once been the centres of global technology had fallen vastly behind. This divergence is now reversing. That is far and away the biggest single fact about our world.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The struggle with public-sector unions should be about productivity and parity, not just spending cuts

The Economist:

LOOK around the world and the forces are massing. On one side are Californian prison guards, British policemen, French railworkers, Greek civil servants, and teachers just about everywhere. On the other stand the cash-strapped governments of the rich world. Even the mere mention of cuts has brought public-sector workers onto the streets across Europe. When those plans are put into action, expect much worse.
“Industrial relations” are back at the heart of politics–not as an old-fashioned clash between capital and labour, fought out so brutally in the Thatcherite 1980s, but as one between taxpayers and what William Cobbett, one of the great British liberals, used to refer to as “tax eaters”. People in the private sector are only just beginning to understand how much of a banquet public-sector unions have been having at everybody else’s expense (see article). In many rich countries wages are on average higher in the state sector, pensions hugely better and jobs far more secure. Even if many individual state workers do magnificent jobs, their unions have blocked reform at every turn. In both America and Europe it is almost as hard to reward an outstanding teacher as it is to sack a useless one.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: New York Governor Cuomo Offers Plan to Curb State Spending

Danny Hakim:

The proposals laid out by Mr. Cuomo — including reducing the number of agencies, authorities and departments by 20 percent and capping the annual growth of state government to the rate of inflation — set up a clash with the more liberal Democrats who control the State Assembly.
In addition to freezing the salaries of most state workers, Mr. Cuomo would reduce spending on Medicaid and limit local property tax increases statewide.
“New York has no future as the tax capital of the nation,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in his speech. “Our young people will not stay, businesses will not come, this has to change. Put it simply, the people of this state simply cannot afford to pay more taxes, period.”
The roughly 47-minute speech also offered New Yorkers a different view of their new governor: he was highly animated in his expressions of frustration over the state’s reputation and injected cornball humor, a PowerPoint slide show, and even air quotes into the formal setting.

Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds


A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an “elaborate fraud” that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.
An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study’s author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study — and that there was “no doubt” Wakefield was responsible.
“It’s one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors,” Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor-in-chief, told CNN. “But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

Effective reading program shelved, then amazingly reborn

Jay Matthews:

I thought it fitting that my colleague Nick Anderson had his eye-opening piece on the Success For All reading program published in The Post on New Year’s Day. The night before, we were all singing “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind.” That could be the theme song for Success For All.
As Anderson reveals, the cleverly organized and well-tested program, brainchild of legendary Johns Hopkins University research couple Robert E. Slavin and Nancy A. Madden, spent the Bush Administration in a wilderness inhabited by other wrongly discarded educational ideas. It did not disappear, but it did not get much attention or growth. Now it is back in the forefront of school improvement, beneficiary of a $50 million grant from the Obama administration. Its risen-from-the-dead story would be hard to believe if Anderson hadn’t explained it so well in his story.
I know Madden and Slavin. A decade ago, I wrote a magazine piece about their unusual marriage and work, and what they had done to alter reading instruction throughout much of the country. [I would love to link to the piece, but I can’t find it.] They had come from well-to-do families — Madden from Edina, Minn., and Slavin from Montgomery County, Md. They met as undergraduates at Reed College, a Portland, Ore., institution that encourages social activists. They fell in love and decided to dedicate their lives to finding the best ways to teach children, particularly kids whose own upbringings weren’t as comfortable as theirs had been. (They later adopted three children from South America.)

Do Home Schoolers Deserve a Tax Break?

Room for Debate:

The new Republicans in Congress have vowed to challenge Washington’s role in American public education, and said they will seek to turn more power over to the states on many fronts. But one of their priorities is a new federal rule: to give parents in every state tax credits if their children are home-schooled.
Previous efforts in Congress to adopt a nationwide tax break have failed, and currently only three states — Illinois, Louisiana and Minnesota — allow some benefit for home schooling.
Will the idea succeed in the new Congress, given some conservatives’ longtime opposition, on the grounds that the credits might open the door to more government regulation of education? How would such a system work? Is it a threat to public education, as its critics claim?

The Mayor Wants You to Lose Some Weight

Laura Landro

Frustrated with the high cost of health care, a number of communities around the country are taking new steps to push citizens to improve their health.
Some places have set 10-year goals to reach certain marks of good health. In San Francisco, for example, 79% of small children currently are fully immunized by the time they turn 2 years old; the county aims to increase that to 90% by 2020. Other places, like Kern County, Calif., which has one of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in the state, are setting up farmers’ markets and constructing new trails and sidewalks to foster healthier lifestyles.

Proposed bill would overhaul Virginia textbook adoption process

Kevin Sieff:

In the wake of a state review that found dozens of errors in Virginia social studies textbooks, Del. David Englin will introduce a bill Monday that would overhaul the state’s textbook adoption process.
The legislation would shift the responsibility of vetting textbooks from panels consisting mostly of school teachers to the publishers. Companies would have to be certified with the Virginia Board of Education before their books are approved for use in public schools.
Last year, textbook review committees approved two books by Five Ponds Press – “Our Virginia, Past and Present” and “Our America to 1865” – that several state-appointed scholars found last month to have dozens of historical inaccuracies.
“As a legislator and a parent, I was shocked and appalled to learn that Virginia social studies textbooks had such egregious factual inaccuracies,” Englin (D-Alexandria) said. “As parents, the bare minimum we expect from textbooks is that the facts are correct.”

Getting Schooled in Law Loans

Stephanie Landsman:

The American Bar Association has officially issued a warning on its website.
The ABA is now making the case to persuade college students not to go to law school.
According to the association, over the past 25 years law school tuition has consistently risen two times faster than inflation.
The average private law student borrows about $92,500 for law school, while law students who attend public schools take out loans for $71,400. These numbers do not include any debt law students may still have from their time as undergraduates.

Beloit part of voucher plan? “The Days of An Educational Monopoly Are Over”

Justin Weaver:

The new Wisconsin governor is considering sweeping reforms in Madison, one of which could directly impact Beloit schools.
Gov. Scott Walker and the incoming Republican legislature assumed power in the state Monday and wasted no time in introducing the possibility of expanding the state’s school voucher program. The program, presently instituted in the Milwaukee area, allows students to receive taxpayer-financed vouchers to attend private schools, including religious schools. Just under 21,000 of the maximum 22,500 students enrolled in the program this year.
The governor has identified Beloit as one place where the vouchers could be phased in as part of a trial effort to spread the program statewide.
“I think school choice is successful,” Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think it’s worth looking at expanding it. How do you do that? There’s really a multitude of options, not only those being discussed in other parts of the country. And we want to continue to be at the forefront of that.”
Beloit School District Superintendent Milt Thompson said he views the potential voucher introduction as yet another reason for the district to reassess its direction.
“My concern is that the district has to become conscious of today’s market. If you have a system that is attractive, people will send their kids here. If you don’t, the days of an educational monopoly are over,” he said.

Additional choices for our communities is a good thing. Thompson’s perspective is correct and useful.

Proposed Changes to Superintendent Prerequisites

New Jersey Left Behind

The Record reports today that the NJ DOE has drawn up changes to credential requirements for superintendents of “struggling school districts.” Taking a page, perhaps, from Mike Bloomberg, some districts would have the ability to hire superintendents who lack specific educational certification or degrees from teaching colleges.
Richard Bozza, head of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, says that the proposed change in employment requirements give some applicants a “free pass” and “our view is clear: you need to have an educational background to lead a district.”
(Of course,, such changes offer a solution to the problem of traditionally-credentialed superintendents fleeing the state for greener pastures because of the newly-imposed salary caps, but that’s another matter.)

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: When States Default: 2011, Meet 1841

Dennis Berman:

Land values soared. States splurged on new programs. Then it all went bust, bringing down banks and state governments with them. This wasn’t America in 2011, it was America in 1841, when a now-forgotten depression pushed eight states and a desolate territory called Florida into the unthinkable: They defaulted on debts.
This was an incredible step, even then. Fledgling U.S. states like Indiana and Illinois were still building credibility on global debt markets. They rightly feared “a prejudice so deep and wide” that they could never sell bonds in Europe again, said one banker.
Their paranoia would be familiar to the shell-shocked California and Illinois of 2011. Each is beset by budget problems so great that some have begun debating default or bankruptcy. These worriers may draw comfort from the state crises that raged and retreated long ago. Most of the states eventually paid off their debts, and changed their laws to safeguard their finances, helping make U.S. states some of the world’s best credits.

More Schools Embracing iPad as Learning Tool

Winnie Hu

As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools.
A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.
As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.

Minneapolis district investigates teacher license problems at Broadway High

Tom Weber

Students at Broadway High School in Minneapolis are being told that some of the credits they’ve received for classwork might not be valid for graduation.
Minnesota Public Radio News has learned the Minneapolis school district is investigating whether some teachers at the school didn’t have the proper licenses for classes they were teaching.
Associate superintendent Mark Bonine says issues surfaced this fall as Broadway’s new site administrator, Sally Reynolds, took over the school.
“As Sally was assessing, she had some concerns around some credits,” Bonine said.
The issue is whether those credits were earned properly, but Bonine added that students “are not at fault here.”

Monona Grove science teacher to sail and study near Antarctica

Gena Kittner

Next month, Juan Botella will spend more than 60 days aboard a ship in the Southern Ocean to learn firsthand how scientific research is conducted – knowledge he will bring back to his classroom along with new information on how the southern polar region has changed.
The trip to the body of water surrounding Antarctica fulfills a lifelong dream for Botella, a science teacher at Monona Grove High School who’s always wanted to travel there, although he’s nervous about spending months on a boat.
“I would have liked to be on land,” Botella admits, but added he’s still excited for the trip. “I’m a very bad sailor. I am very easily seasick.”
Botella, 43, was chosen from among more than 150 applicants to accompany and help 32 researchers collect and study water samples from the Antarctic region.

A crucial lesson in education reform Money alone doesn’t help improve student achievement

Don Soifer:

Schools around the country have begun to show measurable progress in closing achievement gaps, according to evidence from a growing range of sources. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that in New Jersey this progress is much more limited, and it is young African-Americans who seem to be losing out the most.
Despite an influx of new funding to New Jersey’s poorest urban school districts following the state Supreme Court’s Abbott rulings, student achievement levels remain mostly flat at the lower end of the spectrum.
The percentage of black eighth-graders who scored above “basic” in reading actually declined, from 62 percent in 2005 to 60 percent in 2009 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The AI Revolution Is On

Stephen Levy: warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence–except maybe a random number generator–had a hand in determining what went where.
But the warehouses aren’t meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might–by placing like products next to one another, for instance–’s robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.

So You Have a Liberal Arts Degree and Expect a Job?

PBS NewsHour:

low-up to a story we aired last month on the tough job market for recent college graduates.
NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman looks at job-hunters who’ve already been out of school for a few years.
RICHARD WHITE, Career Services, Rutgers University: The last couple of years have been a very, very tough time to be coming out of college.
PAUL SOLMAN: Rutgers University, where Richard White runs career services.
RICHARD WHITE: At the time of graduation, probably 50 percent of college grads have some kind of job. That’s during the good times. That probably was cut in half during these last two tough years.

A ‘Sputnik’ moment for education

Mike Petrilli & John Richard Schrock:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the results from the international education test scores (PISA) were “a massive wake-up call” for American educators. Midmorning discusses what kind of reform American schools need, and if there is room for the rote test-driven education that put Shanghai on top and the U.S. far behind.

Focusing on Languages (Mainly Mandarin)

Fernanda Santos:

During her visit to High School for Violin and Dance in the Bronx on Monday, one of the stops in five-borough tour that worked as her formal introduction to her new job, New York City’s schools chancellor, Cathleen P. Black, gathered around a table with students and alumni, discussing career paths, opportunities and plans.
One man told her he was studying architecture at State University of New York at Delhi. One woman said she was majoring in criminal justice at Hostos Community College. Another, who is graduating at the end of the month, described to Ms. Black how learning to play a musical instrument helped her learn new words.
Before she left the building, Ms. Black peppered the principal, Tanya John, with questions about college preparedness and the school’s curriculum. Then, she revealed what is starting to look like an obsession.

Flushing Out Lead, Metals With Chelation Therapy

April Fulton:

Sherri Oliver lives in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It’s a two-hour bus ride to get to the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore — and she has brought her daughter, Katie Dail.
Katie has dangerously high levels of lead in her blood.
She’s a fast-moving first-grader with copper-colored hair. Katie has bright brown eyes but has trouble making eye contact. She also has autism — and she doesn’t really speak, but she makes a kind of whooping sound when she’s happy.
But Katie is not here for autism treatment. The treatment she has been getting — chelation therapy — is to get her lead levels down. Although hospitals offer the treatment, some desperate parents are turning to home-based chelation kits and over-the-counter pills, which doctors say can be more dangerous.

Detroit Public Schools: 40,000 kids to get laptops from stimulus funds Read more: Detroit Public Schools: 40,000 kids to get laptops from stimulus funds

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

Detroit Public Schools will spend $49 million in federal money to push technology in the district, including distributing 40,000 new laptop computers to students in grades 6-12 for use in class, as well as more than 5,000 new desktop computers.
Each DPS teacher also will get a laptop.
The computers are being funded by stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Details are to be announced this morning by DPS emergency financial manager Robert Bobb.
The district already has started distributing the computers and expects to deliver them all by the end of this school year, said Kisha Verdusco, a DPS spokeswoman.

WEAC leaders hoping to forge relationships with GOP leaders at Capitol


Like other union leaders, WEAC President Mary Bell can see some “labor unrest” among her members if they’re targeted by the incoming Walker administration.
But she can’t see them taking an extreme step like going on strike, something they’re prevented from doing under Wisconsin law.
“My members care so desperately about the work they do that it would be extremely difficult to envision them leaving their classrooms, leaving their kids,” Bell said in a new WisPolitics interview. “We have that history in Wisconsin, but it’s been 30 years since those things took place.”
With Scott Walker set to occupy the governor’s office next week and Republicans poised to take over both houses of the Legislature, Bell and WEAC executive director Dan Burkhalter said their members are feeling apprehensive and somewhat targeted. Still, Bell pointed out they’ve felt targeted since the early 1990s, when the state imposed the qualified economic offer.
In the last budget, Dems and Gov. Jim Doyle lifted the QEO, which allowed districts to avoid arbitration so long as they offered teachers a bump in pay and benefits of at least 3.8 percent.

Rules tie up Milwaukee Public Schools real estate

Becky Vevea:

The former Garfield Elementary School building, stately and picturesque, looks as if it could be used for a movie set. That would be one way to fill the empty school with life.
For now, the century-old building at 2215 N. 4th St. sits empty.
Just down the road, construction is under way for a $7 million expansion to St. Marcus Lutheran School, one of the highest performing voucher schools in the city. But before St. Marcus raised millions of dollars, school leaders spent months in conversations with Milwaukee Public Schools about purchasing one of several nearby vacant buildings, including Garfield Elementary.
They were unsuccessful.
For MPS, one less building would mean revenue from the sale and a reduction in maintenance costs. So what happened?
“We were told we could buy them, but could not operate them as a school in competition with MPS,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ superintendent. “It became clear that the acquisition of one of those vacant MPS buildings was just not an option.”

No one files challenge in coming Madison School Board election

Matthew DeFour:

For the second time in the past four years, Madison won’t have any contested school board contests.
Just like when they ran for the first time in 2008, former middle school teacher Marj Passman and attorney Ed Hughes did not draw any opponents for the spring election. That means seven of the previous nine contests will have featured one candidate.
Passman said her first term was a learning curve. The next term will focus on implementing projects such as the district’s new strategic plan and an upcoming literacy evaluation.

Can we strengthen the parents’ voice in education?

On Oct. 28, Tom Frank, chair of Anne Arundel County’s Countywide Citizen Advisory Committee, resigned.
“I was under the impression that the role of the CAC was to meet with a representative of each school, other interested parents and citizens, and to bring their educational concerns to the school board and the superintendent,” he explained. ”I have been told that I essentially have this backwards and the CAC is supposed to only bring items to the parents that the school board determines are important.”
In a certified letter, board of education President Patricia Nalley had written to Frank that the CAC must restrict its agenda to board-approved issues and would not be allowed to convene any type of candidates’ forum. Frank also was told he’d have to cancel the CAC candidates forum, which was to include the four board members on the ballot for November’s election.
It became apparent the CAC regulations had become a fantasy document. The democratic vision contained in these regulations had been greatly diluted over the decades and many surviving democratic provisions had long since stopped being consistently enforced.

New Jersey Governor Christie wants to expand applicant pool for superintendent posts

Patricia Alex:

The Christie Administration wants to bypass credential requirements for hiring leaders for the state’s struggling school districts and has proposed changes that could open the jobs to applicants without experience as educators.
The proposal could give the administration much wider latitude in choosing leaders for state-run districts like those in Paterson and Newark, where it was looking for a way to give Mayor Cory Booker a bigger role in running the schools.
The proposed changes also could affect more than 50 districts, including Clifton and Passaic, that have been deemed “in need of improvement,” and others where state test scores are lagging.
The administration proposes to amend certification requirements for superintendents in those districts so that the job could be open to those with a bachelor’s degree and managerial experience provided they have no criminal record.

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

Carlstedt: Time for Wisconsin to stop spending Dollarss on 4K and a Reference to Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad

Rich Carlstedt:

First, the Federal Government funds a program for youngsters that need help. It is called Headstart. The cry for help for such an age group should be addressed by this program, however the schools have found a cash cow in Wisconsin’s 4 K Budget and can make extra funds this way.
Second, rather than looking to Arkansas, (or Georgia, who admit that the 4K program is a failure), we can look right here in Wisconsin. Three years ago I challenged Dan Nerad, the Green Bay Superintendent at that time, when he said, “early education promotes advancement of learning .”

“We do not need to look at studies from other communities, when we have the information right here in Green Bay! 8 years ago, we went from ½ day kindergarten to full day, and yet subsequent grade test scores failed to reflect the additional education time… in fact, scores are decreasing which is proof that extending hours does nothing.”

The charge went unanswered.
Third, I have to say that you left a very large arrow out of your quiver, as your financial equation is not correct for 4 K.
While I feel that $9,900 is closer, let’s use your $9,000 number, it is fine for expressing costs. To get funding for a student, he is counted as one FTE ( full time education) to get the 9K. 4K students however get a kicker. For 13 ¼ hours per week they are counted as .6 FTE ( .5 if less than 13 ¼). So 4 year olds are given a morning class, followed in the PM with another 4 year old. Those two half day students count as (2 x.6) 1.2 FTE or in cash terms, they bring in $10,800 to the district.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
The article’s comments are worth reading.

Glendale principal exonerated from 17 harassment allegations

Susan Troller:

The Madison School District on Monday released a 27-page investigative report (PDF) exonerating Glendale Elementary Principal Mickey Buhl of multiple accusations of “misconduct and harassment” levied by or on behalf of a dozen current and former staff members at the school, located at 1201 Tompkins Drive, on the south east side.
The complaints cover incidents or disagreements covering the five years Buhl has been principal. Many concern the way in which Buhl discussed work performance with employees or attempted to mediate disputes among staff members. The report indicates that staff climate issues and concerns predated Buhl’s tenure at the school.

Madison School District announces kindergarten registration dates

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District on Monday announced dates and times for next fall’s kindergarten registration.
Registration for Madison’s new 4-year-old kindergarten program is scheduled for Feb. 7 from 1 to 6 p.m. Registration for 5-year-old kindergarten is scheduled for March 7 from 1 to 6 p.m.
Parents or guardians of children who will turn 4 or 5 on or before Sept. 1 must register at their local elementary school with proof of their child’s age, residency and an immunization record. Children are welcome but not required to attend.

Redistributed state tax dollar funding for Wisconsin 4K programs may change due to budget problems, according to this recent article.

Scientists Test ‘Trust Hormone’ For Autism Fight

Jon Hamilton:

For decades, parents of children with autism have been searching for a drug or diet to treat the disorder.
Their latest hope is the hormone oxytocin. It’s often called the trust hormone or the cuddle hormone. And just to be clear, it has nothing to do with the narcotic oxycontin.
But some children with autism are already being treated with oxytocin, even though it’s not approved for this purpose.
The Trust Hormone
It’s no wonder parents of children with autism have high hopes for oxytocin. So do a lot of researchers, like Jennifer Bartz at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin prepares for strain on systems as baby boomers retire

Scott Williams

Nobody knew it at the time, but Peter Glenn Cartier’s arrival at Bellin Hospital on Jan. 1, 1946, marked Green Bay’s official entry into a revolution.
Born at 6:25 a.m. that Tuesday morning, the son of Glenn and Kay Cartier was the first from Green Bay in a new generation of Americans who would forever be known as baby boomers.
By 1964, they numbered 77 million nationwide — the largest generation ever — and they transformed the world with their ideas, talents and values.
Now that the first of them has reached retirement age, baby boomers are redefining the meaning of golden years with their can-do, forever-young attitude.

Teachers, parents set stage for Florida education war

Cara Fitzpatrick:

Teachers and like-minded parents have struck first in an expected statewide battle over education changes being proposed by Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s transition team.
They have held meetings and conference calls, traded information via Facebook, planned an education summit and formed bill-writing committees to create alternative legislation.
And on Tuesday, they plan to wear red to send the new governor — and the Republican-dominated legislature — a message that they support public schools.

Glut of candidates for St. Paul school board as 41 apply

Tom Weber:

More than three dozen people have applied for an open seat on the St. Paul School Board.
The seat was left vacant in November when board member Vallay Varro stepped down to head an education non-profit. The St. Paul School Board now has to appoint someone to fill that seat for the year remaining in Varro’s term.
With the application period now closed, the district says 41 people applied. Familiar names include two former St. Paul School Board members, Al Oertwig and William Finney. Finney also used to be St. Paul’s police chief.

Video essays are a hot topic in college admissions as more schools allow them

Jenna Johnson

To complete a half-dozen college applications, Morgan Malone lined up letters of recommendation, penned essays and – for George Mason University – carried around a video camera for several days.
The result was a nearly two-minute video essay that opens with Malone introducing herself from atop the sign outside Mountain View High School in Stafford County. There are clips of her walking the school’s hallways, participating in a quiz bowl and volunteering. At the end, her assistant principal jumps on a desk and shouts, “I approve this message.”
“Instead of having an application and words in an essay, they get to see me,” said Malone, 17. “Hopefully, when they are watching the video, they will get a picture of what I am like. The way I talk in the video is the same way I talk every day.”

Former Waukesha Mayor Nelson teaches English at Waukesha County’s juvenile center

Laurel Walker:

Nine months after Waukesha voters gave Larry Nelson a swift kick out of the mayor’s office, denying him a second term, he’s back to teaching – if in a distinctively different place and position than the one he left four years earlier.
Nelson is the English teacher at the Waukesha County Juvenile Center, where he teaches 11- to 17-year-olds who either are in shelter care or have been court-ordered to secure detention.
“I’ve always loved teaching, and even when I was mayor I felt I was teaching on a bigger scale,” he said.
Since Nelson, 55, was granted a leave of absence from his Butler Middle School teaching job in Waukesha when he was elected mayor in 2006, the School Board allowed him to return this fall, his 31st year of teaching.
Nelson comes to work at 8 a.m. every day to find out how many students he has, and who they are, he said. He could have one, or 10. They may be around for a day, a week or a month. The longest has been two months. With much of his teaching one-on-one or in small groups, he can customize what he teaches, he said.

An Interview with Laurie H. Rogers; Author of “How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do About It”

Michael F. Shaughnessy:

1) Who is being “Betrayed” by the public school system in America?
The education establishment is betraying the following groups:

  • The children, who aren’t getting the education they need;
  • Parents, who struggle to manage bored and frustrated children, who must pay for several college remedial classes, and who sometimes wind up with students who have given up and dropped out;
  • Teachers, who are micromanaged and disrespected in myriad ways by the bureaucracy and then blamed for the results;
  • Taxpayers, who pay hundreds of billions of dollars each year for a largely failing K-12 education system;
  • Businesses, which must recruit from other countries;
  • Government agencies and military organizations that struggle to fill critical jobs with qualified Americans;
  • The country, which teeters on the brink of economic and social disaster, crippled by a populace that is not acquiring sufficient skills or knowledge to properly run it or even to fully understand the challenges that face it.

The only people not being betrayed are those who feed off of our failing education system.
Unfortunately, that group gets larger every year.

Paying for learning, not system

Patrick McIlheran:

It’s this: The money a school district gets depends on enrollment. In Milwaukee, the one place private-school choice is now offered, the Milwaukee Public Schools’ per-pupil funding is not hurt at all when kids go somewhere else (per-pupil, it increases annually). But when about 20,000 pupils go elsewhere, MPS has less money overall, since it’s teaching fewer children.
Every school district statewide is liable to this already: Wisconsin parents can enroll children in any other public school district. More than 28,000 kids do this switch annually. For every child who moves, one district loses about $6,800 and another gains it. Since some places are big losers and others big gainers, this affects districts’ budgets.
For instance, Milwaukee lost about $27 million in the latest year; other big losers were Racine, Green Bay and Madison. It made no difference to taxpayers overall, but the system moved money away from districts that parents shunned and toward ones they preferred.
The snag is transportation. Parents must take kids to their preferred district. This is tough for the poor, especially in places like Racine, where the local district includes all of suburbia as far as the edge of Oak Creek. It’s perverse when there are private alternatives in poor neighborhoods.
When Grigsby and others make their complaint, it isn’t to say that letting parents choose other schools will hurt weak districts’ budgets, else they’d be wailing about public school choice, which does just that. The complaint is that the government-run school system overall will have less money as children and their aid leave.

Area’s first dual-language immersion program under way

Pamela Cotant:

The first middle-school dual-language immersion program in the Madison area was started at Sennett Middle School this year and the benefits are far reaching, according to Principal Colleen Lodholz.
At Sennett, 50 percent of the students’ academic classes are taught in English and 50 percent are taught in Spanish.
“It really honors both languages,” Lodholz said. “The students are good little ambassadors in terms of modeling the importance of learning a second language and the importance of learning about another culture.”
Most of the 50 sixth grade students in the program come from Nuestro Mundo Community School — the area’s first elementary dual-language immersion program that started when they were kindergarteners — and a strong sense of community was established, Lodholz said. Lodholz sees the students looking out for each other and fewer discipline issues, she said.

Comparing K-12 Funding Adequacy Across 50 States

Wisconsin Center for Education Research, via email:

Until now, no one has tried to estimate the costs of educational adequacy across all 50 states using a common method applied in a consistent manner. UW-Madison education professor Allan Odden and colleagues have realized that goal.
In a recent report, Odden, Lawrence Picus, and Michael Goetz provide state-by-state estimates of the cost of the evidence-based model. The evidence-based model relies primarily on research evidence when making programmatic recommendations. The evidence-based approach starts with a set of recommendations based on a distillation of research and best practices. As implementation unfolds, teams of state policymakers, education leaders, and practitioners review, modify, and tailor those core recommendations to the context of their state’s situation. Odden’s report compares those estimates to each state’s current spending.
Allan Odden and colleagues have developed the first state-level analysis of education finance spending using a model with consistent assumptions across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Odden and colleagues studied districts and schools that have made substantial gains in student performance. They identified the strategies used, then compared those strategies to the recommendations of the evidence-based model. The research found a strong alignment between the strategies and the resources in the evidence-based model and those strategies used by districts and schools that have seen dramatic increase in student learning.
The Evidence-Based Model and Adequacy
When experts discuss education finance, they sometimes use the term “adequacy.” Odden offers this definition: “Providing a level of resources to schools that will enable them to make substantial improvements in student performance over the next 4 to 6 years, as progress toward ensuring that all, or almost all, students meet their state’s performance standards in the longer term.”
“Substantial improvement in student performance” means that, where possible, the proportion of students meeting a proficiency goal will increase substantially in the short- to medium term. Specific targets might vary, depending on the state and a school’s current performance. Yet this goal could be interpreted as raising the percentage of students who meet a state’s student proficiency level from 35% to 70%, or from 70% to something approaching 90% and, in both examples, to increase the percentage of students meeting advanced proficiency standards. There are several approaches to estimating adequacy. They include cost functions, professional judgment, successful schools and districts, and the evidence-based approach.
Using the national average compensation figures, the weighted per pupil estimated costs for adequacy using the evidence-based model is $9,641, an average increase of $566 per student on a national basis. In 30 of the 50 states, additional revenues are needed to reach the estimated cost level. In the remaining 20 states and Washington, D.C., current funding levels are more than enough.
If all states were to receive funding at the estimated level of the evidence-based model, the total cost would be $27.0 billion, or a 6.2% increase. However, the politically feasible approach would not allow using the “excess funds” from the states currently spending more than that level. Given that, the total cost rises to $47.2 billion (a 10.9% increase) to fully fund the model’s estimates.

Locally, the Madison School District spent $370, 287,471 during the 2009-2010 school year, according to the Citizen’s Budget. for 24,295 students ($15,241/student). I have not seen a Citizen’s Budget for the 2010-2011 period. Madison School District budget information.
More from the WCER article:

Nor does this research address how the funds should be allocated once they are sent to school districts. This is an important point, Odden says, because some states currently spend more than identified in this model, yet do not appear to show the gains in student performance the model suggests are possible.

Health care tops contract debates School districts focus negotiations on cost of retirees’ benefits

Amy Hetzner:

After years of watching escalating health insurance costs eat up and even surpass the savings provided by early retirements, some public school districts are getting tough in contract negotiations to reduce benefit levels.
The Hartland-Lakeside School Board and its teachers union went to arbitration in mid-December as district officials sought to cap insurance benefits and lower a stipend given to retiring teachers.
The Waukesha School Board has gone even further, denying almost all early retirement requests by teachers for the past two years as it advances toward arbitration in contract negotiations.

Health care cost growth has also been an issue locally.

Scottish teaching union to launch manifesto


The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it needed to ensure that education was at the top of the agenda for all political parties.
EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith warned that pupils would suffer most as a result of “damaging cutbacks”.
The so-called “Manifesto for Education” will be launched by union officials next month.
The union said it was keen to protect the country’s schools, colleges and universities.
Mr Smith said: “With the current financial crisis and the deep cuts to public spending, including reduced investment in education, it is vitally important that we make a stand to let the politicians know that continuing attacks on our education system cannot and will not be tolerated by the Scottish people.

Europe’s Young Grow Agitated Over Future Prospects

Rachel Donadio:

Francesca Esposito, 29 and exquisitely educated, helped win millions of euros in false disability and other lawsuits for her employer, a major Italian state agency. But one day last fall she quit, fed up with how surreal and ultimately sad it is to be young in Italy today.
It galled her that even with her competence and fluency in five languages, it was nearly impossible to land a paying job. Working as an unpaid trainee lawyer was bad enough, she thought, but doing it at Italy’s social security administration seemed too much. She not only worked for free on behalf of the nation’s elderly, who have generally crowded out the young for jobs, but her efforts there did not even apply to her own pension.
“It was absurd,” said Ms. Esposito, a strong-willed woman with a healthy sense of outrage.
The outrage of the young has erupted, sometimes violently, on the streets of Greece and Italy in recent weeks, as students and more radical anarchists protest not only specific austerity measures in flattened economies but a rising reality in Southern Europe: People like Ms. Esposito feel increasingly shut out of their own futures. Experts warn of volatility in state finances and the broader society as the most highly educated generation in the history of the Mediterranean hits one of its worst job markets.

A fascinating article, particularly the implications of top heavy compensation/benefit costs for older, long term workers. We see similar things in the States where dual compensation schemes significantly underpay new hires for a period of time.

Dreaming of a Debt Free College Education


Takiia Anderson and her daughter, Taje.
Student debt has overshadowed much of Takiia Anderson’s career.
After graduating from law school in 1999, she spent a decade paying off the $106,000 she’d borrowed, all while moving along the East Coast for her jobs with the U.S. Department of Labor and raising her daughter, Taje, now 13.
Now that she’s free from onerous debt payments, her top priority is to set aside enough money for Taje’s college education.
But Anderson also wants to make sure she’s on track to retire once she qualifies for a full pension at age 58.

Education in Brazil: No longer bottom of the class

The Economist::

IN 2000 the OECD, a group of mostly rich countries, decided to find out how much children were learning at school. At the time, only half of Brazilian children finished primary education. Three out of four adults were functionally illiterate and more than one in ten totally so. And yet few Brazilians seemed to care. Rich parents used private schools; poor ones knew too little to understand how badly their children were being taught at the public ones. The president at the time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, saw a chance to break their complacency. Though Brazil is not a member of the OECD he entered it in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Brazil came last.
A decade on, it is clear that the shock was salutary. On December 7th the fourth PISA study was published, and Brazil showed solid gains in all three subjects tested: reading, mathematics and science (see chart 1). The test now involves 65 countries or parts of them. Brazil came 53rd in reading and science. The OECD is sufficiently impressed that it has selected Brazil as a case study of “Encouraging lessons from a large federal system”.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Forget Pep Talks; Governors Warn of Tough Times

James Hagerty & Ben Casselman:

New governors in 26 U.S. states are starting to take office with somber warnings to constituents of more tough times amid revenue shortfalls and a weak job market.
With sagging economies, soaring budget deficits and the loss of federal stimulus money, incoming governors face the deepest fiscal crisis in decades and expectations that they will remain true to campaign pledges to slash spending and taxes.
“I don’t think a grand ceremony … would be appropriate,” Andrew M. Cuomo said Saturday after being sworn in as New York’s governor. The Democrat, whose father led New York two decades ago, promised to put a lid on property taxes and shrink the state’s government.
He said budget troubles were only part of the problem in a state that also faced a “trust deficit.” “Too often government responds to the whispers of lobbyists before the cries of the people,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Madison & Middleton-Cross Plains School District 4K Agreement

Matthew Bell:
Matthew W. Bell, Legal Counsel

Attached please find a proposed intergovernmental agreement with the Middleton/Cross Plains Area School District. The proposed agreement with Middleton/Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) allows the District to establish a 4k site in a nursery school (Orchard Ridge Nursery School) that lies within the MCPASD’s border. The rationale for the District’s desire to do so is the fact that Orchard Ridge is within 1/4 mile of MMSD’s boundary and it serves primarily (70-80%) Madison residents. The agreement would also allow the District to serve MCPASD 4k students who chose to enroll at Orchard Ridge in exchange for direct non-resident tuition reimbursement by MCPASD to Orchard Ridge. Conversely, MCPASD will be allowed to establish 4k sites at two centers (LaPetite and Middleton Preschool) that are within MMSD’s border. MCPASD’s rational for wanting to contract with those sites is identical to MMSD’s desire to contract with Orchard Ridge (i.e. proximity and demographics of children already at the center). MCPASD would also serve MMSD residents who chose to attend those sites in exchange for MMSD directly reimbursing LaPetite and Middleton Preschool. The agreement with MCPASD is attached for your review and action.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program here.

Presentation of “Value Added Assessment (Outcomes)” in the Madison School District, Including Individual School & Demographic Information

Complete Report: 1.5MB PDF File

Value added is the use of statistical technique to identify the effects of schooling on measured student performance. The value added model uses what data are available about students–past test scores and student demographics in particular–to control for prior student knowledge, home and community environment, and other relevant factors to better measure the effects of schools on student achievement. In practice, value added focuses on student improvement on an assessment from one year to the next.
This report presents value-added results for Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) for the two-year period between November 2007 to November 2009, measuring student improvement on the November test administrations of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) in grades three through eight. Also presented are results for the two-year period between November 2005 to November 2007, as well as the two-year period between November 2006 to November 2008. This allows for some context from the past, presenting value added over time as a two-year moving average.
Changes to the Value Added Model
Some of the details of the value-added system have changed in 2010. The two most substantial changes are the the inclusion of differential-effects value-added results and the addition to the set of control variables of full-academic-year (FAY) attendance.
Differential Effects
In additional to overall school- and grade-level value-added measures, this year’s value-added results also include value-added measures for student subgroups within schools. The subgroups included in this year’s value-added results are students with disabilities, English language learners, black students, Hispanic students, and students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. The results measure the growth of students in these subgroups at a school. For example, if a school has a value added of +5 for students with disabilities, then students with disabilities at this school gained 5 more points on the WKCE relative to observationally similar students across MMSD.
The subgroup results are designed to measure differences across schools in the performance of students in that subgroup relative to the overall performance of students in that subgroup across MMSD. Any overall, district-wide effect of (for example) disability is controlled for in the value-added model and is not included in the subgroup results. The subgroup results reflect relative differences across schools in the growth of students in that subgroup.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment”, here.

A fatal failure long ago gives a new principal a mission

Alan Borsuk

Jim Wilkinson took it personally when Juan Perez murdered two men.
Certainly he had sympathy for the victims, Joseph Rivera and Michael Ralston. But he didn’t know them.
The issue was Perez. Wilkinson felt he barely knew him – and that was the problem. Perez had been one of Wilkinson’s students the previous year when Perez was 15 and a freshman at Marquette University High School.
Almost everybody at Marquette High barely knew Perez. He never asked for help. He stayed to himself. He got mediocre grades, but he wasn’t failing. And he left the school after that freshman year. Instead, he got involved deeply with a gang.
A tense, angry confrontation between members of two gangs in a restaurant on Feb. 13, 1993. A slap. Insults. A couple guns. And, in short order, the teenager was receiving a 60-year sentence.
Almost 18 years later, both Perez and Wilkinson feel they have changed for the better.

Wilkes University Professors Examine Use of Text Messaging in the College Classroom

Vicki Mayk:

Teachers of the past had to be concerned about students passing notes in class. Today’s educators have a much greater challenge with the advent of cell phone technology, and its prevalence in the classroom. A study by two Wilkes University professors shows that texting is a greater problem than educators might believe. They also suggest that classroom management strategies can potentially minimize texting in class.
Wilkes University psychology professors, Drs. Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander, designed a 32-question survey to assess the text messaging habits of college students in the classroom. In total, 269 college students, representing 21 majors, and all class levels, responded anonymously to their survey.
The study showed that 95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day and 91 percent have used their phones to text message during class time. Almost half of all respondents indicated that it is easy to text in class without their instructor being aware. In fact, students frequently commented on the survey that their professors would be “shocked” if they knew how much texting went on in class.

Fat China: How Expanding Waistlines are Changing a Nation

Paul French and Matthew Crabbe:

An analysis of the growing problem of obesity in China and its relationship to the nation’s changing diet, lifestyle trends and healthcare system.
‘When Deng Xiaoping said ‘To get rich is glorious’, he probably didn’t realize that getting wealthy would make many Chinese fat… In an informative and entertaining style, French and Crabbe reveal the dark side of China’s growing middle-class: a fast increase in obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes. A great read on an important topic.’ Andy Rothman, China economist, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, Shanghai
‘In this remarkably well researched and thought-provoking book, French and Crabbe expose a darker side of globalisation in China… Western multinationalists have submerged the Chinese consumer in a sea of chocolate and ice cream. The consequences for public health are incalculable.’ –Tim Clissold, China investment specialist and author of ‘Mr China’
‘While some people around the world agonize about the rapid spread of China’s global influence, others within China are more worried about the spread of the country’s waistlines – or at least they should be, according to this fascinating and exhaustively researched study by Paul French and Matthew Crabbe. By turns colourful, witty and alarming, this book provides fascinating insights into China’s fast-changing society.’ –Duncan Hewitt, Shanghai correspondent for ‘Newsweek’ and author of ‘Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China’

Harvard missed signs it was being hoodwinked

Tracy Jan:

It turns out that fooling the gatekeepers of the nation’s most selective university wasn’t as hard as it looks.
Adam Butler Wheeler, portrayed upon his arrest for fraud as a con artist whose brilliant forgeries landed him a coveted spot at Harvard, won over the admissions committee with an application rife with inconsistencies and an inscrutable personal essay, despite fake faculty recommendations that repeatedly praised his lucid writing.
A close examination of Wheeler’s application materials, obtained by the Globe, reveals neither a meticulous feat of deceit nor a particularly elaborate charade. At times, he was just plain careless.
A gushing letter of recommendation, purportedly from the director of college counseling at Phillips Academy, said Wheeler enrolled in the prestigious Andover prep school as a junior. The accompanying transcript, though, indicated he attended for four years.

Surfeits of Certitude

Peter Wood

‘Tis the season of paradox. In a widely noted op-ed in The New York Times, Judah Cohen, identified by the Times merely as “director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm,” explained that the frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls afflicting Europe and much of North America this year are, mirabile dictu, the result of “the overall warming of the atmosphere.” Quick-draw skeptics made the obvious retorts: (1) that advocates of the theory of global warming seem to have constructed a one-way street for interpreting data. No matter what happens in the actual atmosphere of our planet–whether temperatures rise, fall, or remain the same; ditto the level of precipitation; ditto the severity of storms–the theory of anthropocentric global warming (AGW) is vindicated. (2) the public is growing more and more jaundiced about this theoretical legerdemain; and (3) a fair amount of the skepticism now focuses on the capacity of climate scientists to be honest judges of the global warming evidence in view of the enormous amounts of money that flows their way and will continue to flow only if AGW retains its legitimacy.

How to Fail in Grant Writing

Elizabeth Jakob, Adam Porter, Jeffrey Podos, Barry Braun, Norman Johnson, and Stephen Vessey

Looking for the fast path to grant rejection?
We provide a list here of proven techniques. We gathered these in the course of serving on grant panels or as program officers, and, in some cases, through firsthand experimentation. We are biologists, but many of our suggestions will be useful to grant writers in all disciplines.

As salaries rise, Fresno State coach Pat Hill takes pay cut

Steve Wieberg, Steve Berkowitz and Jodi Upton

Pat Hill came cheap when he broke into college football coaching a little more than 3½ decades ago.
He worked his first job at a California community college without pay, making ends meet by moonlighting Tuesdays and Thursdays as a pinsetter at a bowling alley and Fridays and Saturdays, when football allowed, as a bouncer. He lived for a while in his Chevy van.
“I’ve never been a monetary guy,” he says.
The contract that will take him into his 15th season as head coach at Fresno State offers further testament.
Hill will take a more than $300,000 cut in guaranteed pay in 2011, an extraordinary concession to a school budget stretched thin by the troubled economy. His guaranteed take of $650,000 remains considerable, but he’ll have to cash in heavily on incentives to match, or even approach, his nearly seven-figure earnings in 2010.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: GAO Sees Problems in Government’s Financial Management

Accounting Today:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said it could not render an opinion on the 2010 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.
“Even though significant progress has been made since the enactment of key financial management reforms in the 1990s, our report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statement illustrates that much work remains to be done to improve federal financial management,” Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said in a statement. “Shortcomings in three areas again prevented us from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based financial statements.”
The main obstacles to a GAO opinion were: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

Making 2011 the Year of Great Relationships

Elizabeth Bernstein:

Made any New Year’s resolutions yet? Here’s an idea: Focus on the state of your relationships instead of the state of your abs.
Increasingly, experts have been telling us how important social bonds are to well-being, affecting everything from how our brains process information to how our bodies respond to stress. People with strong connections to others may live longer. The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness.
With personal bonds this important, it would seem prudent to put a little work into improving them, especially if they are struggling or even just a little lackluster. And it might not hurt to forge some new ones, too.

How ‘Friend’ Became a Verb

Orson Scott Card:

In my 1985 sci-fi novel ‘Ender’s Game,’ a couple kids used something like the Internet to pass for experts and influence public opinion. It didn’t take long for reality to catch up.
My father-in-law is a historian, and about 20 years ago he mentioned his concern that cheap long-distance telephoning was going to make the work of future historians far harder.
“Letters are one of our best sources of information about the past, but these days nobody writes letters–they just call.”
“Yes, and I hate that,” I said. “Interrupting what I’m doing right now because this is the moment when it’s convenient for them to call.”
Little did we know that both of us were about to get our wish.

New Madison middle school (Badger Rock) will provide innovative outdoor education

Kirsten Joiner:

Just before the holiday break, the Madison School District approved the Badger Rock Middle School. This is big and exciting news for Madison, and I hope it sounds a new tone for education in the city.
It is not new news that Madison’s school district has been struggling to maintain its national reputation for innovation and excellence. During the past two budget cycles, the district has suffered deep funding cuts and the loss of millions of dollars. And over the past five years, families have been migrating to surrounding school districts — and to private schools.
But visionary leadership and innovative charter schools such as Badger Rock may just be the answer.
The philosophy for Badger Rock is cutting edge and simultaneously a throwback to classical education. Students learn from their environment. It is a setting and style that would make Aldo Leopold proud, and that ties local curriculum to Wisconsin’s deep-seated environmental roots.

As far as I can tell, local school budgets have grown annually for decades. Ms. Joiner is referring to reductions in the increase. Spending growth slowed this year and will likely do so in the future. The Madison School District’s “Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption for 2010-11” mentions 2010-2011 revenues (property taxes, redistributed state and federal taxes and grants) of $423,005,653, up from $412,219,577 in 2008-2009. The document’s 2009-2010 revenues are $489,487,261, which seems unusual. Enrollment has remained flat during the past few years (details here).

Using the College Rankings

Scott Jaschik

There’s a big difference between thinking the U.S. News & World Report college rankings are of dubious value — and actually refusing to try to use them to an institution’s advantage.
That’s the conclusion of the second of a series of surveys released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. A special NACAC committee has been conducting the series as part of an effort to study the impact of the U.S. News rankings. More survey results and a final report are expected from the panel next year.