Madison Superintendent Nerad calls on teachers to return to classroom

Gena Kittner:

Madison School District superintendent Dan Nerad called on teachers late Thursday to end their protest and return to the classroom.
“These job actions need to end,” Nerad said in an e-mail to families of students. “I want to assure you that we continue to examine our options to more quickly move back to normal school days.”
Madison schools are closed Friday for a third straight day. Nerad also apologized for the closures.
On Thursday, state and Madison teachers union leaders urged their members to report to the Capitol on Friday and Saturday for continued protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining proposal.
“Even though the Madison School District can only react to the group decisions of our teachers, I apologize to you for not being able to provide learning for the last three days to your students,” Nerad said.

Related: Judge denies Madison School District request to stop teacher sick-out and “Who Runs the Madison Schools?

On The Recent Madison Events

Jackie Woodruff, via email:

For the last five years Community and Schools Together (CAST) has worked hard to assure that students in Madison and around the state have access to excellent educational opportunities. With you, we have been amazed by the events at the Capitol this week. The massive outcry is justified. The radical changes contained in Governor Walker’s so-called budget repair bill will harm education and the future of our state.
The bill takes several unnecessary steps, such as limiting a union’s ability to collect dues. These steps have no relevance to budget repair, but are instead about damaging union effectiveness.
Making public education work relies on trust and partnership. Despite Wisconsin’s strong record on public education and despite all the benefits our communities receive from public education, Gov. Walker has decided to break trust and partnership with WEAC and other unions. In so doing, he has unnecessarily broken the state’s relationship with teachers. The outcry has been mobilized by the broad assaults to organized labor, but they are marked most visibly by the many teachers, parents, and students who have provided the core and bulk numbers to the strong protests.
We support the protests and are against the bill. The bill damages our ability as a community to improve our schools. The bill takes an existing, deficient educational policy regarding school funding, leaving caps and constraints on school boards to raise revenues locally, but denies collective bargaining – one of the key measures that was needed to form the original policy. We believe the net effect is extremely damaging to education – destroying a climate of trust and good will that has served as a cornerstone of the collective bargaining process. We may pay less in taxes, but teachers, classrooms and students will suffer.
Quality teachers are essential to quality education, removing their right to bargain collectively demonstrates great disrespect for their contributions and will make it more difficult to attract and retain the quality teachers our children need.
CAST, instead, welcomes reasonable and rational debate on educational funding and policy. We believe that policy should allow collective bargaining, equity, and the opportunity for community involvement to answer critical funding needs schools may have – given the likelihood that the state is unable to fund them appropriately.
CAST also calls for the safety of protesters and for those working to protect public safety at the Capitol. We ask Governor Walker and others responsible for state leadership to open debate, to seek to find rational budget policies that best represent the communities they serve. We look forward to our teachers and students returning to the classrooms, where together they create the foundation for Wisconsin’s future.
Submitted by Jackie Woodruff
Treasurer of CAST
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire — William Butler Yeats

DNC/Organizing for America playing role in Wisconsin protests

Ben Smith:

The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm — the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.
OfA, as the campaign group is known, has been criticized at times for staying out of local issues like same-sex marriage, but it’s riding to the aide of the public sector unions who hoping to persuade some Republican legislators to oppose Walker’s plan. And while Obama may have his difference with teachers unions, OfA’s engagement with the fight — and Obama’s own clear stance against Walker — mean that he’s remaining loyal to key Democratic Party allies at what is, for them, a very dangerous moment.
OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.

An Email From Russ Feingold’s New PAC

Russ Feingold’s Progressive’s United, via email:

You’ve probably seen it all over the news this week: Your neighbors across Wisconsin are standing up and speaking out against the outrageous push by Governor Walker and Republican legislators – backed by big business — to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
I went on the Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night to talk about what the protests this week in Wisconsin mean for our state and our country – and how our new grassroots organization, Progressives United, is joining the fight.

Watch the video of my appearance with Rachel Maddow now
— and get information about joining a Wisconsin rally in your neck of the woods:


The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011: Wisconsin = F

Sheldon M. Stern, Jeremy A. Stern

Presidents’ Day 2011 is right around the corner, but George Washington would be dismayed by the findings of this new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Reviewers evaluated state standards for U.S. history in grades K-12. What they found is discouraging: Twenty-eight states–a majority–deserve D or F grades for their academic standards in this key subject. The average grade across all states is a dismal D. Among the few bright spots, South Carolina earns a straight A for its standards and six other jurisdictions–Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia–garner A-minuses. (The National Assessment’s “framework” for U.S. history also fares well.) Read on to learn how your state scored.

The Wisconsin History Report Card:

Wisconsin’s U.S. history standards, for all practical purposes, do not exist. Their sole content is a list of ten eras in American and Wisconsin history, followed by a few brief and vague directives to understand vast swaths of history and broad historical concepts. Determining an actual course’s scope, sequence, and content rests entirely on the shoulders of local teachers and districts.
Goals and Organization
Wisconsin’s social studies standards are divided among five strands: geography, history, political science and citizenship, economics, and behavioral sciences. Each strand consists of a “content standard”–a one-sentence statement of the strand’s purpose–and a one- paragraph “rationale” justifying its importance. The history strand also includes short lists of ten chronological/thematic eras for Wisconsin, U.S. history, and world history. The ten listed eras of U.S. history are said to apply to grades 5-12, and those for Wisconsin history to grades 4-12.

NJ education chief: Overhaul teacher tenure, pay

Geoff Mulvihill:

New Jersey’s acting education commissioner on Wednesday unveiled a plan to overhaul the way teachers are evaluated — and the consequences of poor evaluations.
Under the concept unveiled by Christopher Cerf, many key decisions about teachers — including whether they receive lifetime tenure protections, how big their raises are and which ones are laid off when budgets are slashed — would be based largely on how much their students progress.
Cerf said making the changes are essential to improving schools in New Jersey, where the public education system by many measures is among the best in the nation — but with a serious caveat. Schools in the state’s impoverished cities generally perform poorly — and at great expense.

Seattle’s Science Curriculum Alignment

Melissa Westbrook:

Seattle Public high schools have a wide variety of really good science classes. They range from the BioTech program at Ballard (celebrating its 10th year in 2011) to Marine Science to Forensics and many others. Here is a link to the SPS page on this issue.
The district is now moving onto science curriculum alignment as part of their overall alignment process. I do understand the idea of alignment so that students who move from school to school (and it happens more than you might think) will find the same level of instruction. This is fine.
The issue is that the district wants to make 4 science classes mandatory for graduation. Those classes are physical science, biology, chemistry and physics.
What that means is that most of the other science classes, unless they get certified as a substitute for one of the four, will be electives (AP and IB science courses will also count as substitutes). With so many other subject requirements for graduation, it is unlikely that most of the elective science classes would survive. It would be a big loss.

Urban Prep Academy of Chicago celebrates perfect college acceptance


Every member in an Illinois school’s senior class has been accepted into college for the second time in the school’s two-year history.
“No other public school in the country has done this,” said Tim King, CEO and founder of Urban Prep Academy in Chicago.
The school was established to battle the low high school and college graduation rates among black men.
“We are Urban Prep men,” said Israel Wilson, a 2010 graduate and student at Morehouse College. “And at Urban Prep, we believe.”

The 5 Biggest Myths About School Vouchers

Andrew Rotherham:

One of the most contentious budget debates this year may be over something the president did not include in his 2012 spending plan — school vouchers. Now more often called “scholarships,” vouchers have been debated for decades, but support for these initiatives is on the rise.’
Let’s start with D.C. After years of discussion, Congress established a plan in 2004 to give 1,700 students in Washington a voucher of up to $7,500 to attend private and religious schools in the city as alternatives to the frequently lousy neighborhood schools. The program was controversial from the start — it was the first federal funding for vouchers in three decades. But in 2009, under intense pressure from the teachers unions, Congress and the Administration began to dismantle the program and no new students are participating today. New Speaker of the House John Boehner says restoring the program is a top priority.

Blogging teacher blogging again

Christinia Kristofic:

The Central Bucks teacher who was suspended last week for complaining about her students defends herself online and in an interview.
The Central Bucks East High School English teacher who got suspended last week for complaining about her students on a blog is at it again.
And she is making no apologies for what she said – defending herself through her blog and in an interview with this newspaper Monday.
“While I never in a million years would have guessed that this many people would ever see my words, and I didn’t even intend them to, I stand by what I wrote and I think it’s good that people are aware now,” Natalie Munroe wrote on her blog Saturday morning.

Washington, DC Mayor Gray is misguided on school vouchers

The Washington Post

IF D.C. MAYOR Vincent C. Gray isn’t careful, he could well argue the District out of $60 million in federal education dollars. Testifying before a Senate committee against the voucher program that enables low-income students to attend private schools, Mr. Gray (D) was warned that extra money for the city’s traditional and public schools was likely conditioned on congressional reauthorization of vouchers. Money alone isn’t reason for Mr. Gray to change his mind, but given that District children benefit from the program and that parents are desperate for the choice if affords, it’s unfathomable that he is opposing this worthwhile program.
Mr. Gray was among those who appeared Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as it considered legislation to extend the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, including an important provision to allow new students to be enrolled. Mr. Gray said that efforts should be focused on improving public schools, that Congress was inappropriately intruding into local affairs and that D.C. parents have enough education choices, given the number of flourishing charter schools and the public school reforms starting to take hold.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Just How Deep are the Federal Spending Cuts?

John Merline:

The headlines appear to say it all. “Painful Cuts in Obama’s $3.7 Trillion Budget.” “Budget Director Calls Steep Budget Cuts Necessary.” “Obama Budget Pivots From Stimulus to Deficit Cuts.” “Cuts to Target Working Poor, Middle Class and Students.” On and on they go.

But how deep are these cuts really? Take a closer look, and they turn out to be less than meets the eye.

Consider: President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget proposes to spend $3.48 trillion on everything except interest on the national debt. That’s a 7 percent increase over what the government spent in 2010. And keep in mind that in 2010, there was a lot of stimulus money flying out the door.

On Wisconsin

Mike Antonucci:

A lot of people have a lot to say about the union protests in Wisconsin and the governor’s plan to curtail collective bargaining for teachers. Those on the ground are best qualified to hash out the big issues, so I’ll just add three morsels to the conversation.
1) Sickouts. The Madison school district and others were closed yesterday due to teacher sickouts. There has been some debate about whether this constitutes an illegal strike, but for a protest that centers on public employee collective bargaining, it’s ironic that whatever you want to call it, yesterday’s protest was a violation of the Madison teachers’ collective bargaining agreement.
Madison teachers are allowed five personal leave days per year, but are required by contract to notify the principal at least three working days in advance. Since the teachers themselves didn’t have that much notice of the protest, they had to use sick leave. The contract spells out in exacting detail the purposes for which sick leave can be used. Union rallies are not among them.
Some may consider the protest a matter of principle or civil disobedience, That’s all well and good. But remember, the only reason to call in sick is so you still get paid for the day. So go ahead and yell. Just remember who’s paying for the microphone.
The Madison contract also contains this provision:

Therefore, MTI agrees that there will not be any strikes, work stoppages or slow downs during the life of this Agreement, i.e., for the period commencing July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2011. Upon the notification of the President and Executive Director of MTI by the President of the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District of any unauthorized concerted activity, as noted above, MTI shall notify those in the collective bargaining unit that it does not endorse such activity. Having given such notification, MTI shall be freed of all liability in relation thereto.

Whatever you call it, it was certainly an “unauthorized concerted activity.”

Much more here and here.

ACE Statement Regarding MMSD (Madison School District) Actions

Don Severson, via email:

Attached is the Active Citizens for Education statement regarding the MMSD Board of Education and Administration actions related to the Governor’s Budget Repair Bill.
Here is the link to the video of the MMSD Board meeting on 02/14/11 go to the 9:50 minute mark for Marj Passman.
Letters from the Board and Superintendent to Governor Walker are accessible from the home page of the MMSD website.

Glaringly, there is no leadership from the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education nor administration for the overall good of the community, teachers nor students as evidenced by their actions the past few days. Individual Board members and the Board as a whole, as well as the administration, are complicit in the job action taken by teachers and their union. The Board clearly stepped out of line. Beginning Monday night at its Board meeting, Board member Marj Passman took advantage of signing up for a ‘public appearance’ statement as a private citizen. She was allowed to make her statement from her seat at the Board table instead of at the public podium–totally inappropriate. Her statement explicitly gave support to the teachers who she believed were under attack from the Walker proposed budget repair bill; that she was totally in support of the teachers; and encouraged teachers to take their protests to the Capital. Can you imagine any other employer encouraging their employees to protest against them to maintain or increase their own compensation in order to help assure bankruptcy for the organization or to fire them as employees? All Board members subsequently signed a letter to Governor Walker calling his proposals “radical and punitive’ to the bargaining process. With its actions, including cancellation of classes for Wednesday, the Board has abdicated and abrogated its fiduciary responsibility for public trust. The Board threw their responsibility away as elected officials and representatives of the citizens and taxpayers for the education of the children of the District and as employers of the teachers and staff. The Board cannot lead nor govern when it abdicates its statutory responsibilities and essentially acts as one with employees and their union. Under these circumstances, it is obvious they have made the choice not to exercise their responsibilities for identifying solutions to the obvious financial challenges they face. The Board will not recognize the opportunities, nor tools, in front of them to make equitable, fair and educationally and financially sound decisions of benefit to all stakeholders in the education of our young people.

Don Severson
President, ACE

Much more, here.

Clips from Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad’s News Conference on Closed Schools & Teacher Job Action

Matthew DeFour: (watch the 15 minute conference here)

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad discusses on Wednesday Gov. Scott Walker’s bill, teacher absences, and Madison Teachers Inc.


Dave Baskerville is right on the money: Wisconsin needs two big goals:

For Wisconsin, we only need two:
Raise our state’s per capita income to 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030.
In job and business creation over the next decade, Wisconsin is often predicted to be among the lowest 10 states. When I was a kid growing up in Madison, income in Wisconsin was some 10 percent higher than in Minnesota. Minnesota caught up to us in 1967, and now the average Minnesotan makes $4,500 more than the average Wisconsinite.
Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030. (emphasis added)
Wisconsinites often believe we lose jobs because of lower wages elsewhere. In fact, it is often the abundance of skills (and subsidies and effort) that bring huge Intel research and development labs to Bangalore, Microsoft research centers to Beijing, and Advanced Micro Devices chip factories to Dresden.

Grow the economy (tax base) and significantly improve our schools….

Which Teachers Should be Let Go First?

Linda Thomas:

If teacher layoffs are needed as school districts around the state balance budgets, who should go first?
Under the current system, teachers with the most seniority are protected from cuts. Some lawmakers are trying to change that with a bill that would allow districts to cut those who aren’t effective, regardless of how long they’ve been on the job. Teachers “with a track record of closing the achievement gap” would be safe.
Sonya Langford, a seventh grade teacher in the University Place School District, wrote an interesting “letter to the editor” for the Tacoma News Tribune . She says the proposed House legislation would “send our public schools back years.”

Barcode-to-Bibliography App Makes College Ridiculously Easy

David Zax:

Sometimes a technology comes along that is so great it seems almost unjust to former generations. Aviation. The personal computer. The polio vaccine.
One gets the same feeling today when considering a new app out for iPhone and Android. Quick Cite, a 99-cent app, automates the task of putting together a bibliography–that arduous list of books, articles, and other sources consulted that goes at the end of a master’s thesis of PhD dissertation. The first thought you have is, “How much time scholars will henceforth save!” The next thought you have is, “Anyone who got a PhD before the year 2011 was a poor sucker.”
The app works by using the smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode on the back of a book. Then it emails you a citation formatted to fit one of four common bibliographic styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, or IEEE. The app was one of seven developed over seven sleepless days by seven undergraduates at the University of Waterloo. Thus they called the week-long experiment in coding creativity and class-cutting “7Cubed,” and even made a little video about it.

Did Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber raid schools for human services?

Dan Lucas:

Money for schools is always a hot topic, even more so as the Legislature starts tackling the budget for 2011-13. Earlier this month, Gov. John Kitzhaber released his proposal, including $5.558 billion for K-12 schools. That figure, charges former Oregon House candidate Dan Lucas in an online post, sacrifices schools for the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority.
“Governor’s proposed budget raids K-12 school funds to grow DHS again” is the title of the piece, posted on the conservative-minded Oregon Catalyst. Lucas explains that Kitzhaber not only takes $225 million out of the State School Fund but that he gives the money to human services, which is growing by $333 million.
Since the budget is set anew every two years, it’s hard to trace one agency’s growth to the demise of another. But we wanted to know if Lucas’s numbers were accurate. Is K-12 losing money from the previous two-year period? Is social services growing? How much is one to blame for the other?

Colorado school district has wealth, success — and an eye on vouchers

Nicholas Riccardi:

Douglas County, a swath of subdivisions just south of here that is one of the nation’s wealthiest, is something of a public school paradise.
The K-12 district, with 60,000 students, boasts high test scores and a strong graduation rate. Surveys show that 90% of its parents are satisfied with their children’s schools.
That makes the Douglas County School District an unlikely frontier in the latest battle over school vouchers.
But a new, conservative school board is exploring a voucher system to give parents — regardless of income — taxpayer money to pay for their children to attend private schools that agree to abide by district regulations. If it’s implemented, parents could receive more than $4,000 per child.
The proposal’s supporters argue that competition can only improve already-high-performing schools.

Related: A School Board Thinks Differently About Delivering Education, and spends less.
Colorado’s Douglas County School District spends $8512.74 per student ($476,977,336 for 56,031 students in 2009). Madison spent $15,241 per student in 2009, a whopping $6,728.26, 79% more than the “wealthy Denver suburbs”.

Iowa Governor Unveils New Preschool Plan

Nina Earnest:

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad unveiled on Tuesday his new preschool program designed to award scholarships to low-income families, setting aside $43.6 million in state appropriations.
“By providing all Iowa children the opportunity to attend preschool, we will reduce the need for special-education services and for children to repeat grades,” Branstad said in a press release.
The Iowa Preschool Scholarship eliminates universal preschool for 4-year-olds, but it aims to provide $3,000 scholarships to eligible 4-year-olds who attend at least 10 hours of preschool a week beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
Under the annual scholarship, families pay costs on a sliding scale depending on federal poverty guidelines up to 300 percent poverty. The plan means higher income families to pay full tuition.

Related: Madison’s planned 4K program.

The US Department of Education Has Failed

Lindsay Burke:

The new makeup of the House of Representatives has brought with it new leadership on the House Education and Workforce Committee, and fresh ideas about education policy. Chairman John Kline (R-MN), at the helm of the committee that will be charged with overseeing a possible reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) this year, is already asking hard questions through a series of committee hearings on the effects of ever-growing federal involvement in education.
Last Thursday, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a full committee hearing to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s classrooms. The hearing included testimony from Ted Mitchell, CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund; Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom; Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana superintendent of public instruction; and Lisa Graham Keegan, founder and president of the Education Breakthrough Network.
The hearing comes as national policymakers consider a possible reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the implications for local schools. Each of the expert witnesses’ testimonies on the subject favored empowering those closer to the student. In his testimony, Bennett urged the federal government to get out of the way of states so that state and local leaders can more effectively meet student needs:

School Board Votes For Independent Review Of Budget Per Union’s Request

Marty Kasper:

Tensions were high and the hallways packed for a special meeting of the Rockford School Board on proposed budget cuts to close schools, eliminate programs and layoff more than 300 employees.
Earlier this week the Rockford Education Association questioned whether those cuts need to happen at all, and now they’re offering to pay fifty grand for an independent review.
Today, the board was split but approved a motion 4-3 to support the union’s request
“The main reason is because it is projections, it is projections, legitimate projections based on trends, and I don’t see the point to second guessing that,” said School Board Member Jeanne Westholder.
“I think it is worth while to take a look, either to put it to rest or to be sure that we have the accurate figures to vote on,” said School Board Member Alice Sautargis.
The district’s finance team says they need to cut 50- million dollars, while the union believes it’s more like 15- million.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal: How It’s Spent

Shan Carter & Amanda Knox:. Sam Dillon & Tamar Lewin and Valerie Strauss have more on the President’s proposed $3,700,000,000,000 budget.
Terrence Keeley:

President Barack Obama has unveiled a hugely disappointing budget, cutting only a few percentage points from the $100,000bn in projected US federal deficits over the remainder of this century. Why was it such a dud? Because Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – the entitlement programmes that will comprise more than 60 per cent of all spending just a decade from now – were left untouched.
Deck chairs are being rearranged on the Titanic. American politicians promise their constituents an ever-expanding social safety net, but with no intention of paying for it. Most experts know entitlement reform is essential, but few political leaders dare to lead – because doing so would be self-immolating.
Mr Obama’s budget should have proposed much more significant cuts, but ultimately it is the US Congress that is responsible for tax and spending legislation. Mr Obama’s budget is therefore aspirational, but unbinding. In the vernacular – he proposes, Congress disposes.
To put this failure right America’s leaders must begin to make a strong moral case for entitlement reform. And to develop this argument they should turn first to an unlikely source of policy advice: The Vatican.

Andrew Sullivan:

The logic behind president Obama’s budget has one extremely sensible feature: it distinguishes between spending that simply adds to consumption, and spending that really does mean investment. His analogy over the weekend – that a family cutting a budget would rather not cut money for the kids’ education – is a sound one. We do need more infrastructure, roads and broadband, non-carbon energy and basic science research, and some of that is something only government can do. In that sense, discretionary spending could be among the most important things government could do to help Americans create wealth themselves. And yet this is the only spending Obama wants to cut.
But the core challenge of this time is not the cost of discretionary spending. Obama knows this; everyone knows this. The crisis is the cost of future entitlements and defense, about which Obama proposes nothing. Yes, there’s some blather. But Obama will not risk in any way any vulnerability on taxes to his right or entitlement spending to his left. He convened a deficit commission in order to throw it in the trash. If I were Alan Simpson or Erskine Bowles, I’d feel duped. And they were duped. All of us who took Obama’s pitch as fiscally responsible were duped.

Origami finds new dimensions at MIT

Joseph Khan:

“We’re trying to get people to understand it’s not about paper boats and cranes.”
So said Yanping Chen, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore, as he expertly folded and refolded a 6-inch square piece of paper. Six minutes later, he set down in front of him — what’s this? — a paper crane. Only it did not resemble any crane a grade-schooler might make from a beginner’s origami primer.
Chen’s had five tiny heads and looked ready to fly away at any moment. But then he’s no origami novice, either. Chen arrived at MIT with a sophisticated knowledge of origami design, quickly connecting with like-minded enthusiasts through OrigaMIT, a club for serious paper folders who know how to push the envelope, not just turn one into a paper yacht.

More on the Seattle School District Construction Management Audit

Melissa Westbrook:

I, along with other citizens, had written to the State Auditor several years back, complaining about the BEX capital building program. When you write to the Auditor, they log your letter and make sure you get a follow-up (I know that seems odd to have a public entity actually listen and keep track of your concerns but that’s just how the SAO rolls.)
The letter said some points made in the audit like:

Google, China, and Chinese College Students – Part III

Brian Glucroft:

A speech which was seen by many in the US as a strong step in the right direction or even as not strong enough was in fact a gift to the Chinese government.
Before Hillary Clinton’s speech, for many Chinese students the conflict was between Google and the Chinese government. After the speech, it was Google / US government vs the Chinese government – US interests vs Chinese interests. Concerns this might be the case were earlier expressed on this site here and here.
An analysis of Clinton’s words misses the point. Most of the students didn’t know them. All that mattered to the students was that the US government had aligned itself with Google and now “Google” & “US government” were synonymous. The existence of such a close partnership was not at all a stretch for Chinese students to believe since they were already very accustomed to a blurry line, if any, between government and business in their own country – often associated with corruption.

Young people need hope to thrive in school, beyond

Bruce Fuller:

Rising stock prices signal upbeat expectations – echoed by employers and consumers – that the economy is finally bouncing back, Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke says.
California’s young people aren’t so sure.
Three in 5 of them, age 16 to 22, now express sharp worries about finding a job or working long hours to pay for college, according to an eye-opening poll out last week. No civilization thrives when the next generation lacks optimism and chutzpah.

Colorado “Governor Hickenlooper’s Class Solidarity”

David Sirota

The Grand Junction Sentinel headline today says it all: “Hickenlooper Proposes Huge Budget Cuts.” Yes, while Colorado’s new governor campaigned on promises of being an education governor, he has just proposed historically massive cuts to Colorado’s already comparatively underfunded public schools. If that wasn’t enough, he had the nerve to pretend he isn’t choosing this path for his state, telling reporters “There’s nothing I’ve ever grappled with as long and hard as” education cuts.
Evidently, we should all shed tears for the allegedly remorseful guv… except, we shouldn’t. Because he’s as much making this choice as circumstances are dictating it.
Yes, it’s true – the new governor must propose a balanced budget and the legislature cannot raise revenues in the short-term. Thus, the education cuts. However, it is also true that this governor has been running around Colorado insisting he cares about education while simultaneously saying he opposes efforts to raise public revenues through any changes to Colorado’s hideously regressive tax code.

Role for Teachers Is Seen in Solving Schools’ Crises

Sam Dillon:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, convening a two-day labor-management conference here on Tuesday, argued that teachers’ unions can help solve many of the challenges facing public schools.
But as the conference opened, that view was under challenge in a number of state capitals.
Republicans in several states have proposed legislation in recent weeks that would bar teachers’ unions from all policy discussions, except when the time comes to negotiate compensation. In Tennessee and Wisconsin, Republicans have proposed stripping teachers’ unions of collective bargaining rights altogether.
Education historians said the unions were facing the harshest political climate since states began extending legal bargaining rights to schoolteachers decades ago.
The conference, convened by the Department of Education, drew school authorities and teachers’ union leaders from 150 districts across the nation to Denver to discuss ways of working together. To participate, each district’s superintendent, school board president and teachers’ union leader had to sign a pledge to collaborate in good faith to raise student achievement.

Rhee’s five big missteps

Jay Matthews

Richard Whitmire’s deft and revealing book about former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee chronicles a difficult time in the history of the city’s schools, when good people fought hard against one another because of sharply contrasting views on how to help our children.
The book is “The Bee Eater,” the title a reference to a moment when Rhee as a young teacher gained respect from her unruly Baltimore students by killing and swallowing a wayward insect flying around her classroom. The point was that this young woman had a taste for aggressive, if sometimes unappetizing, action.
The question of Rhee – her history, her iron confidence, her successes and failures – is still a hot topic. I got twice the usual page views on my blog last week just by raising the issue of her early teaching results. In this book, Rhee fans like me will enjoy remembering her unexpected success in bringing energy and sanity to the District’s central office, closing 23 underused schools and getting an innovative new teachers contract. Her critics will nod as they read of her needlessly alienating city officials and good teachers and carelessly reawakening the race issue. Whitmire makes his admiration for Rhee clear but seems as baffled by some of her decisions as many of her friends were.

Union leader calls for Madison schools to close during planned sickout

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District is preparing for “excessive” teacher absences Wednesday, and a teacher union leader urged school be closed because few teachers are expected to show up for work.
School officials announcement Tuesday in a letter to parents they expected many teachers to call in sick Wednesday.
The letter was distributed the same day nearly 800 Madison East High School students — half the school — walked out to participate in a demonstration at the state Capitol protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit public employee bargaining power.
Students at West, Memorial and at other schools around the state — from Shullsburg to Sheboygan — also participated in demonstrations during school hours.
As of Tuesday evening, Superintendent Dan Nerad said a higher-than-usual number of teachers had called in sick for Wednesday, though he declined to disclose exact numbers. He said the district would monitor the expected absences overnight before deciding whether to cancel school.

Jessica Vanegeren and Susan Troller have more.

Crisis Mode Persists for Detroit Schools

Matthew Dolan:

Two years after his appointment as emergency financial manager for the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb has outsourced many services, unearthed corruption and closed a number of schools.
Yet the district’s mammoth deficit has continued to grow during amid the state’s downturn and growing pension and debt obligations, and the city’s schools are still grappling with longstanding problems, including political battles involving the state, school board and teachers’ unions and a long-term exodus by students.
With weeks left in his term, Mr. Bobb has put forth some radical ideas to overhaul the system. One would split the district into two entities to help retire its debt, along the lines of the government-engineered bankruptcy of General Motors. Another would use money from a national tobacco settlement to inject $400 million into the Detroit schools and some 40 other deficit-ridden Michigan districts. A third is modeled on post-Katrina New Orleans, where a shrunken district was remade with mostly charter schools.

On Rhode Island Charter School Expansion

The Brown Daily Herald:

Governor Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 elicited concern from charter school supporters when he announced last month that he would take a “thoughtful pause” before expanding the state’s charter schools. The governor made waves again earlier this month when he shook up the state’s Board of Regents, which helps oversee Rhode Island’s public schools. Given the importance of public education, we took a pause of our own to consider these changes.
Former state House Majority Leader George Caruolo will take over the chairmanship of the Board of Regents from former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders Jr. ’71. Flanders, along with several other board members Chafee replaced, supports Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. Teachers’ unions are often at odds with Gist, especially over her support for charter schools, and how well Chafee will work out his disagreements with the commissioner is a looming question. Caruolo is known as an effective politician. We hope he puts his skill to use, shaping conflicts between Chafee and Gist into compromised agreements to take action, not discord-fueled gridlock.

Real reform is the only way to improve Rochester schools

Peter Murphy:

In his recent “State of our Schools” presentation, the Rochester schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard showed that three years into his tenure, Rochester’s schools have had slow, but measureable progress in elementary and middle school achievement levels, fewer suspensions and more students graduating high school.
Still, Rochester continues to struggle with many challenges common for large urban communities in the state and throughout the country – challenges that will take much longer than three years to significantly improve.
While Rochester’s school superintendents come and go, one district fixture remains: Adam Urbanski, the long-time head of the Rochester Teachers Association. He recently wrote in this newspaper that Rochester schools are “worse off” in the last three years, a period which happens to coincide with the Brizard’s tenure.

Rochester, NY 2011 State of the Schools PDF Presentation and Scorecard Strategy Map. Rochester’s 2010-2011 budget is $694,515,866 for 32,000 students. $21,703.62 per student. View Rochester’s 2010-2011 budget presentation document here.
Related: The 2011 State of the Madison School District reports $379,058,945 in planned 2010-2011 spending for 24,471 students. Madison’s per student spending this year is $15,490.13.

Big moment for Chicago schools

Chicago Tribune:

Chicago’s school reform movement faces one of the most important moments in its too-short history. Don’t underestimate what’s happening right now. The future of a school system with 415,000 children is at stake.
Here’s why:
The most powerful and persistent champion of Chicago school reform, Mayor Richard Daley, will leave office in May.
No one knows who will be leading the Chicago Public Schools in a few months. The quite capable interim CEO, Terry Mazany, and chief education officer, Charles Payne, are on a short-term lease. The next mayor will choose the next CEO. No major candidate for mayor has identified who would get the job in his or her administration.

Green Bay school superintendent proposals sought

Patti Zarling:

The Green Bay School Board agreed Monday to send requests to about 17 search companies — including the one used to recruit Superintendent Greg Maass — for proposals to guide its efforts to find a new school leader.
Maass announced last week he will leave his Green Bay post at the end of June. He plans to accept a similar position in Marblehead, Mass., pending background checks and contract negotiations. He’s been in Green Bay for three years.
Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the recruitment company that the Green Bay board hired last time to conduct its search, said it would waive its consulting fee because Maass is leaving within five years, School Board president Jean Marsch said. The district paid the firm $22,000 and covered another $12,500 or so in additional expenses, for things such as advertising, travel and lodging, in the search for Maass, she said. The district still would be on the hook for the additional costs.
But members said they’d still like to hear what other search firms have to offer.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad previous position was in Green Bay.

Open High Blazing New Path

Tom Vander Ark:

Imagine “one-on-one tutoring for every student in every subject” and you get a picture of Open High School, a virtual charter school serving 250 Utah students in ninth and tenth grades, expanding to up to 1500 students 9-12 by 2014.
Aptly named, the Open High School of Utah Trailblazers are forging new paths in multiple arenas,s but what sets them apart is their commitment to use open education resources (OER) where possible and to share what they develop under Creative Commons licenses.
The curriculum is hosted on MoodleRooms learning management system (but they miss their BrainHoney gradebook).

Nerad gets one-year extension as Madison schools superintendent

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board approved a one-year extension of Superintendent Dan Nerad’s contract on a 5-2 vote Monday.
Board members Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira voted against the extension. Maya Cole, Beth Moss, Ed Hughes, Marj Passman and James Howard voted to extend the contract through June 30, 2013.
Only Mathiak and Hughes spoke during the meeting. The board has been discussing Nerad’s contract in multiple closed-door meetings.
Mathiak didn’t address why she voted against the extension but said that she had reviewed board minutes, e-mails, notes of conversations and newspaper articles as she completed an evaluation that she received in December.

Print me a Stradivarius: How a new manufacturing technology will change the world

The Economist:

THE industrial revolution of the late 18th century made possible the mass production of goods, thereby creating economies of scale which changed the economy–and society–in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time. Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which does the opposite. Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.
It works like this. First you call up a blueprint on your computer screen and tinker with its shape and colour where necessary. Then you press print. A machine nearby whirrs into life and builds up the object gradually, either by depositing material from a nozzle, or by selectively solidifying a thin layer of plastic or metal dust using tiny drops of glue or a tightly focused beam. Products are thus built up by progressively adding material, one layer at a time: hence the technology’s other name, additive manufacturing. Eventually the object in question–a spare part for your car, a lampshade, a violin–pops out. The beauty of the technology is that it does not need to happen in a factory. Small items can be made by a machine like a desktop printer, in the corner of an office, a shop or even a house; big items–bicycle frames, panels for cars, aircraft parts–need a larger machine, and a bit more space.

Q&A with Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad

Matthew DeFour:

WSJ: What is Madison’s biggest challenge?
DN: Unless we get more of our kids to standards, children will not remain strong and the community will not remain strong. Our vision has to be about advancing learning for all kids while we work to address these very notable achievement gaps for certain groups of kids. It’s not an either-or. It’s not a zero sum. That’s why I believe we can be about a conversation about achievement gaps and we can be about a conversation about how we can better serve talented-and-gifted students.
WSJ: Is that the central tension?
DN: That’s the manifestation. If it’s about human capital development, it has to be about all kids moving forward, but there’s real constraints around that because we do in fact make budget decisions year by year and people feel disaffected by those budget decisions. There’s real concern, and I’m right in line with that concern, that we aren’t doing enough to face these achievement gaps in an aggressive enough way. (Other) people feel very strongly that we’re not doing enough to advance the needs of our advanced learners.
WSJ: Summarize your first 2½ years in Madison.
DN: We immediately jumped into a referendum discussion. The need for that was identified prior to my coming. We spent a considerable amount of time in that first year focused on those issues. From there I worked with the board on some board reorganization. And then it moved into comprehensive strategic planning with our community. From there we did the reorganization of the administration. Creating a teacher and a parent council was part of our thinking about how we do our work differently. And then we had a major focus needed on this current year’s budget. That was a very difficult conversation. We were looking at this huge gap and this huge amount of money. There has been one major thing after another. Take one, it’s significant. Take them all, it’s been very significant. And while I’ve been here 30 months, I’m still learning the culture of this organization and of this community. I’ve tried to be sensitive to the culture and there’s been some tension about how we’ve done our work and has it been sensitive enough to the culture. None of that is lost on me.

Much more on Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, here.
The Madison School Board votes on the Superintendent’s contract tonight.

Khan Academy Education Videos Arrive in the Bittorrent App Studio

Bittorrent Blog:

Imagine an organization with one mission – to provide a world-class education, for free, to anyone, anywhere. Now imagine having instant access to all that knowledge directly in your BitTorrent or uTorrent client.
Today we launched a brand-new app in collaboration with Khan Academy, a renowned not-for-profit organization fulfilling the mission of global education through video classes. We are extremely honored to support their vision.
The Khan Academy exemplifies the type of content creators for whom we built the App Studio – independent artists looking to build relationships with our global community of over 100 million users. With the Khan Academy, we have the added bonus of helping to promote a worthy cause through technology innovation.

Beating ban stirs debate in S. Korean schools

Jung Ha-Won:

With the new school year starting in March, high school teacher Jennifer Chung is worried about coping without her longtime classroom companion — a hickory stick for smacking misbehaving students.
“I don’t know if I can survive the jungle of 40 restless boys in each class, let alone keeping them quiet with no means to punish them,” said the 36-year-old maths teacher in Gyeonggi province surrounding Seoul.
Education authorities in Seoul, the country’s largest school district with 1.36 million pre-college students, last November banned corporal punishment.
Gyeonggi and one other province followed suit, with the new rule to take effect there in March.

The Tragedy of Elgin Cook & Other Milwaukee Public Schools’ Black Athletes

The Milwaukee Drum:

I’m certain many of you read (or heard) about Milwaukee Hamilton star basketball player Elgin Cook’s sudden departure from the team. I’m also certain you heard his mother has taken him out of state fearing for her son’s life due to his (alleged) role in what led to the Milwaukee King basketball player being shot. If not, click here to read the story on jsonline.
My comments aren’t going to address the drama Cook and the other boy got themselves caught up in. I’m focused on a tragedy that continues to occur with the Black Student-Athlete over and over in Milwaukee Public Schools. I’m sick and tired of reading and hearing about OUR BEST (and average) student-athletes being academically ineligible before, during and after the sports season. What the hell is going on when kids who are being offered scholarships to play in college cannot maintain a simple 2.0 gpa?
Let’s look at Cook for a moment. In the jsonline article, it mentions that he missed the first 3 games of this season due to being academically ineligible. Yet, in October he signed a letter of intent to accept a scholarship to play basketball at Iowa State. How is this possible? It’s one thing for OUR kids to be lacking the grades and preparation for higher learning, but it is another thing when large colleges and universities know they aren’t ready but bring them in anyway.

Closing the Achievement Gap Without Widening a Racial One

Michael Winerip:

There is no more pressing topic in education today than closing the achievement gap, and there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.
Although he is a Harvard professor based in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Ferguson, 60, spends lots of time flying around the country visiting racially mixed public high schools. Part of what he does is academic, measuring the causes of the gap by annually surveying the performance, behaviors and attitudes of up to 100,000 students. And part is serving as a de facto educational social worker, meeting with students, faculty members and parents to explain what steps their schools can take to narrow the gap.
The gap is about race, of course, and it inevitably inflames passions. But there is something about Dr. Ferguson’s bearing — he is both big (6-foot-3) and soft-spoken — that gets people to listen.
Morton Sherman, the Alexandria school superintendent, watched him defuse the anger at a meeting of 300 people. “He talks about these things in a professorial way, a kind way,” Dr. Sherman said. “It’s not about him. He doesn’t try to be a rock star, although he is a rock star in this field.”

Parables teach lessons of Milwaukee Public Schools’ struggles

Alan Borsuk:

Three parables for Wisconsin’s educational times:
• No. 1. Once there was an enormous omelet, as big as a city, full of all sorts of stuff. Some of it was great. A lot of it was lousy. Almost nobody liked the omelet. “We can make it better by unscrambling it,” some people said. But you can’t unscramble an omelet. So everyone who tried to do that moved on to other things.
• No. 2. Once there were a bunch of big kids playing baseball. A little kid – well, he used to be a big kid, but things changed somehow – ran up and said he wanted to get in the game. He began throwing rocks at a tree to show how good he could pitch. The big kids said that was nice. Actually, they hoped the little kid would go away.
• No. 3. Once there were children who stood each day at the busiest corner in the city. Everyone could see they were hungry. Drivers who went by said the kids ought to be fed. Politicians said the kids ought to be fed. Everyone said the kids ought to be fed. The end.
OK, so they’re not very entertaining parables. Sorry. I’m not even sure how well they fit what’s going on. In fact, I really hope there’s a much better ending to the third one. The history of the last couple decades around here supports the pessimistic storyline that leads to nothing. But this is a new day. Maybe something good will occur.
Which brings me to the proposal to break up Milwaukee Public Schools into a set of smaller districts.

School-stimulus benefit may be short-lived

Michele McNeil:

In the two years since Congress made the federal government’s largest one-time investment in public schools, change has rippled through classrooms from coast to coast, as districts have expanded school days, improved teacher training, and tried to tie teacher evaluations to student performance.
But the stimulus package’s long-term impact on public education is far from certain and may already be flagging, according to a three-month investigation by 36 news organizations working in collaboration with the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news outlet, and the Education Writers Association. Indeed, the research found that many of the resulting policy changes are already endangered by political squabbles and the massive budget shortfalls still facing recession-battered state and local governments.
“We have a long way to go,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, adding that his goal is for the United States to lead the world in academic achievement.

Wisconsin Teachers Union plan too late to help schools

Chris Rickert:

Under its “performance pay” proposal, teachers would get more for staffing hard-to-staff schools and filling hard-to-fill positions. Pay would also be related to regular employee evaluations — if in some as-yet-undefined, possibly very weak way. WEAC president Mary Bell declined to specify how closely student test scores should track with evaluations and thus pay hikes, for instance.
Protecting pay is, of course, the most important of the union’s objectives in its reform plan. But pay is a function of how much money is available, and while WEAC is advocating paying better teachers better salaries, it’s not in favor of cutting pay for teachers who aren’t so good. This is about a bigger education pie, in other words, not about the same pie cut into different-sized pieces.
Pay is also a function of who’s handing out the raises, and WEAC is doing what it can to ensure those partly or mostly responsible for handing out the raises are as sympathetic as possible.
To wit, it would like to see the majority of the members on a teacher’s evaluation panel be teachers themselves — thus paving the way, it seems to me, for a lot of good reviews.
“It’s an extremely difficult task,” Bell said of evaluating one of your peers, but one that can work because “people care so deeply about the quality of the profession.”

Related: 2010 Fall Election – WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators in a Losing Cause.

Texas Governor Perry’s call for $10,000 bachelor’s degrees stumps educators

Ralph K.M. Haurwitz:

When Gov. Rick Perry challenged the state’s public institutions of higher learning this week to develop bachelor’s degree programs costing no more than $10,000, including textbooks, Mike McKinney was stumped.
“My answer is I have no idea how,” McKinney, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, told the Senate Finance Committee. “I’m not going to say that it can’t be done.”
Tuition, fees and books for four years average $31,696 at public universities in Texas, according to the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College is the cheapest, at $17,532.
The governor’s call for low-cost degrees comes as legislative budget writers and the governor himself have proposed deep cuts in higher education funding — cuts that would put pressure on governing boards to raise tuition, not lower it.
But officials of some university systems — whose governing boards are fully populated by Perry appointees — nevertheless struck an upbeat tone, or at least a neutral one. As McKinney, a former Perry chief of staff, put it: “If it can be figured out, we’ve got the faculty that can figure it out.”
A spokesman for the University of Texas System said, “We look forward to reviewing details of the governor’s proposal.”

This is exactly the kind of thinking we need: fresh approaches toward all aspects of education.

Hip Hop Studies at Madison West High School

The Wisconsin State Journal, via several kind reader emails:

Students in a new Hip Hop Studies class at West finished a unit on hip-hop history by writing verses. A few excerpts:
“‘Why do you study hip-hop?
Isn’t it just rappers that never ever stop?’
That right there’s the problem,
People think it’s just angry pop.
And even though they don’t know
They go and talk about the videos
And go and slam it on their shows

One reader notes: “Is this the fabulous programming that we may lose if West (gasp) has real honors classes? “.
Much more, here.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Bye, bye easy money

Tim Harford:

Don’t fixate on the financial crisis. Our economic problems have been far longer in the making, and would have caught up with us sooner or later anyway.
That is one of the conclusions I take away from two striking essays: “The Great Divergence”, published in Slate last September by the journalist Timothy Noah; and The Great Stagnation, just published as a short e-book by the economics professor and blogger Tyler Cowen.
The two essays describe two disturbing trends that, while logically separable, seem to be related. Noah discusses a sharp increase in income inequality in the US since the early 1970s. After analysing many explanations, he concludes that the chief culprits are a tolerance for super-high salaries and bonuses on Wall Street and in the boardroom, and a failure of the US education system. Blaming China is considered, but largely dismissed.
Cowen begins with the fact that median family income in the US has barely increased, again since the early 1970s. Its growth rate has been about 0.5 per cent a year after inflation. The median family income is the income of the family in the middle of the income distribution. It is a useful measure precisely because it ignores the action at the top: if a Connecticut hedge fund manager made an extra $11bn in a year, this would raise the mean income of the US’s 110 million-ish households by $100 each. It wouldn’t alter the median income by a cent

California Chinese program prompts school board recall

Jacob Adelman:

Four members of a suburban school board are being targeted in a recall effort over their support for a middle-school language program funded by the Chinese government, one of the members said Friday.
Hacienda La Puente Unified School Board President Jay Chen said he and the three other members of the five-member panel were being served with notices of intent to circulate recall petitions, each signed by 12 residents of Hacienda Heights in east Los Angeles County.
Chen, along with board members Norman Hsu, Joseph Chang and Anita Perez, voted last year to approve the agreement with China’s international language-teaching agency to cooperate on the so-called Confucius Classroom Mandarin program.

Number of $100,000 retirees skyrocket in California teacher pension system

Brian Joseph:

More proof that pension costs are spiraling out of control: The number of retirees earning $100,000 or more from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has increased dramatically since 2009, according to new data obtained by the nonprofit California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.
For those of you not familiar with the foundation, it’s one of the leading advocates for pension reform in California. On its website, the foundation publishes searchable databases of retirees earning $100,000 or more from a couple of state pension systems, including CalSTRS, the pension system for retired California teachers.
The foundation initially obtained the data for its “CalSTRS $100,000 pension club” database in May 2009. Back then there were 3,010 retirees earning $100,000 or more annually from CalSTRS. Earlier this month, the foundation obtained updated data from CalSTRS and the number has grown to 5,308 (5,309 if you count one woman earning $99,998.88).
That’s a 76 percent increase. In less than two years.

Playground politics: Devolving power over schools while tightening purse strings requires guile

The Economist:

THE success of the government’s bid to create new “free schools”–funded by the state, but able to set conditions for staff, pick and choose from the national curriculum, and so on–rests on its ability to wrest power from local authorities and give it to community groups. The policy is a key element of David Cameron’s “Big Society”, but suffers from the same difficulty as the overall project: pushing through devolution in a time of austerity is tricky.
The aim of free schools, which are based on American and Swedish models, is to give parents more choice and promote competition. New schools can be established by parents, teachers, charities, religious outfits, universities, private schools and not-for-profit groups. They will be given public funds based on how many pupils enroll, with those from poor families attracting a premium.

School Board Dysfunction

Dr. Joe Harrop:

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” – Mark Twain in Pudd’nhead Wilson
I was somewhat dismayed by the article in last Saturday’s Daily News about the sudden thud in the bargaining process between the Red Bluff Union Elementary School Board and the teachers’ union. It was a year ago last August when I congratulated the District and the teachers’ union on the agreements they made to stave off fiscal problems for the 2009-2010 school year. Based on the article in the Daily News things are not so harmonious at this point. I have faith that in a community like ours things will work their way out, but it is difficult to tell given the limited statements made by the School Board representative and statements about filing a grievance or an unfair labor practice charge.
Saturday’s article was followed up by coverage of the School Board meeting on February 8; it was equally dismaying.

Tiered Diplomas Abandoned in Rhode Island

Susan Moffitt:

Advocates for low-income, minority students and students with special needs, including the Rhode Island Disability Law Center and The Autism Project of Rhode Island scored a major victory in Providence last week when Education Commissioner Deborah Gist announced she would scrap a plan for a three-tiered high school diploma system tied to standardized test scores.
The plan called for students with high scores to receive an “Honors” diploma, those with average scores to earn a “Regents” diploma, and ones who score “partially proficient” to be granted a basic Rhode Island diploma. Children who fail the test would have the opportunity to take it again. If they fail a second time, but other requirements are achieved, they could still graduate with a certificate.
Opponents claimed the proposal created a state-sanctioned caste system that would stigmatize struggling students and haunt them when seeking future employment or college admission. Based on recent test scores, they countered that almost all students who were poor, minorities, had disabilities, or were learning English would get the lowest tier diploma, if they even got one at all.

Gov. John Kitzhaber plans a powerful Oregon education board, connecting school funding to performance

Kimberly Melton:

Gov. John Kitzhaber aims to fix Oregon’s broken school funding system by consolidating power and money into a single board for all levels of education — a board that he would chair.
What youths need, he says, is a system that allows them to improve at their own pace, with funding that is targeted at schools and programs that are getting results.
On Friday, the governor ordered the creation of an investment team to design the framework for an Oregon Education Investment Board that would oversee education for children from birth through college. He will name the 12 members of the team next week.

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Budget

Urban Leage of Greater Madison:

The Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) is submitting this budget narrative to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education as a companion to its line‐item budget for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (Madison Prep). The budget was prepared in partnership with MMSD’s Business Services office. The narrative provides context for the line items presented in the budget.
Madison Prep’s budget was prepared by a team that included Kaleem Caire, President & CEO of ULGM; Tami Holmquist, Business Manager at Edgewood High School; Laura DeRoche‐Perez, ULGM Charter School Development Consultant; and Jim Horn, ULGM Director of Finance. Representative of ULGM and MMSD met weekly during the development of the Madison Prep budget. These meetings included including Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services and Donna Williams, Director of Budget & Planning. The budget was also informed by ULGM’s charter school design teams and was structured in the same manner as start‐up, non‐instrumentality public charter school budgets submitted to the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board in Washington, DC. DCPCSB is widely regarded as one of the most effective authorizers of charter schools in the nation.
In addition, Madison Prep’s Facilities Design Team is led by Dennis Haefer, Vice President of Commercial Banking with Johnson Bank and Darren Noak, President of Commercial Building with Tri‐North Builders. Mr. Noak is also the Treasurer of ULGM’s Board of Directors. This team is responsible for identifying Madison Prep’s school site and planning for related construction, renovation and financing needs.
Budget Highlights
A. Cost of Education
In 2008‐09, the Madison Metropolitan School District received $14,432 in revenue per student from a combination of local, federal and state government and local property taxes. The largest portion of revenue came from property taxes, $9,049 (62.7%), followed by $3,364 in state aid (23.3%), $1,260 in federal aid (8.7%) and $759 in other local revenue (5.3%). That same year, MMSD spent $13,881 per student on educational, transportation, facility and food service costs for 25,011 students for a total of $347,177,691 in spending.
In 2010‐11, MMSD’s Board of Education is operating with an amended budget of $360,131,948, a decrease of $10,155,522 (‐2.74%) from 2009‐10. MMSD projects spending $323,536,051 in its general education fund, $10,069,701 on food service and $8,598,118 on debt service for a total of $342,203,870. Considering the total of only these three spending categories, and dividing the total by the official 2010‐11 enrollment count of 24,471 students, MMSD projects to spend $13,984 per student.3 This is the amount per pupil that ULGM used as a baseline for considering what Madison Prep’s baseline per pupil revenue should be in its budget for SY2011‐12. ULGM then determined the possibility of additional cutbacks in MMSD revenue for SY2011‐12 and reduced its base per pupil revenue projection to $13,600 per student. It then added a 1% increase to it’s per pupil base spending amount for each academic year through SY2016‐17.
ULGM recognizes that per pupil funding is an average of total costs to educate 24,471 children enrolled in MMSD schools, and that distinctions are not made between the costs of running elementary, middle and high schools. ULGM also understands that the operating costs between all three levels of schooling are different. Middle schools costs more to operate than elementary schools and high schools costs more than middle schools.
Reviewing expense projections for middle and high schools in MMSD’s SY2010‐11 Amended Preliminary Budget, ULGM decided to weight per pupil spending in middle school at 1.03% and 1.16% in high school. Thus, in SY2012‐13 when Madison Prep opens, ULGM projects a need to spend $14,148 per student, not including additional costs for serving English language learners and students with special needs, or the costs of Madison Prep’s third semester (summer).
B. Cost Comparisons between Madison Prep and MMSD
Staffing Costs
In 2010‐11, MMSD projected it would spend $67,133,692 on salaries (and benefits) on 825.63 staff in its secondary (middle and high) schools for an average salary of $81,312. This includes teachers, principals and in‐school support staff. In its first year of operation (SY2012‐13), ULGM projects Madison Prep it will spend $1,559,454 in salaries and benefits on 23 staff for an average of $67,802 in salary, including salaries for teachers, the Head of School (principal) and support staff. In its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep is projected to spend $3,560,746 in salaries and benefits on 52 staff for an average of $68,476 per staff person. In both years, Madison Prep will spend significantly less on salaries and benefits per staff member than MMSD.
Additionally, MMSD spends an average of $78,277 on salaries and benefits for staff in its middle schools and $79,827 on its staff in its high schools.

Additional documents: budget details and Madison Prep’s Wisconsin DPI application.
Matthew DeFour:

The high cost results from the likelihood that Madison Prep will serve more low-income, non-English speaking and special education students, said Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, which is developing the charter school. The school also plans to have a longer school year, school day and require students to participate in volunteer and extracurricular activities.
“What we’re asking for is based on the fact that we’re going to serve a high-needs population of kids,” Caire said. “We don’t know yet if what we’re projecting is out of line.”
Caire said the proposal will likely change as potential state and federal revenues are assessed.
A Republican charter school bill circulated in the Legislature this week could also alter the landscape. The bill would allow charter schools to receive approval from a state board, rather than a local school board, and those that don’t use district employees, like Madison Prep, would be able to access the state retirement and health care systems.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

Madison School District Considers 7.64% ($18, 719.470) Property Tax Increase for 2011/2012 Budget

Erik J Kass, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services:

The following analysis is done using the PMA Model information and is looking at the cost to continue budget figures that will be provided to the Board on March 14, 2011. The analysis includes the impact on the median home in Madison, and for that figure we contacted the City of Madison Assessor and were provided that value at $241,217. For comparative purposes ofthe effect on this home, we are using the assumed value from the 2010-11 analysis of$246,041 or 2%morethanthecurrentmedianvalue. Theequalizedpropertyvaluationforthe2011-12 budget year is also projected to decrease by 2.00% as part ofthis analysis.
What is the projected All Funds Property Tax Increase for the 2011-12 Budget Year?
$18,719,470 or a 7.64% increase when compared to 2010-ll actuals.
Where does the projected All Funds Property Tax Increase for the 2011-12 Budget Year come from?
Prior Decisions by the Board ofEducation:
Recurring Referendum from November of 2008: $4,000,000
4-K Levy Increase to start program: $3,554,415
Referendum Debt Service: ($2.327,900)
Subtotal: $5,226,515
Decisions to be made by the Board of Education:
Projected Revenue Limit Growth ($200 per pupil): $7,774,514
Projected Loss in State Aid: $4,515,523
Community Services Fund (MSCR and Non-MSCR): $469,460
Exempt Computer Aid (property tax relief): ($261,927)
Property Tax Chargeback ($4.615)
Subtotal: $13,492,955
Total $18, 719.470

The Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget increased property taxes by about 9%.

Council: Strive for high grade points, not big political points

Elise Swanson:

After Detroit, Milwaukee is the country’s most segregated city. The Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) has an endemic racial achievement gap, in which, in terms of aggregate statistics, African American students perform three to four years below their European American counterparts in both math and reading. Combine this with a general dearth of resources — as is common to virtually all of public education — and you have a recipe for inadequate schooling that is failing its almost 90,000 students.
The crisis in Milwaukee is indicative of the educational crisis roiling the nation. Across the United States, school districts are facing enormous budget deficits, decreasing enrollment and intense pedagogical and ideological debates questioning the very foundations of modern education. The debate is particularly vociferous here in Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Education Association Council feels threatened by Governor Scott Walker’s educational platform. This past Tuesday, however, WEAC introduced a series of reforms it would endorse, many of which took observers by surprise, and received mixed reactions.
The reform drawing the most ire is the proposal to carve up MPS into multiple smaller districts to make them more manageable, and thus more successful. However, as pointed out by one observer, this separation of districts would probably mirror racial divisions within the city, compounding instead of alleviating racial achievement gaps.

Rhee to lawmakers: Put kids first

Nancy Badertscher:

Michelle Rhee, a national voice on education reform, told state lawmakers Thursday that charter schools and vouchers for low-income students have a place in public education, but in a blend with strong traditional schools.
“Vouchers in and of themselves are not the answer. Charters in and of themselves are not the answer,” said Rhee, who last fall stepped down as chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools after three years in which she was both lauded and derided for her overhaul of the school system.
“The answer in my mind is a really strong traditional public school system. That has very specific strategies to turn around failing schools [and incorporates both vouchers and charters].”
Rhee is on a national tour talking about education reform, particularly teacher evaluations and performance.

Madison School District Considers Replacing Lawson HR/Financial System; School District Consortium to Dissolve

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Madison School District is one of the members of the Wisconsin School Consortium (Consortium) for Human Resource/Financial Business Solution System. The other member school districts are Racine, Middleton-Cross Plains and Verona.
Madison implemented the current system solution (Lawson) in 2003-04 and began the Consortium in 2005-06. To assure that the Consortium districts are getting the best value on their HR!Financial Business application software and related services, the Consortium opted to have a competitive RFP process for the following areas:
Evaluation of K-12 business application software including our current vendor, Lawson Software Evaluation of hosting vendors related to the business application software
The RFP process began in May where there were four qualified responders. The Consortium held all day demonstrations that were both on site and electronically through involving numerous representatives from the following areas of: Human Resources, Finance, School Sites, Food Service, Community Service, and General Administration.
The Consortium then moved their consideration primarily toward two of the vendors with reference calls, another set of demonstrations for further detail clarification, site visits and a virtual site visit
At this point the Consortium members are at a consensus that they will be dissolving the Consortium where two members, Verona and Middleton-Cross Plains are looking at one solution, Racine is considering staying with the current solution, and Madison is considering moving forward with a different solution because of the improved and integrated functionality combined with cost savings.

Notes & links on Madison’s Lawson implementation, here.

Waking the sleeping education giant

Karen Francisco:

he 1970 film, “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” ends with Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sullenly observing that his nation might have “awakened a sleeping giant” in attacking Pearl Harbor. The quotation’s historical accuracy hasn’t been verified, but I’ve been thinking the same line could apply to slumbering public school teachers in Indiana.
A Facebook page, Support Indiana Teachers, has drawn close to 16,000 friends in just over a week. Granted, it takes little effort to click a computer key, but comments on the page indicate that teachers and other Hoosiers have finally taken note of the current anti-public education agenda and are angry enough to act.
Hundreds of educators and public education supporters showed up at the Statehouse rally Tuesday. We’re receiving an ever-increasing number of letters to the editor critical of the legislative assault.
Still, it’s probably too late. One lawmaker tells me that the newly elected majority in the House is so far to the right that support for public schools doesn’t register. The Senate GOP majority has been drifting further to the right with every election.

New report examines promises, pitfalls of charter school autonomy

The Center on Reinventing Public Education, via a Deb Britt email:

A new report finds that charter schools use the freedoms they have from traditional school district mandates to define and operate schools in innovative new ways. However, expectations about what a school “should look like,” the stress of tight and unstable budgets, and overwhelming administrative demands are powerful forces pulling charter schools back to traditional practice.
This report offers great reason for optimism that charter schools are well positioned to answer President Obama’s call for public schools to innovate. But it also cautions that traditional regulatory structures and weaknesses in capacity must be addressed if they are to fully meet the challenge of innovation.
Based on a four-year study of the teachers, leaders, and academic programs in charter schools in six states, Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success observes that “autonomy only creates the opportunity for high-quality schools, it by no means guarantees it.”
Author Betheny Gross, a researcher at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, argues that autonomy makes it possible for charter schools to:

Can Breaking the Milwaukee Public Schools Down Into Smaller Districts Work When Schools are Financially Dysfunctional on a Singular Level?

The Maciver Institute:

One of the biggest stories of the past week has been the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s recommendation to fragment Milwaukee Public Schools into smaller districts. According to WEAC, this would create “more manageable components” as well as “drive greater accountability within the system.” However, a look at how Milwaukee’s public schools operate as separate entities suggests that these schools will run into problems regardless of the size of their district.
In 2009, Milwaukee’s schools carried over operating debts of over $8 million into the new school year. Of the 148 schools surveyed in October of 2010, 93 (62.8%) finished the preceding school year in the red. 42 of these schools racked up debts of more than $100,000. 20 more overspent their budgets by $40,000 or more.
As the MacIver Institute has previously noted, schools like Bradley Tech (running a deficit of over $750,000), Vel Phillips (-$475k), Audubon Middle (-$436k), and Wedgewood (-$382k) are some of the city’s biggest offenders. While some schools have been able to create careful surpluses with their funds, the system as a whole has shown to be flawed. In all, the city’s school-by-school deficits added up to over $10.7 million dollars in 2009-2010 alone.

Anne Arundel Board of Education approves superintendent’s budget

Joe Burris:

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education on Wednesday approved Superintendent Kevin Maxwell’s $968.6 million operating budget recommendations for next year by an 8-1 margin, after one board member unsuccessfully moved to have the budget amended and another complained that it requests too much additional spending as the county aims to be more fiscally responsible.
The board simultaneously approved the $156.9 million capital budget that gives $46.7 million to continuing construction projects at four schools, Northeast High School and Belle Grove, Folger McKinsey and Point Pleasant elementary schools. It also allocates $3.6 million for designs to replace Severna Park High School, $11 million for full-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten additions, and $14 million for textbooks.
The operating budget for fiscal year 2012 is $37.3 million more than the previous year’s budget. It funds negotiated agreements with unions, the system’s health care obligations and 20 mentor teachers required to fulfill obligations associated with the Race to the Top federal money.

Anne Arundel spends $12,334.69 per student ($931,269,700 2011 budget for 75,500 students).
Locally, the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget, according to the “State of the Madison School District Report” is $379,058,945. Enrollment is 24,471 which yields per student spending of $15,490.12.

In Defense of the Blogging Teacher

Mike Antonucci:

Since it hit the Associated Press wires, the story has spread to more than 200 publications. Natalie Munroe, an English teacher at Central Bucks High School, was suspended and faces dismissal for what she wrote about her students and school on her personal blog “Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?”

Forget Mandarin. Latin is the key to success

Toby Young:

On the face of it, encouraging children to learn Latin doesn’t seem like the solution to our current skills crisis. Why waste valuable curriculum time on a dead language when children could be learning one that’s actually spoken? The prominence of Latin in public schools is a manifestation of the gentleman amateur tradition whereby esoteric subjects are preferred to anything that’s of any practical use. Surely, that’s one of the causes of the crisis in the first place?
But dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of evidence that this particular dead language is precisely what today’s young people need if they’re going to excel in the contemporary world.
Let’s start with Latin’s reputation as an elitist subject. While it’s true that 70 percent of independent schools offer Latin compared with only 16 per cent of state schools, that’s hardly a reason not to teach it more widely. According to the OECD, our private schools are the best in the world, whereas our state schools are ranked on average 23rd.
No doubt part of this attainment gap is attributable to the fact that the average private school child has advantages that the average state school child does not. But it may also be due to the differences in the curriculums th

B-Schools Struggle to Get Global

Diana Middleton:

Business schools like to tout their focus on globalization, but a new report from a b-school accrediting agency says most of their strategies don’t go far enough.
To boost globalization, many M.B.A. programs in the U.S. require students to complete internships abroad. Schools are also beefing up case studies that focus on international companies and partnering with foreign schools by sending faculty abroad and exchanging students.
These partnerships can be risky, according to the report, released Thursday by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. A school’s reputations could be tarnished depending on the schools it chooses. Schools also often shoulder “severe” financial costs to expand their global footprint, the report says.

Observations about Chinese (Chinese-American?) mothers

Tyler Cowen:

I agree with many of Bryan Caplan's views on parenting, and Yana can attest that I have never attempted a "dragon mother" style.  Yet I think that Bryan is overreaching a bit in rejecting virtually all of Amy Chua's claims.  The simpler view — which most Americans intuitively grasp — is that some Asian parenting styles do make kids more productive, and better at school, although it is less clear they make the kids happier.  It remains the case that most people overrate how much parenting matters in a broader variety of contexts, and in that regard Bryan's work is hardly refuted.  Still, I see real evidence for a parenting effect from many (not all) Asian-American and Asian families.

NJEA is Not My Public School Teacher, Says N.J.

New Jersey Left Behind:

While the majority of New Jerseyans love public school teachers, more than half believe that the NJ Education Association (NJEA) is “playing a negative role in improving public education,” according to a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday.
In addition, reports New Jersey Newsroom, 68% of residents favor implementation of a merit pay system and 62% support tenure reform. We’re more split on school choice; the poll found that by a small margin we oppose school vouchers and charter school expansion. From Maurice Carroll of Quinnipiac:

Wisconsin School Administrators Wear Many Hats; Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad tops Compensation list @ $256,715

The Wisconsin Taxpayer:

With state aid stagnant or dropping, state revenue limits tightening, and school compensation costs outpacing revenues, school districts–particularly their administrators–face growing financial pressures. At the same time, in the never-ending search for savings, the work of administrators is receiving greater scrutiny by school boards and the public alike.
Administrators increasingly wear many hats: fiscal expert, economic forecaster, management consultant, marketer, and savvy politician. In small districts, it is no exaggeration to add bookkeeper, guidance counselor, math teacher, handyman, or coach.
How varied approaches to school administration have become is illustrated by two small northern Wisconsin districts, each with about 500 students. One has four administrators (a superintendent, a business manager, and two principals), while the other has just one (a superintendent).
The same can be found among large districts. A relatively large central Wisconsin district has 22 administrators, while a similarly sized district (about 10% more students) has 32 administrators, or nearly 50% more.
These comparisons suggest there is much taxpayers, educators, and school boards can learn about how schools and districts are managed, both in terms of expenditures and work performed…

The comprehensive article mentions:

Among full time Superintendents, highest salaries were Madison ($198,500), Green Bay ($184,000), Racine ($180,000), Milwaukee ($175,062) and Whitefish Bay ($170,850). On the other hand, 49 full-time district heads earned less than $100,000, including those in Augusta ($65,649), Florence ($85,000), Wheatland J1 ($85,517), Cameron ($86,111), Phillips ($87,000) and Wauzeka-Steuben ($87,000).
When benefits are added, districts with the highest total compensation included Madison ($256,715), Milwaukee ($243,365), Green Bay ($239,700), Franklin ($236,573) and Hamilton ($218,617). Benefits include retirement contributions, employer share of Social Security and Medicare, health, life and disability insurance and other miscellaneous benefits such as reimbursement for college courses.

A comparison of 2010 Wisconsin School Administrative costs can be viewed in this .xls file.
Request a free copy of this issue of the Wisconsin Taxpayer, here.

Stanford Corners the ‘Smart’ Market After Its Best Football Season in Years, School Chases Top Recruits With Elite Grades; Building Robots

Darren Everson & Jared Diamond:

As college football’s 2011 recruiting classes took shape last week, much of the talk was dominated by the usual question: Which team pulled in the richest talent haul? Some say it was Alabama, others Florida State.
What was not acknowledged, or even noted, was the impressive and unusual incoming class assembled by Stanford.
The school, which is coming off its best football season in 70 years, didn’t land the most physically talented class of high school football players. The consensus says their crop ranks somewhere around No. 20 in the nation among all the major college programs. What stands out about Stanford’s class is something entirely different: what superior students they are.
Wayne Lyons, a four-star defensive back from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has a 4.96 weighted grade-point average and likes to build robots in his spare time, is widely considered the best student among the nation’s elite recruits. When he visited Stanford, he said he was whisked to a seminar on building jet engines and to a facility where robots are built.

In Defense of Being a Kid Childhood takes up a quarter of one’s life, and it would be nice if children enjoyed it.

James Bernard Murphy:

Amy Chua, the “tiger mother,” is clearly hitting a nerve–especially among the anxious class (it used to be called the upper class), which understands how much skill and discipline are necessary for success in the new economy.
What Ms. Chua and her critics agree on is that childhood is all about preparation for adulthood. Ms. Chua claims that her parenting methods will produce ambitious, successful and happy adults–while her critics argue that her methods will produce neurotic, self- absorbed and unhappy ones.
It took economist Larry Summers, in a debate with Ms. Chua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, to point out that part of the point of childhood is childhood itself. Childhood takes up a quarter of one’s life, Mr. Summers observed, and it would be nice if children enjoyed it.
Bravo, Larry.

Government workers don’t need unions

The Economist

a href=””>TODAY’S New York Times editorial wisely comes out against the proposal to allow states to declare bankruptcy as a union-busting, budget-saving move. (Josh Barro’s reasoning against state bankruptcy rings sound to me.) However, I think the Times’ goes wrong here:

It is true that many public employee unions have done well during a time of hardship for most Americans. The problem, though, isn’t the existence of those unions; it is the generous contracts willingly given to them by lawmakers because of their lobbying power and bloc-voting ability.

The Times‘ contention that the existence of public-employee unions is not the problem is true, if it is true, only because the unions “fix” a bargaining-power deficit public workers don’t have. Without public-sector unions, government workers would lobby their way to padded paychecks, unobtanium-plated pensions, and hermetic job security anyway. Which is just to say, government workers don’t really need unions at all. Indeed, the strategic logic behind private- and public-sector unions is fundamentally different. “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” as some little somebody called Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it back in 1937. 

School testing shows we have no idea what’s happening in Bountiful

Chris Selley:

“The Fraser Institute released its controversial B.C. elementary school rankings today,” a TV news anchor intoned earlier this week, “and this year a school in the polygamous community of Bountiful topped the list. That’s giving opponents of the rankings more ammunition.”
The report continued with Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, saying that “everyone who has anything to do, credibly, with the public education system, will tell you that the rankings are worthless.” (The thousands of parents who consult the rankings don’t count, as they should have realized by now.) “It’s just another example of how … meaningless the rankings are, and that we should pay no attention to them.”
And then the Fraser Institute’s Peter Cowley rebutted: “How is it possible that … a president of a teachers’ union can say, on the basis of the evidence that shows that [the school is] doing well, for one year, in reading, writing and math skills at Grades 4 and 7, we have to invalidate those results because of [the community’s religious] beliefs?”
And that was pretty much it. It was the line most media outlets took, and it was almost completely beside the point.

Minnesota AP class results continue to improve, still behind national average

Tom Weber:

More high school seniors are taking Advanced Placement courses in Minnesota and scoring higher on the tests, but the state’s rankings are still below national averages.
According to new data from the College Board, more than 15,000 Minnesota high school seniors took an AP course last year, and nearly 10,000 of them scored at least a three on an AP test. A score of three to five usually allows students to gain college credit for that class.
Students have other options to take advanced coursework in Minnesota schools, including throughout the International Baccalaureate program. Tuesday’s report was confined to the AP program.

18.3% of Wisconsin high school seniors completed school with at least one successful AP experience. Wisconsin’s report can be found here.

Graduates, but Ill-Prepared Big Disparity Reported Between Getting a Diploma and College-Readiness Rates

Barbara Martinez:

New York state high-school students’ college and career readiness lags far behind the graduation rates that most school districts post, according to data from the state Department of Education.
Across the state, the graduation rate in 2009, the last year for which figures are public, was 77%. But only 41% of high-school students were prepared for a career or college, the state said. The state defines students as college- and career-ready if they score at least an 80 on the state’s math Regents exam and at least a 75 on the English Regents exam. New York students receive a high-school diploma if they achieve a score of at least 65 on Regents tests.

MacIver’s Christian D’Andrea Reacts to WEAC Reform Plans

Christian D’Andrea:

“WEAC unveiled their strategy Tuesday in the form of a pre-emptive strike as Governor Scott Walker prepares his upcoming budget proposal, which most insiders agree will have a significant impact on school funding and the way our schools operate.
“The organization’s main focus is to break Wisconsin’s largest district into multiple pieces by 2015. According to WEAC leaders, this move would create a more manageable system in the schools that have become a collective albatross hanging from the neck of Wisconsin’s public education.
“[I]n its current configuration, we do not believe MPS can be fixed. It is simply too big,” said WEAC President Mary Bell. Bell later went on to say that despite the state union’s buy-in, the local Milwaukee Teachers’ Educational Association (MTEA) isn’t on board.
“While MPS is fraught with problems, a reduction of size won’t be a panacea, nor will it make things much clearer in Wisconsin’s largest city. While WEAC’s change of heart is refreshing given their recent track record on education reform, they are resorting to a drastic step without fully exploring their other options for reform that are politically more feasible. MPS is only the 33rd largest school district in the country by enrollment, and while some of the cities that are larger than Milwaukee nationally have their own problems, many operate successfully despite a glut of students.

Madison schools superintendent gets mixed grades as contract renewal vote looms

Matthew DeFour:

After 2½ years as Madison schools superintendent, Dan Nerad is still finding his footing.
For Nerad and his supporters, that’s more of a statement about Madison’s slippery and sometimes treacherous political terrain.
But among critics there is frustration that Nerad hasn’t risen to the task, particularly given the high expectations for the former social worker and Green Bay superintendent.
The two views among Madison School Board members and others in the community are circulating as the board weighs whether to extend Nerad’s contract beyond June 2012.
Supporters point to a long list of accomplishments so far despite severe obstacles — implementation of 4-year-old kindergarten after decades of discussion, development of a strategic plan that brought in dozens of community voices and expansion of dual-language immersion programs.

Student arrested after allegedly dragging ex-girlfriend out of school

Susan Troller, via a kind reader’s email

A 16-year-old Madison West High School student was arrested Friday afternoon after he allegedly dragged his ex-girlfriend out of the school and threatened to harm her in a nearby cemetery.
The teen was tentatively charged with false imprisonment, intimidation of a victim and two counts of disorderly conduct, Madison police said.
According to police, the incident was reported at about 12:15 p.m. Friday at the high school, 30 Ash St.
“The 16-year-old female victim said the boy pulled her out of school against her will and led her by the arm to a nearby cemetery where he threatened to harm her,” said police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

Madison’s Sherman & Shabazz schools were locked down briefly Tuesday.

Beating the odds: 3 high-poverty Madison schools find success in ‘catching kids up’

Susan Troller:

When it comes to the quality of Madison’s public schools, the issue is pretty much black and white.
The Madison Metropolitan School District’s reputation for providing stellar public education is as strong as it ever was for white, middle-class students. Especially for these students, the district continues to post high test scores and turn out a long list of National Merit Scholars — usually at a rate of at least six times the average for a district this size.
But the story is often different for Hispanic and black kids, and students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Madison is far from alone in having a significant performance gap. In fact, the well-documented achievement gap is in large measure responsible for the ferocious national outcry for more effective teachers and an overhaul of the public school system. Locally, frustration over the achievement gap has helped fuel a proposal from the Urban League of Greater Madison and its president and CEO, Kaleem Caire, to create a non-union public charter school targeted at minority boys in grades six through 12.
“In Madison, I can point to a long history of failure when it comes to educating African-American boys,” says Caire, who is black, a Madison native and a graduate of West High School. “We have one of the worst achievement gaps in the entire country. I’m not seeing a concrete plan to address that fact, even in a district that prides itself on innovative education.”
What often gets lost in the discussion over the failures of public education, however, is that there are some high-poverty, highly diverse schools that are beating the odds by employing innovative ways to reach students who have fallen through the cracks elsewhere.

Related: A Deeper Look at Madison’s National Merit Scholar Results.
Troller’s article referenced use of the oft criticized WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts Examination) (WKCE Clusty search) state examinations.
Related: value added assessment (based on the WKCE).
Dave Baskerville has argued that Wisconsin needs two big goals, one of which is to “Lift the math, science and reading scores of all K-12, non-special education students in Wisconsin above world-class standards by 2030”. Ongoing use of and progress measurement via the WKCE would seem to be insufficient in our global economy.
Steve Chapman on “curbing excellence”.

Generation net: The youngsters who prefer their virtual lives to the real world

Liz Thomas:

Children are often happier with their online lives than they are with reality, a survey has revealed.
They say they can be exactly who they want to be – and as soon as something is no longer fun they can simply hit the quit button.
The study also shows that, despite concerns about online safety, one in eight young people is in contact with strangers when on the web and often lies about their appearance, age and background.
Researchers for children’s charity Kidscape assessed the online activities of 2,300 11- to 18-year-olds from across the UK and found that 45 per cent said they were sometimes happier online than in their real lives.
The report – Virtual Lives: It is more than a game, it is your life – lays bare the attitudes of children today to the internet and includes revealing insights into how they feel when they are on the web.

Charter Location Influences Sustainability

Tom Vander Ark:

Andy Rotherham just published a report with obvious conclusions: sustainability is impacted by location. More specifically, if you open a charter in California, you will spend a lifetime begging for money.
Find the New paper on charter school finance from Bellwether out today (pdf). Press release can be found here and The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs-in on it here.
Andy summarizes:

Data indicates 5 percent of Rochester graduates ready for college, careers

Erinn Cain:

The New York State Education Department has released data that it said indicates that not all students graduating high school are prepared to enter college or careers.
The data compares graduation rates versus college- and career-ready graduation rate calculations for general education students who entered ninth grade in the 2005-06 school year, through June 2009.
General education graduation requirements for a local diploma include a score of 65 or better on two Regents exams and 55 or better on three Regents exams. The designation of college- and career-ready is defined by graduates who received at least an 80-percent grade on the math Regents exam and 75 on the English Regents exam.
In Rochester, there was a 46.6 percent graduation rate, with only 5.1 percent of graduates being college- and career-ready, said state education officials. This compares to 49.5 and 14.7 percent, respectively, in Syracuse, and 64.5 and 22.8 percent in New York City.

The takeaway language of slang

James Sharpe

In the Preface to his Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson informed his readers that there was one aspect of his compatriots’ discourse that he was unwilling to engage with. “Of the laborious and mercantile part of the people”, he wrote,
“the diction is in a great measure casual and mutable; many of their terms are formed for some temporary or local convenience, and though current at certain times and places, and in others utterly unknown. This fugitive cant, which is always in state of increase or decay, cannot be regarded as any part of the durable materials of a language, and therefore must be suffered to perish with other things unworthy of preservation.”
Yet, as Johnson must have been aware, published works recording this “casual and mutable” English had existed since Thomas Harman added a glossary of canting terms to his Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors of 1567 and, indeed, a generation after Johnson dismissed what we would call slang as “unworthy of preservation”, a very different view was being propounded. For Francis Grose, the antiquary and former military man, author of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1785, it was a matter of regret that “terms of well-known import, at New-market, Exchange-alley, the City, the Parade, Wapping, and Newgate”, and which also “find their way into our political and theatrical compositions”, were not recorded in conventional dictionaries. Indeed Grose (as had Johnson) managed to establish a patriotic slant to his dictionary-making. Referring to a recent dictionary of “satyrical and burlesque French”, he claimed that with “our language being at least as copious as the French, and as capable of the witty equivoque”, his dictionary was fully justified. He pursued this theme further, adding that

Michigan Board of Education raises proficiency scores for MEAP and MME

Kyle Feldscher:

Don’t be surprised if a surprising number of Michigan school districts fall short of proficient scoring after next year’s round of standardized state testing.
The Michigan Board of Education approved higher cut scores, or scores that mark proficiency, for both the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and Michigan Merit Exam (MME) tests at a board meeting Tuesday. According to experts, the new standards will be more honest about how well students are doing on the tests.
“It’s going to make a real difference in the share of kids who are being labeled proficient and in the share of schools passing AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress),” said Susan Dynarski, associate professor of economics, education and public policy at the University of Michigan. “Michigan has been Lake Woebegone — right now 95 percent of our third graders are labeled as proficient in math and under the new standards, it would become 34 percent.”

Laura Bush to announce 2nd education initiative from Bush Institute

Jamie Stengle:

The George W. Bush Institute’s second big education initiative will seek to improve graduation rates by focusing on middle school as a foundation for future success.
Former first lady Laura Bush is set to announce the initiative, called “Middle School Matters,” Wednesday in Houston at Stovall Middle School in the Aldine school district.
She says research has shown that 6th through 8th grade is a crucial time and that many high school dropouts essentially dropped out in middle school. One goal will be to ensure students are prepared for high school.

Spotlight on LIFO in New York

Elizabeth Ling:

No one wants the big teacher layoffs that most analysts say are inevitable under our current state budget crisis. But many of us are very concerned that if such layoffs are necessary, the state’s “last in, first out” rule will mean that many of our best teachers will be forced out regardless of their qualifications and effectiveness. This could be particularly devastating for schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, where teachers tend to have fewer years of experience
A new poll shows that a majority of New Yorkers disapprove of the state’s “last in, first out” (LIFO) law that forces schools to fire the most recently hired teachers during a budget crisis, regardless of teacher quality

New Wisconsin school medication rules tie hands

Bill Lueders:

Beginning March 1, public schools in Madison and across the state will be constrained in their ability to dispense medication to students and respond to health emergencies.
“Our options are now limited,” says Freddi Adelson, the Madison district’s health services coordinator.
The changes, crafted by the state Department of Public Instruction and passed by the Legislature last year, set stricter rules for dispensing medications at school than current district policy.
For instance, Madison schools now let school nurses dispense acetaminophen or ibuprofen to the students of parents who give written permission. The new rules say schools can dispense only medications

Mansfield Arabic Program On Hold


A Mansfield ISD program to teach Arabic language and culture in schools is on hold for now, and may not happen at all.
The school district wanted students at selected schools to take Arabic language and culture classes as part of a federally funded grant.
The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grant was awarded to Mansfield ISD last summer by the U.S. Department of Education.
As part of the five-year $1.3 million grant, Arabic classes would have been taught at Cross Timbers Intermediate School and other schools feeding into Summit High School.
Parents at Cross Timbers say they were caught off-guard by the program, and were surprised the district only told them about it in a meeting Monday night between parents and Mansfield ISD Superintendent Bob Morrison.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: For Federal Programs, a Taste of Market Discipline

David Leonhardt::

Wouldn’t it be nice if taxpayers could somehow get a refund for government programs that didn’t work?

Instead, the opposite tends to happen. Programs that fail to make a difference — like many of those that train workers for new jobs — endure indefinitely. Often, policy makers don’t even know which work and which don’t, because rigorous evaluation is rare in government. And competition, which punishes laggards in the private sector, is typically absent in the public sector.

But there is some good news on this front. Lately, both American and British policy makers have been thinking about how to bring some of the competitive discipline of the market to government programs, and they have hit on an intriguing idea.

Wisconsin Teachers’ Union Proposed Education Reforms

Wisconsin Education Association Council:

State officers of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) today unveiled three dramatic proposals as part of their quality-improvement platform called “Moving Education Forward: Bold Reforms.” The proposals include the creation of a statewide system to evaluate educators; instituting performance pay to recognize teaching excellence; and breaking up the Milwaukee Public School District into a series of manageable-sized districts within the city.
“In our work with WEAC leaders and members we have debated and discussed many ideas related to modernizing pay systems, better evaluation models, and ways to help turn around struggling schools in Milwaukee,” said WEAC President Mary Bell. “We believe bold actions are needed in these three areas to move education forward. The time for change is now. This is a pivotal time in public education and we’re in an era of tight resources. We must have systems in place to ensure high standards for accountability – that means those working in the system must be held accountable to high standards of excellence.”
TEACHER EVALUATION: In WEAC’s proposed teacher evaluation system, new teachers would be reviewed annually for their first three years by a Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) panel made up of both teachers and administrators. The PAR panels judge performance in four areas:

  • Planning and preparing for student learning
  • Creating a quality learning environment
  • Effective teaching
  • Professional responsibility

The proposed system would utilize the expertise of the UW Value-Added Research Center (Value Added Assessment) and would include the review of various student data to inform evaluation decisions and to develop corrective strategies for struggling teachers. Teachers who do not demonstrate effectiveness to the PAR panels are exited out of the profession and offered career transition programs and services through locally negotiated agreements.
Veteran teachers would be evaluated every three years, using a combination of video and written analysis and administrator observation. Underperforming veteran teachers would be required to go through this process a second year. If they were still deemed unsatisfactory, they would be re-entered into the PAR program and could ultimately face removal.
“The union is accepting our responsibility for improving the quality of the profession, not just for protecting the due process rights of our members,” said Bell. “Our goal is to have the highest-quality teachers at the front of every classroom across the state. And we see a role for classroom teachers to contribute as peer reviewers, much like a process often used in many private sector performance evaluation models.”
“If you want to drive change in Milwaukee’s public schools, connect the educators and the community together into smaller districts within the city, and without a doubt it can happen,” said Bell. “We must put the needs of Milwaukee’s students and families ahead of what’s best for the adults in the system,” said Bell. “That includes our union – we must act differently – we must lead.”

Madison’s “value added assessment” program is based on the oft-criticized WKCE examinations.
Related: student learning has become focused instead on adult employment – Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman.

Study finds funding gap between D.C. specialty and neighborhood schools

Bill Turque:

The two public high schools, 21/2 miles apart in Northwest Washington, serve vastly different student populations. And they do it with vastly different levels of financial support, according to an analysis of school spending by a District advocacy group.
School Without Walls accepts only the city’s most accomplished students after a competitive application process that requires interviews with prospective parents as well. More than 700 students are vying for 120 spots in next year’s ninth-grade class. Those who are admitted will attend classes in a freshly renovated vintage building on the George Washington University campus. District funds per student: $10,257.
Cardozo, near 13th Street and Florida Avenue, is a neighborhood high school that takes all comers in an attendance area that includes about a dozen group homes and homeless shelters. Parole officers and social workers are sometimes the only adults who appear at the school on students’ behalf. The wiring in the cavernous 1916 building was so bad a couple of years ago that when all of the computers were turned on, power in half of the school would go out, said Principal Gwendolyn Grant.
District funds per student: $7,453.

Locally, the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget, according to the “State of the Madison School District Report” is $379,058,945. Enrollment is 24,471 which yields per student spending of $15,490.12.

The takeaway language of slang

James Sharpe:

In the Preface to his Dictionary of the English Language, Samuel Johnson informed his readers that there was one aspect of his compatriots’ discourse that he was unwilling to engage with. “Of the laborious and mercantile part of the people”, he wrote,
“the diction is in a great measure casual and mutable; many of their terms are formed for some temporary or local convenience, and though current at certain times and places, and in others utterly unknown. This fugitive cant, which is always in state of increase or decay, cannot be regarded as any part of the durable materials of a language, and therefore must be suffered to perish with other things unworthy of preservation.”
Yet, as Johnson must have been aware, published works recording this “casual and mutable” English had existed since Thomas Harman added a glossary of canting terms to his Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors of 1567 and, indeed, a generation after Johnson dismissed what we would call slang as “unworthy of preservation”, a very different view was being propounded. For Francis Grose, the antiquary and former military man, author of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1785, it was a matter of regret that “terms of well-known import, at New-market, Exchange-alley, the City, the Parade, Wapping, and Newgate”, and which also “find their way into our political and theatrical compositions”, were not recorded in conventional dictionaries. Indeed Grose (as had Johnson) managed to establish a patriotic slant to his dictionary-making. Referring to a recent dictionary of “satyrical and burlesque French”, he claimed that with “our language being at least as copious as the French, and as capable of the witty equivoque”, his dictionary was fully justified. He pursued this theme further, adding that

Starving Charters A new study shows the funding bias against non-traditional schools.

The Wall Street Journal:

Look quickly and you might think that charter schools have it easy, given the celebrated documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” the efforts of reformers like Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, and the support of the Obama Administration. That’s why a report out Tuesday is a needed corrective: It demonstrates how government policies regularly discriminate against charters.
Published by Bellwether Education Partners, a reform-minded advocacy group, the report examines the finances of Aspire Public Schools, a network of 30 California charter schools with 9,800 students from kindergarten through high school. With extended school days and years, innovative curricula and other hallmarks of charter autonomy, Aspire ranks as California’s single best school system serving a majority of very poor students. Yet it operates with margins of only 0.6%, or $60 per student, which make it harder to scrape together funds to open new schools.

High-schoolers’ ‘recess’: Benefit or brain drain?

Jay Matthews:

There is no limit to what you learn about schools if you listen to teachers. Did you know, for instance, that Fairfax County, the Washington region’s largest school district, is using 10 days a year of valuable instruction time on do-what-you-like recesses for high school students?
I didn’t, either. West Springfield High School physics teacher Ed Linz says this program, designed to help struggling students, is a waste. At his school, students get 90 free minutes a week, which they can use to find dates for Saturday night or check basketball scores, if they want. But his principal, Paul Wardinski, says most students do homework, work on group projects and enrich their studies. It helps teachers to be creative, he says, even if some students look for imaginative ways to goof off.
Linz disclosed the recesses to the county School Board last month. Like President Obama, he said that this is our Sputnik moment and that we can’t win the future throwing away precious class time.

Childhood: Obesity and School Lunches

Roni Caryn Rabin:

A study of more than 1,000 sixth graders in several schools in southeastern Michigan found that those who regularly had the school lunch were 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunch from home.
Spending two or more hours a day watching television or playing video games also increased the risk of obesity, but by only 19 percent.
Of the 142 obese children in the study for whom dietary information was known, almost half were school-lunch regulars, compared with only one-third of the 787 who were not obese.
“Most school lunches rely heavily on high-energy, low-nutrient-value food, because it’s cheaper,” said Dr. Kim A. Eagle, director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, and senior author of the paper, published in the December issue of American Heart Journal. In some schools where the study was done, lunch programs offered specials like “Tater Tot Day,” he said.

More charters, more choices

Baltimore Sun:

Montgomery County is rightly proud of its public school system, which is widely regarded as one of the best in the state. Perhaps that’s why, nearly eight years after state lawmakers passed a law allowing for the establishment of charter schools — alternative institutions that receive public funds but operate independently — the Montgomery County school board has yet to approve a single application to open one.
Is that because no one has come up with a credible plan for a school that would give parents more choices for educating their children? Or is it because local school officials simply don’t want the competition?
The state school board looked into the matter last year, after Montgomery County school officials turned down the applications of two groups that wanted to set up new charter schools in the district. What they found goes a long way toward explaining why school reform advocates like the Washington-based Center for Education Reform have rated Maryland’s charter school law as one of the weakest in the nation. Despite passing important reforms last year regarding lengthening of the time it takes teachers to earn tenure and linking student test scores with teacher evaluations, lawmakers need to take another look at strengthening the state’s charter school law if Maryland is to build on those gains.

Bills assert parents’ right to home school in New Hampshire

Norma Love:

A long-simmering dispute between the state and parents who prefer to teach their children at home is being renewed.
The House Education Committee has scheduled for Tuesday hearings on three bills on home schooling in its largest room, the House chamber. Legislation regulating home schooling has drawn large crowds over the years.
Last month, a divorced couple who couldn’t agree on how to educate their daughter took the fight to the state Supreme Court. The court is being asked if parents have a constitutional right to home school their kids. In this case, the father objected to his wife’s strict Christian teachings and wants their daughter taught at public schools. The mother prefers home schooling.
Home schooling advocates say they want less regulation over what they argue is a parent’s right.

Welcome to our urban high schools, where kids have kids and learning dies.

Gerry Garibaldi:

In my short time as a teacher in Connecticut, I have muddled through President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, which tied federal funding of schools to various reforms, and through President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, which does much the same thing, though with different benchmarks. Thanks to the feds, urban schools like mine–already entitled to substantial federal largesse under Title I, which provides funds to public schools with large low-income populations–are swimming in money. At my school, we pay five teachers to tutor kids after school and on Saturdays. They sit in classrooms waiting for kids who never show up. We don’t want for books–or for any of the cutting-edge gizmos that non-Title I schools can’t afford: computerized whiteboards, Elmo projectors, the works. Our facility is state-of-the-art, thanks to a recent $40 million face-lift, with gleaming new hallways and bathrooms and a fully computerized library.
Here’s my prediction: the money, the reforms, the gleaming porcelain, the hopeful rhetoric about saving our children–all of it will have a limited impact, at best, on most city schoolchildren. Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.