Cuomo, Pushing School Cuts, Offers a Target: Superintendent Salaries

Thomas Kaplan:

Carole G. Hankin, the schools superintendent in Syosset on Long Island, made an unexpected cameo appearance in Albany last week: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo cast her salary as a prime example of wasteful spending by school districts.
Mr. Cuomo did not mention Dr. Hankin by name in his budget address, but he did offer her salary: $386,868, more than the pay of any other superintendent in the state. “I applied for that job,” the governor joked, adding that he had decided to run for governor, which pays $179,000, only after he had been rejected.
Mr. Cuomo’s remarks came as he presented a budget calling for a $2.85 billion reduction in local school aid, a proposal that has already drawn fierce criticism from educators. But the governor offered some criticism of his own for school officials.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said that school districts had enough means to withstand the decline in state financing, and pointedly suggested that they look at whether they are spending too much on their own bureaucracy.

Wealthy donors demanding bigger voice in Catholic schools

Paul Vitello:

Private philanthropists have changed the face of public education over the last decade, underwriting the rise of charter schools and promoting remedies that rely heavily on student testing and teacher evaluation.
But with much less fanfare, wealthy donors have begun playing a parallel role in the country’s next-largest educational network: Roman Catholic schools.
In New York — as in Boston, Baltimore and Chicago — shrinking enrollment and rising school deficits in recent years have deepened the church’s dependence on its cadres of longtime benefactors. Donors have responded generously, but many who were once content to write checks and attend student pageants are now asking to see school budgets, student reading scores and principals’ job evaluations.
In the jargon of education reform, they want transparency and accountability; and though the church bureaucracy has resisted similar demands from other constituents in the past, the donors are getting pretty much what they want.

Love you and leave you

Kathrin Hille:

Wang Tingting last saw her parents nearly two years ago, but now that they are reunited, no one knows what to say to one another. Finally, Su Taoying, Tingting’s mother, clasps her 12-year-old daughter’s hand and says, ruefully, “Next time I see you, you will be taller than me.” As they smile, the family resemblance is striking. And yet for the past five years they have not really been a family.
Wang Tingting is one of tens of millions of ­children in rural China growing up without their parents – parents who have decamped to the cities in order to earn a better living. Some of these children are cared for by their grandparents, but others are handed over to foster centres. Three years ago, as she was about to enter junior high school, Tingting’s parents moved her from her grandparents’ home to a foster centre in Gufeng, their remote village in the eastern province of Anhui. Nobody here found that strange: fewer than half of the children in Gufeng live with their parents, a situation repeated across several provinces in the heavily populated southern half of China.
The Chinese government estimates that there are 58 million “left-behind children”, which accounts for almost 20 per cent of all the children in China, and close to half of all children in the countryside. Their lives illustrate the price China is paying for president Hu Jintao’s goal of building a “moderately well-off society”.

Pennsylvania School voucher debate heats up

Mark Scolforo:

Supporters call them a matter of choice, a lifeline for children stuck in broken schools. Opponents deride them as unconstitutional and unworkable and warn that they will erode conditions in some of Pennsylvania’s most troubled schools.
The debate over taxpayer-paid tuition vouchers to help poor children find alternatives to attending the state’s weakest-performing public schools has emerged as a major item on the legislative agenda for the next six months — perhaps the major item after the state budget.
The voucher issue will come to the fore in the General Assembly on Feb. 16, when the chairman of the Senate Education Committee will lead a hearing on his bill to establish the Opportunity Scholarship and Educational Improvement Tax Credit Act.

Brewster Board of Education Addresses Cuomo’s Budget

Katherine Pacchiana:

The board also expressed concern about the $1.3 billion earmarked for education in the federal stimulus package that was supposed to be distributed in addition to the state education budget. Instead, that money was used to substitute for state education allocations.
“This is an alarming trend,” said Board President Stephen Jambor. “While it makes great headlines to blame the schools, it is underhanded to underfund us in the first place. Your state taxes keep going up the hill to Albany. We have to get busy in fighting back because push has come to shove.”
These issues have been detailed in a letter to the governor which was personally delivered by Sandbank. A copy of the letter will be posted on the district’s website.

Duluth school district troubled by downward enrollment

Jana Hollingsworth:

Anna Cook chose online education for her 7-year-old daughter this fall after an unhappy year at Lincoln Park Elementary School, where she said overwhelmed teachers and bullying made traditional school seem like “chaos.”
“I didn’t feel like my child was in a safe situation there,” Cook said. “All I could do was get her out of there.”
Cook is part of a steady stream of people choosing to leave the district. As the School Board prepares to cut $7.3 million from its budget, partly because of declining enrollment, it’s taking a look Tuesday at that number, along with where the students are going and how to get them back.
Red Plan opponents have long said angry families are sending their students in droves to neighboring districts because of the plan. But Cook’s story shows there are a variety of reasons families are seeking education elsewhere, including more choice, smaller class sizes and fresh starts.

Bill Gates: Vaccine-autism link ‘an absolute lie’

Danielle Dellorto:

Microsoft founder Bill Gates sat down recently with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta in Davos, Switzerland.
The billionaire philanthropist was attending the World Economic Forum to push his mission of eradicating polio by 2012. Gates, through his foundation, also pledged $10 billion to provide vaccinations to children around the world within a decade.
Gupta asked Gates for his thoughts about the alleged autism-vaccine connection. He also asked: Who holds ultimate accountability for the billions of dollars being spent on aid? Is a certain amount of corruption and fraud expected? Below is an excerpt of their conversation.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Ten billion dollars [pledged] over the next 10 years to make it “the year of the vaccines.” What does that mean exactly?

Cameron Criticizes ‘Multiculturalism’ in Britain

John Burns:

Faced with growing alarm about Islamic militants who have made Britain one of Europe’s most active bases for terrorist plots, Prime Minister David Cameron has mounted an attack on the country’s decades-old policy of “multiculturalism,” saying it has encouraged “segregated communities” where Islamic extremism can thrive.
Speaking at a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Mr. Cameron condemned what he called the “hands-off tolerance” in Britain and other European nations that had encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups “to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
He said that the policy had allowed Islamic militants leeway to radicalize young Muslims, some of whom went on to “the next level” by becoming terrorists, and that Europe could not defeat terrorism “simply by the actions we take outside our borders,” with military actions like the war in Afghanistan.

HR in public schools fails students

Chris Rickert:

The simplest of conversations, the most important of facts. And yet nearly six years after those images were discovered by the Madison School District, Nelson was a superintendent and had to be caught allegedly trying to solicit sex from what he thought was a 15-year-old boy online before the bizzaro world of public school human resources stood up and took notice.
I am assuming (safely, I really, really hope) that had my imagined exchange occurred, Nelson’s public schools career would have been over. There also does not appear to have been anything contractually or legally to prevent it from occurring.
Madison human resources director Bob Nadler said Nelson had an oral agreement — “not a contract” — under which, in exchange for Nelson’s resignation, the district would disclose nothing more than his dates of employment, position and salary.
These kinds of agreements happened with some frequency, according to Art Rainwater, the superintendent in Madison at the time Nelson was nabbed for porn. As to the exact circumstances surrounding how Nelson was lucky enough to get one and who it was with, well, “I honestly don’t remember,” Rainwater told me.
Not only could Madison have dropped the dime on its very own pervert; state law provides some liability protection for doing so. Employers who act in “good faith” when providing a reference are protected unless they knowingly lie or provide a reference maliciously or violate the state’s blacklisting statute, according to Marquette University Law School Associate Professor Paul Secunda.

Rickert deserves props for contacting former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater (who now is employed – along with others from the Madison School District – at the UW-Madison School of Education) on this matter.

Race to Nowhere Plays @ Madison West High School 2/8/2011

via a kind reader’s email:

A concerned mother turned filmmaker aims her camera at the high-stakes, high-pressure culture that has invaded our schools and our children’s lives, creating unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth. Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people in all types of communities who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace; students are disengaged; stress-related illness and depression are rampant; and many young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.
In a grassroots sensation already feeding a groundswell for change, hundreds of theaters, schools and organizations nationwide are hosting community screenings during a six month campaign to screen the film nationwide. Tens of thousands of people are coming together, using the film as the centerpiece for raising awareness, radically changing the national dialogue on education and galvanizing change.”
Join us for a screening of this new documentary
on February 8 at 7:30 PM at the Madison West Auditorium
Want more info?

What school vouchers have bought for my family

Vivian Butler:

I worried constantly about my daughter Jerlisa when she attended our neighborhood elementary school. I knew that I wanted a better education for her, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. In 2005, I took a chance and applied to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Little did I know how much more than $7,500 I would be gaining.
I grew up in the District and attended D.C. public schools. Jerlisa started off the same way. We enrolled her at Gibbs Elementary School for kindergarten, and as the years went by she started to fall behind. There was so much going on around the school and in the classroom. Every morning, I walked with her to school, and every afternoon I waited outside the school gates to walk her home again. She got teased for that, but I was worried about the drug dealers, addicts and bullies in the neighborhood. I didn’t have any other choice. I had to make sure she was safe.
When Jerlisa was in fifth grade, she became anxious and didn’t want to return to school. It was clear to me she wasn’t getting the help that she needed. That’s when I received fliers about the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Although I didn’t know everything about the OSP, I knew I had to do something different, even if it meant getting out of my comfort zone. When you’re a single mother on a fixed income, sometimes simple things like filling out your name, address or income on a form can be a scary thing to do.

Postponing Mandatory Teacher use of Madison’s Infinite Campus System

Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Background information: In 2010, the Board approved a number of administrative recommendations geared toward increasing usage of the Infinite Campus System. The current timeline requires all high school teachers to use grade-level appropriate Infinite Campus teacher tools by the end of the fourth quarter of the 2010-2011 school year.
The administration has been notified by the vendor that significant changes will be made to the Infinite Campus interface in July 2011. Accordingly, if training sessions were to continue as required to meet the current deadline, those same teachers would have to be trained on a new interface only months later.
It would be more prudent to wait until the new interface is available and require full implementation of the Infinite Campus teacher tools at the high schools by the end of the second quarter of the 2011-2012 school year.
D. BOE action requested: Postpone mandatory use of Infinite Campus teacher tools at the high schools until the end of the second quarter of the 2011-2012 school year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s implementation of Infinite Campus, here.
A January, 2010 usage survey.
The system originally lifted off during the fall of 2007. I wonder how much has been spent on it without full use? This type of system can be a useful way for parents, teachers and students to communicate – if it is used…..

The Escalating Arms Race for Top Colleges

Jennifer Moses:

It is no secret that the children of certain families (and we all know who we are) are primed to take a disproportionate share of the places at the best–or at least the most prestigious–colleges. That’s because we’re already sending our kids to the kinds of excellent schools that help prepare them for admission to such colleges.
But just in case our children don’t quite have the stats to make it into, say, Georgetown or UNC on their own steam, you can bet that we, as parents, will do everything in our power to make it happen. We are all caught up in a crazy arms race, where the order of the day (to borrow a useful term from the Cold War) is “escalation dominance.”

It May Be a Sputnik Moment, but Science Fairs Are Lagging

Amy Harmon:

Rarely have school science fairs, a source of pride and panic for generations of American students, achieved such prominence on the national stage. President Obama held one at the White House last fall. And last week he said that America should celebrate its science fair winners like Sunday’s Super Bowl champions, or risk losing the nation’s competitive edge.
Yet as science fair season kicks into high gear, participation among high school students appears to be declining. And many science teachers say the problem is not a lack of celebration, but the Obama administration’s own education policy, which holds schools accountable for math and reading scores at the expense of the kind of creative, independent exploration that science fair projects require.

Should Everyone Go to College?

Kristina Chew:

In a report issued on February 2nd, Harvard researchers question the value of ‘college for all.’
According to the co-authors of the report, Academic Dean Robert Schwartz and Ronald Ferguson, a Senior Lecturer at Harvard, the US’s four-year colleges are failing students by focusing too much on classroom-based academics and not adequately preparing students for careers. The proposal has sparked immediately concern from educators as it raises the ‘specter of tracking,’ in which students (often from lower-income or disadvantaged backgrounds) are ‘channeled unquestioningly into watered-down programs that curtail their prospects,’ according to EdWeek.
Currently, 42 percent of 27-year-olds in the US have no more than a high school degree. Only 30 percent of Americans earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 27. President Obama has stated that he wants to improve the nation’s college graduation rate to 60 percent in 10 years (ABC News). The US now ranks in 12th place in the world for college graduates, In comparison Canada’s college graduation rate is 55.8 percent; in South Korea and Russia, the rate for college graduates is 55.5 percent, according to statistics from the College Board.

Jamie Oliver Still at Odds With Los Angeles Schools

Anne Louise Bannon:

A little over two weeks after celebrity cook Jamie Oliver started shooting the second season of his Food Revolution reality TV show at the Westwood-based Jamie’s Kitchen, the Los Angeles Unified School District remains at odds with the production company about letting the show shoot in district schools.
However, Robert Alaniz, spokesperson for the district said that officials have been meeting with Oliver’s team.
“He’d be more than welcome, but sans cameras,” Alaniz said, adding that district officials simply believe that the school district is no place for a reality television show.

Idaho Superintendent of Schools Luna’s proposed changes to education opposed by local school board

Idaho State Journal:

Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 has officially come out against an education reform plan backed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, arguing it adds new costs at a time when the state can’t cover existing expenses.
School board members, who hosted a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the plan, even took exception with the name of Luna’s plan, called “Students Come First.”
“The legislation itself is insulting in its title, thinking that any one of the school boards in this state would not put children first,” board members wrote in the document they authored outlining their position on the plan.
They noted past policy changes, including core standards and heightened graduation requirements, involved considerable input and time for research. Luna’s proposed legislation, they argue, wasn’t based on sufficient input or extensive research. They suggest implementing pilot programs to test various aspects of the plan, which could be used to measure success or as a basis for modifications.

What football can teach school reformers

Larry Lee:

The Birmingham school board plans to hire 60 Teach for America teachers over the next three years in an effort to bring more innovation to low-performing schools.
TFA is a privately run program that recruits recent college graduates, gives them five weeks of training in how to teach and sends them across the country for two years to work in largely under-performing schools.
In addition to paying their salaries, the Birmingham school system will also pay $5,000 per year per new hire to TFA for training.
On Jan. 15, I sat with my son, and 70,000 others, watching Auburn University celebrate winning the BCS national football championship because what my alma mater has just done could be a great example for Superintendent Witherspoon and members of the Birmingham school board.

Texas High School Freshman Sends Robot to School in His Place


This is so awesome. A school district in Knox City, Texas has allowed a student with a severe illness that keeps him at home to attend classes like a normal freshman by using a Vgo telepresence robot. My son’s school had to have a meeting with the school board to let me GIVE them technology.
The boy is named Lyndon Baty and he suffers from polycystic kidney disease, and treatment for the disease has left his immune system suppressed. The poor immune system means he can’t be around other kids to attend classes.

Rhode Island education chief says schools can’t put off improvements

Jennifer Jordan

Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist is putting the brakes on regulations that require high school students to reach at least “partial proficiency” on state tests in order to graduate. She’s pushing the 2012 deadline back two years.
But she says Rhode Island’s high schools can’t continue to dole out diplomas to students who cannot read, write or compute at a high-school level.
Schools must do more to help students reach the higher goals, and state education officials must find better ways to support schools, she says.
“We need people to understand we are not putting a two-year pause in place,” Gist said in an interview Friday.

Arab World Built Colleges, but Not Jobs Unemployment, Broad Among Region’s Angry Youth, Is High Among Educated

David Wessel:

The anger of demonstrators in Tunisia and Egypt runs, too, through 25-year-old Saleh Barek al-Jabri.
Mr. Jabri, the son of a Yemini bus driver, says he answered his government’s call for young people to study petroleum engineering, enrolling in a course at Yemen’s Hadhramaut University for Science and Technology. Officials visited his school to offer encouragement. An oil minister came through to promise jobs. Mr. Jabri excelled, finishing fifth in his class.
But after graduating last year, he has yet to find work. Classmates with family connections got what few jobs existed. Mr. Jabri moved to Yemen’s capital, San’a, where he shares a single room with two other unemployed recent graduates.
“I had dreams,” Mr. Jabri says. “They’ve all evaporated.”

The two paths to success

Paul Buchheit:

The recent WSJ article on the supposedly Chinese style of parenting has generated a lot of interesting discussion. The most amusing commentary comes from The Last Psychiatrist, who also points out that Amy Chua, the “Chinese” mother, was actually born in America. There were also claims that the WSJ misrepresented her views, which may or may not be true, but is ultimately irrelevant since it’s the ideas that are being debated.
Here’s the part of the article that interests me:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something — whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet — he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Wisconsin Legislature mulls changes to open enrollment program

Matthew DeFour:

As families begin to enroll their students Monday in virtual schools or neighboring districts through the state’s open enrollment process, the Legislature is debating changes to the program.
The Senate approved a bill this week that would extend the enrollment period from three weeks in February to three months, starting this year. The bill still needs approval in the Assembly and the governor’s signature.
The changes would make it easier for parents who want to enroll their students in public schools outside their own district, but may not be thinking about that decision in February, said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who introduced the bill.
Democrats opposed the changes, however, saying the wider window will cause administrative hassles and uncertainty for school districts about proper staffing levels as they try to budget for the next school year.

Much more on open enrollment, here.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton lays out K-12 education plan

Doug Belden:

Gov. Mark Dayton pledged Friday to increase funding for K-12 education and laid out a plan that focuses on early learners and reducing achievement disparities between student groups.
But there was no detail on how much the plan would cost or how it would be accomplished with the state facing a $6.2 billion deficit.
Dayton deferred questions about funding to his Feb. 15 budget presentation, saying Friday’s announcement was about fulfilling a campaign pledge to provide more money to schools.
He’ll propose increasing aid each of the next two years, he said, “no excuses, no exceptions.”
Dayton promised last year as a candidate to spend more on schools every year, but softened that stance because of the state’s financial problems.
Dayton’s seven-point education plan, titled “Better Schools for a Better Minnesota,” calls for investment in early-childhood initiatives — led by Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius — and all-day kindergarten, as well as a push to increase the number of children ready for kindergarten and to ensure all children are reading by third grade.

Universities On The Brink

Louis Lataif

Higher education in America, historically the envy of the world, is rapidly growing out of reach. For the past quarter-century, the cost of higher education has grown 440%, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Education, nearly four times the rate of inflation and double the rate of health care cost increases. The cost increases have occurred at both public and private colleges.
Like many situations too good to be true–like the dot-com boom, the Enron bubble, the housing boom or the health care cost explosion–the ever-increasing cost of university education is not sustainable.

Brooklyn School Meeting Draws Protest

Barbara Martinez:

Hundreds of protesters descended on Brooklyn Thursday, laying bare the deep philosophical divide that has become central to the Bloomberg administration’s education policy: whether the city should fix failing schools or shut them down.
The dichotomy came to a head this week as the Panel for Educational Policy met twice to vote on whether to shutter 22 schools deemed failures because its students can’t read or do math on grade level.
The panel, which is populated mostly by Bloomberg appointees, voted to close 10 schools at its meeting Tuesday and was expected to vote to close the other 12 Thursday night.
The administration and charter-school advocates argue that some schools are such failures they must be shut down completely and replaced with new schools. Students are allowed to register at the new schools, but for the most part, the new schools start up with different teachers and administrators. The city maintains that the new schools are more effective.

Parents protest longer academic year for Catholic schools

Howard Blume:

Several dozen parents protested Thursday outside the Los Angeles archdiocese plans for a longer academic year at Catholic schools.
The parents from at least eight schools are unhappy that church officials plan to extend the school year by 20 days to 200 days a year.
“Children need a break to rejuvenate and the time to try things they can’t during the school year because they’re overloaded,” said Michelle Boydston, whose daughter attends St. Paul the Apostle School in Westwood. “Children need time to play outside, to sit, climb a tree, read a book. Our school is doing a very good job in terms of educating students. They don’t need another 20 days.”
For the archdiocese, the strategy is intended to improve the education program and provide an incentive for parents to choose to remain in Catholic schools, which charge tuition.

New Jersey Voucher Bill Fact-Check

New Jersey Left Behind:

NJ’s voucher bill, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, is the big education news story today. Assembly Bill 2810 will be the subject of a hearing today before the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee and proponents and opponents are going to the mattresses. Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) is running print ads that begin, “My school is failing me! I go to one of the worst schools in New Jersey. There are 80,000 kids just like me. The New Jersey Education Association wants to me to stay here. Will you help me get out?” New Jersey Teachers Association is running its own ad campaign, and has put out this set of talking points for parent leaders to use to lobby against the bill, which passed through the Senate Education Committee last month. (Here’s coverage from The Wall Street Journal and NJ Spotlight.)

Ending the education wars

Conor Williams:

Recently retired New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein made headlines this week when he told the Times of London that “it’s easier to prosecute a capital-punishment case in the U.S. than terminate an incompetent teacher.” The New York Post blared, “Joel: Easier to ax a killer than a teacher.” The prize for most sensational probably goes to Liz Dwyer’s headline, “Joel Klein Compares Teachers to Murderers.”
There’s plenty of scorched earth between Klein’s words and these headlines, reflecting how unnecessarily polarized the education reform wars remain, even over the smallest changes in policy.

Lessons for Online Learning

Erin Dillon and Bill Tucker:

Advocates for virtual education say that it has the power to transform an archaic K-12 system of schooling. Instead of blackboards, schoolhouses, and a six-hour school day, interactive technology will personalize learning to meet each student’s needs, ensure all students have access to quality teaching, extend learning opportunities to all hours of the day and all days of the week, and innovate and improve over time. Indeed, virtual education has the potential not only to help solve many of the most pressing issues in K-12 education, but to do so in a cost-effective manner. More than 1 million public-education students now take online courses, and as more districts and states initiate and expand online offerings, the numbers continue to grow. But to date, there’s little research or publicly available data on the outcomes from K-12 online learning. And even when data are publicly available, as is the case with virtual charter schools, analysts and education officials have paid scant attention to–and have few tools for analyzing–performance. Until policymakers, educators, and advocates pay as much attention to quality as they do to expansion, virtual education will not be ready for a lead role in education reform.

Educating the Mayor

Melissa Westbrook:

I learned Mayor is having an informational briefing tomorrow morning about charter schools. It will be done by two staff from the Center for Reinventing Public Education from UW. Now this is fine but I will say that the CRPE is not exactly neutral on charters (the majority of their research is around it with them being in the pro column). Of course, it is a little odd use of time in a state that has no charter law and has turned it down three times.
When I saw the e-mail yesterday, I called and asked if I could come and listen. The staffer was very nice, said no and then said he would check. I was told today, sorry but no.
The issue isn’t so much that I can’t go. I’m sure there won’t be any other media there but I operate on the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” policy.

Speaking of Mayors, I’ve invited the four candidates for Madison Mayor to chat about education topics. Should they respond affirmatively, I will post the video conversations here.

Carol Moseley Braun Answers: As Mayor of Chicago, How Will You Fix Education?

Fox Chicago News:

1. What criteria will you use in selecting the next CEO of the Chicago Public Schools?
I support hiring a superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools with a strong and proven track-record in education. Strong managerial skills and the ability to work with community leaders, parents, and teachers will also be extremely important qualities I will consider as mayor.
2. What will you do to keep the students who are in Chicago Public Schools safe?
I believe schools must be places where the community comes together. Parents, local businesses, community organizations, and local law enforcement must all play a role in providing a safe and secure space of learning for Chicago’s youth. As Senator, I was sponsor of the Midnight Basketball program, which brought local youth together with local police officers. I will provide an educational curriculum with more art, drama, and music classes to keep more students in school and engaged in activities to keep the gangs at bay. In addition, vocational training will provide students with the skills to be more competitive in the workforce and less likely to join gangs.

LIFO is Bad for Kids


“The sponsor of a bill that would make teacher effectiveness the main determining factor during layoffs says that the proposal is worth billions of dollars in school improvement,” the AP in the Tacoma News Tribune reported last week. Senator Rodney Toms thinks seniority protections in teacher contracts that result in last-in-first-out (LIFO) doesn’t make sense for kids.

There’s nothing out there that I could do this year that makes a multibillion-dollar difference in education other than this legislation,” he said. “To leave billions of dollars on the table because we like the status quo is unacceptable.”
Tom said any other initiative aimed at improving student learning as much as one that ensures the best teachers remain in the classroom would cost the state billions of dollars. In other words, if his proposal is ignored and the system remains unchanged, a big potential savings would be lost, he argues.
Tom’s bill, Senate Bill 5399, would require school districts facing layoffs to first lay off teachers who received the lowest average evaluation ratings during their two most recent evaluations, based on a formula that gives a weight of 60 percent to the most recent evaluation and 40 percent to the previous one.

An AIE release today supports Sen. Toms bill:

Honesty on Application Essays

Scott Anderson:

While this particular website might be new, the idea is hardly innovative. That there are entrepreneurs willing to traffic in essays is no secret to anyone who evaluates admission applications for a living. And if the evidence and anecdotes of déjà vu experienced by admission officers are any indication, such sites probably do a brisk business. In that sense, the public premiere of a new outfit would border on prosaic if it weren’t for the fervent and opposing arguments that inevitably follow:
“Access to essays levels the playing field and helps students from schools with lackluster college counseling programs compete in today’s take-no-prisoners admission wars!”
“The sale of essays promotes plagiarism and diminishes the capacity of students to think for themselves!”
If the first claim is misguided (and conventional wisdom among admission professionals suggests that it is), the second one is incomplete. Yes, plagiarism is a nasty potential byproduct of these businesses. And reliance on samples of other people’s work to create one’s own can certainly constrain rather than inspire. But there’s also an important practical point that usually gets overlooked:

Los Angeles Schools’ Panel Looking at Race Issues

Leiloni de Gruy:

Acknowledging that the achievement gap between African-American students and those of other races has persisted far too long, the Los Angeles Unified School District has established an African-American Education Working Committee designed to help create a plan to replicate “best practices” district-wide.
The 25-member committee has met twice since it was formed in mid-January, and has yet to determine specifics on what practices will be implemented and how.
But, committee member and Community Coalition lead organizer for youth programs Tonna Onyendu said “The beginning has been about introducing everyone to what the task force is about, and what the purpose is and why we are convening. Then we also made sure we were all on the same page in terms of what the goals of the task force are, which is to improve the educational outcome of African-American students within LAUSD.”

Warning: This Game Is Not for Children

Donna Perry:

In the middle of this winter of our discontent, the rearrangement of a state education Board may be going unnoticed by busy, weary families. But changes announced this week for the state Board of Regents has a whole lot to do with the future opportunities these families can expect for their children, whether they realize it or not. Chairman Robert Flanders, who provided strong leadership as an unwavering supporter of the bold reform vision of state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, is stepping down and former House Majority Leader and friend to unions and union lawyers, George Caruolo, is Governor Chafee’s pick for new Board Chairman.
Though it may be unfair to prejudge incoming appointments, it’s a foregone conclusion to state that for the Board to lose Judge Flanders and the equally strong Gist supporters Angus Davis and Anna Cano-Morales all at once spells setbacks for the Gist engine for sure. But to characterize this as a victory for the Chafee-Union alliance, and a defeat for the lightning rod Commissioner is to miss the shameful truth. After all, if the leadership of the teachers’ unions wants to reclaim their turf as the unnamed but fully operating Commissioners of Education, what record of victory are they actually trying to reclaim?

West Virginia State superintendent candidates

Davin White:

Deputy State Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple believes pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education in West Virginia has reached a pivotal point, and the state’s current direction for schools is just beginning to show benefits.
Mark Manchin, executive director of the state School Building Authority, wants to develop policies that help provide a “high-quality, 21st Century education” for children. He also promises to help support teachers and school administrators, provide safe and up-to-date school buildings and work with state lawmakers and the governor to ensure the state Board of Education’s agenda is advanced.
Carolyn Long, chairwoman of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, believes her experience in both higher education and other public schools could help bring “these two cultures together” to serve the needs of West Virginia.

Walker gives Madison Preparatory IB Charter School a better chance

Wisconsin State Journal:

Gov. Scott Walker just gave a boost to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s intriguing proposal for an all-male charter school.
As part of his state budget address late Tuesday afternoon, Walker said he wants to let any four-year public university in Wisconsin create a charter school for K-12 students.
That gives the Urban League of Greater Madison a second potential partner for its proposal, should the Madison School Board reject the League’s idea.
Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League, has made a powerful case for an all-male charter school with high standards, uniforms and a longer school day and year.
Charter schools are public schools allowed more freedom to try new things in exchange for greater accountability for results.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Education & Accountability at the Pentagon

Chuck Spinney:

On 4 August 1822, James Madison wrote a letter to W.T. Barry about the importance of popular education and, by inference, the importance of the relationship of the First Amendment to the task of holding an elected government accountable for its actions. He concluded his opening paragraph, setting the tone for the entire letter, by saying, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Nowhere is the farce and tragedy feared by James Madison more evident than in the national debate over if, or how much, the defense budget should be cut back as part of our efforts to reduce the deficit. With the defense budget at war with Social Security, Medicare, and needed discretionary spending in education, investments in infrastructure, and elsewhere, it is a tragedy that must be undone if we are to protect our middle class way of life.

Related: A Madison Maintenance referendum audit?.

Consolidation Of Schools And Districts

Craig Howley, Jerry Johnson, and Jennifer Petrie:

Arguments for consolidation, which merges schools or districts and centralizes their management, rest primarily on two presumed benefits: (1) fiscal efficiency and (2) higher educational quality. The extent of consolidation varies across states due to their considerable differences in history, geography, population density, and politics. Because economic crises often provoke calls for consolidation as a means of increasing government efficiency, the contemporary interest in consolidation is not surprising.
However, the review of research evidence detailed in this brief suggests that a century of consolidation has already produced most of the efficiencies obtainable. Indeed, in the largest jurisdictions, efficiencies have likely been exceeded–that is, some consolidation has produced diseconomies of scale that reduce efficiency. In such cases, deconsolidation is more likely to yield benefits than consolidation. Moreover, contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. For example, policymakers may believe “We’ll save money if we reduce the number of superintendents by consolidating districts;” however, larger districts need–and usually hire–more mid-level administrators. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs.
For these reasons, decisions to deconsolidate or consolidate districts are best made on a case-by-case basis. While state-level consolidation proposals may serve a public relations purpose in times of crisis, they are unlikely to be a reliable way to obtain substantive fiscal or educational improvement.

How Race Relates to College Grad Rates

Cliff Kuang:

Even while some minorities are surging ahead, others are trailing far behind.
Higher education has always been the golden ticket to better fortunes. So you’ve gotta wonder: Who’s cashing in, who’s stagnating, and why? The answers are all contained in a must-see interactive infographic showing college graduation rates across the country, created by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
We’ll get to the nuances of the story behind the data in a second, but let’s look at how the map works. You get to see a color coded scale showing what portion of each county in the U.S. has a college degree — the bluer the county, the more people are college graduates. And for every county, you can see a detailed chart, showing exactly how it stacks up against others:

California student suspended after he calls teacher fat on Facebook

Julia Carpenter:

A California high school student was reportedly suspended after updating his Facebook status with rude remarks about a teacher’s weight.
High school sophomore Donny Tobolski reportedly referred to his biology teacher, Mr. Cimino, as a “fat a– who should stop eating fast food, and is a d—–bag” after Cimino assigned his classes three times more homework than usual in December 2010, reports.
Sacramento’s Mesa Verde High School was notified of the Facebook post and reportedly suspended Tobolski for one day on charges of “cyberbullying.”
According to the San Franciso Chronicle, the American Civil Liberties Union then sent a letter to school authorities asserting that Tobolski had been within his right to free speech when posting the “fat a–” comment to Facebook.

The value of humanities

Chrystia Freeland:

Throughout its 900-year history, Oxford University has survived the Bubonic Plague, the English Civil War, and a host of other maladies. Oxford Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton takes solace in the University’s resilient history as he grapples with the decision by the UK coalition to slash funding for higher education by 80%:

[The budget cuts] are pretty bad. The challenge for us obviously is the speed with which we have to confront the issues that result from them… One of the proposals that has been recently passed by government in the UK is to allow the cost of undergraduate education charged to students to rise. And again, that is happening in a very short period of time. Changes of this significant kind-I think we would all much prefer to be able to manage the cuts and manage any rise in tuition fees that will occur over a longer period, but we’re not being given that luxury. We’re going to have to manage them over a very short period of time, as little as two or three years. And that is going to be quite the challenge.

Oregon Governor Proposes in State K-12 Tax Dollars

Paris Achen:

Fears of having to make millions of dollars in budget cuts at Oregon school districts were fueled Tuesday when Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed a K-12 education allocation of $5.56 billion for the next biennium.
Local school district officials said the amount would be insufficient to support existing services at schools, and they continued to hold out hope that the Legislature would augment that number.
One-time federal stimulus funds in this biennium helped to postpone some of the cuts districts now face, and education lobbyists are urging the Legislature to backfill what’s lost in stimulus funds, so that total K-12 funding would reach $5.8 billion for the biennium.
“We were expecting this,” said Ashland schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro. “We are hoping the Legislature will see differently. At the minimum, we need level funding.”
The Medford School District, with 12,300 students, expects cuts of $13.5 million to $14 million from its $90 million budget, under the governor’s budget proposal.

Houston School District offering free SAT testing in class

Ericka Mellon:

All high school juniors in the Houston Independent School District will have the chance to take the SAT college entrance exam in class for free this April.
Typically, students only can take the SAT on Saturdays or Sundays. HISD officials say the district will be only the third in the country to offer the in-class testing — which should significantly increase the number of students taking the exam.
Nearly 5,000 of HISD’s graduates in 2010 — less than half — took the SAT, according to the district. It’s likely other students took the ACT exam, which most colleges accept as well, but that number wasn’t immediately available for the Class of 2010.

Teacher Licensure in Wisconsin – Who is Protected: The Parents or the Education Establishment?

Mark Schug & Scott Niederjohn:

It has been 10 years since Wisconsin overhauled an old set of rules for state teacher licensure (PI 3 and PI 4) and replaced it with a new set called PI 34. At the time of its approval in 2000, PI 34 was warmly welcomed by state leaders and legislators from both sides of the aisle. It was praised as a way to create a new generation of Wisconsin teachers.
The purpose of this report is to assess PI 34 in an effort to learn whether it has made good on these high expectations.
The underlying issue in this assessment has to do with occupational licensure. Why is it widespread in many states including Wisconsin? There are two viewpoints. The first is that consumers don’t have enough information to make judgments regarding the purchase of services from members of certain occupations. Licensure, according to this view, serves as a means to protect consumers from fraud and malpractice.
The second argument is made by economists. It opposes the first. Prominent economists claim that licensure benefits members of various occupations more than it benefits consumers. It does so by limiting access to the occupations in question, thus reducing competition. Those seeking protection from barriers of this sort believe that the various regulations will eventually enhance their incomes. The costs to consumers include reduced competition and restricted consumer choice.

PI 34’s weaknesses far outweigh its strengths. The weaknesses include the following:

  • PI 34 undervalues the importance of subject-matter knowledge in initial training programs for teachers and in teachers’ professional development activity.
  • PI 34 imposes an overwhelming regulatory system–dwarfing, for example, the regulatory system governing licensure for medical doctors.
  • PI 34 rules for licensure renewal fail to ensure that renewal will depend on demonstrated competence and professional growth. These rules create incentives for pro forma compliance, cronyism, and fraud.
  • PI 34 sets up high barriers (a single, proprietary avenue) for entrance into teaching. It makes licensure conditional on completion of approved training programs requiring, normally, at least two years of full-time enrollment in education coursework. Many highly trained professionals contemplating career changes are deterred by these requirements from becoming teachers, despite demand for their services.
  • PI 34 has no built-in measures for linking teacher licensure to teacher competence. Wisconsin has no evidence that any incompetent teacher has ever been denied licensure renewal.
  • PI 34 enables education producers (WEAC and the DPI) to dominate the licensure system. In this system, parents and students are marginalized.
  • PI 34 is particularly onerous for educators in large urban districts like Milwaukee, where producing academic gains is a challenging problem, and school principals, struggling to hire competent teachers, would benefit greatly from a flexible licensure system.

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

New York Governor Cuomo Proposes Slight Cuts to Education Spending

Jacob Gershman:

Mr. Cuomo’s plan, particularly his hard line on public-school spending, drew criticism from teachers’ unions and Democrats, who control the Assembly.
The budget would lower total spending on education and Medicaid to levels slightly below current-year amounts. For local governments that relied on stimulus money, the governor’s budget will feel like a bigger cut. The budget pain is especially tough for New York City schools, which would see state aid cut by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The governor’s plan would freeze higher-education spending and general aid to localities. He also seeks to squeeze $1 billion out of state agencies. Spending on public employee pensions, health insurance and other benefits would increase by $474 million, an 8% rise over the current fiscal year.
Mr. Cuomo, who has said he wants to create a lower-cost pension for new employees, did not include such plans in his budget, saving the battle for another day.

The Thomas Beale Cipher: A Modern Take on an Old Mystery

Jane Doh:

It’s the stuff of legends: A group of men comea across what would be today worth $65 million in gold and silver while on expedition in early-19th-century New Mexico territory. Then, they transport said treasure thousands of miles and bury it in Virginia. One of them, named Thomas Jefferson Beale, leaves three ciphertexts, simply strings of comma-separated numbers, with an innkeeper in Virginia, who forgets about it for more than 20 years.
One day, the innkeeper, realizing that Beale isn’t coming back, opens the box and tries to solve the riddle. Frustrated, he then tells the story and passes along the texts to a friend, J.B. Ward, who cracks one of the three ciphertexts, but not the one that actually gives the precise location of the treasure. More than a hundred years go by, and no one can solve the remaining two ciphers, not even with the benefit of modern computers, and the treasure, if it exists, may still be out there, waiting in the mountains of Virginia.
Picking up on this unsolved mystery, modern storyteller Andrew S. Allen created a short film The Thomas Beale Cipher, a refreshingly modern take on this century-old mystery. In Allen’s story, Professor White, a cryptographer who has recently run into some poor luck, has figured out a way to solve the Beale ciphers. But this knowledge is dangerous, and federal agents are hunting him down.

Think twice About an MBA

The Economist:

Business schools have long sold the promise that, like an F1 driver zipping into the pits for fresh tyres, it just takes a short hiatus on an MBA programme and you will come roaring back into the career race primed to win. After all, it signals to companies that you were good enough to be accepted by a decent business school (so must be good enough for them); it plugs you into a network of fellow MBAs; and, to a much lesser extent, there’s the actual classroom education. Why not just pay the bill, sign here and reap the rewards?
The problem is that these days it doesn’t work like that. Rather, more and more students are finding the promise of business schools to be hollow. The return on investment on an MBA has gone the way of Greek public debt. If you have a decent job in your mid- to late- 20s, unless you have the backing of a corporate sponsor, leaving it to get an MBA is a higher risk than ever. If you are getting good business experience already, the best strategy is to keep on getting it, thereby making yourself ever more useful rather than groping for the evanescent brass rings of business school.

Make our schools safe, effective

Caryl Davis:

I was assailed at my workplace. This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary had my workplace been a boxing or MMA ring. But it is not typical, as my workplace is a school.
I was struck in the head and face from behind as I escorted a group of students from the cafeteria. I didn’t pass out or fall down, but I was stunned.
I sought medical attention and received the pat “I’m sorry that happened to you” response from those who likely couldn’t find the words to make meaning of what occurred.
My assault occurred several weeks after Flamond Hightower, a paraprofessional educator at Milwaukee’s Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School, sent a notorious e-mail that identified the challenges at his school. The e-mail had been intended only for Wheatley faculty and staff but found its way to the electronic mailboxes of Milwaukee Public Schools employees throughout the district. Its message was clear and strong: HELP!
Hightower pointed to and was concerned about the disorder in his school. Perhaps his means of communicating were a bit extreme, but sometimes it takes an event before people listen.

Is Going to an Elite College Worth the Cost?

Jacques Steinberg::

AS hundreds of thousands of students rush to fill out college applications to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, it might be worth asking them: Is where you spend the next four years of your life that important?
The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensified questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Do their graduates make more money? Get into better professional programs? Make better connections? And are they more satisfied with their lives, or at least with their work?

Proximity to freeways increases autism risk, study finds

Shari Roan

Children born to mothers who live close to freeways have twice the risk of autism, researchers reported Thursday. The study, its authors say, adds to evidence suggesting that certain environmental exposures could play a role in causing the disorder in some children.
“This study isn’t saying exposure to air pollution or exposure to traffic causes autism,” said Heather Volk, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “But it could be one of the factors that are contributing to its increase.”

Detroit Public Schools consider public boarding school

Chastity Pratt Dawsey:

The Detroit Public Schools is looking for an organization willing and able to open a public boarding school in fall 2012, the district announced today.
Now through Feb. 28, DPS is accepting applications for a high school that would be a charter school offering residential housing.
The school would target students in grades 9 to 12 and focus on providing a high-quality, rigorous college-preparatory curriculum for youths “who need a thoughtful, caring, safe, and nurturing day and residential environment,” according to a DPS statement released today.

The Children Must Play What the United States could learn from Finland about education reform.

Samuel Abrams via a Mary Battaglia email:

While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked Heikkinen if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 [Celsius] and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”
In comparison to the United States and many other industrialized nations, the Finns have implemented a radically different model of educational reform–based on a balanced curriculum and professionalization, not testing. Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts–75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.–but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions. This is a far cry from the U.S. concentration on testing in reading and math since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002, which has led school districts across the country, according to a survey by the Center on Education Policy, to significantly narrow their curricula. And the Finns’ efforts are paying off: In December, the results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam in reading, math, and science given every three years since 2000 to approximately 5,000 15-year-olds per nation around the world, revealed that, for the fourth consecutive time, Finnish students posted stellar scores. The United States, meanwhile, lagged in the middle of the pack.

G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure

Trip Gabriel & Sam Dillon:

Seizing on a national anxiety over poor student performance, many governors are taking aim at a bedrock tradition of public schools: teacher tenure.
The momentum began over a year ago with President Obama’s call to measure and reward effective teaching, a challenge he repeated in last week’s State of the Union address.
Now several Republican governors have concluded that removing ineffective teachers requires undoing the century-old protections of tenure.
Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have called for the elimination or dismantling of tenure. As state legislatures convene this winter, anti-tenure bills are being written in those states and others. Their chances of passing have risen because of crushing state budget deficits that have put teachers’ unions on the defensive.

Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers To Grade Parents


A central Florida lawmaker wants school teachers to grade parents on their children’s report cards.
State Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, recently proposed a bill that would require public school teachers to grade the parents of their students in kindergarten through third grade.
A grade of “satisfactory,” “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement” would be added to their children’s report cards.
The grading system would be based on the following criteria:

‘A Rosa Parks moment for education’

Kevin Huffman:

Last week, 40-year-old Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was released after serving nine days in jail on a felony conviction for tampering with records. Williams-Bolar’s offense? Lying about her address so her two daughters, zoned to the lousy Akron city schools, could attend better schools in the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn district.
Williams-Bolar has become a cause célèbre in a case that crosses traditional ideological bounds. African American activists are outraged, asking: Would a white mother face the same punishment for trying to get her kids a better education? (Answer: No.)
Meanwhile, conservatives view the case as evidence of the need for broader school choice. What does it say when parents’ options are so limited that they commit felonies to avoid terrible schools? Commentator Kyle Olson and others across the political spectrum have called this “a Rosa Parks moment for education.”

New Advanced Placement Biology Is Ready to Roll Out, but U.S. History Isn’t

Christopher Drew:

While the College Board plans to unveil a sweeping revision to Advanced Placement biology courses on Tuesday, it is delaying similar changes in United States history by a year to address concerns from high school teachers.
The changes in both subjects are part of a broad revamping of A.P. courses and exams to reduce memorization and to foster analytic thinking. But while the new biology curriculum is specific about what material needs to be covered, some teachers complained that parts of the history course seemed vague, and the board said it needed more time to clarify what should be studied.
Board officials said they expected to publish the new United States history curriculum next fall. That curriculum will now take effect in the 2013-14 school year, they said, rather than in 2012-13, when the new biology program is to begin.

Out Educate: School and the State of the Union

Amanda Read:

namored with President Obama’s plans for the country.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the rumored “Sputnik moment” fell flat. After all, the “clean green” mantra lit up with squiggly bulbs just doesn’t ignite the creativity of the populace like the notion of going to the moon. Of course there was more to the president’s technological ideals than that, but he invested too many words in education to make them sound believable.
In a way Obama was playing it safe by pulling out the motherhood-and-apple-pie concept of winning the future through education for the children. Nobody (except the Grinch) would argue against something done for the children, would they?

“When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top.”

Ah, but Mr. President, a crucial distinction must be made here. There is a difference between education and federal spending on education. Since when has federal involvement in education helped the economy or improved learning?

Oshkosh native teaching, and learning, in Vietnam

Jennifer K. Woldt:

Mikaela Van Sistine was having lunch with one of her students and thought nothing about finishing all of the food on her plate.
But the look on her student’s face, and the accompanying explanation that it’s polite to leave a bite of food on your plate as a sign that the serving size was more than enough and you are full, told her a different story. Afterwards Van Sistine explained the “clean plate” mentality common in the United States.
It’s moments like that – the exchange of information about the two cultures – that Van Sistine says are some of the most gratifying moments she has come across during a teaching stint in Vietnam.

Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

Bryan Caplan:

We’ve needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your kids less and enjoy your life more. Your kids will still turn out fine.
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a book of practical big ideas. How can parents be happier? What can they change–and what do they need to just accept? Which of their worries can parents safely forget? Above all, what is the right number of kids for you to have? You’ll never see kids or parenthood the same way again.

‘A Rosa Parks moment for education’

Kevin Huffmana:

Last week, 40-year-old Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was released after serving nine days in jail on a felony conviction for tampering with records. Williams-Bolar’s offense? Lying about her address so her two daughters, zoned to the lousy Akron city schools, could attend better schools in the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn district.
Williams-Bolar has become a cause célèbre in a case that crosses traditional ideological bounds. African American activists are outraged, asking: Would a white mother face the same punishment for trying to get her kids a better education? (Answer: No.)
Meanwhile, conservatives view the case as evidence of the need for broader school choice. What does it say when parents’ options are so limited that they commit felonies to avoid terrible schools? Commentator Kyle Olson and others across the political spectrum have called this “a Rosa Parks moment for education.”

Higher education is not broken

Michael Wixom:

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address has certainly given us all a great deal to consider. His proposals for Nevada’s public higher education system, in particular, will prompt needed dialogue. However, it is critical that such discussions begin with correct assumptions, and contrary to what we have been told, the Nevada System of Higher Education is not broken.
As evidence of that assertion, some point to our universities’ six-year graduation rates (for the period beginning in 2004) of only 50 percent. However, that statement is misleading. When student transfers and eight-year graduation rates are reflected in the calculation, the graduation rate is much higher, ranging from 55 to 70 percent — certainly in need of improvement, but a respectable figure in any national comparison.
Many have been critical of Nevada’s community college graduation rates, which range from 5 to 26 percent. However, many, if not most, community college students don’t attend community colleges to graduate from a community college — they attend to take specific courses or they transfer within a relatively short period of time. These are designed to be access institutions, and graduation rates, taken alone, really don’t adequately reflect their mission.