One vote could change the outcome for Georgia commission charter schools



Douglas Rosenbloom:

It’s not too late. The state Supreme Court has one more chance to get it right.
In the legal equivalent to a 70-yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone, the Georgia Charter Schools Commission’s existence is dependent upon one of four judges — in response to a pending motion for reconsideration — reversing his or her position and voting to not strike down a law that catapulted Georgia to win a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant and recognition as a leader in public school choice.
As an attorney, a former Atlanta Public Schools elementary teacher and a once bright-eyed judicial intern in our state’s highest court, I have struggled to understand the court’s unnecessarily harsh decision. Despite their vote, I do not believe that the four judges who decided to dismantle the commission based on historically inaccurate and intellectually dishonest reasoning condone the mediocrity that permeates our public schools.
Nor do I think that any member of the court believes that low-income Georgia families stuck in these mediocre schools have access to political and economic capital of the magnitude expended by local boards of education in their efforts to preserve sole control over charter schools. But I do suspect these judges, on a very basic, instinctual, “gut-feeling” level, under-appreciate the magnificent danger posed to returning to the pre-2008 days of leaving charter school authorization in the exclusive hands of locally elected school boards.




Report says L.A. principals should have more authority in hiring teachers



Howard Blume:

School principals should be able to hire any teacher of their choosing, and displaced tenured teachers who aren’t rehired elsewhere within the system should be permanently dismissed, according to a controversial new report on the Los Angeles Unified School District. The report will be presented Tuesday to the Board of Education.
The research, paid for largely by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, offers a roadmap for improving the quality of teaching in the nation’s second-largest school system, with recommendations strongly backed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.




ACLU alleges Milwaukee school voucher program discriminates against disabled students



Matthew DeFour:

The state’s Milwaukee school voucher program has discriminated against students with disabilities, according to a federal complaint filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, comes as expansion of the voucher program to other cities moves closer to Legislative approval.
The program, which began 20 years ago and serves nearly 21,000 students, provides public money for students to attend private schools, including religious schools.
The complaint states that 1.6 percent of voucher students have disabilities, compared with 19.5 percent of Milwaukee Public School students. It alleges the state has failed to hold private voucher schools accountable for serving children with disabilities.




Grading Schools: How to Determine the ‘Good’ From the ‘Bad’?



NewsHour:

Now we grade the students, but how do we determine if a school is “good” or “bad”?
NewsHour Education Correspondent John Merrow explores the question in this report.
JOHN MERROW: Reading is the foundation of all learning. But according to the nation’s report card, only 33 percent of fourth-graders are competent readers.
At this elementary school in New York City, 33 percent would be good news. Last year on the state reading test, only 18 percent of fourth-graders were on grade level, strong evidence of a failing school.
STUDENTS: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
JOHN MERROW: By contrast, this school is filled with enthusiastic students. Teachers provide a supportive and nurturing environment.




More than 90 Milwaukee Public schools miss federal academic goals



Karen Herzog:

A preliminary list of public schools that missed federally mandated academic goals for the 2010-’11 school year includes more than 90 schools in Milwaukee, a spike from last year as proficiency standards have risen.
Milwaukee Public Schools had 94 of the 228 schools in Wisconsin that missed the so-called adequate yearly progress, or AYP, requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act, according to information released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Last year, 78 schools in MPS missed the academic goals.
The federal standards for reading rose from 74% of students scoring proficient or above last year, to 80.5% proficiency required this year; the mathematics proficiency target rose from 58% to 68.5%.
Three charter schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee and two charter schools under contract with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also were on the list for missed goals, along with a handful of suburban schools.




Wisconsin Governor Walker plans to link job training money, local education reform



John Schmid:

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday will announce a new policy to disburse hundreds of millions of dollars in federal job training funds each year – and will link the funds to reforms of local education curriculums.
The disclosure came Wednesday morning from Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of Bucyrus International and the chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, a state advisory panel. Sullivan spoke at a meeting of the Milwaukee 7 economic development group.
Under the current system, federal job training funds, disbursed by multiple federal agencies, are paid directly to five state agencies, which in turn have established formulas to spend their share.




N.J. Nears Deal to Cut Pensions, Benefits



Lisa Fleisher:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Senate legislative leaders have reached a deal to cut pensions and benefits for current public employees, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The deal would require workers to pay more of their salaries into the pension system, give up annual cost-of-living increases and pay a percentage of their health care premiums in a tiered system based on their salary, this person said. New employees would have to work longer to get full benefits. Current retirees would not be affected by the deal, nor will people who have at least 25 years in the system.
Top Democratic lawmakers appear to support the proposal. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who is also a private-sector labor leader, believes he has the votes in his caucus to make it work, according to a person familiar with the matter. It’s unclear whether Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is on board with the deal — one legislative source said she was — and if she would be able to muster enough votes in the Assembly, which has been more of an obstacle to Christie’s agenda.




The Dangerous Mr. Khan



David Clemens:

Bill Gates likes Salman Khan a lot, so much so that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is streaming cash to his Khan Academy, an internet silo of over 2,100 free, downloadable video tutorials on Calculus, Physics, Organic Chemistry, et al. Mr. Khan’s Academy only has a “faculty of one,” but my own students enjoy Mr. Khan’s glib teaching style, and they consult his clips on quadratic equations, conic sections, and those hated word problems involving railroad trains. So is the Khan video approach a “disruptive technology” which undermines the existing deathbed educational model by doing it faster, better, and cheaper? Mr. Gates thinks so. “It’s a revolution,” he enthuses. “Everyone should check it out.” (www.khanacademy.org) Wearing his education reformer hat, Mr. Gates declares himself “superhappy.”
Mr. Khan, then, by all reports, is an entertaining, trustworthy, and helpful tutor of math and science. However, when he essays history, it’s a different story and one that exposes something disquieting about a hidden potential of Internet learning, especially if, as some predict, The Khan Academy is the future of education.
Curious about Mr. Khan’s take on something non-science, I pulled up his video “U.S. History Overview 3–World War II to Vietnam”
The screen looks like a squashed, two-dimensional schoolroom; you see a combined blackboard and bulletin board with colorful squiggly dates on a scroll down timeline, random photos (Hitler, Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, mushroom cloud), and tiny maps. Mr. Khan remains offscreen but writes or circles things onscreen with his pointer and provides his signature breathless voiceover.

Much more on the Khan Academy, here.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. funding for future promises lags by trillions



Dennis Cauchon:

The federal government’s financial condition deteriorated rapidly last year, far beyond the $1.5 trillion in new debt taken on to finance the budget deficit, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
The government added $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations in 2010, largely for retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. That brings to a record $61.6 trillion the total of financial promises not paid for.
This gap between spending commitments and revenue last year equals more than one-third of the nation’s gross domestic product.
Medicare alone took on $1.8 trillion in new liabilities, more than the record deficit prompting heated debate between Congress and the White House over lifting the debt ceiling.
Social Security added $1.4 trillion in obligations, partly reflecting longer life expectancies. Federal and military retirement programs added more to the financial hole, too.




The Cheap Schools Plan



Bruce Murphy:

e are rapidly on course to create a dual-level school system for Wisconsin students. In smaller cities and rural and suburban areas, school systems will continue to spend about $10,000 per pupil. That is a bit less than the national average of $10,499, as a recent Census Bureau report found.
But in big cities such as Milwaukee and Racine, and perhaps in Green Bay and Beloit, more and more students will be educated at choice schools that spend about $6,400 per pupil. These school systems tend to have students who are poorer, more likely to have learning disabilities, and they are typically the most challenging to teach. Yet Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators propose to spend less than two-thirds of the average per-pupil spending in other schools in the state and nation.
This situation, I might add, is not simply the fault of Republicans. Many Democrats, in hopes of killing school choice, have adamantly opposed spending more on vouchers in the past, so the per-pupil rate has always been absurdly low. On the other side are Republicans who can’t lose with school choice: It undercuts public schools and lowers the number of teachers union members in cities such as Milwaukee. And it allows them to portray themselves as reformers trying to do something about failing schools.




The Best of States, the Worst of States



Frank Jacobs:

Are these maps cartograms or mere infographics?
An ‘information graphic’ is defined as any graphic representation of data. It follows from that definition that infographics are less determined by type than by purpose. Which is to represent complex information in a readily graspable graphic format. Those formats are often, but not only: diagrams, flow charts, and maps.
Although one definition of maps – the graphic representation of spatial data – is very similar to that of infographics, the two are easily distinguished by, among other things, the context of the latter, which are usually confined to and embedded in technical and journalistic writing.
Cartograms are a subset of infographics, limited to one type of graphic representation: maps. On these maps, one set of quantitative information (usually surface or distance) is replaced by another (often demographic data or electoral results). The result is an informative distortion of the map (1).




Rhode Island High Schools Rank Worst in the Country



Dan McGowan:

Rhode Island is one of only a handful of states to not have a single school included in the Washington Post’s annual High School Challenge, a ranking of more than 1,900 high schools throughout the country.
The reason: Rhode Island students are significantly behind the national average when it comes to taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, and near the bottom of the country when it comes to passing them. In the class of 2010, only 17.9 percent of Ocean State students took an AP exam (compared with 28.3 percent nationally) and just 10.9 passed (compared with 16.9 percent nationally), according to a report issued by the College Board.
According to The Post, the formula used to rank the schools was to “divide the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors.” The goal wasn’t to measure to overall quality of the schools, but simply to track how well they are preparing “average students” for college.




DeForest School Administrators Explain Raises



Channel3000.com:

A list of school district salaries making the rounds online is angering many people in the DeForest area.
The list shows 22 district administrators splitting more than $200,000 in increased compensation. One administrator’s salary increased from $66,000 to $92,000 per year, according to the document, which is marked confidential.
District officials said that they were unsure if the copy circulating online is accurate, but were concerned over it.
The board met on Thursday night to write a letter to the community explaining the raises, which were approved last June. A public hearing was not scheduled, but fired-up members of the community showed up questioning not only the raises, but the lack of transparency involved.




Madison School District may face sanctions for inadequate test scores



Matthew DeFour:

For the first time, the Madison School District has been flagged for possible sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law because of inadequate student test scores.
An annual review by the Department of Public Instruction found that Madison was one of six districts that didn’t meet objectives in either test scores, test participation, graduation or attendance. Madison fell short in reading scores for the second year in a row and math scores for the first time.
Madison was one of three districts identified as being in need of improvement — a distinction that comes after two or more years of not meeting standards in one of the categories.
Sixteen Madison schools didn’t meet one or more of the objectives, up from five last year. Leopold elementary, Cherokee and Toki middle, and East, Memorial and La Follette high schools were identified as needing improvement.




The Case For Cursive



Katie Zezima:

For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery.
The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell. With computer keyboards and smartphones increasingly occupying young fingers, the gradual death of the fancier ABC’s is revealing some unforeseen challenges.
Might people who write only by printing — in block letters, or perhaps with a sloppy, squiggly signature — be more at risk for forgery? Is the development of a fine motor skill thwarted by an aversion to cursive handwriting? And what happens when young people who are not familiar with cursive have to read historical documents like the Constitution?




Yes, We Should Redistribute Grades



The Economist:

I NOTICED this post by Robin Hanson a couple of weeks ago, teasing the question of how, if one feels that we should redistribute income to compensate for unfairness and limit socially damaging inequality, one could justify not redistributing grade-point averages for the same reasons. Mr Hanson riffs off a video of a waggish student asking a number of baffled campus-goers whether they would be willing to take part in redistributing their GPAs, and notes that students in his classes have been similarly stonkered. Since then XPostFactoid and Megan McArdle have both weighed in.
I find the dilemma here a little hard to seize for reasons that have surely been pointed out by many in comment threads, namely that we do in fact heavily redistribute grade-point averages, for many of the same reasons we redistribute income. This situation strikes me as more or less fine. In the very worst schools in America, some students have 3.0 GPAs, even though the students who earn a 3.0 GPA in those schools would be hard pressed to maintain a 1.0 GPA in America’s best schools. Work for which students receive B’s in poor schools would earn failing grades in top schools. Classes in many subjects even within highly competitive universities are explicitly graded on a curve, particularly some hard-science classes. All of this represents a profound top-down  effort to ration educational-credit goods according to a predetermined ideal distribution.




Support Rhode Island mayoral academies



The Providence Journal:

Better public schools are obviously crucial to the future of Rhode Island’s students, particularly poor and minority ones, and to its overall economic future.
One of the brightest signs in a long time that Rhode Island can turn things around is the mayoral academy concept, which is thriving in Cumberland, serving that community, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Lincoln. Through the bold leadership of the region’s mayors and with the strong support of the General Assembly (especially House Speaker Gordon Fox), it is doing wonderful work.
Dedicated teachers there spend long hours helping students dramatically advance in math, reading and writing, free of union red tape. A mark of the esteem in which parents hold the school is that 877 children vied in April for only 250 open spots, chosen strictly by lottery.
Now, Cranston Mayor Alan Fung is working hard to bring that concept to his city and Providence through a new mayoral-academy program. His plan calls for an academy to grow into two elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school over the next decade.
The state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education is slated to decide whether to go forward on June 16. Though Governor Chafee has stripped that board of some of its most dedicated reformers, members owe it to the children of Rhode Island to move forward with this promising effort.

Tom Vander Ark

It all comes down to the quality of instruction. Good schools hire and develop good teachers that provide instruction of consistent quality. And that comes down to execution. Achievement First is a charter network that is very good at execution and, as a result, is one the best networks in the country.
The good news is that the innovative Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) organization convinced AF to come to RI. ProJo.com said: “One of the brightest signs in a long time that Rhode Island can turn things around is the mayoral academy concept, which is thriving in Cumberland, serving that community, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Lincoln. Through the bold leadership of the region’s mayors and with the strong support of the General Assembly (especially House Speaker Gordon Fox), it is doing wonderful work.”
The bad news is that “union members packed a hearing on May 26 and urged state officials to reject this opportunity. Some charged that mayoral academies would “siphon” money from the system.” Unfortunately the ‘protect the system’ argument has Rhode Island politicians wavering.




School District Income Taxes: New Revenue or a Property Tax Substitute?



Justin Ross:

Though a few states have permitted school districts to adopt an income tax, most have statutory requirements for the use of funds or otherwise limit the eligibility of the school districts to a subset of circumstances. Ohio, by contrast, has permitted schools to adopt a residency based income tax for any permissible use of public funds since the 1980’s. Using a panel of 609 Ohio school districts from 1990 to 2008, this paper investigates the implementation of a school district income tax on the effective real property millage rate. The findings indicate that a one percent increase in the income tax rate reduces the effective real mills rate by about $3 per $1,000 of taxable property. The income tax’s effect accumulates very quickly after its adoption, and persists for years afterward. Simulations on real data imply that about 30% of income tax revenue displaces the property tax. There is also evidence that school districts continue to mimic reductions in their neighbor’s millage rate, even when the reduction is caused by higher income tax rates.




Madison Teachers, Inc. head: Time to get ‘down and dirty’



Matthew DeFour:

“They’re ready,” Matthews said afterward, “to do whatever it takes.”
After 43 years as executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., Matthews is in the spotlight again after encouraging a four-day sick-out that closed school in February. The action allowed teachers to attend protests at the Capitol over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to curb collective bargaining by public employees. The matter remains in the courts, but it prompted a hasty contract negotiation between the district and union.
Teachers aren’t happy about some of the changes, and Matthews is preparing for a street fight.
“It’s going to get down and dirty,” Matthews said, alluding to the possibility of more job actions, such as “working the contract” – meaning teachers wouldn’t work outside required hours – if the School Board doesn’t back off changes in the contract. “You can’t continually put people down and do things to control them and hurt them and not have them react.”
Moreover, the latest battle over collective bargaining has taken on more personal significance for Matthews, whose life’s work has been negotiating contracts.

Much more on John Matthews, here. Madison Teachers, Inc. website and Twitter feed.




Industry Puts Heat on Schools to Teach Skills Employers Need



James Hagerty:

Big U.S. employers, worried about replacing retiring baby boomers, are wading deeper into education and growing bolder about telling educators how to run their business.
Several initiatives have focused on manufacturing and engineering, fields where technical know-how and math and science skills are needed and where companies worry about recruiting new talent.
Their concerns are borne out by the math and science test scores of 15-year-old students in the U.S., which continue to lag behind China, Japan, South Korea and Germany, for example.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report in May that said higher education had failed to “tap the potential of digital technology” in ways that would “transform learning, dramatically lower costs or improve overall institutional productivity.”
The Chamber report praised Internet educational institutions like Khan Academy, which built its reputation on YouTube.com math lessons.




What is a college education really worth?



Naomi Schaefer Riley:

Did Peter Thiel pop the bubble? That was the question on the minds of parents, taxpayers and higher education leaders late last month when the co-founder of PayPalannounced that he was offering $100,000 to young people who would stay out of college for two years and work instead on scientific and technological innovations. Thiel, who has called college “the default activity,” told USA Today that “the pernicious side effect of the education bubble is assuming education [guarantees] absolute good, even with steep student fees.”
He has lured 24 of the smartest kids in America and Canada to his Silicon Valley lair with promises of money and mentorship for their projects. Some of these young people have been working in university labs since before adolescence. Others have consulted for Microsoft, Coca-Cola and other top companies. A couple didn’t even have to face the choice of putting off college — one enrolled in college at age 12 and, at 19, had left his PhD studies at Stanford to start his own company.
Of course, Thiel’s offer isn’t going to change the way most universities do business anytime soon. These 24 kids represent the narrowest swath of the country’s college-bound youth. (Though it’s important to note: When we talk about America having the greatest system of higher education in the world, these are the kind of people we’re bragging about.)




Social Darwinism



Robin Dunbar:

In May 1846, a year and a half before gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, several extended families and quite a few unattached males headed with their caravans from Illinois to California. Due to poor organization, some bad advice, and a huge dose of bad luck, by November the group had foundered in the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada. They came to a halt at what is now known as Donner Pass, and, in an iconic if unpleasant moment in California’s history, they sat out winter in makeshift tents buried in snow, the group dwindling as survivors resorted to cannibalism to avert starvation.
From an evolutionary point of view, what makes the story interesting is not the cannibalism — which, in the annals of anthropology, is relatively banal — but who survived and who did not. Of the 87 pioneers, only 46 came over the pass alive in February and March of the next year. Their story, then, represents a case study of what might be termed catastrophic natural selection. It turns out that, contrary to lay Darwinist expectations, it was not the virile young but those who were embedded in families who had the best odds of survival. The unattached young men, presumably fuller of vigor and capable of withstanding more physical hardship than the others, fared worst, worse even than the older folk and the children.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Another Big Business Offshore Example: U2



George Arbuthnott:

He is the rock legend dubbed ‘Saint Bono’ for his long-running campaign against global poverty.
But when Bono’s band U2 perform at Glastonbury later this month, protesters are planning to accuse them of avoiding taxes which could have helped exactly the sort of people the singer cares about so dearly.
Members of activist group Art Uncut will hoist a massive inflatable sign with the message ‘Bono Pay Up’ spelt out in lights during the Irish band’s headline performance.
They will also parade bundles of oversized fake cash in front of the singer.
The protest has been provoked by U2’s decision to move their multi-million-pound music and publishing business away from Ireland – thus allegedly avoiding taxes on record sales.




Utah father spends school year waving at son’s bus



Associated Press:

The world’s most embarrassing father is no more.
Over the course of the 180-day school year, Dale Price waved at the school bus carrying his 16-year-old son, Rain, while wearing something different every morning outside their American Fork home.
He started out by donning a San Diego Chargers helmet and jersey, an Anakin Skywalker helmet, and swim trunks and a snorkel mask, the Daily Herald of Provo and Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.
Among others, he later dressed up as Elvis, Batgirl, the Little Mermaid, the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, Princess Leia, Nacho Libre and Santa Claus. He wore spandex, pleather, feathers, wigs, flips flops, suits, boots, fur, Army fatigues and several dresses, including a wedding dress.
Dale Price said it took a lot of effort to keep up, but he did it to have fun and show his son he really cared about him.




State school official blasts voucher program expansion to Green Bay



Karen Herzog:

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Monday blasted the Legislature’s budget committee for its late-night vote Friday to expand to Green Bay a program that allows students to attend private and religious schools at taxpayer expense.
The voucher expansion should be removed from the state budget and “a true local public debate needs to occur,” Evers said in a statement. He also referred to the budget committee’s vote to include Racine in the voucher program Thursday night.
“Raising taxes on the citizens of Green Bay and Racine in the dead of night, without public hearings or the support of their locally elected school officials echoes the type of non-representative, undemocratic actions taken by the English parliament against the American colonists through their stamp and tea taxes,” Evers said.
He raised several questions about the action Friday night by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to include in the state budget an expansion of the school voucher program for Green Bay.
Green Bay property taxpayers are now on track to pay millions for private and religious schools, Evers said. “At the same time, their public school system is being cut $40 million, which will certainly raise class sizes and reduce educational opportunities for public school students.”




Claims of Discrimination By Milwaukee Public Schools Pop Up Again in ED Drug Case



MacIver News Service:

In March, it was announced with much fanfare that the Milwaukee teachers’ union was dropping it’s controversial Viagra lawsuit against MPS.
However, the MacIver News Service has learned that the effort to force MPS to provide coverage for erectile dysfunction treatments has arisen again, albeit in a different venue.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association’s (MTEA) decision earlier this year came just eight months after filing their August of 2010 suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court wherein they argued that the board’s policy of excluding erectile dysfunction drugs from their health plan coverage was discriminatory against men.




DPI Report: Madison Schools Are Out of Compliance on Gifted and Talented Education



Lori Raihala:

In response, Superintendent Nerad directed West to start providing honors courses in the fall of 2010. West staff protested, however, and Nerad retracted the directive.
Community members sent another petition in July, 2010-this time signed by 188 supporters-again calling for multiple measures of identification and advanced levels of core courses for 9th and 10th graders at West. This time there was no response but silence.
In the meantime, Greater Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire told us: “The law is there for a reason. Use it.”
So, after years of trying to work with the system, we filed a formal complaint with the DPI in September, 2010. Little did we know what upheaval the next months would bring. In October, the district administration rolled out its College and Career Readiness Plan; teachers at West agitated, and students staged a sit-in. In February, our new governor issued his reform proposal; protesters massed at the Capitol, and school was called off for four days.
In the meantime, the DPI conducted its investigation. Though our complaint had targeted West for its chronic, blatant, willful violations, the DPI extended its audit to the entire Madison School District.

Much more on the Madison parents complaint to the Wisconsin DPI, here.




School choice debate vs. reality



Jay Matthews:

In the raging debate over school choice–perhaps the only educational issue that gets heated enough to interest politicians–the combatants, including me, tend to go with our own conclusions rather than the research. Timothy Hacsi in his 2002 book “Children As Pawns” showed this is the way we usually argue about schools in America.
But research is still being done. It is refreshing to find a new book presenting some of the most recent findings, as disturbing as they might be to my favorite biases. “School Choice and School Improvement,” edited by Mark Berends, Marisa Cannata and Ellen B. Goldring, is the latest offering of Vanderbilt University’s National Center on School Choice.
Here are what the data say. Feel free to ignore if it conflicts with your arguments. I certainly will:




Are we creating dual school systems with charters, vouchers?



Bill McDiarmid:

Recently I participated in a panel discussion following a showing of the film ” Waiting for Superman .” The film is deeply moving. Only a heart of granite would remain unmoved by the plight of the children and caretakers as they learn they would not get into their schools of choice.
In the discussion, Jim Johnson, a UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and founder of the Union Independent School in Durham, made a crucial observation. He noted that the debate around public charter schools versus traditional public schools, or private versus public schools, deflected us from the underlying issue: the plight of children who have no adult advocates.
As Johnson pointed out, despite failing to win a place in their school of choice, the students featured in the film all had a least one adult in their lives who knowledgeably advocated for them and cared deeply about their learning opportunities.




Md. teacher evaluation redesign bogs down



Michael Alison Chandler:

Last summer, Maryland won a $250 million federal grant with a promise to build a model to evaluate teachers and principals that would be “transparent and fair” and tie their success for the first time to student test scores and learning.
Now, the state that prides itself on cutting-edge practices and top-in-the-nation schools is struggling — along with every state or school system that has ever tried — to come up with a reliable formula for improving the teacher workforce and rooting out the lowest performers.




California school funding analysis finds disparity



Louis Freedberg, Stephen K. Doi:

State lawmakers have struggled for decades to bring equality to how school districts are funded, yet some districts receive thousands more per student than others, a California Watch analysis has found. And the data show spending more provides no assurance of academic success.
Last year, California schools spent an average of $8,452 to educate each student, a figure that includes money from local, state and federal sources, including one-time stimulus funds.
But that average masks enormous differences in spending. The Carmel Unified School District, for example, spent nearly three times as much as the Norris School District in Bakersfield. According to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, some of the smallest schools in the Sierra foothills, with just a handful of students, received about $200,000 per student.




Temporary pay cut approved by Los Angeles teachers



Howard Blume:

Members of the Los Angeles teachers union voted overwhelmingly to approve a temporary salary reduction in exchange for sparing thousands of jobs, the union announced Saturday.
The vote, which took place Thursday and Friday, means that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s swollen class sizes will not increase next year and that the vast majority of teachers, nurses, librarians and magnet school coordinators — who run popular special programs — are likely to keep their jobs.




An inner city school fights to save its orchestra



Associated Press:

The violin isn’t pretty, but its scratched frame has been well-loved by the girl who cradles it now, and those who played it before her. Her mother calls it her daughter’s “soul mate.”
The instrument doesn’t belong to Nidalis Burgos. It is on loan from her school, where the seventh-grader packs it up each weekday to bring it home.
She practices anywhere she can — in her bedroom, in the kitchen, on her back porch so she can hear the sound reverberate off the brick apartment buildings that line the alley. Usually, she warms up with “Ode to Joy,” her mother’s favorite song, and a fitting theme for a girl who truly seems to love playing.




Sun Priarie Administrator Moving to Madison?



SP-EYE via a kind reader’s email:

At the last school board meeting, we learned, in a late addendum to the Personnel agenda item, that High School Assistant Principal Rainey Briggs ($75,971) is also leaving the district. Word on the street is that he has been offered a Principalship in the Madison school district. Hmmm? Don’t we have a Principal position open here in Sun Prairie? At Creekside elementary? Was Briggs interested in that position? Was he interested but Culver was not, n’est ce pas? Enquiring minds are wondering.
Briggs has developed a reputation as a charismatic, inspiring, and aspiring leader within the district and the community. We’ve heard anecdotal tributes to his efforts to work with kids at the high school and middle school level. We’re hoping we didn’t let him go without a fight. In fact, the board meeting got a little edgy when 3 board members voted AGAINST accepting his resignation. It came down to poor Terry Shimek having to cast the final vote to accept the resignation of Briggs as well as the Sound of Sun Prairie leaders who resigned amid stormy allegations. It was the right move for Shimek…they couldn’t really deny these folks…right? (although Briggs had technically committed to honoring his contract earlier this year). You can’t force people to stay when they wish to go…right?




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Why the Democratic Party Has Abandoned the Middle Class in Favor of the Rich



Kevin Drum:

The first is this: Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-’70s–far more in the US than in most advanced countries–and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and–even more dramatically–among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.
Second, American politicians don’t care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early ’90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that’s not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don’t respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that’s not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don’t respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.
It doesn’t take a multivariate correlation to conclude that these two things are tightly related: If politicians care almost exclusively about the concerns of the rich, it makes sense that over the past decades they’ve enacted policies that have ended up benefiting the rich. And if you’re not rich yourself, this is a problem. First and foremost, it’s an economic problem because it’s siphoned vast sums of money from the pockets of most Americans into those of the ultrawealthy. At the same time, relentless concentration of wealth and power among the rich is deeply corrosive in a democracy, and this makes it a profoundly political problem as well.




Educator’s desire to help led to Haiti school, church



Amy Rabideau Silvers:

Sudie E. Tatum’s church community planned to celebrate her life Sunday.
She was diagnosed with cancer in mid-April – Pastor Johnny C. White Jr. knew but not everyone else – and the Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church began plans for the celebration weeks ago.
When she died Wednesday, her family and friends decided there was no reason to change the date.
“Now we’re going to have a home-going service for her,” said a cousin, Terri Jordan. “It was going to be Dr. Tatum Day, and now it’s really going to be Dr. Tatum Day.”
Tatum was remembered as a woman who packed plenty of life into her 92 years.




Voucher schools to expand amid questions about their performance



Susan Troller:

If Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is passed with recommendations approved Thursday by the Joint Committee on Finance, there will be more students in more voucher schools in more Wisconsin communities.
But critics of school voucher programs are hoping legislators will look long and hard at actual student achievement benefits before they vote to use tax dollars to send students to private schools. They also suggest that studies that have touted benefits of voucher programs should be viewed with a careful eye, and that claims that graduation rates for voucher schools exceed 90 percent are not just overly optimistic, but misleading.
“The policy decisions we are making today should not be guided by false statistics being propagated by people with a financial interest in the continuation and expansion of vouchers nationwide,” wrote state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, in a news release Friday.
Pope-Roberts is particularly critical of statistics that school choice lobbyists and pro-voucher legislators are using that claim that 94 percent of school voucher students graduated from high school in four years.
It’s good news, she says, but it tells a very selective story about a relatively small subset of students who were studied. That graduation rate reflects only the graduation rate for students who actually remained in the voucher program for all four years: Just 318 of the 801 students who began the program stayed with it.

Related:

Per student spending differences between voucher and traditional public schools is material, particularly during tight economic times.




Class Struggle: India’s Experiment in Schooling Tests Rich and Poor



Geeta Anand:

Instead of playing cricket with the kids in the alleyway outside, four-year-old Sumit Jha sweats in his family’s one-room apartment. A power cut has stilled the overhead fan. In the stifling heat, he traces and retraces the image of a goat.
In April, he enrolled in the nursery class of Shri Ram School, the most coveted private educational institution in India’s capital. Its students include the grandchildren of India’s most powerful figures–Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party President Sonia Gandhi.
Sumit, on the other hand, lives in a slum.
His admission to Shri Ram is part of a grand Indian experiment to narrow the gulf between rich and poor that is widening as India’s economy expands. The Right to Education Act, passed in 2009, mandates that private schools set aside 25% of admissions for low-income, underprivileged and disabled students. In Delhi, families earning less than 100,000 rupees (about $2,500 a year) qualify.
Shri Ram, a nontraditional school founded in 1988, would seem well-suited to the experiment. Rather than drill on rote learning, as many Indian schools do, Shri Ram encourages creativity by teaching through stories, songs and art. In a typical class, two teachers supervise 29 students; at public schools nearby, one teacher has more than 50. Three times a day, a gong sounds and teachers and students pause for a moment of contemplation. Above the entrance, a banner reads, “Peace.”




What does the future hold for education in Wisconsin?



Alan Borsuk:

Mr. Educational Landscape Watcher here, with his jaw hanging open while he thinks about a few questions that boil down to this: What next?
In January, Gov. Scott Walker told a convention of school board members and administrators from around Wisconsin that he was going to give them new tools to deal with their financial issues. Naïve me – I thought he meant bigger hammers and saws.
It turned out Walker was thinking along the lines of those machines that can strip-mine most of China in a week.
Goodness gracious, look at where things stand less than five months later, with more earth moving and drama ahead. Every public school in Wisconsin will be different in important ways because of what has happened in Madison. The private school enrollment in the Milwaukee and Racine areas will get a boost, maybe a large one. The decisions many people make on schooling for their kids are likely to be changed by what has happened in Madison. And then there’s the future of Milwaukee Public Schools (he said with a shudder).
As the Legislature’s budget committee wraps up its work, let’s venture thoughts on a few questions:




Live and Learn: Why We Have College



Louis Menand:

y first job as a professor was at an Ivy League university. The students were happy to be taught, and we, their teachers, were happy to be teaching them. Whatever portion of their time and energy was being eaten up by social commitments–which may have been huge, but about which I was ignorant–they seemed earnestly and unproblematically engaged with the academic experience. If I was naïve about this, they were gracious enough not to disabuse me. None of us ever questioned the importance of what we were doing.
At a certain appointed hour, the university decided to make its way in the world without me, and we parted company. I was assured that there were no hard feelings. I was fortunate to get a position in a public university system, at a college with an overworked faculty, an army of part-time instructors, and sixteen thousand students. Many of these students were the first in their families to attend college, and any distractions they had were not social. Many of them worked, and some had complicated family responsibilities.




Schools: No longer separate, still not equal



Gloria Romero:

Fifty-seven years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that a separate education was not an equal education. It demanded that, with all deliberate speed, states across the nation remedy this intolerable injustice. This ruling was the culmination of a long and arduous struggle in the courts and in communities across America. And while it was an incredible milestone in our country’s history, the years to come would prove that the justices were unable to wipe away years of inequality and disadvantage with the stroke of a pen. Indeed, nearly six decades after Brown, America still struggles to ensure not only a high-quality education to every child, but an equal one.
The promise of speed has been impaled on the politics of paralysis. The needs of children have taken a back seat on the bus to the special interests of adults that have continued to drive the education bureaucracy. That children in America continue to have unequal access to excellent education is made apparent by the statistics that show that minority children continue to languish behind their peers in statewide and national academic proficiency tests. The achievement gap between African-American and Latino students and their peers should shock the conscience of a country existing on the premise that every child born in America has an equal opportunity to succeed.




Update on The Madison School District’s High School Curriculum Alignment



Superintendent Dan Nerad:

In 2008, MMSD received a 5.3 million dollar grant Smaller Learning Communities Grant from the federal government. This grant is known locally as Relationships, Engagement, and Learning (REaL). Work to date has focused on developing teacher capacity, aligning curriculum, improving instructional practice all for the end goal of improving student achievement. During the 2010-11 school year, MMSD unveiled a comprehensive process plan for aligning curriculum PrK-12 with specific focus on the four high schools. The attached report serves as a status update on the MMSD High School Curriculum Alignment Process.




Census reveals plummeting U.S. birthrates



Haya El Nasser & Paul Overberg:

In 1960, the year Helen Cini gave birth to one of her five children, 15 other kids were born on her block here in this quintessential postwar American suburb.
The local obstetrician was so busy he often slept in his car.
Kathy Bachman felt like an oddity when her family moved to Cherry Lane in the Crabtree section of Levittown when she was 5. She was an only child, and “everybody had five or six kids in every house.”
Fast-forward to 2011.




Seattle Times Editorial “Thinking beyond ‘college for all'”



Charlie Mas:

Today brings us a new Seattle Times editorial on education. “Thinking beyond ‘college for all” by Lynne Varner says that education reformers are right to promote college for every student, but they should adopt a broader definition of college, one that includes post-high-school credentials other than baccalaureate degrees.
Of course, this is what Shep Siegel has been saying for years. And I have been saying it as well ever since I heard Dr. Siegel say it. So, welcome to party, Ms Varner. Where ya been?
Here’s the crux: every student should go on from high school to some form of post-secondary education – a four-year college, a two-year college, an apprenticeship, a vocational program, or some sort of training program. All of it is post-secondary education and all of it needs to be included when we think of “college” in the context of “college for all”.




Energy industry shapes lessons in public schools



Kevin Sieff:

In the mountains of southwestern Virginia, Gequetta Bright Laney taught public high school students this spring about a subject of keen interest to the region’s biggest employer: the economics of coal mining.
“Where there’s coal, there’s opportunity,” Bright Laney told her class at Coeburn High School in Wise County.
Her lessons, like others in dozens of public schools across the country, were approved and funded by the coal industry. Such efforts reflect a broader pattern of private-sector attempts to influence what gets taught in public schools.
Eager to burnish its reputation, the energy industry is spending significant sums of money on education in communities with sensitive coal, natural gas and oil exploration projects. The industry aims to teach students about its contributions to local economies and counter criticism from environmental groups.




Creative Destruction in Education



Jay Greene:

For the most part, organizations are incapable of innovating. Most organizations are founded with a particular mission and method for pursuing that mission. If circumstances require that the mission or method be changed, organizations generally can’t do it. They’ll just keep doing what they were initially established to do until they can no longer continue operating.
Progress occurs not by turning around failing institutions, but by replacing those organizations with new ones that have a better mission and/or method. Of the original 500 companies included in the S&P 500 in 1957 only 74 (15%) exist today as independent companies. In the private sector, innovation primarily occurs by replacing or fundamentally re-organizing organizations and not by “reforming” them.
And while U.S. real GDP has nearly quintupled since 1970, education achievement of 17 year-olds and high school graduation rates have remained basically unchanged over the same time period. Perhaps the reason for progress in the economy but not in education stems from our willingness to allow new organizations to replace old ones in the private sector, but not in education.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Share of Population on Food Stamps Grows in Most States



Sara Murray

The share of residents turning to food stamps has risen in nearly every state nationwide in the past year even as unemployment has moderated.
After a temporary plateau in February, the number of Americans receiving food stamps ticked up again in March. Nearly 44.6 million received food stamps in March, up more than 11% from the same time a year ago, the Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.
The share of the population receiving food stamps nationwide has also risen as households struggle with high unemployment and stagnant wages. Some 14.4% of Americans relied on food stamps in March, up 1.4 percentage points from a year earlier.




It’s Not About You



David Brooks:

Over the past few weeks, America’s colleges have sent another class of graduates off into the world. These graduates possess something of inestimable value. Nearly every sensible middle-aged person would give away all their money to be able to go back to age 22 and begin adulthood anew.
But, especially this year, one is conscious of the many ways in which this year’s graduating class has been ill served by their elders. They enter a bad job market, the hangover from decades of excessive borrowing. They inherit a ruinous federal debt.
More important, their lives have been perversely structured. This year’s graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.
Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role.




Madison School District Dual Language Immersion Program Evaluation



Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent:

In Winter 2011, the Center for Applied Linguistics conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the dual language immersion (DLI) programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District, including a charter school with DLI implemented K-5, three elementary schools just beginning implementation, and one middle school site with DLI in sixth grade. The goal of the evaluation was to gather sufficient information for strategic planning to adjust any program components that are in need of improvement, and to strengthen those areas of the programs that are already in alignment with best practices. This report provides feedback on student outcomes, things that are going well, and recommendations for the short-, mid-, and long-term.




Madison School District Fine Arts Task Force Update



Laurie Fellenz, Teacher Leader- Fine Arts:

High School course sequence and alignment by course title across the four large high schools is nearly complete. All course titles will be fully aligned by 2011-12. This allows us to look at fine arts courses that are being offered at all of our high schools and what courses are more building-specific. Fine Arts Leadership Teams and High School Department chairs have discussed the equity (and inequity) across the attendance areas, and these two groups will offer recommendations during the 2011- 12 school year to improve access for all students to a wide variety of high school fine arts offerings.
Through the new Curricular Materials budget process now managed by Curriculum & Assessment (formerly ELM), the purchase of the Silver Burdett Making Music series for all elementary schools began this spring. All kindergarten books have been purchased, and 1″ grade materials will be purchased with the 2011-12 Curriculum Materials budget. The decision was made to purchase one grade at a time so that all elementary schools have equitable resources.
Funds from the Curricular Materials budget and the Fine Arts Task Force allocation were used to purchase REMO World Music Drumming instruments and curriculum forall32elementaryschools. Schools were assessed on their current inventory- some schools received full sets and some schools will divide sets based on need. All schools will receive the full complement o f curriculum materials, and professional development in 2011-12 will include world music drumming and drum circles.

Much more on the Fine Arts Task Force, here.




Madison School District Literacy Program Evaluation



Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum & Assessment:

2010-11 was the first year in which a formal curricular review cycle has been initiated. According to the program review cycle approved by the MMSD Board of Education, literacy was the first area to be reviewed. As a part of an intensive first year (Year 1) review cycle, the Literacy Evaluation and Recommendations were presented to the Board in February, 2011. At the March, 2011 Board meeting, a panel presentation was made in addition to sharing updated action plans and budget implications. Additional budget clarifications were made at the April, 2011 Board meeting.
Recommendations Requested on June 6, 2011
It is recommended that the Board approve the Literacy Program Evaluation: Findings and Recommendations.
It is recommended that the Board approve $611,000 to support the Literacy Program Evaluation recommendations. $531,000 of this amount is included in the Superintendent’s 2011-12 Balanced Budget Funding for READ 180 in the amount of $80,000 is included in the recommended funding for additions to the 2011-12 cost-to-continue budget (memo dated May 16, 2011) from cost savings measures.
It is recommended that the Board approve the plan to purchase learning materials to support literacy in the amount of $415,000. In October, 2011, the Board requested a plan to outline the purchase. This plan supports the Literacy Evaluation Recommendations, including K-12 literacy instructional materials, Dual Language Immersion, and equity purchases. Funding for the $415,000 purchases is included in 2010-11 contingency accounts (Fund 10) transferred to Curriculum & Assessment (Fund 10) to supplement the Instructional Learning Materials Budget (ELM).
Supporting Documentation
The full report, K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation: Findings and Recommendation for Continual Improvement of Literacy Achievement & K-12 Alignment was submitted by courier to the Board on February 22, 2011. This document is in a 3-ring binder, and is not being re-sent in this packet
A summary document, titled Recommendations, Cost Considerations and Plan Description (dated March 17, 2011) provides more detail regarding how the action steps are being carried and reflects the most current budget requests totaling $611,000.




Madison School District Math Task Force Update



Lisa Wachtel, Executive Director of Curriculum and Assessment Sarah Lord, Mathematics Teacher Leader (2010-2011) Jeff Ziegler, Mathematics Teacher Leader (2011-2012) Grant Goettl, Middle School Math Specialist Resource Teacher Laura Godfrey, Mathematics Resource Teacher:

During the 2010-2011 school year, the Mathematics Division of Curriculum and Assessment (C&A) focused on implementing recommendations regarding Middle School Mathematics Specialists. Additionally, progress has been made in working towards consistent district-wide resources at the high school level.
Recommendations #1 – #5:
Recommendations #1-#5 focus on increasing mathematical knowledge for teaching in MMSD ‘s middle school teachers of mathematics. These recommendations address our workforce, hiring practices, professional development, partnerships with the UW and work with the Wisconsin DPI to change certification requirements.
The C&A Executive Director, C&A Assistant Director, Deputy Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools and Mathematics Instructional Resource Teacher met with Human Resources to discuss the implementation of the district-wide expectation for the hiring and retention of Math Specialists. This team created wording to be inserted into all middle school positions that state expectations for teachers involved in teaching mathematics.
The Mathematics Instructional Resource Teacher from Curriculum and Assessment has visited middle schools across Madison to share information with teaching staff and answer questions regarding the Middle School Math Specialist professional development program and the associated expectation for middle school teachers of mathematics. The resource teacher has also met with the Middle School Math Leadership Academy, and the Learning Coordinators to share information and answer questions. A website was created to provide easy access to the needed information. (A copy of the website is attached as Appendix E.)
The Middle School Math Specialist Advisory group that includes UW Mathematics, UW Mathematics Education, Education Outreach and Partnerships, and Madison Metropolitan School District has met throughout the year to provide updates, guidance to the development of the Math Specialist program, and continual feedback on the courses and implementation.
The first cohort of classes in the Middle School Math Specialist program being offered at UW-Madison began in August of20!0. During the first year, the three courses were co-taught by representatives from UW-Mathematics (Shirin Malekpour), UW- ( Mathematics Education (Meg Meyer), and MMSD (Grant Goettl). A total of22 MMSD teachers participated, with seven completing one course, two completing two courses, and ten completing all three offered courses. The topics of study included number properties, proportional reasoning, and geometry.
The first cohort will continue into their second year with eleven participants. The topics of study will include algebra and conjecture. The first cohort will complete the five course sequence in the spring of 2012.
The second cohort is currently being recruited. Advertising for this cohort began in March and sign-up began in April. This cohort will begin coursework in August of 2011. In the first year they will participate in three courses including the study of number properties, proportional reasoning, and geometry. This cohort will complete the five course sequence in the spring of 2013.
The tentative plan for facilitation of the 2011-2012 courses is as follows:

Much more on the Math Task Force, here.




Madison School District Equity Report Update



Andreal Davis, Assistant Director for Equity and Family Involvement:

The 2010 Report provides a baseline from which the MMSD will measure future progress in meeting the three goals set forth in the BOE equity policy. Data reported in The State of the District 2010 (http://boeweb.madison.k12.wi.us/files/boeffheWholeThing.pdf) informs key findings in this first annual report. Additionally, critical issues related to the specified equity goals are framed within the context of the Strategic Plan Objectives/Strategies. Outlined below, specific performance measures prescribed in the Strategic Plan will serve as indicators of progress towards meeting the MMSD equity goals.

Much more on the Madison School District’s Equity Task Force, here.




Some Illinois public school teachers earning six-figure salaries



Rosalind Rossi & Art Golab:

Want to wind up making at least six figures as a public school teacher?
Send your resume to Highland Park or Deerfield High School, both in Township High School District 113.
The district — which has no teachers union — boasted the highest average teacher pay in the state last school year, at $104,737.
More than half of all District 113 full-time teachers — 55 percent to be exact — pulled down at least $100,000 in total compensation, including benefits and extra pay for extracurricular activities.
“I would love it if we weren’t number one,” said District 113 School Board President Harvey Cohen. “Our goal isn’t to say, ‘Lake Forest pays $50,000 so we’ll go $60,000.’




High Tech MCAT Cheating



CBC:

Two B.C. men are facing criminal charges for allegedly attempting a high-tech scam to cheat on a medical school entrance exam using secret cameras, wireless transmitters and three tutors, who at first did not realize they were being duped.
According to documents filed in provincial court in Richmond, B.C., Josiah Miguel Ruben and Houman Rezazadeh-Azar are each facing six charges including theft, unauthorized use of a computer, using a device to obtain unauthorized service and theft of data.
Police allege that on Jan. 29, Rezazadeh-Azar sat down in a room at the University of Victoria to write the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, run by the Association of Medical Colleges.
Police allege he used a pinhole camera and wireless technology to transmit images of the questions on a computer screen back to his co-conspirator, Ruben, at the University of British Columbia.




Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success And The Political Exploitation Of Children



Leo Casey:

As educators, one of our defining beliefs is the principle that we do not use the students entrusted in our care as a vehicle for promoting and accomplishing our political agendas. We hold to this core value even when the political agendas we are pursuing involves causes that will better the lives of those young people, such as full funding for day care centers and schools. When communities and families send their young to us to be educated, they trust that we will exercise the authority given to us as teachers responsibly: we do not manipulate young people into political action they do not fully understand, but educate them into the skills and knowledge of democratic citizenship, in order that one day they will be prepared to make and act on their own informed choices of political action.
So when Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academies turned out students and parents to support the closing of district schools at the February meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy, many of us present were shocked at the way in which 5 year old and 6 year old children were sent to the microphones to speak words they clearly did not understand, put into their mouths by adults who called themselves educators, even as they ignored our most fundamental professional ethics. But if we were paying attention, we would have seen that this crass political exploitation of children is actually a consistent behavior of Moskowitz and Harlem Success.




Cradle to the grave



Irene Jay Liu and Vanessa Ko

A conservative society and ignorance are behind an alarming number of cases of newborn babies being killed by young Hong Kong mothers
It’s a familiar story told too many times, and it has a tragic end.
An unmarried girl secretly gives birth. She is alone; one helpless child burdened with another. In this tale, it is the innocent who perishes, at the hands of the ignorant – a teenage mother.




More insight into new Illinois facilities law from community expert



PURE:

Here’s a great analysis of the new Chicago school facilities law from Jackie Leavy, retired executive director of the late lamented Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.
Jackie and I were members of Paul Vallas’s Blue Ribbon Capital Development Panel, which Vallas dissolved around or about 1997 after Jackie and I (mostly Jackie) began to ask too many questions and actually try to get the group to do what this new law will now force CPS to do.
Here’s what Jackie says today:
Colleagues, Parent and Community Leaders:




Suen gets tough in textbook dispute: Publishers are told they must separately sell teaching materials and school books, or other parties such as universities will be allowed to enter market



Dennis Chong & Amy Yip:

Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung yesterday threw down the gauntlet to school textbook publishers, saying the government would take over publishing them unless “monopolies” get serious about selling the books and teaching materials separately.
Advocacy groups welcomed the idea, saying it would lower prices, but publishers described the one-year ultimatum as “mission impossible”.
Publishers last year pledged to separately sell textbooks and teaching materials, which can cost twice as much as the textbooks. But they recently said it would take another three years to do so.




Detroit Looks To Charters To Remake Public Schools



Larry Abramson:

The Detroit Public School system hopes to convert dozens of schools into charters in the next year or so in a last-ditch effort to cut costs and stop plummeting enrollment.
The plan faces tremendous skepticism from a generation of parents and teachers frustrated from previous reform efforts.
No one has ever done what DPS is trying to do: turn more than 40 schools into charters, some in just a few short weeks.
Greg Richmond of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers says that when the city first approached him with this idea, he hesitated.




Rhode Island State of Education Address 2011



Deborah Gist:

This year, we had some truly remarkable news regarding our state assessments. For the first time, Rhode Island high-school students outscored their peers in New Hampshire and Vermont in reading and writing. That’s right: Rhode Island high-school students were the best.
Across our state, we see examples of success and pockets of excellence. Many of our schools are moving from good to great. We have the skills and the knowledge base to create a system of public schools in which all students have access to excellence. But we are not there yet.
Our mathematics and science scores, particularly in high school, are far too low. And nearly one of every four students fails to graduate.
To transform education in Rhode Island, we need to turn around our lowest-achieving schools and get them on the road toward success. We have to close the achievement gaps that separate some student groups from others.
Wide gaps separate the performance of our students with disabilities, our English-language learners, and our students living in poverty from their peers across the state. Our Hispanic students, for example, are the lowest-achieving in the country in mathematics – a fact we cannot tolerate and must change.
Even our highest-performing schools can improve their achievement levels. We need to raise our graduation rates, increase the percentages of students going to college, and provide multiple pathways for students seeking entry into challenging and rewarding careers.

Much more on Deborah Gist, here.




Aspen Institute Highlights Teacher Union and School District Collaboration



The Aspen Institute:

oday the Aspen Institute examined the historic partnership in Pittsburgh between the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) and Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) through release of a research paper and at a panel discussion.
Panel moderator and executive director of the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program Ross Wiener underlined that an adversarial relationship between management and labor is not inevitable if both sides are committed to maximizing student outcomes by providing the best-equipped, most effective teachers.
The partnership between PPS and the PFT is a powerful example of what’s possible when districts and unions honestly confront the issues, and when leaders on both sides are willing to change. “Pittsburgh’s pursuit of an ambitious reform agenda through cooperative efforts offers a powerful counterpoint to the current focus on union-district discord,” said Wiener. “While collaboration can’t substitute for a substantive improvement agenda, there’s every reason to believe we’ll make more progress when people are working together. Genuine collaboration will look different in every context, but there are important lessons in Pittsburgh’s journey.”
Hosted by the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program, the panel discussion was based upon release of its newest report: “Forging a New Partnership: The Story of Teacher Union and School District Collaboration in Pittsburgh.” The report, authored by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer Sean Hamill, provides an in-depth look at the breakthrough collaboration that took place in Pittsburgh over the past five years. The report also highlights important principles applicable to other districts across the US.




Why DFER is the most important advocacy group in the US



Tom Vander Ark:

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) may be the most important advocacy group in America.
In the long run, education is the issue that will most determine this country’s role in the world.
In the long run, it will be the position of the leaders of the Democratic party, state by state and in congress, that will determine the quality of education in America. Democrats have historically supported increased spending but not always measures that increase quality. DFER makes the case in its statement of principles:

A first-rate system of public education is the cornerstone of a prosperous, free and just society, yet millions of American children today – particularly low-income and children of color – are trapped in persistently failing schools that are part of deeply dysfunctional school systems. These systems, once viewed romantically as avenues of opportunity for all, have become captive to powerful, entrenched interests that too often put the demands of adults before the educational needs of children. This perverse hierarchy of priorities is political, and thus requires a political response.




Is Detroit Public Schools worth saving? Charter process sparks debate



Chastity Pratt:

The Detroit Public Schools, as we know it, could disappear in a few years.
A DPS action plan would charter up to 45 schools, close 20 and leave about 70 that include the best-performing schools, some newly constructed and a handful of special-education schools that are expensive to run.
The process already is under way with organizations invited to apply to DPS for charters.
With such a concerted effort to shrink DPS, local leaders, educators, politicians and taxpayers are debating a question: Is DPS worth saving?




Trading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Students for Employees: Teacher Count Up, Student Count Down



Mike Antonucci:

With politicians and education policy-makers preoccupied by budget cuts and layoffs, it is easy to overlook why we find ourselves in this position. Fortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau rides in to remind us.
Each year the bureau publishes a comprehensive report on public school revenues and expenditures. Coupled with education staffing statistics from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data, it gives us a fundamental picture of the finances and labor costs of the American public school system.
The latest Census Bureau report provides details of the 2008-09 school year, as the nation was in the midst of the recession. That year, 48,238,962 students were enrolled in the U.S. K-12 public education system. That was a decline of 157,114 students from the previous year. They were taught by 3,231,487 teachers (full-time equivalent). That was an increase of 81,426 teachers from the previous year.
This is not new information. We knew last October that the entire public education workforce – teachers, principals, administrators and support workers – grew by more than 137,000 employees during the recession.




Chinese whispers



Tom Meltzer:

A British language teacher claims he can teach people to speak Putonghua in just two days. Can it be done?
”In theory,” says language teacher Paul Noble, forming a steeple with his fingers in true professorial style, “you should learn Chinese today and tomorrow quicker than anyone has ever learned it on the planet.”
In theory, because I’m the first student to take his intensive two-day course in Putonghua, which he is teaching me with his wife, native speaker Chou Kaiti, in the basement of a north London art gallery. If their prototype course works as well as they are hoping, then two days from now I will, as the spiel on Noble’s website boasts, “have learned to speak Chinese the way it is really spoken”.




Learning curve



Aung San Suu Kyi:

One of my favourite dicta is that people should not be categorised as good or evil, wise or stupid. It would be much more sensible to divide them simply into learners and non-learners. In between the two extremes would be a broad spectrum graded on the degree to which individuals are capable of correct assessment and understanding of the learning material at their disposal.
Here, of course, I’m giving a very broad definition to learning. It would involve much more than what could be acquired from any one institution or from any one formal teacher. It would mean a process of gaining such knowledge and experience as would help us to cope with the challenges that life throws at us and to find ways of enhancing our own existence, as well as that of as great a portion as possible of all the other occupants of our planet.




RI schools chief: Cooperation key to school reform



Associated Press:

The state’s top education official told lawmakers Wednesday that it will take more than money and standardized tests to improve Rhode Island’s public schools.
In an address to a joint session of the state House and Senate, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said parents, teachers and elected leaders must work together to increase student performance and turn out graduates ready for jobs or college.
“To transform our schools, we must also transform the culture,” she told lawmakers. “We need to speak out in support of public education and the things we believe in, but we should not question the good intentions of those with whom we disagree. We must never let our dialogue and discourse become toxic.”




Special needs kids and options



Hasmig Tempesta:

As the mother of a special needs child and as someone who works professionally with individuals with disabilities, I support Assembly Bill 110, the Special Needs Scholarship Act. The bill would allow the small group of parents whose children’s needs cannot be met by their school district to pursue an appropriate education for their children, just as any parent would want to do.
It is a sad fact that some school districts across this state fail to provide special needs students with the education they require due to lack of funding/resources, specialized training and sometimes willingness. In these few cases, the scholarships would help move these children into a program that meets their needs and prepares them for success.
Our family lives in the Racine Unified School District. We removed our son from the district when he was 3 due to inappropriate, undocumented, unapproved and sustained restraint by teachers at his school. (In 2007, the Journal Sentinel reported on the case, with the state Department of Public Instruction echoing concerns about the school’s use of restraint. Following an investigation, the DPI determined that teachers in the district had improperly used restraint.)




Andre Agassi Launches Charter School Building Fund



Christina Hoag:

Former tennis champion Andre Agassi and a real estate investment firm said Thursday they have teamed up to form an investment fund to finance charter school buildings in a bid to spur the growth of independent public education.
The fund, called the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, plans to finance up to $750 million worth of new school construction or remodeling of buildings to accommodate schools in low-income, urban communities across the country.
“The biggest impediment is facilities,” said Bobby Turner, chairman and chief executive of Los Angeles-based Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, which has partnered with Andre Agassi Ventures. “Charter organizations don’t have access to public finance.”
Investors in the fund include Intel Capital, Citigroup and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: US Federal Budget Infographic



Heritage.org

This is a unique moment in American history–a tipping point that will determine whether we pull our nation back from the brink of financial collapse. Spending has risen to unprecedented levels–threatening limited government and economic freedom. The Heritage Foundation’s 2011 Federal Budget in Pictures paints a clear picture of how much the federal government is spending, how deep it is in debt, how massive entitlement programs are, and what we pay in taxes.
Be sure to share our infographic with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, through email, or by posting on your own blog. The embed code below allows you to easily share the infographic with your blog readers.




Save the Frogs: California High School Bans Dissections



Kayla Webley:

ids, step away from the scalpels.
In a win for animal rights activists, foregoing the formaldehyde-laced high school rite of passage, Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, California will swap real frogs for their virtual counterparts. In exchange for a minimum five-year commitment, the school will receive free software courtesy of animal-rights groups who advocate for the virtual curriculum.
While the school’s assistant principal, Kevin Stipp, said the virtual lesson will not be the same as performing the dissection on a real animal, he told the Riverside Press Enterprise, “it’s not so drastically different that the kids won’t get something out of it.”




The School Bully Is Sleepy



Tara Parker-Pope:School bullies and children who are disruptive in class are twice as likely to show signs of sleep problems compared with well-behaved children, new research shows.
The findings, based on data collected from 341 Michigan elementary school children, suggests a novel approaching to solving school bullying. Currently, most efforts to curb bullying have focused on protecting victims as well as discipline and legal actions against the bullies. The new data suggests that the problem may be better addressed, at least in part, at the source, by paying attention to some of the unique health issues associated with aggressive behavior.
The University of Michigan study, which was published in the journal Sleep Medicine, collected data from parents on each child’s sleep habits and asked both parents and teachers to assess behavioral concerns. Among the 341 children studied, about a third were identified by parents or teachers as having problems with disruptive behavior or bullying.




Children of divorce fall behind peers in math, social skills



UW News Service
Divorce is a drag on the academic and emotional development of young children, but only once the breakup is under way, according to a study of elementary school students and their families.
“Children of divorce experience setbacks in math test scores and show problems with interpersonal skills and internalizing behavior during the divorce period,” says Hyun Sik Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “They are more prone to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness.”
Kim’s work, published in the June issue of American Sociological Review, makes use of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study describing more than 3,500 U.S. elementary school students who entered kindergarten in 1998. The study, which also made subjects of parents while checking in periodically on the children, gave Kim the opportunity to track the families through divorce — as well as through periods before and after the divorce.
While the children fell behind their peers in math and certain psychological measures during the period that included the divorce, Kim was surprised by to see those students showing no issues in the time period preceding the divorce.
“I expected that there would be conflict between the parents leading up to their divorce, and that that would be troublesome for their child,” Kim says. “But I failed to find a significant effect in the pre-divorce period.”

(more…)




Newspaper’s lawsuit seeks sick notes for Madison school teachers during protest



Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District failed to follow state law when it denied the Wisconsin State Journal access to more than 1,000 sick notes submitted by teachers who didn’t show up for work in February, according to a lawsuit filed by the newspaper Thursday.
The lawsuit, filed in Dane County District Court, asks the court to force the district to release the notes under the state’s open records law, which requires government agencies to release public documents in most circumstances.
The lawsuit says the sick notes are public records because the public has a special interest in knowing how governments discipline employees, who are ultimately responsible to the public.
“We can’t know if things were dealt with appropriately if we can’t see the underlying documents on which decisions were made,” said April Rockstead Barker, the newspaper’s lawyer.
Dylan Pauly, a School District lawyer, declined comment until she had a chance to review the lawsuit.




For-Profit Colleges: First and Last Victims of Higher Education ‘Bubble’?



Derek Thompson:

The for-profit college boom looks an awful lot like the subprime mortgage bubble. But it’s the differences that can teach us how to change the market for higher education.
In the 2000s, home prices went on an historic tear. Easy credit backstopped by government loan guarantees and securitized by Wall Street created excess demand for residential investment. “Fringey” market players like exurban developers and subprime lenders finally blew the bubble past the breaking point.
When a bubble watcher like Vikram Mansharamani looks at the market for higher education, he can’t help but find parallels. Historic price increase? College inflation outpaces health care inflation. Easy credit? Total financial aid for college has doubled since 2002. Fringey market players? For-profit schools stand accused of luring low-income students into government-sponsored debt to obtain degrees of questionable value. Easy money, moral hazard, artificial demand? Check, check, check.
But the parallels between the housing bubble and education have their limits. The Great Recession started with a domino of broken promises and failed expectations. Families stopped paying back mortgages, banks wrote down mortgage-backed assets, contagion spread. In education, the domino line is shorter. If students don’t pay back their loans to the federal government, the government just pays itself the difference. The only way for the market to change is for Washington to change the market.




At Elite School, Longer Classes To Go Deeper



Jenny Anderson:

At 10:35 a.m. on a Wednesday, six seniors at the Calhoun School, a progressive private school on the Upper West Side, were discussing the role of social class in “Year of Wonders,” a historical novel about an English village hit by the plague in the 17th century.
At noon, the students were still at it. They had moved on from deconstructing the novel, by Geraldine Brooks, to hashing out topics for research papers in the science and social studies class, called Disease and Society: one wanted to tackle 17th-century grave digging in London; another would explore the obligation midwives had to report illegitimate children. Throughout, they had staged only one mutiny, asking to work elsewhere because the classroom was first too cold, then too intellectually stifling (requests denied).
If the subject matter was a bit unusual for high school students, the amount of time they had to grapple with it was more so — 2 hours 10 minutes, in what is called a class block. Long blocks became standard this year at Calhoun, as part of a radical attempt to alter the structure of the school day and school year.




Why not honors courses for all?



Jay Matthews:

Parents in Fairfax County have proved themselves one of the largest and most powerful forces for innovation in American education. But they have taken a wrong turn in their effort to save the three-track system–basic, honors and AP/IB– in the county’s high schools.
Many Fairfax parents actively oppose the elimination of honors courses in upper high school grades. They don’t want to leave their children with the choice of just the basic course or the college level Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate version. “Let’s keep choices on the table,” West Potomac High School parent Kate Van Dyck told me.
They can win this fight and keep the honors courses, but it will take some courage and imagination. Instead of insisting on the old three tracks, tell the schools to keep the honors option and eliminate the basic course.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: U.S. Has Binged. Soon It’ll Be Time to Pay the Tab.



Gretchen Morgenson:

SAY this about all the bickering over the federal debt ceiling: at least people are talking openly about our nation’s growing debt load. This $14.3 trillion issue is front and center — exactly where it should be.
Into the fray comes a thoughtful new paper by Joseph E. Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which studies economic policy. Written with Marc Hinterschweiger, a research analyst there, the report states plainly: “That government debt will grow to dangerous and unsustainable levels in most advanced and many emerging economies over the next 25 years — if there are no changes in current tax rates or government benefit programs in retirement and health care — is virtually beyond dispute.”
The report then lays out a range of outcomes, some merely unsettling, others downright scary, that face us as a nation if we continue down the big-spending path we are on.




Common Core Standards The New U.S. Intended Curriculum



Andrew Porter, Jennifer McMaken, Jun Hwang, Rui Yang:

The Common Core standards released in 2010 for English language arts and mathematics have already been adopted by dozens of states. Just how much change do these new standards represent, and what is the nature of that change? In this article, the Common Core standards are compared with current state standards and assessments and with standards in top-performing countries, as well as with reports from a sample of teachers from across the country describing their own practices.
The Common Core standards released in 2010 represent an unprecedented shift away from disparate content guidelines across individual states in the areas of English language arts and mathematics. Led jointly by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Common Core State Standards Initiative developed these standards as a state-led effort to establish consensus on expectations for student knowledge and skills that should be developed in Grades K-12. By late 2010, 36 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards (http://www.corestandards.org/). These standards are therefore poised to be widely adopted and to become entrenched in state education policy.

How Big a Change Are the Common Core Standards?




Value of Education – A tale of two college grads



Kimberly Houghton:

Some of New Hampshire’s college graduates are questioning the value of their education while they struggle to find jobs in their fields of study and attempt to become independent adults.
But while the job market is still tough, a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers says it isn’t quite as bad as it was last year and that this year’s graduating class is more likely to have a job offer in hand.
That, however, is not the case for Nate Rowe, who graduated this month from Keene State College with a degree in environmental studies. Rowe has sent out about 75 job applications.
“Most people say that I don’t have the experience needed. The problem is that I can’t get any experience without first getting a job,” said the New Durham resident who has moved back in with his parents until he is able to get a steady paycheck.




STEM: Changemakers Competition due 8/3/2011



Carnegie Corporation of New York:

Solving the world’s most pressing challenges will require innovations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (also called STEM). From climate change to fiscal meltdowns, renewable energy to eradicating diseases, from food security to global and local health, the STEM disciplines are at the very center of our quest to improve our lives and the condition of our world.
If we are to bring new ideas to long-standing problems and new talent to emerging opportunities, we need to educate all of our young people to higher levels of understanding in the STEM fields. Despite the heroic efforts of our nation’s best teachers and principals, our schools are ill-equipped to do that: According to international comparisons, U.S. students ranked below 22 countries in science and below 30 countries in math. And yet our communities are filled with many of the world’s most talented professionals in these fields. They work in hospitals, universities, and museums; biotech, engineering, and architecture firms; graphic-design and urban-planning studios; hedge funds, banks, and computer-software, gaming, and pharmaceutical companies. They just rarely directly impact our public schools.




Multilingual former spelling champ helps groom state’s best spellers



Gena Kittner:

Jeff Kirsch knows what it’s like to stand on stage at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and for the last few years he has helped teens from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado make it there.
This year, Kirsch, director of the Spanish and Portuguese Independent Learning program in the UW-Madison division of continuing studies, is coaching two students and is spending this week in Washington, D.C., cheering them on.
In addition to coaching Waunakee’s Parker Dietry this spring, Kirsch has spent about six months tutoring David Phan, a third-time contestant in the national bee from Boulder, Colo.
“Most spellers do have a parent who is actively helping them, but most don’t have a parent who is a former spelling champion who knows multiple languages,” said Kirsch, who knows six languages and can teach spelling patterns and exceptions in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and Latin.




K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Cheap houses, poor workers



The Economist:

REAL disposable income for Americans was pretty much flat in the first quarter, according to figures released today. Spending edged up, thanks to a fall in the savings rate. But this is back to the bad old days of consumption financed on the never-never. Indeed, we seem to be attempting to reconstruct the pre-2007 economic model even though that model was shown to be deeply flawed. The recent post on profit margins was evidence of the same effect. And even the rally in the equity markets, propped up by quantitative easing, is merely a subsidy for the better-off and Wall Street traders, whose fortunes are more tied to share prices than those of the average Joe. Surely the point of economic policy is to benefit the average person, not the chosen few.




Math scholarship started by McFarland woman is rare in bad economy



Matthew DeFour:

In 1964, Sue Kosmo was a high school senior who loved pizza, Pepsi and precalculus, when her parents encouraged her to invest in the stock market.
With a $54 tax return from her part-time bakery job making 75 cents per hour, she bought one share in something familiar — a cola company marketing itself to a younger generation.
Almost half a century and several stock splits later, Kosmo is cashing in her investment, now worth $10,000, to start a scholarship fund at McFarland High School for young women who excel in math.
The story got the attention of executives at Pepsi, which is donating another $10,000 to Kosmo’s scholarship fund.
Local businesses and residents provide more than $1 million a year in scholarships to local college-bound students, though the recent economic downturn has dampened donations somewhat, according to local officials who coordinate local scholarships.




Spelling whiz gains from early successes



Brian Francisco:

Madalyn Richmond seems to have little time for competitive spelling.
First, there is school. Then there are sports: volleyball, basketball, softball and track. And then there is music: piano, saxophone and choir.
But winning a classroom spelling bee when she was in fifth grade “really inspired me, and I studied a whole lot that year,” Maddie, 13, said last week.
She went on to win the Williams County, Ohio, bee in 2009 and finished eighth in The Journal Gazette Regional Spelling Bee. Maddie repeated as county winner as a sixth-grader and finished fifth in the regional bee in 2010.
She captured her third straight county bee this year and won the 17-county regional bee, which is presented by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and IPFW.




RSS Local Schools Waunakee speller advances to national bee’s semifinals



Gena Kittner:

Waunakee’s Parker Dietry will get his chance to spell on national television Thursday as one of 41 spellers who advanced Wednesday to the semifinal round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Parker correctly spelled “fennec” in Round 2 and “dossier” in Round 3. The points he earned for spelling those words correctly combined with his score on Tuesday’s written test propelled him to the next round.
“It’s going to be really cool to be on ESPN,” Dietry said Wednesday from the competition in Washington, D.C.




Let me say this about that: Powerpoint in School…..



James Lileks:

Let me say this about that
Daughter comes home from school in the usual mood, with a smile and offhand assurances that school was fine and everything’s fine and so on and so forth, but: for moment I catch her staring into the Void, a shadow on her features, and it’s time for the parental probe: what’s the matter? Oh nothing. C’mon. Something’s the matter. You know I’ll ask until I get it. Nothing’s the matter. i can tell. Nothing – well, there was this one thing.
And so it transpired that she did not get the score in Technology class she thought she deserved, at least relative to the other Powerpoints the kids had done. They had do a PP on an animal. As far as she could tell she had the same amount of content, and applied transitions to the bullet points, which no one else did. Then she said that the kids who got higher marks used all kinds of transitions between the slides, and she only used a fade, so maybe that was it, but that was STUPID.




Madison School District Final Audit Report: Gifted and Talented Standard



Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

On September 20,2010, eight residents of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) filed a complaint (numerous others were listed as supporting the complaint) alleging the school district was not in compliance with the Gifted and Talented (G/T) standard, Wis. Stat. sec. 121.02(1)(t), that requires that each school board shall “provide access to an appropriate program for pupils identified as gifted and talented.” Based upon this complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (department) initiated an audit pursuant to Wis. Admin Code sec. PI 8.02. The purpose ofthe audit was to determine whether the school district is in compliance with Wis. Stat. sees. 121.02(1)(t) and 118.35, and Wis. Admin. Code
sec. PI 8.01(2)(t)2. The investigation focused on three core content areas: English/language arts; science; and social studies; in particular at the 9th and 1oth grade levels, per the letter of complaint.
The department informed the school district of the audit on October 13, 2010, and requested information and documentation for key components of the G/T plan. The school district provided a written response and materials on November 29, 2010 and supplemental materials on December 21 , 2010.
On January 25 and 26, 2011, a team of four department representatives conducted an on-site audit which began with a meeting that included the school board president, the district administrator, the deputy superintendent, the secondary assistant superintendent, the executive director of curriculum and assessment, the interim Talented and Gifted (TAG) administrator, an elementary TAG resource teacher, a secondary TAG resource teacher, and legal counsel. After this meeting, the team visited East, West, LaFollette, and Memorial High Schools. At each of these sites, the team conducted interviews with the building principal, school counselors, teachers, and students. At the end ofeach ofthe two days the department team met with parents.




Waiting for a School Miracle



Diane Ravitch

TEN years ago, Congress adopted the No Child Left Behind legislation, mandating that all students must be proficient in reading or mathematics by 2014 or their school would be punished.
Teachers and principals have been fired and schools that were once fixtures in their community have been closed and replaced. In time, many of the new schools will close, too, unless they avoid enrolling low-performing students, like those who don’t read English or are homeless or have profound disabilities.
Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.
To prove that poverty doesn’t matter, political leaders point to schools that have achieved stunning results in only a few years despite the poverty around them. But the accounts of miracle schools demand closer scrutiny. Usually, they are the result of statistical legerdemain.




Statement by State Education Chiefs Supporting the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Review of Colleges of Education



Foundation for Excellence in Education, via a Kate Walsh email:

Today, the following members of Chiefs for Change, Janet Barresi, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Information; Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction; Steve Bowen, Maine Commissioner of Education; Chris Cerf, New Jersey Commissioner of Education; Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education; Eric Smith, Florida Commissioner of Education; and Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-Designate, released a statement supporting the National Council on Teacher Quality’s colleges of education review.
“Great teachers make great students. Preparing teachers with the knowledge and skills to be effective educators is paramount to improving student achievement. Ultimately, colleges of education should be reviewed the same way we propose evaluating teachers – based on student learning.”
“Until that data becomes available in every state, Chiefs for Change supports the efforts of the National Council on Teacher Quality to gather research-based data and information about the nation’s colleges of education. This research can provide a valuable tool for improving the quality of education for educators.”

Related: Georgia, Wisconsin Education Schools Back Out of NCTQ Review

Public higher education institutions in Wisconsin and Georgia–and possibly as many as five other states–will not participate voluntarily in a review of education schools now being conducted by the National Council for Teacher Quality and U.S. News and World Report, according to recent correspondence between state consortia and the two groups.
In response, NCTQ and U.S. News are moving forward with plans to obtain the information from these institutions through open-records requests.
In letters to the two organizations, the president of the University of Wisconsin system and the chancellor of Georgia’s board of regents said their public institutions would opt out of the review, citing a lack of transparency and questionable methodology, among other concerns.
Formally announced in January, the review will rate education schools on up to 18 standards, basing the decisions primarily on examinations of course syllabuses and student-teaching manuals.

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?:
Teacher colleges balk at being rated Wisconsin schools say quality survey from national nonprofit and magazine won’t be fair.




Skin patch could cure peanut allergy



The UK Telegraph:

A revolutionary skin patch that may cure thousands of deadly peanut allergy has been developed by paediatricans.
Researchers believe it presents one of the best possible ways of finding an effective treatment for a life threatening reaction to peanuts.
Developed by two leading paediatricians the device releases minute doses of peanut oil under the skin.
The aim is to educate the body so it doesnt over-react to peanut exposure.
Human safety trials have started in Europe and the United States and it is hoped that the patch could become become available within 3-4 years.
One of its two French inventors, Dr Pierre-Henri Benhamou, said: We envisage that the patch would be worn daily for several years and would slowly reduce the severity of accidental exposure to peanut.




School Districts Nationwide Implement Controversial ‘Pay To Play’ Fees



The Huffington Post:

An Ohio school district is the latest to implement a controversial “pay to play” policy, reports The Wall Street Journal. Medina Senior High, faced with budget cuts and repeated rejection of proposals to increase taxes, has started charging students for, well, just about everything. After-school sports, clubs, electives and even required courses such as Spanish all carry a price tag.
The Dombi family is feeling the strain; education and activities for their four children racked up a bill of $4,446.50 this year. And even then, they had to make some tough choices — their oldest daughter had to forgo choir as it would cost an additional $200.
“It’s high school,” Ms. Dombi told The Wall Street Journal. “You’re supposed to be able to try different things and see what you like.”
In a recent editorial, the Los Angeles Times questions the constitutionality of similar fees in California.




2011 West Point Commencement Speach



Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

What I am suggesting is that we in uniform do not have the luxury anymore of assuming that our fellow citizens understand it the same way. Our work is appreciated. Of that, I am certain. There isn’t a town or a city I visit where people do not convey to me their great pride in what we do. Even those who do not support the wars support the troops.
But I fear they do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle. This is important, because a people uninformed about what they are asking the military to endure is a people inevitably unable to fully grasp the scope of the responsibilities our Constitution levies upon them. Were we more representative of the population, were more American families touched by military service, like that of the Hidalgos or the Huntoon families, perhaps a more advantageous familiarity would ensue. But we are a small force, rightly volunteers, and less than 1 percent of the population, scattered about the country due to base closings, and frequent and lengthy deployments.
We’re also fairly insular, speaking our own language of sorts, living within our own unique culture, isolating ourselves either out of fear or from, perhaps, even our own pride. The American people can therefore be forgiven for not possessing an intimate knowledge of our needs or of our deeds. We haven’t exactly made it easy for them. And we have been a little busy. But that doesn’t excuse us from making the effort. That doesn’t excuse us from our own constitutional responsibilities as citizens and soldiers to promote the general welfare, in addition to providing for the common defense. We must help them understand our fellow citizens who so desperately want to help us.
As the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Omar Bradley once said: “Battles are won by the infantry, the armor, the artillery and air teams, by soldiers living in the rains and huddling in the snow. But wars are won by the great strength of a nation, the soldier and the civilian working together.”




Feeling Groggy? Your Brain May Be Half Asleep



Ann Lukits:

Sleep deprivation can make it hard to concentrate. A possible reason is that neurons in different regions of the brain seem to go “off line,” or shut off for brief periods, during forced periods of wakefulness, according to a study of rats published in Nature. U.S. and Italian researchers kept laboratory rats awake for four hours past their normal sleep time by stimulating them with new objects. EEG (electroencephalogram) readings, which test the brain’s electrical activity, were typical of an awake state and the rats moved about freely with their eyes open. However, electrodes implanted in the rat brains showed that some neurons went off line briefly in seemingly wide-awake animals while other neurons remained on. Neuronal off periods increased with prolonged sleep deprivation, impairing the rats’ performance in the routine task of reaching for a sugar pellet. Researchers said these off periods during wakefulness aren’t well understood but they may be a means of conserving energy or part of a restorative process.
Caveat: It’s not clear if the periods of neuronal off-time reflect the capacity of neurons to exist in two states, a phenomenon known as bistability, researchers said.




How Valuable is a College Degree?



Tina Barseghian:

Most parents dream of seeing their kids graduate from a good college. The assumption is that the vaunted degree will guarantee a successful career, the closest thing to being financially stable, and ultimately, a happy, fulfilling life.
But a number of authors and high-profile businesspeople and entrepreneurs are debunking the notion that college is the best solution. They’re questioning whether paying tens of thousands of dollars and investing four or five years in an institution should be the default for young people when so many more options exist. With free, high-quality education available to anyone, is college necessary? These folks say no.




Illinois Unions will regret not fixing pensions



Marc Levine:

Illinois’ runaway pension system is placing the state’s fiscal health in jeopardy. State contributions to the pension system have already crowded out payments to social service providers. But less focus has been placed on current state workers and teachers, particularly those with retirements more than a decade away. Their outlook is very much at risk, which is why their unions’ opposition to pension reform is contrary to their interests.
Illinois’ pension system is hopelessly insolvent with about $60 billion of assets and $200 billion in “legacy” liabilities (using an appropriate discount rate). Illinois state workers and teachers currently have roughly 9 percent of each paycheck withheld and sent to the pension black hole. The premise is that the funds will be held by the pension system, invested responsibly, and used to make payments to the workers upon retirement. Unfortunately, pension officials are using those contributions from current workers to pay current retirees.

Much more, here.




Wisconsin School districts press to reach agreements



Karen Herzog:

With deadlines looming against a backdrop of uncertainty, some area school districts are scurrying to reach agreements with employee unions, gaining concessions in benefits to avoid mass layoffs and program cuts.
A few agreements are new or extended contracts, including a two-year contract for teachers approved last week in Menomonee Falls. Others, such as an agreement approved for West Allis-West Milwaukee teachers, are more limited. School districts could have made the changes without union approval if the law largely eliminating collective bargaining for most public employees wasn’t stalled in court.
School officials also are crafting new employee handbooks to replace union contracts, outlining benefits and working conditions no longer subject to negotiations if, as expected, collective bargaining is limited to wages.
Some districts are obligated by contract to send layoff notices by June 1. Districts also must give 30 days’ notice if they want to switch to less expensive insurance plans before the new fiscal year begins July 1. Many districts have union contracts that expire June 30.