Bipartisan bill would block automatic voucher school expansion in Wisconsin

Susan Troller:

Ten Wisconsin senators, from both parties, have joined forces to propose legislation that would require any further expansion of voucher schools to receive a full public debate.
The state’s voucher program provides taxpayer funds for families to send their children to private schools. It has served low-income students in Milwaukee for about 20 years, but was expanded by Gov. Scott Walker in the state budget passed in June without public debate or other legislative action.
Also included was language allowing automatic expansion of the voucher program in the future to any school district in Wisconsin that meets certain financial and demographic criteria.
That mechanism isn’t sitting well with some senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah. He introduced SB 174, which ensures that any further expansion of the voucher program would include full public debate and legislative action.
“Sen. Ellis is not an enthusiastic advocate nor is he an opponent of voucher programs. But he’s long argued that policy issues should not be added into the budget process and this legislation addresses concerns about automatic expansion without proper debate,” says Michael Boerger, an aide to Ellis.

Students say: ‘Pressure? What pressure?’

Jay Matthews:

We have had a lively debate in the Washington area, and other regions blessed with competitive high schools, about the demands we make on students.
Much of the talk has been about the documentary “Race to Nowhere.” The film’s creator, Vicki Abeles, told me its popularity is proof of a “silent epidemic” of “pressure-cooker education” nationally.
How much academic stress do students feel? Hart Research Associates just asked them. The answer was: not a lot. Of a representative sample of the high school Class of 2010, 69 percent said the requirements for graduating, including tests and courses, were “easy” or “very easy.” And 47 percent said they totally or mainly wish they had worked harder in high school. An additional 16 percent partially feel that way.
The Hart poll, done for the College Board, was not inspired by discussions of “Race to Nowhere,” College Board officials say, but it is relevant. It includes a question about the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs; those college-level courses and extra-long final exams that are often said to be crushing our youth.

Education entrepreneurship, disruption alive and well

Michael Horn:

ImagineK12, an incubator modeled after Y Combinator to help education startups “get it right and get funded,” held its first demo day for its first cohort of 10 companies Sept. 9 in Palo Alto, Calif., and a week later the companies presented at TechCrunch Disrupt.
The companies’ pitches were crisp and intriguing, and I was struck–and encouraged–by how many of them are attempting disruptive strategies. Who knows how many in the cohort will be successful of course–they are all heading into notoriously choppy waters in a space that, as I’ve written about, feels a bit overheated at the moment–but by going this route, they do improve their odds.
Here is a rundown of just some of the things that struck me.
GoalBook: The company’s mission is to create a personal learning plan for every student. So where are they starting? Special education. Why? The law requires students to have individual learning plans (ILPs). Goalbook can create help a teacher and school create these way more affordably–not a bad thing in times of budget cuts when less expensive (think low-end disruption) could be critical to allowing districts to continue to fulfill their legal mandate.

Professors take academic road to the east

Della Bradshaw:

A decade ago most aspiring business professors headed west, to the US. These days they are heading in the opposite direction: Asia is becoming the hotspot for the top management thinkers.
The past year has seen some of the world’s most distinguished business professors move to Asia – China and Singapore in particular. Blair Sheppard, former dean of the Fuqua school at Duke University in the US, Arnoud de Meyer, former dean of the University of Cambridge’s Judge business school, Howard Thomas, former dean of Warwick Business School in the UK, and George Yip, former dean of the Rotterdam School of Management, are just a few.
One obvious reason is the growth in Asian economies, says John Quelch, the Harvard marketing professor and former dean at London Business School, who became dean at Ceibs in Shanghai in January. “The relative growth trajectories favour Asia rather than Europe and the US. In the US, recent political intransigence is adding to the feeling of malaise.”

Test Scores, Multiple Measures, and Circular Reasoning

Christinia Collins:

Anthony Cody’s recent reflection on this year’s Education Nation program on MSNBC offers an important caution to those trying to develop “multiple measures” for student learning and effective teaching. If the decision to use a given measure is determined solely by whether or not it’s linked to higher standardized test scores (as with the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching study), then you don’t really have “multiple measures.”

Tracking test scores can be an important tool in helping students make progress, and it is useful to know which elements of classroom practice have a significant impact on students’ performance on end-of-the-year tests. For example, teachers in Chicago who had high ratings on Charlotte Danielson’s framework for evaluating effective teaching have also been shown to have higher value-added scores. However, when test scores are used as the sole measure of effective teaching and learning — or when valuable aspects of effective teaching and important types of student learning are discarded or ignored because they don’t align with standardized test results — our students are the ones who ultimately pay the price.

Do you notice what is bothering me? Mrs. Gates begins by acknowledging that good teaching cannot be reduced to a test score — or at least that this is often said. She then asserts that the half billion dollars they have spent on research in this area have uncovered a number of things that can be measured that allow us to predict which teachers will have the highest test scores. A great teacher is defined over and over again as one who made sure students “learned the material at the end of the year.”

Technology isn’t the fix for what ails America’s schools

Esther Cepeda:

If it weren’t so tragic, it might be amusing.
Last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, co-authored with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, pushing “Digital Promise,” a new program to use technology to “revolutionize” K-12 education.
It was published the day after Hastings sent an email to Netflix customers informing them that, in addition to having just ticked them off by both limiting their choices and hiking rates, he also planned to split the company into two separate and unrelated entertainment services.

He shattered mathematics with a single number

Marcus Chown:

TWO plus two equals four: nobody would argue with that. Mathematicians can rigorously prove sums like this, and many other things besides. The language of maths allows them to provide neatly ordered ways to describe everything that happens in the world around us.
Or so they once thought. Gregory Chaitin, a mathematics researcher at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, has shown that mathematicians can’t actually prove very much at all. Doing maths, he says, is just a process of discovery like every other branch of science: it’s an experimental field where mathematicians stumble upon facts in the same way that zoologists might come across a new species of primate.
Mathematics has always been considered free of uncertainty and able to provide a pure foundation for other, messier fields of science. But maths is just as messy, Chaitin says: mathematicians are simply acting on intuition and experimenting with ideas, just like everyone else. Zoologists think there might be something new swinging from branch to branch in the unexplored forests of Madagascar, and mathematicians have hunches about which part of the mathematical landscape to explore. The subject is no more profound than that.

Career advice worth spreading

Jamie Condliffe:

In part, that was down to a wonderfully diverse range of ideas and participants. Vidal Sassoon’s touching monologue about his journery from orphan to perhaps the most famous hairdresser in the world sat seamlessly beside Marcus du Sautoy discussing multi-dimensional symmetry. Alan McGee’s tales of launching Oasis into super-stardom and his battles with drug abuse somehow beautifully complemented Aubrey de Grey’s explanations of the complexities of regenerative therapies for ageing. Even cybernetic professor, Kevin Warwick’s description of a future where our bodies are augmented and invaded by technology managed not to feel at odds with Charles Roberts’ inspirational not-for-profit project Greeenstar, which aims to help consumers make green choices by including environmental weightings in internet searches.
Such cohesion is no mean feat, and successfully achieving it made for a relentless yet inspiring day – a sentiment echoed by the attendees I spoke to. “I just love the fact that there are talks on such a wide range of topics,” one of them told me. “I’m learning about areas I would never sit down and read about. It makes you value the overlap between topics in a whole new way.”
Blurring of boundaries was celebrated by du Sautoy, too, who took time to probe the fallacies of the science-humanities divide. “When I was at school I was frustrated by the idea of being put in an arts or science box,” said du Sautoy. “But mathematicians often talk of beauty and aesthetics. The mathematics I do, I do because it tells an interesting story.” A refreshing alternative to conventional career advice, and an important point to remember: a career in science needn’t mean you can’t dabble in the arts, and vice versa.

Seton Hall Offers Top Applicants Two-Thirds Off

Richard Perez-Pena:

For students with their sights set on a private college, the anxiety comes as a one-two punch: first from competing with thousands of others for a precious few spots, then from trying to scrape together up to $50,000 a year to foot the bill.
Starting next year, Seton Hall University will try to ease that follow-up blow for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. For New Jersey residents, who constitute about 70 percent of Seton Hall’s undergraduates, that would make the cost equivalent to that of Rutgers University, the state’s flagship public institution; for those from out of state, the private school would be much cheaper than the public one.
National experts on admissions and financial aid said the policy was the first of its kind. Seton Hall officials said they hoped it would provide clarity and certainty up front to the most desirable applicants, easing the weeks and months of stress that admitted students face as they wait to hear how much financial aid they might get from different campuses.

Madison Teachers union receives national recognition for organizing protests

Samuel Schmitt:

A Madison teachers union will receive a national award for its organizational work during last spring’s protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill throughout Wisconsin.
The Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday Madison Teachers Incorporated would be honored with the Letelier-Motiff Human Rights Award on Oct. 12, said ISP spokesperson Lacy MacAuleyet.
IPS annually presents two awards to honor those who the group believes to be “unsung heroes of the progressive movement.” One award is presented domestically and one internationally, she said.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews said the union has never received an award of this caliber.
“This is a first,” Matthews said. “[The national distinction represents] significant recognition for MTI’s leadership. MTI hasn’t slowed its effort in the movement.”

WEAC (Wisconsin Teacher Union): Who Benefits?

Why this area teacher chose the non-union option

Elijah Grajkowski:

If the teachers union is as wonderful as it claims, then it should have no problem attracting members, without the need to force teachers to join. How is this any different from any other professional organization that teachers, as professionals, may choose to join? It’s a question I have been pondering since I became a public school teacher in Wisconsin.
For years, I have chosen not to be a member of the union. However, this is a choice I didn’t exactly have before Gov. Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining bill became law. As a compulsory union state, where teachers are required to pay union dues as a condition of employment, the most I could hope for was a “fair share” membership, where the union refunded me a small portion of the money that was taken from my paycheck that lawyers have deemed “un-chargeable.”
Every September, after lengthy, bureaucratic and unadvertised hurdles, I would file my certified letter to try to withdraw my union membership. Then, the union would proceed to drag its feet in issuing my small refund. I often wondered why this kind of burden would be put on an individual teacher like me. Shouldn’t it be up to the organization to convince people and to sell its benefits to potential members afresh each year?
Why should I have to move mountains each fall to break ties with this group that I don’t want to be a part of in the first place? Something seemed dreadfully wrong with that picture.

Union’s efforts help all students, educators and schools

WEAC President Mary Bell:

I became a Wisconsin teacher more than 30 years ago. I entered my classroom on the first day of school with my eyes and heart wide open, dedicated to the education of children and to the promise public schools offer. I was part of our state’s longstanding education tradition.
Like many beginning teachers, I soon encountered the many challenges and opportunities educators face every day in schools. About 50% of new educators leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. New teachers need mentors, suggestions, support and encouragement to help them meet the individual needs of students (all learning at different speeds and in different ways) and teach life lessons that can’t be learned from textbooks.
That’s where the union comes in. In many ways, much of the work the Wisconsin Education Association Council does is behind the scenes: supporting new teachers through union-led mentoring programs and offering training and skill development to help teachers with their licenses and certification. Our union helps teachers achieve National Board Certification – the highest accomplishment in the profession – and provides hands-on training for support professionals to become certified in their fields. These are efforts that benefit all Wisconsin educators, not just a few, and no single educator could accomplish them all alone.

To Hover Over Schoolwork, Parents Go Online

Molly Baker:

When Debbie Sumner Mahle, an Atlanta mother, wants to know what her sons, ages 6, 7 and 10, are working on in school, she turns on her computer and logs into NetClassroom. The portal lets her see not just their school assignments but also their attendance and grades.
More public and private school systems are wiring up data-management systems, and school work is just the tip of the iceberg. Parent-accessible websites and “learning community management systems”–or LCMSs, in the age of no jargon left behind–are increasingly handling schools’ scheduling, emergency contacts, immunizations, academic assessments and even meals, with some offering a daily nutritional breakdown of lunch.
Ms. Sumner Mahle receives email reminders to place her sons’ requests at, which manages the meal program at their school, the Davis Academy. If she wants to work a shift as a cafeteria monitor, or bring cupcakes to a Halloween party, she signs up at

An Excerpt from “Getting Schooled: The re-education of an American teacher”

Garret Keizer:

On the first day of school I begin my classes with John Coltrane’s “Welcome,” at the closing bars of which a palpable attentiveness comes over my chattering students, proof of what I’ve always believed about the source of Coltrane’s genius and the wellspring within even the dopiest-seeming kid. “This is nice music,” one boy remarks, and no one sneers. As I will do with the other musical introductions I play throughout the year, all chosen to fit the interval between passing bells, I key in my selection on a purse-size CD player, as quaint to the iPod generation as a Victrola is to me. I write the name of each artist and piece on the blackboard, including the date of composition when I can find it, usually a year predating that of my students’ birth (circa 1995).
I wear a jacket and tie almost every day, one of the few adults at school who do. To these I add a pair of well-oiled work boots, an offhand expression of solidarity with the parents of our community but mostly a concession to my falling arches. For the first time in many years I have what can be called a “look”–like me and like the white-collar trade of teaching itself, a strange amalgam. A girl passing in the hall remarks that I always look “spiffy.” I reply that I would have thought I looked old. “Hey, how old are you?” she counters. “Thirty?” I take this as a compliment and beam accordingly, though on reflection I wonder if she is simply trying to agree that I am old.

An assembly-line education

Alan Rosenberg:

The headline for Cathy N. Davidson’s Sept. 25 Outlook commentary [“A Model T test in the Internet age“] is the right analogy for multiple-choice tests. But why stop there?
All of American education has come to resemble Henry Ford’s assembly line. Students receive a standardized education. Teachers work as quickly as possible as the product moves by to put in those parts deemed necessary by the administration. Quality-control inspectors watch the workers to make sure they are doing everything as dictated by the owner’s manual. In the past decade, the line has been sped up, the workers are asked to add more bells and whistles, and the raw material at the beginning of the line has decreased in quality. Administration continues to raise output goals yet cuts pay and benefits. The workers have little choice but to comply.

Instability in the Oakland School District: a brief lesson in recent history

Katy Murphy:

The number of students attending Oakland’s district-run public schools shrank by about 30 percent between 2000 and 2010 — a trend that’s partly explained by a decline in the number of children living in the city and partly by the explosion of independently-run, state-funded charter schools during that time.
Despite that striking statistic, the district has even more schools today than it did back then.
If you don’t count the already-closed Youth Empowerment School (which somehow ended up on the list of schools to be phased out next year), there are still 100 schools in OUSD — about 15 more than there were in 2000. As education blogger John Fensterwald pointed out to me, that amounts to an average of 640 students per school in 2000, compared to an average of about 380 per school today.
With numbers like that, you might think this is the first time OUSD has considered reducing the number of neighborhood schools it operates. Not so. Oakland Unified shuttered about a dozen during the 2000s — and that’s not counting the ones that were closed and reopened as a school improvement strategy, or the new schools were shut down soon after they opened.

Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels on Public Employee Unions

Ira Stoll:

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, were both in New York City earlier this week for a Manhattan Institute conference about a “new social contract” with public employees.
Mr. Walker spoke first. He said the changes enacted in Wisconsin that had opponents sitting in and sleeping over in the state capital in protest earlier this year had saved $1.44 billion for state and local governments combined. He said school districts had used the savings to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and to offer merit pay.
Mr. Walker said voters are looking for “not Republican leadership, not Democrat leadership, they just want leadership.”
Mr. Walker contrasted his approach with that of Governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat, of Wisconsin’s neighbor Illinois, who “laid off thousands” of state workers after “massive tax increases.”

The Promise of Digital Humanities

Steve Kolowich:

Humanities research is often derided as gauzy and esoteric, and therefore undeserving of tax dollars. Amid financial crises, humanities departments at many public universities have been razed. But even amid cuts, there has been a surge in interest in the digital humanities — a branch of scholarship that takes the computational rigor that has long undergirded the sciences and applies it the study of history, language, art and culture.
“While we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them,” wrote Stanley Fish, the outspoken professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, on his New York Times blog in June.
“Everyone loves digital humanities this year,” said Bobley, citing the praise from Fish as the cherry on top of a steady stream of positive media coverage that has buoyed public interest in humanities research that uses new, technology-heavy approaches to distill meaning from old texts and artifacts.

Study finds low graduation rates among part-time college students

Carla Rivera:

Growing numbers of college students are in school part time, and they face increasingly long odds of ever graduating, according to a report released Tuesday.
The report, Time is the Enemy, by the nonprofit group Complete College America, includes data on full- and part-time students at public colleges and universities in 33 states, including California. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and others.
“There is a new generation of students who are poorer, more likely to be a minority, working and with families,” said Stan Jones, the organization’s president. “The graduation rates are very low, so that even though more people are going to college looking to better themselves and better their economic circumstances, those goals are not being realized because the system is failing them.”
Among the report’s key findings:

Further Commentary on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School: Gender discrimination likely a red herring in charter school discussion

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District now has another justification for killing a charter school aimed at doing what the district hasn’t: consistently educate minority students.
Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction said the first half of a planning grant for Madison Preparatory Academy would be released. Madison Prep would focus on low-income minority students and was originally just for boys but has since been revamped to include girls in separate classrooms.
But DPI had a catch: In order to get the rest of the grant, the school must provide scientific research that single-gender education is effective. If you’re going to discriminate by gender, DPI is saying, at least have a good reason for it.
I can’t help but wonder: Is this the best DPI can do?
I don’t know much more than what I’ve read in this newspaper about how Madison Prep would organize itself, what kinds of educational approaches it would use or how capable its sponsor, the Urban League of Greater Madison, would be.

TJ Mertz:

ewsletter (as of this writing PD has not taken a position on the Madison Prep proposal). I’ve only changed minimally for posting here; one thing I have added is some hyperlinks (but I did not link as thoroughly as I usually do), another is a small “For Further Reading” set of links at the end,” and of course the song. This is intended to be a broad overview and introduction to what I think are some of the most important issues concerning the decision on the Madison Preparatory Academy presented in the context of related national issues. Issues raised in this post have been and will be treated in more depth — and with hyperlinks — in other posts]

For decades free market advocates such as the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Koch brothers have a waged a multi-front campaign against the public sector and the idea of the common good. Public education has been one of the key battlegrounds. In the coming weeks the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will decide whether to approve a proposal for the Madison Prep Charter School. This proposal and the chief advocate for it – Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison – have their roots in the Bradley/Walton/Koch movement, and like much of that movement they offer false promises of educational progress in order to obscure the damage being done to every child in our public schools.

A Public Hearing on the Madison Prep proposal has been scheduled for Monday October 3, at 6:00 PM in the Doyle Building Auditorium; The Madison Prep proposal is on the agenda of the PD General Membership Meeting (Wed , 9/28 , 6:00 p.m, Hawthorne Branch Library, guests welcome).

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

Parents Losing Faith in Hong Kong Schools

Stuart Lau:

It is no secret that top Hong Kong officials have long said “no” to the education system they govern by sending their own children to schools abroad.
But now more than half of all Hongkongers say they will follow suit, according to a recent survey.
Fifty-two per cent of parents polled said they planned to send their children abroad, according to the survey conducted by credit card company MasterCard. That contrasts with 13 per cent on the mainland and 34 per cent in Taiwan.

Educating the Gifted

Norman Augustine, via a kind reader’s email:

The very subject of giftedness is fraught with contradiction and controversy. On the one hand, we often encounter misunderstanding, envy, and perceived elitism–and on the other, admiration, dependency, and respect. Little wonder that our K-12 education system has not yet determined how best to nurture extraordinary individuals so that they can become extraordinary contributors to society–and feel rewarded in doing so. Unfortunately, it is not simply the gifted who are underserved by most of our nation’s 14,000 public school systems; that group is just more acutely neglected, along with the economically less fortunate, than the nation’s student population as a whole.

You are Not a Tinker Toy: Libraries and Reorganization

Barbara Fister:

When I read “Library Limbo,” a news story about library staff members being laid off the University of San Diego, I had to resist adding a comment because I needed what preschools sometimes call a “time out.” My first responses were strong, but not measured, and in stories like this there are always layers of complexity that the best journalist in the world cannot represent. Rarely are personnel decisions of any kind easy to describe, and some of the key information is usually not publicly available. Often what is described as the elimination of a position becomes suddenly not discussable because it’s a personnel matter. A personnel matter that can’t be discussed is not about a change in a position but about the performance of the person in the position, which is a different . . . hang on, I apparently need to go sit quietly in the corner for a few more minutes . . .
Okay. So let’s not talk about that particular situation at the University of San Diego because I don’t know enough about it to comment meaningfully. Instead I want to propose a few general things about libraries, change, and organizations.

RBC to Pay $30.4 Million Over Wisconsin Investment Sales

Andrew Ackerman & Joan Solsman:

The Securities and Exchange Commission said the corporate and investment-banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada agreed to pay $30.4 million to settle charges it inappropriately sold unsuitable investments to five Wisconsin school districts.
The settlement, disclosed Tuesday, with the SEC comes as the agency is stepping up its probe into complex derivatives transactions at the heart of the financial crisis. The school district case is the latest to arise out of those efforts, SEC officials said.
“This unit has brought several cases and there will still be some more to come,” said Kenneth Lench, chief of the SEC enforcement division’s structured- and new-products unit, which jointly investigated the matter with a separate municipal securities-enforcement team.

Why You Should Root for College to Go Online


In early August, Apollo Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, made an acquisition that is small compared to the billion-dollar deals common to high-tech industries. Apollo paid less than $100 million to acquire Carnegie Learning, a provider of computer-based math tutorials. Such technology acquisitions are rare in higher education, to say the least. Yet this seemingly small deal is a signal of disruptive revolution in higher education.
Carnegie Learning is the creation of computer and cognitive scientists from Carnegie Mellon University. Their math tutorials draw from cutting-edge research about the way students learn and what motivates them to succeed academically. These scientists have created adaptive computer tutorials that meet students at their individual level of understanding and help them advance via the kinds of exercises they personally find most engaging and effective. The personalization and sophistication is hard for even an expert human tutor to match. It is a powerful, affordable adjunct to classroom instruction, as manifest by Carnegie Learner’s user base of more than 600,000 secondary students in over 3,000 schools nationwide.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Poverty pervades the suburbs

Tami Luhby:

Guess where most people in poverty live? Hint: It’s not in the inner cities or rural America.
It’s in the idyllic suburbs.
A record 15.4 million suburban residents lived below the poverty line last year, up 11.5% from the year before, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of Census data released Thursday. That’s one-third of the nation’s poor.
And their ranks are swelling fast, as jobs disappear and incomes decline amid the continued weak economy.
Since 2000, the number of suburban poor has skyrocketed by 53%, battered by the two recessions that wiped out many manufacturing jobs early on, and low-wage construction and retail positions more recently.
America’s cities, meanwhile, had 12.7 million people in poverty last year, up about 5% from the year before and 23% since 2000. The remaining 18 million poor folks in the U.S. are roughly split between smaller metro areas and rural communities.

Madison School Board OKs use of police dogs for drug searches

Devin Rose:

In the coming weeks, Madison police dogs will be able to sniff through the halls, bathrooms and parking lots of the city’s middle and high schools if school principals suspect there may be illegal drugs there.
The School Board voted 5-1 Monday to allow the sweeps, which school officials say will help eliminate drug use and trafficking in schools and decrease violence. Annual evaluations will be conducted to assess the program’s effectiveness.
Supporters, including Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, said it could be an effective and color-blind tool as part of a strategy to keep schools safe. The dogs would search for marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
Luis Yudice, coordinator of safety and security for the school district, said one statistic that led officials to consider these searches was the 60 percent increase in student code-of-conduct violations since 2007 occurring because of drugs.

Wisconsin gets $10.5M in federal redistributed tax dollars for English learner assessment

Bill Novak:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been awarded a $10.5 million grant to develop technology-based assessments for students learning English.

The four-year grant from the federal Department of Education will be used to develop an online assessment system to measure student progress in attaining the English language skills they need to be successful in school and, ultimately, post-secondary studies and work.

The DPI is the lead agency in a 28-state consortium working with World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.

Presumably, this initiative has passed the “it works” DPI requirement mentioned here.

The Global Report: Compare US School Districts to the World

The Global Report Card, via a kind Chan Stroman-Roll email:

The Global Report Card was developed by Jay P. Greene and Josh B. McGee as part of the George W. Bush Institute’s Education Reform Initiative. The Bush Institute works to increase dramatically the number of American students who graduate high school ready for college or prepared for a good career by:

  • cultivating a new generation of principals
  • implementing cutting edge research
  • advancing accountability

Driven by accountability and data, these initiatives challenge the status quo and lead a wide range of partners to share goals and use clear metrics tied to student achievement.
Summary of Methodology
The calculations begin by evaluating the distributions of student achievement at the state, national, and international level. To allow for direct comparisons across state and national borders, and thus testing instruments, we map all testing data to the standard normal curve using the appropriate student level mean and standard deviation. We then calculate at the lowest level of aggregation by estimating average district quality within each state. Each state’s average quality is evaluated then using national testing data. And finally, the average national quality is determined using international testing data. Essentially, this re-centers our distribution of district quality based upon the relative performance of the individual state when compared to the nation as a whole as well as the relative performance of the nation when compared to our economic competitors.
For example, the average student in Scarsdale School District in Westchester County, New York scored nearly one standard deviation above the mean for New York on the state’s math exam. The average student in New York scored six hundredths of a standard deviation above the national average of the NAEP exam given in the same year, and the average student in the United States scored about as far in the negative direction (-.055) from the international average on PISA. Our final index score for Scarsdale in 2007 is equal to the sum of the district, state, and national estimates (1+.06+ -.055 = 1.055). Since the final index score is expired in standard deviation units, it can easily be converted to a percentile for easy interpretation. In our example, Scarsdale would rank at the seventy seventh percentile internationally in math.

The Best United States School Districts (2007 Math data) [PDF].
Related: and 1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison.

What Do Test Scores Tell Us?

Gary Gutting:

Tests used to be just for evaluating students, but now the testing of students is used to evaluate teachers and, in fact, the entire educational system. On an individual level, some students and parents have noticed a change — more standardized tests and more classroom and homework time devoted to preparation for them.
So what exactly do test scores tell us?
Poor test scores are the initial premises in most current arguments for educational reform. At the end of last year, reading scores that showed American 15-year-olds in the middle of an international pack, led by Asian countries, prompted calls from researchers and educators for immediate action. This year two sociologists, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, showed that 45 percent of students, after two years of college, have made no significant gains on a test of critical thinking. Last week’s report of falling SAT scores is the latest example.

Classroom Seating Habits

Flowing Data:

In college, I was one of those guys who sat in the back and doodled in my notebook. Sometimes I fell asleep. One time I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of a different class. I blame the professor. Why would you turn off the lights for a two-hour session in a big lecture hall, while reading verbatim from world’s most boring powerpoint presentation?
Anyways, we all have our seating pockets that we like to settle in. Skyrill, a two-brother design team, took it upon themselves to visualize the seating habits of their graduate student classmates in class 15.514 at MIT.

Martin Institute Looks at Inclusion Teaching

Bill Dries:

Public and private school teachers will explore the shifting line between “mainstream” students and special education students during a two-day special education summit at The Martin Institute that begins Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The session is for special education teachers. The Wednesday session is for teachers outside the specific special education area. Both are on the Presbyterian Day School campus in East Memphis.
The summit and an 18-month focus on special education that follows arose from a series of luncheons and discussions Institute director Clif Mims had last spring with special education teachers.
The teachers and school system administrators cited “inclusion teaching” as both a trend and a challenge for all teachers.

In Public School Reform, What Can Private Money Buy?

Helen Zelon:

Bill Gates has donated more than $5 billion to improve U.S. schools. But he sees little bang for all those bucks. What do other philanthropists–and the school systems who’ve benefited from them–think they have to show for what’s been spent?
Two months ago, Bill Gates told the Wall Street Journal that private money–including upwards of $5 billion in Gates foundation funding–“didn’t move the needle much,” in terms of substantial, measurable improvements in student achievement and graduation outcomes.
“It’s hard to improve public education–that’s clear,” Gates said. “If you’re picking stocks, you wouldn’t pick this one.”

6 wild ideas for ideal schools

Jay Matthews:

A month ago, I suggested that readers stop asking me what’s a good school and come up with their own ideas. I wanted fresh concepts, including some that were already operating and producing better achievement without putting too much strain on staffs and students.
I gave two thriving models as examples, the New York Performance Standards Consortium and the KIPP schools. Reader suggestions poured in. Some were crazy, but so what? Look for details on my blog on Friday. Here are the ones I thought most interesting. What do you think of them?
Quest Early College High School, Houston (submitted by Katie Test of the ASCD educational leadership organization). This 16-year-old public high school focuses on both academic and emotional needs with an advisory program that keeps students in regular contact with educators and emphasis on health, including a personal wellness plan. They start college courses freshman year and do community service every Friday.

Commentary on Wisconsin School Choice Battles

Mike Ford:

A 3,000 plus word article by Bill Lueders in the Capital Times today questions the motives behind legislators that support the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Specifically targeted is Rep. Howard Marklein, a freshman legislator from Spring Green who had the gall to not only support school choice in Milwaukee but also to introduce legislation to improve the program.
Lueders quotes Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts as asking: “What’s in this for Howard Marklein?…If it isn’t for the campaign funds, why is he doing this?”
Perhaps he is doing it because it benefits taxpayers in the 51st Assembly district. As Marklein points out to Lueders, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the MPCP is a benefit to his constituents. Without the MPCP, the 15 school districts represented by Rep. Marklein would lose $1.3 million in state aid. The estimate assumes that 90% of students in the MPCP would have no choice but to return to the more expensive Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system if the MPCP was ended. The 90% figure is the number used by the official state evaluators of the MPCP and is based on evidence from choice programs around the country.

David Blaska has more.
TJ Mertz:

This is Take Two in a series. Take One, with a fuller introduction, can be found here. Briefly, the idea of the series is to counter anti-teacher and anti-teachers’ union individuals and “reform” groups appropriation of the phrase “it is all about the kids” as a means to heap scorn and ridicule on public education and public education employees by investigating some of the actions of these individuals and groups in light of the question “is it all about the kids?” In each take, national developments are linked to local matters in relation to the Madison Prep charter school proposal.
Take Two: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Public Lotteries and the Exploitation of Families and Children

School Libraries Struggle with E-Book Loans

Audrey Watters:

Just as many predicted, sales figures show that more people are opting to buy e-books rather than printed copies. Sales of e-books rose 167 percent in June, reports Publishers Weekly, with sales totaling $473.8 million for the first half of the year. But sales of print books — both paperbacks and hardcovers — continue to decline.
It isn’t just publishers that are scrambling to adjust their business models to the growing demand for e-books; so too are libraries having to reconsider how they will provide content for their patrons.
Even though there’s keen interest on the part of library patrons to check out e-books, making a move to digital loans is not going to be easy. That’s true for all libraries, but it’s especially true for school libraries, many of which already face budget woes, and as such, have to weigh carefully how to invest in new books to stock the shelves.

Grading the GOP Candidates on Education

Andrew Rotherham:

Given how preoccupied everyone is with the economy, education is even less of an issue in this presidential campaign than usual. Most of the Republican candidates do not even include education positions on their websites. And the two GOP heavyweights who have garnered the best reviews from education reformers on both sides of the aisle are not even in the race: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is sitting the campaign out, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll. But as President Obama gets ready to put the debate about how to reform No Child Left Behind on the front burner (he’s planning a big speech at the White House for this Friday), the GOP candidates can’t avoid education forever. As some start to drop hints about what their education plans might look like, here’s a handicapper’s guide to the leading contenders and their views — and record — on education.

Schools need more than money to improve

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

Education is a key part of job creation and long-term economic growth. That’s one of the reasons why the issue is so important to me and governors across the country. It’s also why I’m excited to be participating in an extended national discussion about the future of education, how it will be the backbone of future innovation, and help grow our economy.
As part of an “Education Nation Summit” hosted by NBC on Monday, I will be talking with a bipartisan group of governors about education in America and its importance to economic competitiveness.
Although Democratic and Republican governors don’t always agree on every issue, there is broad consensus about the need to improve education in our country to keep our workforce the best in a global economy. Almost every governor has dealt with declining revenues and difficult budget decisions, but almost every governor has ideas on how to reform and improve education that go beyond spending more money.

Abolish the U.S. Department of Education? Seriously?

Jennifer Wheary:

We all owe Stella Lohmann of Atlanta, Georgia thanks.  Ms. Lohmann is the substitute teacher who via video asked GOP candidates in last night’s debate:

What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom?

Prior to asking the question, Ms. Lohmann offered some important context to show her credibility:

I’ve taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. 

Next time I visit Georgia, I would not mind shaking Ms. Lohmann’s hand for posing such an interesting and illuminating, albeit extremely loaded, question.

Then I would ask whether she happens to be the same blogger and communications consultant found at wearing a “Freedom Czar” baseball hat. And how Fox happened to find her? 

Book Review: School Blues

The Economist:

THOMAS NAGEL, an American philosopher, wants to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Ian Anderson, a Scot who performs with the band Jethro Tull, sang of a slightly less intractable difficulty: “wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.” In “School Blues” Daniel Pennac, a prize-winning French writer, describes what faces a school dunce when the teacher before him cannot recall what it felt like to be ignorant.
Mr Pennac was once such a child (he uses the French cancre, as in Cancer, the crab: a creature that scuttles sideways instead of advancing forwards). But despite becoming a teacher, he can remember what it was like not to understand lessons. The voices in his head remind him of it. They taunt him throughout his semi-autobiographical novel, which partially traces his sorry academic career as the child of high-achieving parents whose three older brothers excelled at school. Luckily for him, his parents did not let him flee the system but instead persisted in finding a teacher who would help him to succeed. The breakthrough came aged 14 when his latest tutor–“no doubt amazed by my increasingly inventive excuses as to why I hadn’t done my homework”–commissioned him to write essays and then a novel.

Common Core unconstitutional, will “nationalize mediocrity, stifle innovation”

Gary Palmer:

With the help of some Republican governors and school board members, the Obama Administration is on the verge of taking over education.
Common Core is the latest attempt to expand the reach of federal government even more broadly into our daily lives. Common Core, which was reportedly conceived by the National Association of Governors, was originally presented to the states as an effort to develop consistency in state curriculums for college and workforce readiness. Theoretically, the Common Core standards will improve education outcomes and increase transparency and accountability.
One problem with the new Common Core standards is that they are almost indistinguishable from the old state standards they are supposed to replace. According to an Education Week blog by Catherine Gewertz, many teachers and administrators don’t see any difference between their old state standards and the Common Core standards. The fact is, state boards of education have bought into something that most of them had little or no input in and that many of them really do not fully understand and that will inevitably lead to having federal government bureaucrats setting education standards for Alabama’s children.

A Look at Madison Badger Rock Middle School

On a recent school day, sixth-grader Cassidy Wimmer places surveyors’ flags in spots where runoff water from the Beltline, other roads and parking lots flows toward the wetlands of Indian Springs south of Madison.
She and her classmates are part of a field biology class at Badger Rock Middle School and they’re learning a hands-on lesson about water quality and the environment in the neighborhood that surrounds their school.
“It’s interesting to see where the water travels,” she says. “It probably has a lot of pollution in it.”
Meanwhile, other students from Badger Rock are studying an enormous burr oak tree, and estimating its age. Still other sixth-graders are helping move a giant compost pile toward a community garden at their school that they help tend. Their lesson today is on improving soil to nourish growing plants, and learning the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen to create the best compost.

Pro-Charter Group Seeks to Bolster Support

Dan Mihalopoulous & Rebecca Vevea:

Chicago’s charter school advocates could have reason for unprecedented optimism, given that new Mayor Rahm Emanuel frequently praises their efforts – and that a prominent charter-school executive was Emanuel’s election campaign co-chairman.
Yet, rather than assume that they will reap the benefits of firm political backing, charter advocates say they are organizing a show of support from parents to help convince the new mayor and other leaders that they deserve more funding.
A rally on Saturday, billed as the “Charter schools Day of Action,” is among the first public displays of a new public-relations push. The New Schools for Chicago group, which is devoting tens of millions of dollars to scores of new charters, has entered into a $250,000 contract with the United Neighborhood Organization to organize public support, said Juan Rangel, UNO’s chief executive officer.

The destructive nature of power without status

Nathanael J. Fast, Nir Halevy, Adam D. Galinsky:

The current research explores how roles that possess power but lack status influence behavior toward others. Past research has primarily examined the isolated effects of having either power or status, but we propose that power and status interact to affect interpersonal behavior. Based on the notions that a) low-status is threatening and aversive and b) power frees people to act on their internal states and feelings, we hypothesized that power without status fosters demeaning behaviors toward others. To test this idea, we orthogonally manipulated both power and status and gave participants the chance to select activities for their partners to perform. As predicted, individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners (e.g., bark like a dog, say “I am filthy”) than did those in any other combination of power and status roles. We discuss how these results clarify, challenge, and advance the existing power and status literatures.

A New Law on School Fitness Data Faces Obstacles

Morgan Smith:

Texas children are fat — and getting fatter.
It is something state policy makers have known and have struggled to address for years. In the last decade, the Legislature has passed laws that set nutritional standards for school meals, required body mass index screenings for children and adolescents, and instituted physical activity requirements.
The latest effort came during this year’s legislative session with a bill passed by Senator Jane Nelson, Republican of Flower Mound, that allows a deeper study of schools’ fitness data.
Under the new law, researchers can access unidentified individual student data, which they say will help bolster aggregate analyses that already show correlations between physical fitness and academic performance, gang activity and absenteeism.

Think Different? Not in Higher Ed

Jeffrey Selingo:

When Steve Jobs introduced the “Think Different” advertising campaign on his return to the helm of Apple, in 1997, the slogan was not just aimed at consumers. It was also meant to inspire those inside the struggling company to innovate for the future.
Of course, what followed is now the story of one of the most successful companies in American history: a decade when Apple transformed the music industry with the iPod, the mobile-phone industry with the iPhone, and now the publishing industry with the iPad.
Apple succeed partly because it decided to take a different path than its competitors in the tech industry, and consumers followed. The history of business is filled with similar tales. Just look at what happened to Detroit’s Big Three after the arrival of Japanese automakers in the United States.

Clashes of Money and Values: A Survey of Admissions Directors

Scott Jaschik:

Admissions counselors like to talk about finding the right “fit” for applicants — a great match between a student’s educational and other goals and an institution’s programs. But a new survey of the senior admissions officials at colleges nationwide finds that this “fit” is, from many colleges’ point of view, increasingly about money. As evidence of that pressure, the survey found that:
For many colleges, a top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more. Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years — driven by high figures in the public sector — was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more). The runner-up was the strategy of providing more aid for low- and middle-income students.
Among all sectors of higher education, there is a push to recruit more out-of-state students and international students.

School district tackles its changing demographics

Mila Koumpilova:

WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP) — Perla Banegas arrived in Worthington a decade ago, on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles. Her single mom had heard about a safe, quiet town in the upper Midwest and steady jobs at its meatpacking plant.
In sixth grade that year, Banegas quickly got a reputation as a painfully shy kid — and a talking-to for taking too many bathroom breaks. She wasn’t shy: She just didn’t understand a word of English in class. In bathroom stalls, she’d have a good cry and then give herself a pep talk: “You have to go back and try.”
She did. And she graduated.

Building an Education Nation

Tom Brokaw:

Think of American education as a house of many rooms, each with a distinct function but taken as a whole, this house is shelter against the winds of change buffeting the world and threatening our future.
Any objective analysis of that shelter comes to the same conclusion: we have work to do to be sure we’re secure and able to hold our own against whatever this new global climate sends our way.
That’s the unsettling news. The good news? Work is under way, from the most remote school districts in rural America, to the inner city of our largest urban areas.

Why won’t the Chicago Teacher’s Union Support a Longer School Day?

Elena Silva:

There has been plenty of chatter in the past weeks about Chicago’s plans to extend its school days by 90 minutes. An editorial in today’s Washington Post asks why won’t the Chicago Teachers’ Union support a longer school day? Well, they are a union, which is designed to protect teachers pay and work. But this aside, how many people do you know that would accept 2 percent more pay for more than 20 percent more work?
Teachers at more than a dozen CPS schools have agreed to the terms, and more will likely sign on in the coming weeks. They are the heroes of this editorial because they are “willing to buck the union leadership” and because, we are reminded, it’s all about the student. Except it’s not just about the student. Remember that most important in-school factor for student learning that needs better systems for evaluation, training, support, promotion and pay? We held a focus group recently with about a dozen teachers from Chicago-they were open to talking about evaluation reforms and career ladders and differential pay structures. But the 2 percent for 90 more minutes a day? At least this one small group was entirely against it.

StoryCorps Launches National Teacher Initiative

W J Levay:

StoryCorps — a national oral history project whose interviews you’ve probably heard on public radio — kicked off its National Teacher Initiative earlier this week with AFT president Randi Weingarten participating at the White House event.
The project, which launched Sept. 19, celebrates and honors the courageous work of public school educators nationwide. “This is a fantastic opportunity to hear from teachers — the people who are closest to the kids,” said Weingarten. “Their stories will be a window to the world on today’s public education — what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do better to prepare our children for the 21st-century knowledge economy.”
StoryCorps is looking to partner with schools, districts, teachers unions, community groups, and others to conduct an on-site recording day, and will send their staff and equipment to schools or events if the local or state federation can guarantee that at least eight interview pairs that include at least one teacher are available to participate. Each interview takes 40 minutes, and the participants will receive a CD of their interview.

Milwaukee Public Schools: Educator & Social Agency

James Causey:

Imagine what would happen to Milwaukee’s most vulnerable children if it weren’t for the services provided by their school district: Milwaukee Public Schools.
I know what some of you are thinking: Their parents should be providing for them. Or: MPS might get better results if the district focused more on education and less on being a social service agency.
I agree. Parents are responsible for their kids, and the district is responsible for education. I’m not here to defend the district against justifiable criticism.
But understand: Many of the kids who attend MPS come from homes so impoverished that even the most basic things – breakfast or a place to sleep – are missing. How can the district educate kids living in such circumstances?
The U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that nearly half of Milwaukee’s kids live in poverty. More than 80% of MPS students receive free or reduced-price lunch.

Let’s Not Focus on the Achievement Gap

The Milwaukee Talkie:

A thought-provoking essay in the current issue of National Affairs by the prolific and sardonic Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute calls for a retreat from education reform’s long-held focus on closing the achievement gap. Hess feels the federal No Child Left Behind Act has, ironically, become “education policy that has shortchanged many children.” His thesis is that by focusing on improving achievement scores of the lowest performing subgroups of students, opportunities for reform that would also benefit the other students have been passed up. The result is that many parents, educators, principals, and elected officials see school reform as inapplicable to the average- or highly-performing students who make up the majority of children in most classrooms across the country.
Which begs the question–if most children in the country are, in fact, being served pretty well by their public schools (and there can be strong arguments made that children who are white, or female, or upper class, or suburban are served well enough by public schools), then why should the adults who care for and educate them want to reform their schools? Should education reform affect change throughout the system or should it focus more narrowly on those students poorly served by public schooling?

Parental participation in Milwaukee Public Schools appears weak

Alan Borsuk:

Twenty-three percent?
Does it surprise you to hear that is the percentage of Milwaukee Public Schools children who had adults in their lives attend parent-teacher conferences last spring?
Or that the figure for a year earlier was 47%, meaning the percentage dropped by half in one year?
I’ve often heard anecdotes from teachers or principals about how low involvement is in parent-teacher conferences. Five parents show up for conferences involving a class of 27 kids. Numbers like that. There are individual MPS schools where participation is high, but that underscores how low the figure is at many other schools.
Parent-teacher conference attendance is sometimes overemphasized. There are other things parents can and should do that are much more important. But conferences can be seen as a measure of parent involvement. I had never seen specific numbers for MPS as a whole until now. The School Board was given a report on parent involvement this month, including numbers produced by stepped-up efforts in MPS to monitor this.

Are Today’s Youth Really a Lost Generation?

Derek Thompson:

They’re calling us the “Lost Generation.” Young people are struggling in record numbers to find work, leave home, and start a family, according to 2010 Census figures released today.
The proximate cause is the Great Recession. The number of young Americans living with their parents, nearly 6 million, has increased by 25 percent in the last three years. But the greatest cause for concern is that even when the recession has finally let go of the economy, young Americans — Generation Y or Millennials — will face a longer road back to normalcy than their older peers and parents.
Last week, I compared the impact of the recession on three generations: Gen-Y, Gen-X, and Boomers. Each face a particular challenge. For Boomers, it’s a wealth crisis. They invested in homes whose value has fallen by as much as 30 percent. For Gen-X, it’s an income crisis. They should be in the highest-earnings years of their life, but the recession has depressed their salaries and threatened their pensions. For Gen-Y, it’s about the future. The money they’re not making today is a problem. But the money they might not make tomorrow is a greater concern. Two decades after graduating into a recession, an unlucky generation can continue earning 10 percent less than somebody who left school a few years before or after the downturn. When Don Peck added it all up, he found “it’s as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000, adjusted for inflation, immediately upon graduation.”

Teenage Brains

David Dobbs:

To see past the distracting, dopey teenager and glimpse the adaptive adolescent within, we should look not at specific, sometimes startling, behaviors, such as skateboarding down stairways or dating fast company, but at the broader traits that underlie those acts.
Let’s start with the teen’s love of the thrill. We all like new and exciting things, but we never value them more highly than we do during adolescence. Here we hit a high in what behavioral scientists call sensation seeking: the hunt for the neural buzz, the jolt of the unusual or unexpected.
Seeking sensation isn’t necessarily impulsive. You might plan a sensation-seeking experience–a skydive or a fast drive–quite deliberately, as my son did. Impulsivity generally drops throughout life, starting at about age 10, but this love of the thrill peaks at around age 15. And although sensation seeking can lead to dangerous behaviors, it can also generate positive ones: The urge to meet more people, for instance, can create a wider circle of friends, which generally makes us healthier, happier, safer, and more successful.

Great Recession yields a lost generation of workers

Hope Yen:

Call it the recession’s lost generation.
In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others — nearly 1 in 5.
New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.
“We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers,” said Andrew Sum, an economist and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He noted that for recent college grads now getting by with waitressing, bartending and odd jobs, they will have to compete with new graduates for entry-level career positions when the job market eventually does improve.

Our Achievement-Gap Mania

Frederick Hess:

A decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of federally driven educational accountability focused on narrowing the chasms between the test scores and graduation rates of students of different incomes and races. The result was a whole new way of speaking and thinking about the issue: “Achievement gaps” became reformers’ catch phrase, and closing those gaps became the goal of American education policy.
Today, the notion of “closing achievement gaps” has become synonymous with education reform. The Education Trust, perhaps the nation’s most influential K-12 advocacy group, explains: “Our goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement.” The National Education Foundation has launched its own “Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative.” The California Achievement Gap Educational Foundation was launched in 2008 to “eliminate the systemic achievement gap in California K-12 public education.” Elite charter-school operator Uncommon Schools says its mission is running “outstanding urban charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college.” Education Week, the newspaper of record for American education, ran 63 stories mentioning “achievement gaps” in the first six months of this year.
The No Child Left Behind Act’s signal contribution has been this sustained fixation on achievement gaps — a fixation that has been almost universally hailed as an unmitigated good. Near the end of his presidency, George W. Bush bragged that NCLB “focused the country’s attention on the fact that we had an achievement gap that — you know, white kids were reading better in the 4th grade than Latinos or African-American kids. And that’s unacceptable for America.” Margaret Spellings, Bush’s secretary of education, said last year, “The raging fire in American education is the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.”

Wisconsin School chief Evers says state will seek No Child Left Behind waivers

Scott Bauer:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said Friday that Wisconsin will seek waivers to avoid having to meet basic elements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law at the “first possible moment.”
Evers spoke during a conference call with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan shortly after President Barack Obama announced that he was allowing states to seek the waivers.
“This is absolutely outstanding news,” said Evers, who has long advocated for states to be given the ability to get out of meeting some parts of the law.
Obama is allowing states to scrap the hugely unpopular requirement that all children must show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014 if states can meet conditions designed to better prepare and test students.

Kevin Helliker:

Education chiefs from more than 20 states gathered at the White House on Friday morning to hear President Barack Obama formally propose relaxing certain tenets of the No Child Left Behind act for states that agree to meet a new set of standards he called more flexible.
In characterizing the nearly 10-year-old act as too rigid, the president appeared to strike a chord with school administrators across the country. How much enthusiasm his solution will generate remains to be seen. It calls for evaluating teachers in a way that wouldn’t be legal in California, for example, a state that very much supports amending the No Child Left Behind Act.
“It’s problematic,” Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education, said of a condition that would require states to set specific policy on teacher evaluation, something that in California currently can be done only at the local level. To comply, he said, “we would need legislation passed.”

Much more on No Child Left Behind, here
I spoke with a local mother recently who mentioned that her child was doing great, based on the WKCE math report.

Is it “all about the kids” (and what that might mean)? — Take One (in relation to ULGM and Madison Prep)

TJ Mertz:

My training as a historian has taught me that all knowledge is tentative and that this is especially true when it comes to assigning motives to people’s actions. It has also taught me to not accept self-proclaimed motives at face value , to only state an opinion about the motives of others when there is a preponderance of evidence, and to look at actions and consequences as well as rhetoric when trying to make sense of things.
With those caveats, I think it is worthwhile to investigate the motives, actions and the consequences of the actions of Kaleem Caire and some of others associated with the Madison Prep proposal and the Urban League of Greater Madison in relation to public education.
Enemies of teachers and teacher unions have seized upon the phrase “it is all about the kids” to ridicule and attack teachers and their representatives. With union and (almost all) others, of course it isn’t “all about the kids.” Interestingly, those who blame unions for some or all of the ills of public education — like many of the proponents of Madison Prep — often offer their own versions of “it is all about the kids.” Examples include Michelle Rhee who named her group Students First (Valarie Strauss pointedly offered a column on Rhee’s organization titled “Rhee’s campaign is not about the kids.”) and the anti-Union political bribery has been done in Illinois (and elsewhere) under the banner of Stand for Children ( a must-see video here).

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

Texas Students of all backgrounds outperform Wisconsin Students

Allison Sherry, via a kind reader’s email

While Perry has been outspoken against the Common Core, he and his education commissioner have pulled the quality of Texas tests up to a level respected among education reformers. Test scores among kids of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are higher in Texas than in Wisconsin, for example, which has fewer students qualifying for free- and reduced-price lunch.
Though Perry will probably make this point on the campaign trail, he’s not likely to promise to take over the nation’s schools. On the contrary, he’ll likely pick up on his recent call to repeal No Child Left Behind and let states take charge of their education systems. In his book released last year, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, Perry argues that Washington has taken power away from states. At a speech in November in Washington, Perry took aim at two of former President Bush’s signature accomplishments, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare drug benefit program, saying they were examples of areas in which Washington need not be.
“Those are both big government but more importantly, they were Washington-centric,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “One size does not fit all, unless you’re talking tube socks.”

National Center for Education Statistics State Education Data Profiles.
much more at

1990-2010 US High School & College Graduation Comparison, by State

Download a 55K PDF version.
Conor Dougherty & Rob Barry

Despite a decade of technological advances that make it possible to work almost anywhere, many of the nation’s most educated people continue to cluster in a handful of dominant metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York and California’s Silicon Valley, according to census data released Thursday.
The upshot is that regions with the most skilled and highly paid workers continue to widen their advantages over less well-endowed locales.
“In a knowledge economy, success breeds success,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Of the largest 100 metropolitan areas, those with the highest percentage of college graduates in 2000 outpaced in education gains areas with lower percentages of college grads. For instance, the 10 cities with the highest share of their population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher saw that share jump by an average of 4.6 percentage points over the decade, while the bottom 10 saw their share grow 3.1 percentage points.

Data Source: American Community Survey.

The worth of education cannot be determined solely by marketplace logic. Hong Kong needs to reflect on the true mission of a university to avoid failing its future generations

Anthony Cheung:

While money does not work miracles (as the saying goes, any problem that money can solve is not a problem), it is a necessary ingredient of many solutions to our problems. Without money, many poor countries and rural communities simply cannot provide basic education to improve literacy and promote life skills, never mind consider the quality of education. Unesco, the UN cultural organisation, calls on all governments to invest in education, to provide “education for all”.
Having said that, education should not be seen as just an investment business in the sense that we look for money indicators to measure performance – for example, if we invest so much in a law degree student, how much will he or she earn upon graduation – as if justice can be measured by earnings.

Living and Working to 100

Alice Korngold:

Advocating for the value of online education, Angel Cabrera told us that he takes issue with those who are concerned that online education will dilute quality. In fact, says Cabrera, “online eucation can dramatically improve quality.” Cabrera is President of Thunderbird School of Global Management that was ranked #1 Best in International Business Full-Time MBA by The Financial Times 2011 for the fifth consecutive year, and #1 by U.S. News and World Report 2012 for the sixteenth consecutive year; the list goes on. “The traditional campus, centered around large lecture halls, will have to reinvent itself.” Thunderbird offers a variety of educational models, including distance-learning.
“Online education will move from the add-on to the centerpiece,” Cowen told me. “Higher education will move towards a hybrid approach with top faculty teaching online, and motivational coaches working with students on a personal level.” Cowen sees the hybrid model making college education more affordable. He envisions new job opportunities in statistics, search, programming, and logic, “since you need people behind smart machines.” Cowen also envisions job growth in the motivational sector.

20-Somethings Rack Up Frequent-Flier Miles to Take Far-Flung Journeys; Flying to Fiji for Lunch

Scott McCartney:

The 18-year-old Drexel University student in Philadelphia buys cheap tickets and takes “mileage runs” solely to build up frequent-flier account balances. Then, he cashes in the miles for expensive, far-flung journeys. Once there, he buys rail passes and catches the first train that comes along–doesn’t matter where it’s going–just to see some of the city. “It’s hard for me to stay home. I just want to go,” said Mr. Nguyen, who is from Seattle.
Mr. Nguyen is among a growing number of 20-somethings mastering the calculus of frequent-flier miles, making globe-trotting their hobby. It’s a generation that has grown up with airline deregulation, discount airlines, global airline alliances and “open skies” treaties that make flying between countries easier. They’re also at an age when they have time and flexible schedules. As a result, many have become ferocious travelers.

Restructuring, Reform and Reality

Nancy Connor:

In a recent eduwonk post regarding NCLB’s complex and controversial school restructuring options, Andrew Rotherham wrote, “When it comes to tackling these problems, we have a serious failure of creativity, imagination, and, of course, political will. That’s not this law’s fault, and it’s not going to be solved by any future law. Rather, it’s cultural, deep rooted and demands real leadership…”
He has a point. However, the restructuring project is pretty daunting and beset with real practical constraints. Take the staffing issue. Which staff would you replace if the achievement failure is limited to the Hispanic subgroup within the school, but two-thirds of the students are Hispanic? What do you do if you are having difficulties with second-language learners, but your school has kids who speak fifteen different languages? Would you really fire all of the special education staff, even if there is no hope of hiring more?

The Myth About Traditional Math Education

Barry Garelick, via email:

The education establishment commits to fads like group and collaborative learning, but Garelick says they shouldn’t ignore and misinterpret traditional math.
Most discussions about mathematics and how best to teach it in the K-12 arena break down to the inevitable bromides about how math was traditionally taught and that such methods were ineffective. The conventional wisdom on the “traditional method” of teaching math is often heard as an opening statement at school board meetings during which parents are protesting the adoption of a questionable math program: “The traditional method of teaching math has failed thousands of students.” A recent criticism I read expanded on this notion and said that it wasn’t so much the content or the textbooks (though he states that they were indeed limited) but the teaching was “too rigid, too inflexible, too limited, and thus failed to adequately address the realities of educating a large, diverse, and rapidly changing population during decades of technological innovation and social upheaval.”
There is some confusion when talking about “traditional methods” since traditional methods vary over time. Textbooks considered traditional for the last ten years, for example, are quite different than textbooks in earlier eras. For purposes of this discussion, I would like to confine “traditional” to methods and textbooks in use in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. And before we get to the question about teaching methods, I want to first talk about the textbooks in use during this time period. A glance at the textbooks that were in use over these years shows that mathematical algorithms and procedures were not taught in isolation in a rote manner as is frequently alleged. In fact, concepts and understanding were an important part of the texts. Below is an excerpt from a fifth grade text of the “Study Arithmetic” series (Knight, et. al. 1940):

IXL Learning

Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes math practice fun! IXL allows teachers and parents to monitor the progress of their students and motivate them through interactive games and practice questions. Widely recognized as the Web’s most comprehensive math site, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment for children to practice math. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before.

The View from Fifth Grade

Dean Dad:

“I have a locker!”
You forget what’s important when you’re ten.
TW and I went to the parents’ open house at The Boy’s school. Now that he’s in fifth grade, he’s in a new building that unites the kids from the various elementary schools in the district. And yes, he gets a locker.
The principal greeted the parents, if you want to call his mumble a greeting. Honestly, one of the first principles of public speaking is “try to at least pretend to care.” His entire affect conveyed that he’d rather be almost anywhere else. This did not inspire confidence. The only time he seemed to engage was when he mentioned where parents should park.
The library made me sad. TB later reported that his class took a trip there, and he was disappointed in its selection. Luckily we have a good public library in town, and I’ve lent TB my kindle before. At the rate he blasts through books, electronic delivery may be our only hope of keeping up.

How I Found the Report Cards, and How They Changed My Life

Paul Lukas:

Meet Marie Garaventa.
What you see above is the front of her report card from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, a vocational school she attended in the late 1920s, after she had finished the eighth grade. As you can see, she had a perfect attendance record–this despite moving several times, having a deceased father, and being hard of hearing.
If you click through the rest of Marie’s student record, you’ll see that the school’s staff initially described her as “slow” and “irritable” (perhaps due to her hearing problems) but that she eventually gained confidence and made the honor roll. You’ll also see that the school helped to place her in more than a dozen sewing and dress-finishing jobs after she graduated, and that at one point she was scolded for not returning to a job after her lunch break.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Americans Say Federal Gov’t Wastes Over Half of Every Dollar; Believe state and local governments waste proportionately less money

Jeffrey M. Jones:

PRINCETON, NJ — Americans estimate that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every dollar it spends, a new high in a Gallup trend question first asked in 1979.
The current estimate of 51 cents wasted on the dollar is similar to what Gallup measured in 2009, but marks the first time Americans believe more than half of federal spending is wasted. The low point in the trend is 38 cents wasted on the dollar, in 1986.
Americans are less likely to believe state and local governments waste money they spend than they are to believe this about the federal government, with the state estimate at 42 cents on the dollar and the local at 38 cents.

Plan would shake up Utah Education

Paul Rolly:

At its next general session, the Legislature will be considering a bold plan that would put a new face on public education in Utah and dramatically alter the relationships between school districts, individual schools and students.
The question being asked now: Will the plan propel individual student achievement or stunt it?
Legislation proposed by Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, would give each high school student in Utah an individual education savings account, sort of like a debit card, and that student could use that money any way he or she wanted toward earning a diploma.
The plan would be unique in the United States and, just like initiatives from the Utah Legislature on public employee pension reform and Medicaid reform, could become a model for other states, its supporters boast.

Declining Local School District “Control”

Lyndsey Layton:

Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are scheduled Friday to detail plans to waive some of the law’s toughest requirements, including the goal that every student be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or else their schools could face escalating sanctions.
In exchange for relief, the administration will require a quid pro quo: States must adopt changes that could include the expansion of charter schools, linking teacher evaluation to student performance and upgrading academic standards. As many as 45 states are expected to seek waivers.
For many students, the most tangible impact could be what won’t happen. They won’t see half their teachers fired, their principal removed or school shut down because some students failed to test at grade level — all potential consequences under the current law.

A Capital Times Editorial:

Wisconsin has moved to take authority away from local elected school boards and parents and to rest it with political appointees who respond to Gov. Scott Walker and out-of-state groups that are spending millions of dollars to undermine public education.
Wisconsin’s best and brightest teachers — the Teacher of the Year award winners — have joined mass demonstrations to decry the assault by politicians and their cronies on public education.
What’s Walker’s response? He wants to tell the nation how to do the same.

Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.
The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.
Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform “is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence,” according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.
The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.
Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as “pseudoscience” won’t help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.
Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep’s plan envisions working conditions for its staff — a longer school day and a longer school year, for example — that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.
With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.
Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is “no empirical evidence” supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same “standard”?
The timing of these events is certainly interesting.
14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde’s interview further debunked the “learning styles” rhetoric we hear from time to time.
UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular–sex-segregated education–is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education

Tamar Lewin:

Single-sex education is ineffective, misguided and may actually increase gender stereotyping, a paper to be published Friday asserts.

The report, “The Pseudoscience of Single Sex Schooling,” to be published in Science magazine by eight social scientists who are founders of the nonprofit American Council for CoEducational Schooling, is likely to ignite a new round of debate and legal wrangling about the effects of single-sex education.

It asserts that “sex-segregated education is deeply misguided and often justified by weak, cherry-picked or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.”

Rick Hess’s Critique of Achievement-Gap Mania

By Reihan Salam
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest issue of National Affairs, which includes Rick Hess’s fascinating and at times provocative discussion, or perhaps I say “devastating takedown,” of “achievement-gap mania.” The following paragraph gives you a hint as to Hess’s conclusion:

In essence, NCLB was an effort to link “conservative” nostrums of accountability to Great Society notions of “social justice.” The result was a noble exercise hailed for its compassion. The sad truth, however, is that the whole achievement-gap enterprise has been bad for schooling, bad for most children, and bad for the nation.

I found his discussion of the neglect of advanced and gifted education particularly convincing, as well as his recounting of how the “delusion of rigor” has undermined quality control across many domains. Hess ends his essay with an accounting of where “achievement-gap mania” has left the politics of K-12.
(1) Reforming education has become someone else’s problem:

First, achievement-gap mania has signaled to the vast majority of American parents that school reform isn’t about their kids. They are now expected to support efforts to close the achievement gap simply because it’s “the right thing to do,” regardless of the implications for their own children’s education. In fact, given that only about one household in five even contains school-age children — and given that two-thirds of families with children do not live in underserved urban neighborhoods, or do not send their kids to public schools, or otherwise do not stand to benefit from the gap-closing agenda — the result is a tiny potential constituency for achievement-gap reform, made up of perhaps 6% or 7% of American households.
Because middle-class parents and suburbanites have no personal stake in the gap-closing enterprise, reforms are tolerated rather than embraced. The most recent annual Gallup poll on attitudes toward schooling reported that just 20% of respondents said “improving the nation’s lowest-performing schools” was the most important of the nation’s education challenges. Indeed, while just 18% of the public gave American schools overall an A or a B, a sizable majority thought their own elementary and middle schools deserved those high grades. The implication is that most Americans, even those with school-age children, currently see education reform as time and money spent on other people’s children.

(2) Reforming education for the majority of students who come non-poor families is seen as somehow unnecessary:

Second, achievement-gap mania has created a dangerous complacency, giving suburban and middle-class Americans the false sense that things are just fine in their own schools. Thus it’s no surprise that professionals and suburbanites tend to regard “reforms” — from merit pay to charter schooling — as measures that they’ll tolerate as long as they’re reserved for urban schools, but that they won’t stand for in their own communities. …
Gap-closing strategies can be downright unhelpful or counterproductive when it comes to serving most students and families, and so can turn them off to education reform altogether. Longer school years and longer school days can be terrific for disadvantaged students or low achievers, but may be a recipe for backlash if imposed on families who already offer their kids many summer opportunities and extracurricular activities. Policies that seek to shift the “best” teachers to schools and classrooms serving low-achieving children represent a frontal assault on middle-class and affluent families. And responding to such concerns by belittling them is a sure-fire strategy for ensuring that school reform never amounts to more than a self-righteous crusade at odds with the interests of most middle-class families.

This is one reason why Hess rightly bristled at the crusader mentality that informs films like the recent Waiting for ‘Superman.’


The Education Our Economy Needs: We lag in science, but students’ historical illiteracy hurts our politics and our businesses

Norm Augistine:

In the spirit of the new school year, here’s a quiz for readers: In which of the following subjects is the performance of American 12th-graders the worst? a) science, b) economics, c) history, or d) math?
With all the talk of America’s very real weaknesses in the STEM subjects (science, technology, English and math), you might be surprised to learn that the answer–according to the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress–is neither science nor math. And despite what might be suggested by the number of underwater home loans, high-school seniors actually fare best in economics.
Which leaves history as the answer, the subject in which students perform the most poorly. It’s a result that puts American employers and America’s freedoms in a worrisome spot.
But why should a C grade in history matter to the C-suite? After all, if a leader can make the numbers, does it really matter if he or she can recite the birthdates of all the presidents?
Well, it’s not primarily the memorized facts that have current and former CEOs like me concerned. It’s the other things that subjects like history impart: critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and cogently. Such skills are certainly important for those at the top, but in today’s economy they are fundamental to performance at nearly every level. A failing grade in history suggests that students are not only failing to comprehend our nation’s story and that of our world, but also failing to develop skills that are crucial to employment across sectors. Having traveled in 109 countries in this global economy, I have developed a considerable appreciation for the importance of knowing a country’s history and politics.
The good news is that a candidate who demonstrates capabilities in critical thinking, creative problem-solving and communication has a far greater chance of being employed today than his or her counterpart without those skills. The better news is these are not skills that only a graduate education or a stint at McKinsey can confer. They are competencies that our public elementary and high schools can and should be developing through subjects like history.
Far more than simply conveying the story of a country or civilization, an education in history can create critical thinkers who can digest, analyze and synthesize information and articulate their findings. These are skills needed across a broad range of subjects and disciplines.
In fact, students who are exposed to more modern methods of history education–where critical thinking and research are emphasized–tend to perform better in math and science. As a case in point, students who participate in National History Day–actually a year-long program that gets students in grades 6-12 doing historical research–consistently outperform their peers on state standardized tests, not only in social studies but in science and math as well.
In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers–but the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.
Now is a time to re-establish history’s importance in American education. We need to take this opportunity to ensure that today’s history teachers are teaching in a more enlightened fashion, going beyond rote memorization and requiring students to conduct original research, develop a viewpoint and defend it.
If the American economy is to recover from the Great Recession–and I believe it can–it will be because of a ready supply of workers with the critical thinking, creative problem-solving, technological and communications skills needed to fuel productivity and growth. The subject of history is an important part of that foundation.
Mr. Augustine, a former Under Secretary of the Army, is the retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.

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Evolution Honored as the best Canadian Science Book for Young Readers

Daniel Loxton via a kind Larry Winkler email:

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be took home the national Lane Anderson Award as the best Canadian science book for young readers at an award dinner in Toronto last night. The win was reported today by the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, Quill & Quire, the Canadian Children’s Book Center and other media. It was published by Canadian publisher Kids Can Press. But it’s not for lack of trying that a Canadian publisher rather than American publisher issued this book.
According to author Daniel Loxton, US publishers wouldn’t touch it.
“It’s important to realize that most of the publishing professionals I dealt with in the US were lovely and encouraging. They all said “no,” but some recommended smaller, artier presses they felt might consider Evolution….  [S]ome of America’s top children’s publishing professionals rejected Evolution, some citing concerns that it was too controversial, too much of “a tough sell,” or (“in today’s climate”) too likely to find needed distribution channels closed…. It was certainly frustrating to knock on cold doors, but I am sympathetic to publishers. [I]t’s a tough time for book producers, and they need to work hard to mitigate risk. Publishers face the on the ground reality that almost half of American adults–many of them reviewers, librarians, booksellers, or teachers–believe that evolution did not happen at all. 

Recess Making Comeback in Chicago Schools

Rebecca Vevea:

As more Chicago public schools cash in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s longer-day financial incentives by adding 90 minutes to their school day, the previous votes by a dozen schools to add about a half hour to the day by bringing back recess are going unnoticed.
Restoring recess is part of a broader health push by parents, advocacy groups and some city officials to bring more exercise and better nutrition to both schoolchildren and preschoolers.
Beginning in November, the city’s Department of Public Health will require children who attend preschool or day care centers in Chicago to spend less time in front of television or computer screens — 60 minutes or less — and more time, at least an hour a day, participating in physical activity. At snack or meal time, milk cannot have a fat content higher than 1 percent, unless a child has written consent from a doctor. Only 100 percent juice can be served.
In Chicago, 22 percent of children are overweight before they enter school, more than twice the national average, according to research compiled by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a group of organizations and health advocates.

Christie, Cerf, and Teachers’ Union: A Fragile Peace

John Mooney:

Fred Frangiosa’s presence was conspicuous last week when Gov. Chris Christie visited a Bergenfield middle school to promote his plans for remaking teacher evaluation statewide.
Frangiosa is president of the Bergenfield Education Association, and it is his union’s 450 teachers who will help test the new system. Bergenfield is one of 10 pilot districts for Christie’s plan.
But there was Frangiosa, sitting in Christie’s audience in a middle school classroom — not a cheerleader for the plan, by any means, but not protesting it, either.
“You can’t sign off on something if you don’t know what it is,” Frangiosa said, “and you can’t oppose it either. “

Universities Seeking Out Students of Means

Tamar Lewin, via a kind reader’s email:

Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals.
More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September.
Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay.

WEA Trust demands talk show host ‘cease and desist’

Wisconsin Reporter:

WEA Trust doesn’t like what Mark Belling has to say, and the health insurer wants the conservative talk show host to “cease and desist.”
WEA Trust, which bills itself on its website as a not-for-profit insurance group for Wisconsin public school employees and their families, today sent a letter to the afternoon, drive-time, radio host at 1130 WISN in Milwaukee, demanding Belling stop making what WEA Trust describes as “defamatory public accusations.
Belling repeatedly has accused the private health insurance company of “racketeering” by transferring its revenue to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, the state teachers union, an act that would be illegal under state and federal law.

Illinois Bombshell: Class of 2014 Median LSAT/GPA Is 163/3.70, Not 168/3.81


Following up on my prior post, Did Illinois Inflate LSAT (168), GPA (3.81) Medians to Goose U.S. News Ranking?: Illinois today dropped this bombshell:

The accurate, independently verified data for the class of 2014’s Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and grade point averages (GPA) are as follows: median LSAT, 163; median GPA, 3.70. Information originally posted on the College of Law website last month inaccurately listed the median LSAT score as 168 and the median GPA as 3.81.

Ruling forbidding classroom banners mentioning God to be appealed

Tony Perry:

A Michigan-based legal group said Monday that it would petition the full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a three-judge panel’s ruling that a San Diego-area teacher does not have the right to display banners that mention God in his classroom.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled last week that Bradley Johnson’s right to free speech was not violated when the school district told him to remove the banners from his classroom.
Johnson, a high school mathematics teacher in the Poway Unified School District, had hung banners in his classroom for more than two decades with phrases such as “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” and “God Bless America.”
But in 2007 the principal of Westview High School in Rancho Penasquitos said the banners’ size made them into a “promotion of a particular viewpoint.” Johnson took down the banners and filed a federal lawsuit.

In Zeeland, an iPad for every high school student in the district

Mark Smith:

As students walk through the halls of Zeeland West High School, their backpacks are a little lighter. Stacks of paper and some textbooks have been replaced by the Apple iPad — one for every high-schooler in the district. That’s 1,800 iPads between the two high schools.
And it’s just the beginning for Zeeland Public Schools, which embarked on an ambitious project this fall that will give a tablet to every student in grades 3-12 — the only district in Michigan to do so.
The program represents one of the most aggressive in the country and has garnered national attention. With each student taking responsibility for one, the school uses the iPad for assigning classwork, testing and communicating with students. Some teachers have gone paperless.

Wisconsin Governor Walker slated for NBC News ‘Education Nation’ Summit

Susan Troller:

Gov. Scott Walker will be featured as part of a bipartisan slate of governors during a panel discussion of The State of Education during NBC News’ 2011 “Education Nation” Summit on Monday, Sept. 26. The annual summit will continue on Sept. 27 as well.
NBC News’ Brian Williams will host the discussion, which focuses on education and economic competitiveness.
In a press release sent from the governor’s office Tuesday, Walker says “I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools. … Improving education is a key to ensuring we have a talented workforce that will grow and attract jobs.”
According to the release, among the topics to be discussed are some highly controversial, hot-button Wisconsin issues, including budget cuts, the role of teachers unions, teacher effectiveness, charter schools and online learning. Other issues include college and career preparation, Common Core standards, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

L.A. school named after guitarist Carlos Santana

Los Angeles Times:

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has hit records and 10 Grammys, and now he has a school named after him in North Hills.
The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted Tuesday to rename Valley Region Elementary School No. 12 as Carlos Santana Arts Academy.
The school, which can accommodate up to 650 students, opened this school year, and district officials say it will have a focus on the arts.

America’s Report Card

Column Five Media:

As we ramp up to the 2012 election, politicians are really starting to grandstand about their accomplishments, but what do the everyday people think about how their state is doing? This infographic done with 1Bog, asked hundreds of U.S. residents in all 50 states to grade their state on several different factors.

Spelling City is dedicated to helping students, teachers, parent-teachers, and school systems. VocabularySpellingCity is an award-winning site with ongoing introduction of new features, many based on input from existing users.
The site was launched on the web as SpellingCity in 2008 and has grown primarily through word of mouth. During the 2008-2009 school year, the site was used by over a half-million people in the peak months. In 2009-2010, SpellingCity was used by over a million unique visitors a month. The site’s services have been steadily expanded over the years. SpellingCity became VocabularySpellingCity in January 2011 to reflect the addition of significant vocabulary capabilities. During the 2010-11 school year, the site attracted nearly two million unique visitors per month – over four million visits total, and over 40 million page views monthly. (source This level of traffic and usage gives VocabularySpellingCity a ranking as a top 1000 site in the U.S. during its peak months. VocabularySpellingCity is supported by revenues from Premium Memberships (which are priced low for maximum accessibility) and advertising displayed to non-Premium Members. VocabularySpellingCity prides itself as being amongst the best values in education.

Selling out public schools: Millions of dollars are changing face of education

Bill Lueders:

“School choice” is a broad term that refers to a wide range of alternatives, including themed charter schools that are entirely under the control of their home school districts. Forty states and the District of Columbia have those in place, according to the American Federation for Children, a national school choice advocacy group.
But it is the voucher programs, in which public funds are used to send children to private schools, that are the focus of much of the energy around the choice movement. Seven states and the District of Columbia have those, and Milwaukee’s voucher program is the first and largest of its kind in the country. That makes Wisconsin a key national battleground.
“Wisconsin has a high level of value to the movement as a whole,” says Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice. The state, he says, is notable for “the high level of scholarship amounts that families can get.”
Milwaukee’s voucher program had 20,300 full-time equivalent voucher students at 102 private schools in 2010-11, compared to about 80,000 students at Milwaukee’s public K-12 schools. The total cost, at $6,442 per voucher student, was $130.8 million, of which about $90 million came from the state and the rest from the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Critics see the school choice program as part of a larger strategy — driven into high gear in Wisconsin by the fall election of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans — to eviscerate, for ideological and religious reasons, public schools and the unions that represent teachers.

It would be interesting to compare special interest spending in support of the status quo, vs groups advocating change, as outlined in Bill Lueders’ article. A few links:

  • WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

    How much do election-year firewalls cost to build? For the state’s largest teachers union, $1.57 million.
    That’s how much the Wisconsin Education Association Council said last week it will spend trying to make sure four Democratic state senators are re-elected – enough, WEAC hopes, to keep a Democratic majority in the 33-member state body.
    Although there are 15 Democratic candidates running for the state Senate, and 80 Democrats running for the state Assembly, the latest WEAC report shows that the teachers union is placing what amounts to an “all in” bet on saving just four Democratic senators who are finishing their first terms.
    In an Oct. 25 report to the Government Accountability Board, the 98,000-member union reported that it will independently:

  • Wisconsin teachers union tops list of biggest lobbying groups for 2009-10, report shows

    The statewide teachers union led in spending on lobbying state lawmakers even before this year’s fight over collective bargaining rights.
    The Wisconsin Education Association Council spent $2.5 million on lobbying in 2009 and 2010, years when Democrats were in control of all of state government, a report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Board showed.
    WEAC is always one of the top spending lobbyists in the Capitol and they took a central role this year fighting Gov. Scott Walker’s plan curbing public employee union rights, including teachers.
    Back in 2009, when Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and Democrats controlled the Senate and Assembly, WEAC wasn’t helping to organize massive protests but it was a regular presence in the Capitol.

  • Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

    Spending in the summer’s recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
    Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.
    The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.

  • Kansas City School District Loses its Accreditation

Kansas City, Mo., School District Loses Its Accreditation

A.G. Sulzberger:

The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.
Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.
The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited.
“We’ve given Kansas City more time than maybe we should have to address the problems,” said Chris L. Nicastro, the state education commissioner, who had recommended the move. “Over a sustained period of time, student performance has not met state standards.”

Former Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater formerly worked for the Kansas City School District.
The great schools revolution Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned.
Money & School Performance is well worth a read.
It is a rare organization that can reinvent itself, rather than continuing to atrophy.

Time for a Tuition Revolt: By The Way, We Teach A Little Too

Investors Business Daily:

It’s time for a tuition revolt, and higher taxes aren’t the answer. Students and the rest of the public are now paying for decades of mission creep and bureaucratic bloat.
The regents of the University of California met this past week to revisit an old issue they’ve never really dealt with well — how to cope with erratic (and usually dwindling) state aid.
Sooner or later, they’ll probably raise tuition again, as they have in the past. But for now they are quailing at a plan, offered by UC’s president, to raise students’ costs by at least 8%, and up to 16%, annually for the next four years. “It scares the bejesus out of folks,” said one of the regents, California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
If the past is any guide, that horror will give way to realism. The regents will take a shot at raising more private money from corporations, foundations, rich alumni and the like. They’ll come up short, if only because every other academic institution is trying to do the same thing and there’s only so much money to go around.

How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores

E D Hirsch:

THE latest bad but unsurprising news on education is that reading and writing scores on the SAT have once again declined. The language competence of our high schoolers fell steeply in the 1970s and has never recovered.
This is very worrisome, because the best single measure of the overall quality of our primary and secondary schools is the average verbal score of 17-year-olds. This score correlates with the ability to learn new things readily, to communicate with others and to hold down a job. It also predicts future income.
The decline has led some commentators to embrace demographic determinism — the idea that the verbal scores of disadvantaged students will not significantly rise until we overcome poverty. But that explanation does not account for the huge drop in verbal scores across socioeconomic groups in the 1970s.

Parental Involvement in Education: Fact and Fiction

Harrison Blackmond:

I have attended dozens of legislative hearings, community meetings, and board meetings where the problems related to public education are discussed. Not to mention the numerous one-on-one conversations I’ve had with adults who are usually middle or upper class, where the subject of parental involvement in children’s education is raised as a major factor contributing to the ills of public education. Educators who work in urban areas are quick to point out how negligent their students’ parents are and are eager to recite anecdotes to illustrate their case. What is not said, but clearly implied is this: if the parents of these children in low-performing schools would do their jobs as parents, these children would not be failing.
Every time I hear someone raise the issue of parental involvement, I can’t help but think of the parents in the latest “education” movies: The Lottery and Waiting for Superman. What good did “parental involvement” do for their children that didn’t get accepted into a charter school? If they were not lucky enough to have their number called, they were still stuck in bad schools with educators who, for the most part, had given up on them. What good did “parental involvement” do for them?

Britain needs schools for science

Martin Rees:

Scientists habitually moan that the public doesn’t understand them. But they complain too much: public ignorance isn’t peculiar to science. It’s sad if some citizens can’t tell a proton from a protein. But it’s equally sad if they’re ignorant of their nation’s history, can’t speak a second language, or can’t find Venezuela or Syria on a map.
Indeed, I’m gratified and surprised that so many people are interested in dinosaurs, the Large Hadron Collider or alien life – all blazingly irrelevant to our day-to-day lives. We should be grateful to David Attenborough, Robert Winston, Brian Cox and other popular writers and television presenters for generating such interest. But it’s depressing that all too often this natural enthusiasm of the young has been stifled by the time they leave school.
That’s sad, because science is important for its own sake. It is a cultural deprivation not to appreciate the wonderful panorama offered by modern cosmology, DNA and Darwinian evolution. This common understanding should transcend all national differences – and all faiths, too. It should be part of global culture; but even in the UK a group of scientists including Attenborough has this week felt the need to reassert this.

Pearson Buys U.S. Online School Network

Simon Zekaria:

Pearson PLC on Thursday said it has acquired U.S.-based online schooling network Connections Education for $400 million in cash, as the U.K.-based publishing giant ramps up its extensive North American education operations.
Pearson acquired the company from an investor group led by private-equity investment firm Apollo Management LP.
“Virtual schooling is an attractive choice for a growing group of American parents and in the next decade it will take off in other countries,” Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino said.
Connections Education supplies “virtual” education services to students in grades K-12 and learning programs to educational institutions globally. It operates online public schools accredited in 21 U.S. states, serving more than 40,000 students who choose not to attend traditional schools, Pearson said.

A better way for Madison Prep

Jack Craver:

If people want a charter school to be an inspiration to other youngsters in the community, here’s a better way to do it. Instead of building an entirely new school, which costs a ton and isolates the kids from the rest of their peers, why not go with the school within a school model, in which a charter is operated within an existing public school?
That’s the only original idea I have. Now here is my two cents on the rest of the plan.
I believe Kaleem Caire knows what he is talking about though. It’s frustrating to see a debate on the crisis facing minority students as polarized between the know-nothings on the right who believe the only issues facing blacks are self-inflicted cultural ones and the lefties who refuse to accept that anything besides racism and poverty are responsible for the poor performance of black males in America.

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

Spending in summer recall elections reaches nearly $44 million

Jessica Vanegeren:

Spending in the summer’s recall elections by special interest groups, candidates and political action committees shattered spending records set in previous elections, with $43.9 million doled out on nine elections, according to a study released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Spending by six political action committees or special interest groups topped the $1 million mark. We Are Wisconsin was the top spender.
The union-backed group spent roughly $10.75 million, followed by the conservative-leaning Club for Growth at $9 million and $4 million in spending from the Greater Wisconsin Committee.
Put in perspective, the $43.9 million spent on the recalls more than doubled the previous record for spending by candidates and groups in legislative races, which was $20.25 million for 99 Assembly seats and 16 Senate seats in the 2008 general elections, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Despite changes, Wisconsin charter school expansion bill faces a headwind

Susan Troller:

A controversial bill that would create an independent, statewide authorizing board for charter schools is facing a tougher path now that Republicans have a razor thin 17-16 edge in the Wisconsin Senate. The legislation is designed to expand charter school choice in Wisconsin and to allow charters to be formed even in communities where they are not approved by local school districts.
Although the bill, introduced by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, last spring, has been modified from its original form, the amended Senate Bill 22 still doesn’t pass muster with the Department of Public Instruction. Perhaps more importantly, moderate Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, says he continues to have “more concerns than enthusiasm” for the legislation.
If he, or one of the Senate Democrats that opposed the earlier legislation, can’t be persuaded that more independent charter schools would benefit Wisconsin students, SB 22 will be in trouble if it moves from the Joint Finance Committee to a vote in front of legislators, likely in October.
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