School Board Election Shootout in Seattle

Dan Dempsey, via a kind email:

r spent slightly more than $500,000 combined on their four campaigns, which was 81% of the total amount spent by those running in 2007. These incumbent Directors are endorsed for reelection in 2011 by the Seattle Times while The Stranger, an alternative newspaper, recommends three of the challengers.

This election has parallels to dissatisfaction underlying Occupy Wall Street. Many Seattle residents see the “School Reform” pushed by the District as largely driven by those more interested in profit by corporations than student learning. Public records of where the $500,000 plus came from in 2007 indicate likely pro corporate connections.

On March 2, 2011 after giving the public only 22 hours notice, the Board bought out Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and her CFO-COO Mr. Don Kennedy for $360,000. The Superintendent had Broad Academy training and pushed for School Reform along the lines advocated by the Broad Academy in her 3.5 years in Seattle.

It will be interesting to see if Madison has contested board races in 2012…

Comparing Racine to Madison, others; Racine school district holding itself accountable to goals, but academic achievement still lags peer districts

The Public Policy Forum

Racine Unified School District (RUSD) implemented a district-wide vision for improvement in March 2009. Called the North Star vision, it is intended to specify “the path to successful completion of high school for all RUSD students with an ultimate goal of every graduate being ready for a career and/or college.” It includes performance targets at each grade level to be used in creating school improvement plans and in setting school-level learning targets.
The vision is the result of a collaborative effort by the school board, district administrators, the teachers and administrators unions, and the support staff union. A simple graphic illustrating the measures of focus at each grade level has been widely distributed to parents, teachers, and district stakeholders.

Public Policy Forum Report (PDF):

For dedicated readers, this 14th Annual Comparative Analysis of the Racine Unified School District will look quite different from the previous 13 reports. For the first time, we compare the district’s performance to its own goals, as well as to its peers and to its past performance. The peer comparison tables, which have been the hallmark of previous reports, appear in Appendix I. The body of the report is focused on the district goals established in 2009 as the North Star vision, which according to the district, “is a shared vision that clearly identifies the path to successful completion of high school for all RUSD students with an ultimate goal of every graduate being ready for a career and/or college.”
As in previous reports, we also present contextual information about the Racine community and student body. RUSD has experienced many changes over the past 14 years, including: slipping from the third largest district in the state to the fourth largest, becoming a majority minority district, and now having most of its students quality for free or reduced-price lunch. The community has also become less wealthy during this time and seen fewer adults obtain college degrees. It is clear that RUSD has many challenges to overcome and a loss of significant state aid for this school year is yet another challenge. Consequently, this year’s report also includes a more in-depth analysis of the district’s fiscal situation.

What Kids Demand in a Novel

Maile Meloy:

Sometimes you find yourself part of a trend accidentally: Some old, beloved jacket in your closet becomes fashionable, or your private, favorite novel is discovered by the world. Having written four books of fiction for adults, I wrote a novel for kids, and looked up from the first draft to find that other writers were doing the same thing–and adults were reading the books.
My plunge into the world of children’s publishing surprised my friends as much as it surprised me. One asked, “How did you make the change? Did you have some kind of magical elixir?” I did, if you consider that magical elixirs are slow and difficult and sometimes frustrating to make, and involve wrong turns and unexpected discoveries. But here’s the basic recipe:
1. Don’t worry about what category the book belongs in. I thought I was writing a young adult novel and discovered that there was a type of book called “middle reader” only when my publishers told me I’d written one. I worked in a state of utter naïveté about what the rules are for writing children’s books, which was liberating.

Madison Prep Academy would open in former church on Near West Side

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy would open next fall in a former church on the city’s Near West Side if the School Board approves a contract for the controversial charter school.
The non-profit organization that would run the school has signed a letter of intent to lease the former Mount Olive Lutheran Church at 4018 Mineral Point Road, according to a business plan for the school released Saturday morning.
The site is on a Metro bus route and includes a 32,000-square-foot facility and 1,200-square-foot house. It also achieves the school’s goal of being located near the Downtown, said Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire.
“It’s a good neighborhood,” Caire said. “We would hope the neighbors would want to get involved with the kids in the school.”
The business plan lays out several other new details including a daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 90-minute classes, report cards for parents and performance bonuses for staff.

Meanwhile, Progressive Dane announces its opposition to the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school.

Parents of jailed Mississippi teens say they may sue

Henry Bailey:

The parents of three 15-year-olds who were strip-searched and jailed for three days after a trespassing charge expressed outrage Thursday during a press conference and called for the removal of Tate County Youth Court referee Leigh Ann Darby.
“If we don’t stand up for our rights, no one else will,” Dexter Burton of Senatobia, father of Lakiya Burton, told reporters at the Church of Christ at 401 W. Gilmore.
The three youths, who had not previously been identified because of their ages, were at the gathering with their parents and the families’ attorney, J. Cliff Johnson II of Jackson. They are Larandra Wright of Southaven, and Lakiya Burton and Kevonta Mack, both of Senatobia.
Burton and Mack are 10th-graders at Senatobia High School; Wright is a 10th-grader at Southaven High. None had prior brushes with the law before they crossed a renter’s yard at a duplex that faces Morgan Drive in Senatobia this summer.

Too much too soon about birds and bees

China Daily:

Recently there has been a significant move among Chinese educators to provide better sex education to students in college, primary schools and even kindergartens.
The Ministry of Education recently issued a circular requiring colleges to make courses on reproductive physiology and sex psychology part of the standard curriculum.
This kind of education as a rule is included in courses known as physiology and hygiene in middle schools, but in actual practice some more sensitive topics are either not addressed or glossed over by instructors who consider them embarrassing and not essential.
In the past, this kind of information about sexuality was generally passed on informally outside the schools, by young people.
One of the many stated reasons for offering formal, medically accurate instruction is to protect children from sex abuse, and to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Affordable at Last: A New Student Loan System

Erin Dillon:

Last year, the United States reached a troubling new milestone in higher education: for the first time, total student loan debt in the United States exceeded total credit card debt. It’s a development that should have come as no surprise. Over the past 15 years, the amount that students borrow to finance their postsecondary education has grown by every available measure: between 1993 and 2008, the percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients who borrowed for their educations jumped from 49 percent to 66 percent, with average total debt at graduation increasing over 50 percent, from $15,149 to $24,700. Borrowing money to go to college, like borrowing money to buy houses and cars, is fast becoming a fact of American life–and so, it is turning out, is the struggle to pay it back.

Reinventing Discovery

James Wilsdon:

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was shared between three scientists – Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Reiss – for discovering, through their research on supernovae, that the universe’s rate of expansion is accelerating.
Yet, as the plaudits for the winners began to flow, one or two of their peers sounded notes of caution. Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society, suggested that this was an instance where the Nobel committee had been “damagingly constrained” by its convention of not honouring more than three individuals at one time.
The prize-winning work had been carried out by two groups, each made up of a dozen or so scientists. “It would have been fairer,” Rees argued, “and would send a less distorted message about how this kind of science is actually done, if the award had been made collectively to all members of the two groups.”

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Business & Education Plans

Education Plan (PDF) via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Madison Preparatory Academy’s educational program has been designed to be different. The eight features of the educational program will serve as a powerful mix of strategies that allow Madison Prep to fulfill its mission: to prepare students for success at a four-year college or university by instilling Excellence, Pride, Leadership and Service. By fulfilling this mission, Madison Prep will serve as a catalyst of change and opportunity for young men and women who live in a city where only 48% of African American students and 56% of Latino students graduate from high school. Madison Prep’s educational program will produce students who are ready for college; who think, read, and write critically; who are culturally aware and embrace differences among all people; who give back to their communities; and who know how to work hard.
One of the most unique features of Madison Prep is the single gender approach. While single gender education has a long, successful history, there are currently no schools – public or private – in Dane County that offer single gender education. While single gender education is not right for every student, the demand demonstrated thus far by families who are interested in enrolling their children in Madison Prep shows that a significant number of parents believe their children would benefit from a single gender secondary school experience.
Madison Prep will operate two schools – a boys’ school and a girls’ school – in order to meet this demand as well as ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The schools will be virtually identical in all aspects, from culture to curriculum, because the founders of Madison Prep know that both boys and girls need and will benefit from the other educational features of Madison Prep.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is one of those strategies that Madison Prep’s founders know will positively impact all the students the schools serve. IB is widely considered to be the highest quality curricular framework available. What makes IB particularly suitable for Madison Prep is that it can be designed around local learning standards (the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards and the Common Core State Standards) and it is inherently college preparatory. For students at Madison Prep who have special learning needs or speak English as a second language, IB is fully adaptable to their needs. Madison Prep will offer both the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (DP) to all its students.
Because IB is designed to be college preparatory, this curricular framework is an ideal foundation for the other aspects of Madison Prep’s college preparatory program. Madison Prep is aiming to serve a student population of which at least 65% qualify for free or reduced lunch. This means that many of the parents of Madison Prep students will not be college educated themselves and will need the school to provide considerable support as their students embark on their journey through Madison Prep and to college.
College exposure, Destination Planning, and graduation requirements that mirror admissions requirements are some of the ways in which Madison Prep will ensure students are headed to college. Furthermore, parents’ pursuit of an international education for their children is increasing rapidly around the world as they seek to foster in their children a global outlook that also expands their awareness, competence and comfort level with communicating, living, working and problem solving with and among cultures different than their own.
Harkness Teaching, the cornerstone instructional strategy for Madison Prep, will serve as an effective avenue through which students will develop the critical thinking and communication skills that IB emphasizes. Harkness Teaching, which puts teacher and students around a table rather than in theater-style classrooms, promotes student-centered learning and rigorous exchange of ideas. Disciplinary Apprenticeship, Madison Prep’s approach to literacy across the curriculum, will ensure that students have the literacy skills to glean ideas and information from a variety of texts, ideas and information that they can then bring to the Harkness Table for critical analysis.
Yet to ensure that students are on track for college readiness and learning the standards set out in the curriculum, teachers will have to take a disciplined approach to data-driven instruction. Frequent, high quality assessments – aligned to the standards when possible – will serve as the basis for instructional practices. Madison Prep teachers will consistently be analyzing new data to adjust their practice as needed.

Business Plan (PDF), via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Based on current education and social conditions, the fate of young men and women of color is uncertain.
Black and Hispanic boys are grossly over-represented among youth failing to achieve academic success, are at grave risk of dropping out of school before they reach 10th grade, are disproportionately represented among adjudicated and incarcerated youth, and are far less likely than their peers in other subgroups to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Likewise, boys in general lag behind girls in most indicators of student achievement.
Research indicates that although boys of color have high aspirations for academic and career success, their underperformance in school and lack of educational attainment undermine their career pursuits and the success they desire. This misalignment of aspirations and achievement is fueled by and perpetuates a set of social conditions wherein men of color find themselves disproportionately represented among the unemployed and incarcerated. Without meaningful, targeted, and sustainable interventions and support systems, hundreds of thousands of young men of color will never realize their true potential and the cycle of high unemployment, fatherless homes, overcrowded jails, incarcerated talent, deferred dreams, and high rates of school failure will continue.
Likewise, girls of color are failing to graduate high school on-time, underperform on standardized achievement and college entrance exams and are under-enrolled in college preparatory classes in secondary school. The situation is particularly pronounced in the Madison Metropolitan School District where Black and Hispanic girls are far less likely than Asian and White girls to take a rigorous college preparatory curriculum in high school or successfully complete such courses with a grade of C or better when they do. In this regard, they mimic the course taking patterns of boys of color.
Additionally, data on ACT college entrance exam completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement tests scores provided to the Urban League of Greater Madison by the Madison Metropolitan School District show a significant gap in ACT completion, graduation rates and standardized achievement scores between students of color and their White peers.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Women will be established to serve as catalysts for change and opportunity among young men and women in the Greater Madison, Wisconsin area, particularly young men and women of color. It will also serve the interests of parents who desire a nurturing, college preparatory educational experience for their child.
Both schools will be administratively separate and operated by Madison Preparatory Academy, Inc. (Madison Prep), an independent 501(c)(3) established by the Urban League of Greater Madison and members of Madison Prep’s inaugural board of directors.
The Urban League of Greater Madison, the “founder” of Madison Prep, understands that poverty, isolation, structural discrimination, limited access to schools and classrooms that provide academic rigor, lack of access to positive male and female role models in different career fields, limited exposure to academically successful and achievement-oriented peer groups, and limited exposure to opportunity and culture experiences outside their neighborhoods contribute to reasons why so many young men and women fail to achieve their full potential. At the same time, the Urban League and its supporters understand that these issues can be addressed by directly countering each issue with a positive, exciting, engaging, enriching, challenging, affirming and structured learning community designed to specifically address these issues.
Madison Prep will consist of two independent public charter schools – authorized by the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education – designed to serve adolescent males and females in grades 6-12 in two separate schools. Both will be open to all students residing within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) who apply, regardless of their previous academic performance.

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

Lawsuits for School Reform?: Parent Power May Insert Itself in L.A. Unified’s Teachers’ Contract; Demand that the LAUSD Immediately Comply with the Stull Act

RiShawn Biddle:

Earlier this year, Dropout Nation argued that one way that school reformers — including school choice activists and Parent Power groups — could advance reform and expand school choice was to file lawsuits similar to school funding torts filed for the past four decades by school funding advocates. But now, it looks like Parent Power activists may be filing a lawsuit in Los Angeles on a different front: Overhauling teacher evaluations. And the Los Angeles Unified School District may be the place where the first suit is filed.
In a letter sent on behalf of some families Wednesday to L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the school board — and just before the district begins negotiations with the American Federation of Teachers’ City of Angels unit over a new contract — Barnes & Thornburg’s Kyle Kirwan demanded that the district “implement a comprehensive system” of evaluating teachers that ties “pupil progress” data to teacher evaluations. Kirwan and the group he represents are also asking for the district to begin evaluating all teachers “regardless of tenure status” and to reject any contract with the American Federation of Teachers local that allows for any veteran teacher with more than a decade on the job to go longer than two years without an evaluation if they haven’t had one in the first place.

We represent minor-students currently residing within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District (the “District” or “LAUSD”), the parents of these students, and other adults who have paid taxes for a school system that has chronically failed to comply with California law.
Our clients seek to have the District immediately meet its obligations under the Stull Act, a forty year old law that is codified at California Education Code section 44660 et seq. (the “Stull Act“).
In relevant part, the Stull Act requires that “[t]he governing board of each school district establish standards of expected pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study.”
Cal. Educ. Code § 44662(a). The Stull Act requires further that “[t]he governing board of each school district … evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to … [t]he progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments ….” Cal. Educ. Code§ 44662(b)(l).
In the forty years since the California Legislature passed the Stull Act, the District has never evaluated its certificated personnel based upon the progress of pupils towards the standards established pursuant to Education Code section 44662(a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by the state adopted criterion referenced assessments; never reduced such evaluations to writing or added the evaluations to part of the permanent records of its certificated personnel; never reviewed with its certificated personnel the results of pupil progress as they relate to Stull Act evaluations; and never made specific recommendations on how certificated personnel with unsatisfactory ratings could improve their performance in order to achieve a higher level of pupil progress toward meeting established standards of expected pupil achievement.

Biden tells Democrats, teachers union that Republicans are getting in way of change

Scott Powers:

Vice President Joe Biden turned a dinner speech to Florida Democrats at Walt Disney World into a pep rally Friday night, blasting Republicans as obstructionists with whom he said the administration can no longer work.
Biden knocked Republicans for blocking President Obama’s American Jobs Act, for “playing roulette” with the federal deficit ceiling and standing in the way of other Obama initiatives, from Wall Street reform to health care reform to the end of the Iraq occupation.
Biden said he and Obama tried for 2 1/2 years to sit down with Republicans and now he concludes, “This is not your father’s Republican Party.”
“It’s time to stand up. I’ts time to fight back,” Biden bellowed to a cheering crowd of more than 1,000 people at the Florida Democratic Party annual convention at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. “We are looking for this fight.”

The Monopoly on Education

Teacher Man:

I love this scene in Goodwill Hunting because it sums up in large part how I feel about the current education system (only Matt Damon says it way cooler than I ever will).
Does it trouble anyone else that university presidents (in Canada at least, I can’t vouch for the USA) make more money than the Prime Minister does? It is primarily tax dollars that pay both of their salaries (most universities in Canada operate with about 60-70% of their costs covered by the government). How about the whole notion of publishing journal articles in a specific language that only certain people can speak effectively (APA, MLA, Chicago etc)? If you do not want to lay eyes on a somewhat cynical rant about the tyranny of post-secondary education monopolies then please avert your eyes.
Cynical or Realistic?
In my masters course last week someone who was taking their first course in several years (after being in the workforce for a substantial period of time) asked me why so much emphasis was placed on getting the exact period and comma marks right when citing sources (she was not questioning the validity of citing a source, only the extremely specific emphasis put on the minutiae of it). My response shocked her a little.

Do kids need computers to learn? Some schools are saying no

Henry Aubin:

Are Quebec schools embracing computers too zealously? I don’t know the answer – I’m no pedagogue – but it’s a question worth asking.
Two things are clear.
One is that most parents, school officials and politicians see children’s familiarity with computers at an early age as desirable – nay, imperative – for successful individual careers and for society’s prosperity in a “knowledge economy.” The English Montreal School Board, for one, even provides laptop computers as a teaching tool in pre-kindergarten (where the 4-year-olds use them for recognition of numbers and letters and to do puzzles). In response to strong public support for this trend, Premier Jean Charest promised a few months ago to put a smart whiteboard (a front-of-the-class board that allows for digital touch interaction) in every primary- and secondary-school classroom across the province.

Future principals lean on mentoring project

Michelle Dobo:

After revving up a few hundred adolescents in the Central Middle School auditorium during a recent homecoming pep rally, educators had to get the children out the doors and onto school buses idling outside.
And there wasn’t much time to do it.
As the children began to get up, principal Darren Guido jumped to direct traffic. Moments later, outside, aspiring school leader Nakia Fambro noticed some students were dallying. She rushed to the office.
“If you are a bus rider, the buses are leaving in 30 seconds,” Fambro announced over the intercom system, repeating the urgent message several times.

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce: Chamber and Madison schools partner to grow youth apprenticeships

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce:

New Position Seeks to Connect Students and Teachers with Local Businesses
Madison – The Madison Metropolitan School District and Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce announced a new partnership today to connect high school students with on-site work experience through youth apprenticeships. A cornerstone of the partnership will be a new position that will meet the needs of existing students and increase the
capacity for future students participating in the Youth Apprenticeship Program.
Youth Apprenticeship is a rigorous elective program for high school juniors and seniors that combines academic and technical classroom instruction with mentored on-the-job learning. The new Youth Apprenticeship Facilitator will serve as a liaison connecting all program partners with the ultimate goal of growing the number of student participants and
apprenticeship opportunities.
For Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Alexander, collaborating with Madison schools to support youth apprenticeship was a natural alignment.

NIXTY Responds to Adrian Sannier of OpenClass: You are not Open. You are betting the future of Pearson on the ability to beat Open.


Adrian of OpenClass responds to our questions. See our responses below:
Adrian writes:
@Nixty, a competitor to OpenClass, asks:
What happens when readily available free courses/texts help students learn better than Pearson’s closed expensive courses/texts?
What happens when we have clear research support that shows how students taking the open and free course learn more than students taking Pearson’s closed and expensive course?
Pearson’s stated aim is to make the LMS a commodity so they can sell more of their closed content and course tools. What happens when Pearson isn’t selling enough of their closed content and course tools?
Adrian’s Answer: Is this a trick question? Doesn’t this boil down to the more general question — What happens when a free product is better than one you pay for? There’s only one conclusion I can come to – free wins that round. And ‘for pay’ has to come up with something worth paying for, which is the essence of competition, the arms race that drives economics to produce improvement. I believe Pearson has proven it is up to that challenge for the long haul.

Traditional Newspaper Education Coverage in Seattle

Charlie Mas:

The Seattle Times has made their perspective clear: they support the current school board. Not only did they endorse the incumbents in the upcoming election, they have gone out of their way to claim that the Board is not to blame for the recent scandals. They write that the Board has learned from those mistakes – not that they made any mistakes – and will do better now – not they they hadn’t done well enough before. The Times would have us believe that the Board isn’t to blame, but that the system is to blame – nevermind that the Board controls the system.

The man who knows everything

David Gelles:

On a humid Monday in late September, a wonky entrepreneur named Salman Khan visited New York City. Khan, a 35-year-old American of South Asian descent with bushy black hair and a nerdy affect, was in town to promote his Silicon Valley startup. He stayed at the London NYC, an upscale hotel just south of Central Park, and dined at Maze, the Gordon Ramsay restaurant off the lobby.
But that night, instead of seeing the sights or going out with friends, Khan holed up in his hotel room, fiddled with his laptop, and produced a series of amateurish videos about geometry. They are disarmingly simple – Khan’s deep voice talks over a black screen, where he draws shapes and writes out questions and equations in multiple colours. One, a six-minute clip called “Congruent triangle proof example”, shows a proof that a point on a line is the midpoint, using two triangles. Another, “Finding congruent triangles”, establishes why four related postulates are all equally reasonable. When he was finished, he uploaded them to YouTube and went to sleep.

Khan Academy.

Seattle Cluster Grouping Talk

Melissa Westbrook:

I attended the talk last night by Dr. Dina Bulles put on by Wedgwood Elementary (and held at Nathan Hale High). (FYI, her name is pronounced Bree-yays.) The other SPS staff represented were the principal of Wedgwood, Chris Cronas, Ex. Director, Phil Brockman, and head of Advanced Learning, Bob Vaughn. Mr. Cronas pointed out that several Wedgwood teachers were in attendance as well. There were a large number of seats put out but the room wasn’t full. My guess is it was about 60 people.
Dr. Bulles explained that in her district, Paradise Valley School district (which is just outside of Phoenix, Arizona), all of their elementary schools use cluster grouping. (Her district is about 35,000 students and there are 31 elementary schools.) She said out of those 35,000, about 5,000 student received gifted classes/services. (Help me out anyone else who attended; I thought she said towards the end that this was included high school students taking AP/IB. Is that what you heard?) She also made a startling statement that 68% of her teachers (and I believe this is in elementary) had 3 years or less of teaching experience. Wow.

Ignoring the Achievement Gap

Andrew Rotherham:

Ah, the achievement gap. So much trouble to fix, so why bother trying? That seems to be the attitude in Washington, where pundits have spent the last several months ripping the current focus on improving the low end of student performance in our nation’s schools. In September the Obama Administration put forward a plan to offer waivers to states that want more flexibility — i.e., less ambitious targets — under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Last week the bottom really fell out when the Senate committee that handles education passed a rewrite of the No Child law basically leaving it to states to figure out how (and probably, in practice, even whether) to close the gaps. In other words, a decade after an overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to get serious about school accountability, it’s open season on a strong federal role in education. How did we get here?
Let’s start with the pundits. Leading the charge is the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess, who, in the fall issue of National Affairs, launched a contrarian broadside against NCLB’s focus on low-achieving students. “The relentless focus on gap-closing has transformed school reform into little more than a less objectionable rehash of the failed Great Society playbook,” Hess wrote. Next came a September report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, another conservative think tank, claiming that the current focus is shortchanging high-achievers. Yet the data in the Fordham report didn’t support its alarmist conclusions that high-achievers were being hurt by today’s policies. The truth is, according to Fordham’s own data, that high-performers didn’t fare that badly overall. Other evidence bears this out. None of that slowed down the pundits.

Support the Teaching Geography Is Fundamental Act Send Letters to Congress : 5,452 Letters Sent So Far

Speak up for Geography:

Geography has long been recognized as a “core academic subject” in federal education legislation. However, unlike all the other core academic subjects, including history, civics, economics, foreign languages and the arts, there is no dedicated federal funding stream to advance geography education. As a result, our nation is facing a crisis in geographic literacy that is jeopardizing our global competitiveness, our position of diplomatic leadership, and our ability to fill and retain over 150,000 jobs in geospatial technology in the next decade.

Royal Society journal archive made permanently free to access

The Royal Society:

The Royal Society continues to support scientific discovery by allowing free access to more than 250 years of leading research.
From October 2011, our world-famous journal archive – comprising more than 69,000 articles – will be opened up and all articles more than 70 years old will be made permanently free to access.
The Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific publisher and, as such, our archive is the most comprehensive in science. Treasures in the archive include Isaac Newton’s first published scientific paper, geological work by a young Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin’s celebrated account of his electrical kite experiment. Readers willing to delve a little deeper may find some undiscovered gems from the dawn of the scientific revolution – including Robert Boyle’s account of monstrous calves, grisly tales of students being struck by lightning, and early experiments on to how to cool drinks ‘without the Help of Snow, Ice, Haile, Wind or Niter, and That at Any Time of the Year.’

CPS to use tougher standard for evaluating schools

Joel Hood:

After years of futility inside the classroom, Chicago Public Schools soon will adopt a more rigorous internal evaluation system that judges schools on how well they prepare students for college, a move that could lead to more school closings in the years ahead.
This stricter method of evaluation promises to be an eye-opener for many parents, considering the current process used for years already paints a bleak picture of the district: 42 percent of schools — 207 elementary and 76 high schools — are on probation for low-academic performance and poor attendance.
Seventy-two schools have been on probation for five consecutive years, and 16 of them for 15 years in a row.
Approximately 123,000 students are in underperforming schools, officials said, prompting parents in large numbers to uproot their families for neighborhoods with better schools inside or outside the city. Maps presented to the school board Wednesday showed a correlation between some of the city’s poorest-performing schools and schools that are most underenrolled.

Add this to the list of things that bureaucrats don’t understand about teachers’ lives.

Mrs. Cornelius:

So here’s a situation.
A parent requested a conference with a teacher I know during conference time. This parent began yelling and gesticulating wildly during the conference, until the teacher asked the parent to leave. By the way, the teacher in question is so calm, he’s practically a reincarnation of the Buddha. Parent stormed off and went to an administrator and made a bunch of wild claims about the teacher and then stormed out of the administrator’s office.
So far, not all that unusual, right?
Here’s where it gets interesting: the parent’s kid approached the teacher a few days later, accused him of threatening the mother, and then threatened to attack the teacher. This was done IN FRONT OF WITNESSES.
Wow. Makes Race to the Top seem kind of insignificant and out-of-touch, doesn’t it?

The Seattle Times continues to lower their Standards

Melissa Westbrook:

Update: a reader asked about who pays for these audits and I mistakenly said the SAO. It turns out that the Legislature had passed a law for a hotline but had not funded it. For the first year, the SAO ate the cost for hotline investigations but could not sustain that cost. So if the State Auditor chooses to go forward with hotline requests (and I’m sure they don’t follow-thru with all of them), it costs the district $83.60 per hour. (I just removed that “number of hours” as that is for the NEXT audit, not this special one.)
On the one hand you could say, “Well, look at that money and the SAO found nothing illegal.” On the other hand, you can look at this sad and sorry mess of a process and say that it sure doesn’t look good or smell good. I’ll have more to report on this after I read the SAO work product documents which I believe will make compelling reading.
End of update
A new low for reporting is the Times’ article about the MLK, Jr. building sale.

New Wisconsin Charter School Legislation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mike Ford:

3 this week to approve the latest version of Senate Bill 22 (SB-22). The bill expands chartering authority to Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agencies, and most importantly creates an independent statewide charter school authorizing board.

The Good

I have blogged recently about the absurdity of Madison Prep having to get its education plan approved by the school board of a district that has proved incapable of effectively educating the very students Madison Prep seeks to serve. The state charter authorizing board would give startup charter schools like Madison Prep an authorizer option outside of their local school board. No longer would a resistant board be a brick wall for new charter schools.

Obama’s Student-Loan Plan Scores Political Points but Offers Limited Relief

Kelly Field:

With the nation’s student-loan debt approaching $1-trillion, and default rates at their highest level in a decade, President Obama is taking modest steps to ease students’ debt burdens.
Mr. Obama and administration officials announced changes this week that will reduce monthly payments for low-income borrowers and drop interest rates for students who consolidate into the government’s direct-loan program.
The announcements–which came as the Occupy Wall Street protest stretched into its fifth week, fueled in part by borrowers with large educational debts and slim job prospects–were billed as a response to petitions urging the president to forgive student loans to stimulate the economy.
But the president’s plan is a far cry from the kind of relief that the Wall Street protesters and other debtors are demanding, and it won’t do a thing to address the roots of their repayment struggles: rising tuition and high unemployment.

Kelly Field & Kevin Helliker:

Tuition and fees at the nation’s four-year colleges climbed sharply again this year, though rising federal grants and loans took some of the sting out of the increases.
At four-year public colleges, in-state tuition and fees for the school year beginning this fall rose by an average of 8.3% from the previous year, to $8,244, amid declining support from state legislatures, according to annual reports from the College Board, a nonprofit that conducts collegiate research. The total cost including room and board rose 6% to $17,131.
At private colleges, tuition and fees rose by an average of 4.5% to $28,500, as total costs including room and board jumped 4.4% to $38,589.
The markedly quicker rate of increase at public schools continues a decade-long trend that has narrowed the price gap between the two. This year, the average tuition-and-fees price of a four-year public college is 29% of the private-college price, compared with 22% a decade ago.
“While the importance of a college degree has never been greater, its rapidly rising price is an overwhelming obstacle to many students and families,” said Gaston Caperton, College Board president.

US Ed Department Takes Aim at Schools of Education

The Federal Register (PDF):

The Department has identified the following constituencies as having interests that are significantly affected by the topics proposed for negotiations. The Department plans to seat as negotiators individuals from organizations or groups representing these constituencies:

  • Postsecondary students, including legal assistance organizations that represent students.
  • Teachers.
  • Financial aid administrators at postsecondary institutions.
  • Business officers and bursars at postsecondary institutions.
  • Admissions officers at postsecondary institutions.
  • State officials, including officials with teacher preparation program approval agencies, State teacher licensing boards, higher education executive officers, chief State school officers, State attorneys general, and State data system administrators.
  • Institutions that offer teacher preparation programs, including schools of education.
  • Institutions of higher education eligible to receive Federal assistance under Title III, Parts A, B, and F, and Title V of the HEA, which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian- Serving Institutions, Predominantly Black Institutions, and other institutions with a substantial enrollment of needy students as defined in Title III of the HEA.
  • Two-year public institutions of higher education.
  • Four-year public institutions of higher education.
  • Private, non-profit institutions of higher education.
  • Private, for-profit institutions of higher education.
  • Operators of programs for alternative routes to teacher certification.
  • Accrediting agencies.
  • Students enrolled in elementary and secondary education, including parents of students enrolled in elementary and secondary education.
  • School and local educational agency officials, including those responsible for hiring teachers and evaluating teacher performance.
    The topics the committee is likely to address are as follows:

    • The requirements for institutional and program report cards on the quality of teacher preparation (Section 205(a) of the HEA);
    • The requirements for State report cards on the quality of teacher preparation (Section 205(b) of the HEA);
    • The standards to ensure reliability, validity, and accuracy of the data submitted in report cards on the quality of teacher preparation (Section 205(c) of the HEA);
    • The criteria used by States to assess the performance of teacher preparation programs at higher education institutions in the State, the identification of low-performing programs (Section 207(a) of the HEA), and the consequences of a State’s termination of eligibility of a program (Section 207(b) of the HEA);
    • The definition of the term ”high quality teacher preparation program” for the purpose of establishing the eligibility of an institution to participate in the TEACH Grant program (Section 420L(1) of the HEA);
    • The definition of the term ”high quality professional development services” for the purpose of establishing the eligibility of an institution to participate in the TEACH Grant program (Section 420L(1) of the HEA); and
    • The service and repayment obligations for the TEACH Grant Program (Subpart E of 34 CFR 686).

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will

Kerri Smith:

Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to think again.
The experiment helped to change John-Dylan Haynes’s outlook on life. In 2007, Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, put people into a brain scanner in which a display screen flashed a succession of random letters1. He told them to press a button with either their right or left index fingers whenever they felt the urge, and to remember the letter that was showing on the screen when they made the decision. The experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity in real time as the volunteers chose to use their right or left hands. The results were quite a surprise.
“The first thought we had was ‘we have to check if this is real’,” says Haynes. “We came up with more sanity checks than I’ve ever seen in any other study before.”
The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided.

My Favorite Test Question of All Time

Sam Shah:

In Calculus, we just finished our limits unit. I gave a test. It had a great question on it, inspired by Bowman and his limit activity.
Without further ado, it reads:
Then I ask part (b)…
Which reads: “Scratch off the missing data. With the new information, now answer the question: What do you think the limit as x approaches 2 of the function is (and say “d.n.e.” if it does not exist)? Explain why (talk about what a limit is!).
So then they get this…

Rise in Sticker Price at Public Colleges Outpaces That at Private Colleges for 5th Year in a Row

Beckie Supiano:

The State of California enrolls about 10 percent of the country’s full-time students attending public four-year colleges, and about 15 percent of those at public two-year colleges. So when the state’s public colleges have a big tuition hike–as they did this year–it has a big impact on the average tuition increase at public colleges across the country, says a new report from the College Board.
For the fifth year in a row, the percentage increase in average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was higher than it was at private ones, according to the report, “Trends in College Pricing 2011.” The report, released on Wednesday, examines annual changes in colleges’ sticker prices, as well as the net prices students pay after grant aid and tax benefits are considered. A companion report, “Trends in Student Aid 2011,” looks at the money that helps students meet those growing prices. (The pricing report looks at data through this academic year, while the student-aid report has information through 2010-11.)

The Latest Pitch to College Savers More firms are marketing life insurance as a way to help parents save for college. But is it a good deal?

Annamaria Andriotis:

For the many parents who are reeling from recent losses to their college-savings plans, insurers are pitching another option they claim can help: life insurance.
Last week, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company launched a “Kids Take Charge” marketing campaign that promotes life insurance as a way to pay for college. Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America will roll out its latest campaign on life insurance as a college savings vehicle next month. Both firms join Illinois-based insurer Mutual Trust Financial Group, which this year has been promoting college savings as one of the main reasons to buy life insurance. In addition, insurance companies like National Life Group and Aviva USA have been encouraging their agents to talk about college planning and insurance with their clients.
While insurance companies have long touted whole life and universal polices as a back door way to finance college, experts say rarely have so many companies made such targeted pitches directly to parents. Why now? College savings plans have been hit hard by market losses over the past few months and low interest rates, say financial advisers, while tuition costs continue their steady rise. Insurers, they say, see a ready market in panicked parents.

Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?

Sue Shellenbarger:

Here’s a pop quiz: What foods are best to eat before a high-stakes test? When is the best time to review the toughest material? A growing body of research on the best study techniques offers some answers.
Chiefly, testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory. The method is more effective than re-reading a textbook, says Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. If you are facing a test on the digestive system, he says, practice explaining how it works from start to finish, rather than studying a list of its parts.
In his junior year of high school in Cary, N.C., Keenan Harrell bought test-prep books and subjected himself to a “relentless and repetitive” series of nearly 30 practice SAT college-entrance exams. “I just took it over and over again, until it became almost aggravating,” he says.

The Most Important Thing to Not Take for Granted During College

Thoughts of a Student Entrepreneur:

This jumped out to me after watching Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford graduation speech; the biggest thing to make sure not to take for granted at college is how easy it is to meet so many different & amazing people. You get 4 years to live on a student campus full of dots waiting to be connected ( in the words of Steve ) you must take advantage of every possible moment to connect dots. Especially if you want to start a startup. Looking back I wish I would have hung out a ton more in the C.S. Lab instead of doing my comp sci hw in my dorm room lounge in between switching off games of call of duty with my roommates.
I’m dying for an awesome co-founder right now!! More than anything, and it would have been awesome to be able to go to a college buddy with the same interests as I have. A college campus represents the easiest and most abundant source for finding a Co-Founder. Everything I’ve done until now I’ve done alone out of necessity b/c it’s been extremely hard to find a good co-founder.
Don’t take that barrier free access to tons of new friends & potential co-founders for granted!! That’s my single most important advice to any college student that wants to start their own company. I took it for granted and it’s making my startup career 100 times more difficult, trust me.

College Readiness Is Lacking, New York City Reports Show

Fernanda Santos:

Only one in four students who enter high school in New York City are ready for college after four years, and less than half enroll, according to the A-through-F high school report cards released on Monday.
Those numbers, included for the first time in the report cards, confirmed what the state suggested several months ago: the city still has a long way to go to prepare students for successful experiences in college and beyond. And they were a signal that graduation rates, long used by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a validation of his education policies, were not as meaningful as they seemed.
“There’s a huge change in life chances for kids who are successful in post-secondary education,” the city’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky, said. “We really have a task to prepare kids for that, and the data is one of the most motivating tools.”

Denver’s Moment of Reckoning is Approaching

Moira Cullen:

Is Denver going to follow in the footsteps of other reform minded urban school districts that saw momentum, change, and improvement fade away? Or will we be one of the few cities to sustain and even accelerate effective school reform?
In less than two weeks, the most hotly contested and expensive school board race in the history of Colorado will come to an end. It looks like nearly $1 million will be spent by both sides in this election by the time Election Day arrives on November 1st.
Denver has a seven-person school board with four members currently supporting the Superintendent Tom Boasberg and a broad set of reforms while the remaining three board members have relied upon Diane Ravitch to try to thwart nearly every reform initiative. Needless to say, if two of the three seats go to anti-reform candidates, Boasberg will need to look for another job and the Colorado reform community is going to have to look to some other districts for bold leadership.
Denver has been the epicenter for reform in Colorado since Michael Bennet took the helm of Denver Public Schools (DPS). Most of the reforms, which were highlighted in Colorado’s Race to the Top application and elsewhere, are dependent upon Denver leading the charge.

Madison Prep’s proposal raises questions

Anne Arnesen, Barbara Arnold, Nan Brien and Carol Carstensen:

We applaud the Urban League’s energy and persistence in identifying the significant achievement gap that remains in Madison schools. We welcome the fact that the Urban League has helped focus broader community discussion on this issue, and the need to serve more effectively and successfully African-American and Hispanic students. The achievement gap is real and must be addressed.
While the Madison Preparatory Academy may provide a fine educational experience for 840 students, the Madison Metropolitan School District is charged with improving outcomes for more than 12,000 children of color. We may be better served by using our limited and diminishing resources:
1. To increase the number of students in AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) by expanding this nationally proven and successful program, now in all four high schools, to lower grade levels. AVID is a college readiness system that accelerates learning for students in the academic middle who may not have a college tradition in their families. Ultimately, AVID uses research-based instructional strategies to increase academic performance schoolwide. East High, the first Madison school to implement AVID, has had two graduating classes. These graduates, who attend a variety of Wisconsin colleges and universities, are 90 percent students of color and 74 percent low income; 52 percent of these graduates speak a language other than English as their first language.

Why no school? Really no good reason

Chris Rickert:

I will not be working in the office Thursday. I have to care for my kids, two of whom, like lots of other Wisconsin public school students, have the day off.
Why, you ask, are classes canceled on this entirely unremarkable Thursday the week before Halloween? On a day not set aside for any national holiday, nor part of any traditionally recognized vacation season, nor beset by record-breaking snowfall or some other natural cataclysm?
Well, because historically, a couple of consecutive weekdays in October have been something of a Wisconsin public schools-recognized holiday — the traditional time for the annual convention of the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
I know what you’re saying: “Don’t be ridiculous. Teachers have two and a half months in the summer to hold their convention! Why wouldn’t they have it then?”
And I hear you; an October teachers convention does defy logic. Yet, that’s been the case until this year, when things managed to get even more illogical.

Why We Can’t Fire Our Way to Urban School Reform

Christina Collins:

A recent SchoolBook article on the high teacher turnover at one of Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Schools raises an important question in the debate over improving urban schools — how can we stop corporate education reform’s focus on “getting rid of bad teachers” from creating a level of instability in school staffing that hurts our city’s students?
The case of turnover in the Harlem Success schools is only the latest example of this issue, but it’s a striking one. Over a third of the teachers at Harlem Success 3 have chosen to leave the school in the past few months, a decision Moskowitz describes as “frankly, unethical.” At the same time, however, Moskowitz chooses to employ her staff with a policy of “at will employment” rather than a negotiated contract. Under this model, she and her principals have the right to terminate teachers’ service at the school at any time, for any reason. In fact, Steven Brill’s Class Warfare describes the case of one new teacher who was “forced out” only a few months into the school year when a young principal at Harlem Success decided she wasn’t a “good fit” for the school.

At Elite Schools, Easing Up a Bit on Homework

Jenny Anderson:

It was the kind of memo that high school students would dream of getting, if they dreamed in memos.
Lisa Waller, director of the high school at Dalton, a famously rigorous private school on the Upper East Side, sent a letter to parents this summer announcing that tests and papers would be staggered to make sure students did not become overloaded. January midterms would be pushed back two weeks so students would not have to study during vacation.
Across town at the Trinity School, another of Manhattan’s elite academies, the administration has formed a task force to examine workload, and the upper school, grades 9 to 12, has been trying ways to coordinate test-taking with papers, labs and other projects.
Horace Mann School, in the Bronx, opened a tutoring center this year to help students manage their work. Hunter College High School, which has a tough admissions exam, is for the first time this year offering homework holidays, on Halloween, the Chinese New Year (Jan. 23) and a day nearer spring, March 14.

Dropping out is probably not for you

Jacques Mattheij:

I get a ton of mail because of this blog, for the most part it is lots of fun and I really enjoy it. The thing that I don’t enjoy is when people ask me if they should drop out of school or university to ‘start their own business’, typically accompanied by some minimal description of their circumstances.
Of course it’s my own fault, putting up a guide on how to run a small software consultancy business makes it look fairly easy and exciting compared to being in school or secondary education. Another reason is that I’ve documented that I (successfully) dropped out of school but circumstances have changed dramatically since then.
I landed on my feet but that’s absolutely no guarantee. It was blood, sweat and tears and an uncommon dose of luck. At first I worked a crappy physical job, and from there I somehow found my way into being a professional programmer which in turn led to my first business. At the time anybody that could hold a keyboard without dropping it was making money hand over fist (because microcomputers were so new there was hardly any software for it, and there were hardly any people that knew how to write such software) but it was *still* hard work.

Halting a Runaway Train: Reforming Teacher Pensions for the 21st Century

Michael B. Lafferty:

When it comes to public-sector pensions, writes lead author Michael B. Lafferty in Fordham’s newest report, “A major public-policy (and public-finance) problem has been defined and measured, debated and deliberated, but not yet solved. Except where it has been.” As recounted in Halting a Runaway Train: Reforming Teacher Pensions for the 21st Century, these exceptions turn out to be revealing–and encouraging. As leaders around the country struggle to overhaul America’s controversial and precarious public-sector pensions, this study draws on examples from diverse fields to provide a primer on successful pension reform. Download to find valuable lessons for policymakers, workers, and taxpayers looking for timely solutions to a dire problem.

The complete report can be downloaded here.

Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?

Sue Shellenbarger:

Here’s a pop quiz: What foods are best to eat before a high-stakes test? When is the best time to review the toughest material? A growing body of research on the best study techniques offers some answers.
Chiefly, testing yourself repeatedly before an exam teaches the brain to retrieve and apply knowledge from memory. The method is more effective than re-reading a textbook, says Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University. If you are facing a test on the digestive system, he says, practice explaining how it works from start to finish, rather than studying a list of its parts.
In his junior year of high school in Cary, N.C., Keenan Harrell bought test-prep books and subjected himself to a “relentless and repetitive” series of nearly 30 practice SAT college-entrance exams. “I just took it over and over again, until it became almost aggravating,” he says.

Two Oakland schools to split from OUSD

Katy Murphy:

On Wednesday night at Oakland Technical High School, the Oakland school board votes on a staff resolution to close five elementary schools, Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe. But the board is expected to be presented with another downsizing proposal, too: The faculties at two other schools, ASCEND and Learning Without Limits, have voted to secede from OUSD and operate those schools as independently run charters.
You can read more about it here. That story will be in Tuesday’s Tribune. (And here is a link to a Sunday story about school closures.)
District staff estimate the budget shrinks by roughly $5,500 for each student who leaves OUSD (additional funds, such as the parcel tax, go to the district regardless of its enrollment/attendance). The enrollment of the two elementary schools adds up to about 800 — which means the district’s budget could take a hit of more than $4 million at the same time the administration is trying to save $2 million by closing schools.

Teacher Quality Bonanza


While a small number of cynics out there still argue that classroom teachers are not really an important ingredient in a child’s overall education recipe, one of the most important developments in K-12 education policy in the last few years has been the recognition that decades-old teacher evaluations (where the best a child can hope for is a ‘satisfactory’ teacher over an ‘unsatisfactory’ teacher) aren’t up for the task of recognizing which teachers are hitting the ball out of the park with their students.
At DFER, we’ve long believed that the widespread irrelevance of excellence itself in the K-12 world has created a culture that has actively done damage to the lives of too many children who deserved much, much better from our nation’s most important public institution.
But there have been a lot of positive developments in this area of late. There’s obviously a long way to go, and surely some of what has been done to-date will need to be changed/enhanced/expanded, but we are clearly closer to a day where the link between teaching and learning is more clear in workplace evaluations for educators. (And we continue to hope and believe that this will usher in a new era where successful teachers are treated more like the community heroes that we believe they are.)

Chicago Charter Schools Could Get Longer Day Money

Rebecca Vevea:

Chicago charter schools could soon receive financial incentives similar to those being offered to city elementary schools that vote to lengthen the school day.
The Chicago Board of Education will vote on a resolution Wednesday that would create a $4.4 million grant fund for charter schools that choose to extend their day. Individual schools would eligible to receive $75,000 and individual teacher stipends of $800. Roughly 42 schools will be awarded money under the program, which Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll estimated will cost about $6 million.
Carroll told the Chicago News Cooperative in September that charter schools would not be included in the city’s longer day incentive program, which has been one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s signature education initiatives. She said the decision to incorporate charters followed “an organic conversation” between CPS and charter operators and is about ensuring “equity in the system.”
The move to include charter schools is the latest salvo in the fight between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union over the length of the school day.

Wisconsin budget panel backs expanding charter school program statewide

Jason Stein:

An independent charter school program would expand to medium and large school districts around Wisconsin, under a bill passed Wednesday by Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee.
The proposal passed 12-3 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against.
The bill would take an independent charter school program currently operating in only Milwaukee and Racine and extend it statewide to districts with more than 2,000 students. That would apply to roughly a quarter of the state’s districts.
Republicans said it would help provide another options for students whose schools are failing them.
“The bill we are taking up today is truly something that is going to help the long-term prospects of Wisconsin,” said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington), a co-chairman of the committee.
But Democrats said that the program would undermine local control of schools by elected officials in favor of an unelected board. They said the proposal could also prove another financial blow to regular public schools that are losing nearly $800 million in state aid over two years as part of the state budget and having tight state caps placed on their property tax levies.

Milwaukee Choice Enrollment Growth Outpaces Levy Growth

Mike Ford:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) reports today on the 10.3% local tax levy increase in Milwaukee attributable to the Milwaukee school choice program. Because the choice program is not a taxing authority, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) levy is used as a fiscal agent to pay 34% of the total cost of the MPCP. As I’ve noted before, the levy used to pay for choice does not lower the actual total revenue MPS receives.
There are two reasons for the increase in the MPCP levy this year. First, the local share of the cost of the choice program increased from 30% in 2010-11 to 34% this year due to a reduction in state poverty aid used to offset the MPCP levy. The second and more important reason, which Erin Richards focuses on in her MJS article, is the increase in choice program enrollment. The Department of Public Instruction estimates 22,400 Milwaukee students are using choice this year, up from about 20,300 last year. The rise is a direct result of changes in the 2011-13 state budget that raised income eligibility requirements for participating students and allowed suburban schools to enroll Milwaukee pupils through the program.

The Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement

Julian R. Betts and Y. Emily Tang via a kind Deb Britt email:

Charter schools are largely viewed as a major innovation in the public school landscape, as they receive more independence from state laws and regulations than do traditional public schools, and are therefore more able to experiment with alternative curricula, pedagogical methods, and different ways of hiring and training teachers. Unlike traditional public schools, charters may be shut down by their authorizers for poor performance. But how is charter school performance measured? What are the effects of charter schools on student achievement?
Assessing literature that uses either experimental (lottery) or student-level growth- based methods, this analysis infers the causal impact of attending a charter school on student performance.
Focusing on math and reading scores, the authors find compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades, and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other locations, grades, and subjects. However, important exceptions include elementary school reading and middle school math and reading, where evidence suggests no negative effects of charter schools and, in some cases, evidence of positive effects. Meta-analytic methods are used to obtain overall estimates on the effect of charter schools on reading and math achievement. The authors find an overall effect size for elementary school reading and math of 0.02 and 0.05, respectively, and for middle school math of 0.055. Effects are not statistically meaningful for middle school reading and for high school math and reading. Studies that focus on urban areas tend to find larger effects than do studies that examine wider areas. Studies of KIPP charter middle schools suggest positive effects of 0.096 and 0.223 for reading and math respectively. New York City and Boston charter schools also appeared to deliver achievement gains larger than charter schools in most other locations. A lack of rigorous studies in many parts of the nation limits the ability to extrapolate.

On Charter Authorizing

Alex Medler:

Charter schools provide plenty of compelling news. Often the coverage is of great schools producing amazing outcomes for kids. But too often the stories are more tragic or sordid. A school’s governing board becomes mired in dysfunctional arguments; a school’s students are performing badly on state tests for several years running; somebody absconds with money; or a student with disabilities is discouraged from enrolling in a school.
Facing these unfortunate circumstances, a person is likely to shout, “Somebody should do something!” The outraged observer is correct. Generally, the “somebody” that ought to act is a charter school authorizer. Strong charter school authorizers screen initial applicants to avoid future failures. They also implement practices that respect each school’s autonomy while also protecting against abuses and ensuring that floundering schools close. Twenty years into the charter school movement, it appears that it will be difficult to hold all charter schools accountable unless we start to hold authorizers accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities.

2011 Global Education Digest

UNESCO Institute for Statistics, via a kind Kris Olds email:

Two out of three children in Africa are left out of secondary school
Governments are struggling to meet the rising demand for secondary education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are enough school places for just 36% of children of age to enrol, according the latest edition of the Global Education Digest.
Globally, secondary schools have been accommodating almost one hundred million more students each decade, with the total number growing by 60% between 1990 and 2009. But the supply is dwarfed by demand as more countries approach universal primary education.
In 2009, 88% of children enrolled in primary school reached the last grade of this level of education, compared to 81%. Yet, in 20 countries — mostly in sub-Saharan Africa — a child in the last grade of primary school has a 75% chance at best of making the transition to lower secondary school.
The path to prosperity
“There can be no escape from poverty without a vast expansion of secondary education. This is a minimum entitlement for equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need to secure decent livelihoods in today’s globalized world. It is going to take ambition and commitment to meet this challenge. But it is the only path towards prosperity,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova.
“An educated population is a country’s greatest wealth,” she added. “The inequalities signalled in this Report, especially in relation to girls’ exclusion from secondary education in many countries, have enormous implications for the achievement of all the internationally agreed development goals, from child and maternal health and HIV prevention to environmental security.”
In terms of enrolment, sub-Saharan Africa has made the greatest gains of all regions, with gross enrolment ratios rising from 28% to 43% for lower secondary and from 20% to 27% for upper secondary education between 1999 and 2009. Nevertheless, more than 21.6 million children of lower secondary school age remain excluded from education across the region and many will never spend a day in school.

The complete report is available here (PDF).

Minnesota educators tackle standards for evaluating principals

Tom Weber:

With increasing pressure over the last decade to improve student achievement, a growing body of research highlights the crucial role school principals play in creating good environments for learning.
But in Minnesota, there is no uniform method to evaluate the state’s roughly 1,700 principals. That’s about to change, due to a law passed this summer, and a group of educators who will develop the evaluation criteria and method.
In the state education budget that passed this summer was a requirement that every principal be evaluated starting the 2013 school year. The law also lays out what must be measured.

Wisconsin Districts consider paying teachers based on evaluations

Erin Richards and Tom Tolan:

At Nicolet Union High School, science teacher Karyl Rosenberg keeps the evaluations she’s received over the past 21 years in neat files: one for each of her first three years of probationary teaching, and one every third year after that.
So far this year, she’s been observed twice briefly by a principal. But how she will be formally evaluated in years to come is still unclear.
That’s because many districts across the state, including Nicolet, are developing new systems for measuring teacher performance that aim to better distinguish superior educators from those who are average or below par. They will likely use student achievement growth as one measure of performance, and the results of the evaluation may help administrators decide whom to promote, dismiss or provide with more targeted help.
Research continues to show that the most significant in-school factor to improve student performance is teacher effectiveness, but Wisconsin districts such as Nicolet have been spurred to action by another factor: the Act 10 legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
The legislation has dramatically limited collective bargaining in about two-thirds of the state’s districts so far, and it allows for pay structures and staffing decisions based on factors other than seniority. But for quality rather than years of experience to be used as a determining factor in such decisions, administrators need an accurate tool to assess it.

Newspapers neglect critical information about Public Disclosure Commission issues

Laurie Rogers:

On Oct. 24, a Spokesman-Review reporter called me to talk about education. Over five years of education advocacy, this was the second phone call I’ve received from a SR reporter.
The first call came Oct. 13, after I submitted a Letter to the Editor about the formal complaint I filed Sept. 28 with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). This PDC complaint concerns Spokane Public Schools and school board candidate Deana Brower. Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner called me to ask for a copy of the complaint.
On Monday, Lawrence-Turner called again as I was driving home with my daughter and a student I’m tutoring. Before I talked with Lawrence-Turner, I confirmed that we were having a conversation that was NOT on the record. Having confirmed that, I talked with her about various education-related topics.
This is the article that showed up in the paper today:
If Lawrence-Turner wonders why I asked if our conversation was off the record, all she needs to do is look at her articles. Gee, do you think The Spokesman-Review and Lawrence-Turner want Brower to win the school board election? I offered my entire blog to Lawrence-Turner, the information in it, and the links to district emails – and this is what she wrote. It looks to me like yet another slanted article with unsupported insinuations regarding school board candidate Sally Fullmer and a local community member, and with an accompanying free pass for opponent Brower.

Related: asking questions.

Economics in One Lesson

Henry Hazlitt:

The first edition of this book appeared in 1946. Eight translations were made of it, and there were numerous paperback editions. In a paperback of 1961, a new chapter was added on rent control, which had not been specifically considered in the first edition apart from government price-fixing in general. A few statistics and illustrative references were brought up to date.
Otherwise no changes were made until now. The chief reason was that they were not thought necessary. My book was written to emphasize general economic principles, and the penalties of ignoring them-not the harm done by any specific piece of legislation. While my illustrations were based mainly on American experience, the kind of government interventions I deplored had become so internationalized that I seemed to many foreign readers to be particularly describing the economic policies of their own countries.
Nevertheless, the passage of thirty-two years now seems to me to call for extensive revision. In addition to bringing all illustrations and statistics up to date, I have written an entirely new chapter on rent control; the 1961 discussion now seems inadequate. And I have added a new final chapter, “The Lesson After Thirty Years,” to show why that lesson is today more desperately needed than ever.

Settlement of Somali harassment complaints in Minn. schools to require reporting; School Silences ‘Kids For Christ’

Associated Press:

A Minnesota school district must report to the federal government any future allegations of harassment against Somali students as part of a tentative agreement to end a civil rights investigation, the district’s superintendent said Monday.
St. Cloud Superintendent Bruce Watkins said all but the final details of the agreement had been reached with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The deal up for board approval Thursday night requires that the district make its schools more welcoming to Somalis; it finds that the district broke no federal rules in handling previous incidents, Watkins said.

Todd Starnes:

An Oklahoma school district is facing a lawsuit for allegedly forbidding organizers of a Christian club from promoting events on campus.
“This is a simple matter of a school district targeting a Christian organization,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney representing the “Kids for Christ,” a community-led Christian group suing the Owasso Public Schools.

Top charter school welcomes bullied kids

Susan Troller:

What bullied child or parent of a bullied child has not longed for a school where the quirky kid is safely welcomed instead of shunned, his or her unique talents encouraged instead of rejected?
Such a place — The Alliance School in Milwaukee — not only exists but won top honors as Wisconsin Charter School of the Year at an awards ceremony Oct. 21 at the Discovery Center in Milwaukee.
The Alliance School is a publicly funded charter school in downtown Milwaukee. It provides a safe haven for 165 students, in sixth through 12th grade, about half of whom identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The majority of students at Alliance say they have suffered from bullying at previous schools, many of them taunted with homophobic slurs whether they are gay or not.

Wisconsin Assembly should ice teacher discipline bill

Mary Bell:

If you want to tell if someone is a good driver, you watch them drive. If you want to tell if someone is a good teacher, watch them teach. When it comes to evaluating teachers, the further from the classroom you get, the weaker the measure is.
There’s no doubt about it – high-quality evaluation systems for teachers and principals help students and schools. Our union of educators has called for consistent evaluations for years – and even advanced our own proposal back in January. We have been one of many voices on the State Superintendent’s Educator Effectiveness Design Team, which is near to releasing a comprehensive evaluation framework.
The education community knows what works: professional development, consistent and thorough classroom observation and using results to help good educators become great.
It was troubling, then, when last week the state Senate voted to advance a bill to tie teacher discipline – even firing – to students’ Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) test scores.

Communities Rebel Against Cuomo’s Cap on Local Property Taxes; Madison’s Property Taxes Flat this year after a 9% increase in 2010

Thomas Kaplan

A much-heralded cap on property taxes championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is encountering resistance as some communities across New York chafe at what amounts to a restriction on their spending and seek to exempt themselves from the new limits.
The communities, which include affluent New York City suburbs and rural communities near the border with Canada, are declaring that they cannot restrain the growth of property taxes and still comply with a variety of state-mandated programs and provide the services residents expect. And now dozens of town and county boards are overriding, or proposing to override, the cap.
“We should be able to dictate our own financial future,” said Lee V. A. Roberts, the supervisor in the Westchester County town of Bedford, where the Town Board has already voted to grant itself a waiver from the cap.
The Legislature approved the tax cap in late June, an effort to limit the annual growth of local property taxes to 2 percent or the rate of inflation. After that measure passed, Mr. Cuomo vowed that it would “provide much-needed relief” from rising taxes, and he was so proud of the law that he signed it six times, once in his office and five times on the front lawns of houses in high-tax communities.

The Madison School Board unanimously adopted the 2011-12 district budget and tax levy on Monday, saving the average Madison homeowner $2.74 over their 2010-11 property tax bill.
The $372 million budget requires the district to levy slightly more than $245 million in taxes, down 0.03 percent, or about $62,000, from last year’s levy.
The district gets more than $40 million in state funding and more than $10 million in federal funding. The rest of the budget gap is filled by student fees, special education funding and small-class-size funding, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Erik Kass.
Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $3.5 million spending recommendations were amended into the adopted budget, but Kass said $2.5 million of that amount was reallocated money that already was built into June’s preliminary budget.

Ally Boutelle:

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad has proposed about $3.5 million in additional spending on top of the school district’s current budget for 2012.
MMSD spokesperson Ken Syke said about $2.5 million of that money will come from sources previously unaccounted for, but income taxes in the City of Madison may need to be upped to cover the remaining additions.
“$1.6 million of that [money] became available because of debt defeasance, and $937,000 of it is coming from revenue from a Medicaid time study,” he said.
In addition to the newly available $2.5 million, the district has introduced a recommendation for a total of $1,034,935 in additional funding for school maintenance programs, a statement issued by the district said.

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board is considering about $3.5 million in additional spending proposals before it sets its 2011-12 budget and property tax levy Monday night.
The new spending proposed by Superintendent Dan Nerad would come on top of the $369 million budget approved in June.
For an average Madison home valued at $239,239, the new spending would mean $28.71 more than what the board approved in June, for a December bill of $2,665.12. The school tax bill on the average home still would decline $2.74.
Nerad proposed the new spending because of additional revenue identified by the district since the board voted in June. The net result of the new spending and revenue would be a property tax levy that is about the same as the 2010-11 school year.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2011-2012 $372,000,000 budget, here.

Popcorn, pro-charter school movie served at private Wisconsin Capitol screening

Susan Troller:

The movie event, including the popcorn, was sponsored by Vos, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee — and owns a popcorn company.
Co-sponsors were Education Committee Chairs Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake. Olsen is one of the lead sponsors of the charter authorizing bill, introduced in the Legislature last spring and currently before the Joint Finance Committee.
Panelists for the discussion included Gov. Scott Walker’s policy director, Kimber Liedl; the president of Milwaukee-based St. Anthony School, Zeus Rodriguez; the Urban League of Greater Madison’s charter school development consultant, Laura DeRoche-Perez; and a former president of Madison Teachers Inc., Mike Lipp, who is currently the athletic director at West High School.
There were also a number of panelists who were invited but did not attend, including state Superintendent Tony Evers, Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad, state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and a representative from WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union.

WEAC assesses future of annual convention as school districts consider alternatives

Matthew DeFour:

Most area schools will be closed Thursday and Friday, but with the annual teachers union convention canceled districts are considering whether to do away with the mid-semester break in the future.
Many school districts had already set their calendars for this year by the time the Wisconsin Education Association Council announced in May it would cancel its fall convention.
But Sun Prairie and McFarland have decided to hold classes next year on the days previously set aside for the WEAC convention. Others, including Cambridge, Belleville and DeForest, are thinking about doing the same.
“Early indications are people would favor having regular classes on those days to reduce breaks in instruction for students,” DeForest Superintendent Jon Bales said. “It also allows for the addition of makeup snow days at the end of the year without going too far into the month of June.”

Wisconsin school districts adjust to canceled teacher convention

Matthew Bin Han Ong:

The annual state teachers union convention that has traditionally meant a two-day school holiday at the end of October is off this year, leaving public school districts with decisions about how to schedule students and teachers.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council canceled the convention, which would have been Thursday and Friday this week, after changes in state law weakened the union and its local affiliates.
Without the certainty of having input into school calendars through the negotiations process, members could not guarantee that they could all get the days off from school, said WEAC President Mary Bell, who added that the convention was “the flagship piece of professional development that we provided for members.”
Some school districts, with their calendars already set before the convention was called off, are keeping the school holiday for students but bringing teachers in for training or other activities. Others, such as Waukesha, are keeping the holiday and treating it as two unpaid days for teachers.
The Brown Deer School District scheduled classes.

Is This the Future of Punctuation!? On the misuse of apostrophe’s (did your eye just twitch?) and our increasingly rhetorical language

Henry Hitchings:

Punctuation arouses strong feelings. You have probably come across the pen-wielding vigilantes who skulk around defacing movie posters and amending handwritten signs that advertise “Rest Room’s” or “Puppy’s For Sale.”
People fuss about punctuation not only because it clarifies meaning but also because its neglect appears to reflect wider social decline. And while the big social battles seem intractable, smaller battles over the use of the apostrophe feel like they can be won.
Yet the status of this and other cherished marks has long been precarious. The story of punctuation is one of comings and goings.
Early manuscripts had no punctuation at all, and those from the medieval period suggest haphazard innovation, with more than 30 different marks. The modern repertoire of punctuation emerged as printers in the 15th and 16th centuries strove to limit this miscellany.

When charter schools get too picky

Jay Matthews:

The Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a public charter school. It must hold a random lottery when it has more applicants than vacancies. It is not supposed to be selective.
Yet somehow its average SAT score has risen to the top 10th of 1 percent nationally. Less than 10 percent of its students are from low-income families, compared with 40 percent in its city. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the school is allowed to ask (not require, it emphasizes) that every family donate $3,000 and 40 hours of volunteer time a year.
As a supporter of the charter school movement, I get grief from people who say that charters — independent public schools using tax dollars — are private schools in disguise. They are almost always wrong about that, but there are enough Pacific Collegiate situations to make me wonder whether the rules need revision.

There’s Enough Math in Finance Already. What’s Missing is Imagination.

Jason Gots:

For some of us, it was Spock. For others, a humiliating performance as a pilgrim in the kindergarten musical.  For me, it was William Blake’s relentless (and beautiful) attacks on Reason. But everyone at some point encounters – and many of us swallow – the dangerous notion that creativity and calculation are irreconcilable enemies. 
This perspective lives at the very heart of our school curricula from first grade through graduate school, as our talents are identified and we, complicit in the scheme, label ourselves ‘artistic’ or ‘sporty’ or ‘scientific.’ No doubt there are real, epigenetic differences in the way people think and see the world, but in epigenesis lies the key: Nature gives us talents, but nurture determines how we use them, and how mono or multidimensional our minds become. 
Like many quants – the mathematicians whose equations shape high-stakes decision making on Wall Street – Emanuel Derman arrived on Wall Street with little knowledge of economic theory. Unlike many of his colleagues, though, he had a background in theoretical physics, a field in which imagination and mathematics are happy bedfellows. From 1990-2000, Derman led Goldman Sachs’ Quantitative Strategies group, presiding over the rise of mathematical modeling as the engine driving financial betting on Wall Street. 

Navigating Public School Admissions, With a Consultant’s Help

Rebecca Vevea:

Armed with tote bags for the handouts awaiting them, thousands of Chicago parents shuffled through display tables adorned with brightly colored posters as they faced the daunting task of selecting schools for their children.
For many parents, the school fair, put on by the Neighborhood Parents Network, is their first encounter with the public school system. It is timed to coincide with the opening of the district’s admissions process, which ends in December. Many parents hope to place their children in the growing number of charter, magnet and selective-enrollment elementary schools.”If you hang out with parents of 4-year-olds, the conversation never stops,” said Christine Whitley, a Chicago Public Schools parent. “That’s all they talk about: ‘Where are you sending your child to school?’ ”
As choosing a school becomes increasingly complicated, some entrepreneurial parents, including Ms. Whitley, have started small consulting businesses aimed at helping parents navigate the admission process. But some observers have raised concerns about the potential for parents to game the system.
The district has 482 elementary schools, multiple application forms and five specialty school options in addition to the neighborhood elementary schools: gifted, classical, magnet, magnet cluster and charter. Magnet, magnet cluster and charter schools select students largely through a computerized lottery, but gifted and classical require admission tests for children at age 4 because the schools offer an accelerated curriculum.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Rhode Island’s Pension Mess

Mary Williams Walsh:

ON the night of Sept. 8, Gina M. Raimondo, a financier by trade, rolled up here with news no one wanted to hear: Rhode Island, she declared, was going broke.
Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But if current trends held, Ms. Raimondo warned, the Ocean State would soon look like Athens on the Narragansett: undersized and overextended. Its economy would wither. Jobs would vanish. The state would be hollowed out.
It is not the sort of message you might expect from Ms. Raimondo, a proud daughter of Providence, a successful venture capitalist and, not least, the current general treasurer of Rhode Island. But it is a message worth hearing. The smallest state in the union, it turns out, has a very big debt problem.
After decades of drift, denial and inaction, Rhode Island’s $14.8 billion pension system is in crisis. Ten cents of every state tax dollar now goes to retired public workers. Before long, Ms. Raimondo has been cautioning in whistle-stops here and across the state, that figure will climb perilously toward 20 cents. But the scary thing is that no one really knows. The Providence Journal recently tried to count all the municipal pension plans outside the state system and stopped at 155, conceding that it might have missed some. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions, including the big one: Are these numbers for real?

Should everyone take honors classes?

Jay Matthews:

Earlier this year, I said educators should try eliminating grade-level courses in high school and move everyone into honors or AP courses. Did I think anyone would actually do that? No.
Wrong again. As some upset e-mailers have been telling me, the Anne Arundel County schools are going ahead with such a plan, in a slapdash way made worse by not preparing parents for the change.
Karen Colburn, who has a seventh-grader at Central Middle School in Edgewater, said her advanced-track son found himself in mixed math and English classes slowed to a crawl so non-honors students could catch up. “Kids are repeating things they learned in elementary school,” Colburn said. “Also, supports are not in place for special education children and some standard-level children.”

2 teachers union lobbyists teach for a day to qualify for hefty pensions

Ray Long and Jason Grotto:

SPRINGFIELD —- Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.
Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

The DOJ intervenes on behalf of a Muslim school teacher who claimed that the board of her Illinois school district was guilty of religious bias.

Dorothy Rabinowitz:

In the end it couldn’t have come as any great shock when the Department of Justice intervened on behalf of a Muslim school teacher who claimed that the board of her Illinois school district was guilty of religious bias. Nor could it have come as any surprise that the Board of Education, Berkeley School District 87 Cook Country Illinois, was finally forced to settle the case brought against it by the DOJ. Still, even Americans accustomed to the relentless — more precisely the relentlessly selective — political correctness of the Obama Justice Department had to have been startled at the facts of this case and the deranged notions of equity that had impelled Eric Holder’s DOJ to go rushing into battle against the school district.
The school teacher in question, Safoorah Khan, a middle school math lab instructor, had worked at the school for barely a year when she applied for some 19 days unpaid leave so that she could make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The school district denied the request: She was the only math lab instructor the school had, her absence would come just at the period before exams, and furthermore, the leave she wanted was outside the bounds set for all teachers under their union contract.

Student Loan Bubble: Debt socialization?

David Jackson:

The White House describes the changes:

Today, the Obama Administration announced it is taking steps to increase college affordability by making it easier to manage student loan debt. The announcement is part of a series of executive actions to put Americans back to work and strengthen the economy because we can’t wait for Congressional Republicans to act.
The Administration is moving forward with a new “Pay As You Earn” proposal that will reduce monthly payments for more than one and a half million current college students and borrowers. Starting in 2014, borrowers will be able to reduce their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income. But President Obama realizes that many students need relief sooner than that. The new “Pay As You Earn” proposal will allow about 1.6 million students the ability to cap their loan payments at 10 percent starting next year, and the plan will forgive the balance of their debt after 20 years of payments. Additionally, starting this January an estimated 6 million students and recent college graduates will be able to consolidate their loans and reduce their interest rates. …
Current law allows borrowers to limit their loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years. However, few students know about this option. Students can find out if they are currently eligible for IBR at Last year, the President proposed, and Congress enacted, a plan to further ease student loan debt payment by lowering the IBR loan payment to 10 percent of income, and the forgiveness timeline to 20 years. This change is set to go into effect for all new borrowers after 2014–mostly impacting future college students.

Bill Frezza:

In the realm of economic stimulus proposals, none is as audacious, as Machiavellian, and as transparently designed to buy the votes of a critical electoral demographic than the proposal to forgive all student loans. Even if it fails, as it likely will, the seamless coordination between members of Congress, leftist advocacy groups, and the media to try to sell this idea is a perfect example of how brilliantly certain factions play their hand in the high-stakes game of crafting the dominant political narrative.
Launched into the teeth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, where unemployable art history majors share tents with urine soaked street bums, Rep. Hansen Clark’s (D-Mich) bill to forgive outstanding student loans is finding strong resonance among young people who want their voices heard. Those protesting bailouts are now shouting, “I Want Mine.”

Schools rolling out new fundraisers: food truck nights

Angel Jennings:

Echo Lau drove to Whitney High School on a recent Monday evening to pick up her kids. She left with dinner.
The student parking lot at the Cerritos campus is transformed every week into a congested food truck stop as eight mobile eateries attract the business of loyal followers, parents and students.
But this isn’t a typical stop for these catering trucks; this is a school fundraiser, in which a portion of the proceeds go directly to Whitney to help pay for a new multi-media center.
Outdoor food courts are popping up in the parking lots of at least a dozen high schools across Southern California with more on the way. Financially strapped public schools — hit hard by budget cuts, new fundraising guidelines, and fewer donors — have found a way to capitalize on the food truck craze.

Old, crumbling schools are, sadly, a Wisconsin tradition

Paul Fanlund:

Last week I walked into West High School for the first time since our daughter, Kate, graduated in 2001.
I’d been warned I might be taken aback by how much the place had changed in a decade. But in fact, I had the opposite reaction. Based on my few hours there, it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all.
It had the same delightful, eclectic, intellectual vibe and ethnic diversity one would expect at the public high school located nearest the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Its student body of 2,100 — largest of the city’s four high schools — hails from 55 countries. It routinely has more semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships, 26 last year, than any school in Wisconsin.

Related: Madison School District maintenance referendums.

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

Matt Richtel:

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.
This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

We Petition the Obama Administration to promote legislation to prevent public schools from starting earlier than 8 a.m.

Terra Snider, via a kind JH Snider email:

Considerable research confirms the relationship between school start times, sleep deprivation, and student performance, truancy, and absenteeism, as well as depression, mood swings, impulse control, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making, obesity, stimulant abuse, automobile accidents, and suicide. Mounting evidence about the biology of adolescent sleep, and about the impact of later start times, shows that starting school before 8 a.m. not only undermines academic achievement but endangers health and safety. Because logistical and financial issues prevent local school systems from establishing safe and educationally defensible hours, however, federal legislation mandating start times consistent with student health and educational well-being is essential.

Terra Snider:

As the parent of two former and one current Severna Park High School student, I’ve been living with the issue of early high school start times for years. Although the consensus of scientific opinion is that teenagers (and young adults) would be better off if school hours were better aligned with their biological clocks, the possibility of changing school hours inevitably sparks raging controversy, both here and across the country.
Changing school hours costs money, and we all know school systems don’t have a lot of that on hand. It also means changing the way we do things, and most of us don’t like doing that much either. On the other hand, Moses didn’t come down from Mount Sinai with commandments that schools must start at 7:17 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m.
Surely if we know students learn better, and are healthier and safer, with different hours, we should make that our number one priority. Shouldn’t we?
The Severna Park High School CAC (and the now defunct countywide CAC) have been working on the issue of high school start time for years, decades even – to no avail. Many of us have become convinced that the only solution to the problem is a national mandate. That’s why I created a petition on We the People on, a new platform that allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues.

Will Dropouts Save America?

Michael Ellsberg:

I TYPED these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.
American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.

Parents Urged Again to Limit TV for Youngest

Benedict Carey:

Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned on Tuesday. Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.
The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a “media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.
“We felt it was time to revisit this issue because video screens are everywhere now, and the message is much more relevant today that it was a decade ago,” said Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin, Tex., and the lead author of the academy’s policy, which appears in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics.

States rewrite education rules, with or without Race to the Top

Ben Wieder:

Some of the states rejected for federal “Race to the Top” education grants are proceeding to revamp their school systems anyway — in some cases more ambitiously than states that won.
Colorado, for example, is moving forward with a new system tying teacher and principal reviews to student performance. That sort of linkage is central to the Race to the Top program. “We’ve had dramatic changes,” says Mike Johnston, a Democratic state senator who sponsored the legislation creating the new system. Johnston says losing out on the federal grant “was more of an opportunity to lay out our plan for reform.”
Colorado is one of six states — along with Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and South Carolina — that achieved finalist status in the first two rounds of the U.S. Education Department’s $4 billion Race to the Top competition but walked away empty-handed.

Shock at revisiting my high school

Jay Matthews:

This summer I moved back to my boyhood house in San Mateo, California, after 48 years living elsewhere, mostly on the east coast and in China. My California-born wife and I are Golden State chauvinists of the sentimental kind. We have framed orange crate labels on our walls. We choke up when we hear “California Dreamin'” on the radio.
San Mateo looked pretty much the same. But I found I wasn’t recapturing the simpler days of my youth. When I started reconnecting with favorite spots like my old high school, I encountered complexities and advances I had not expected, particularly after the many headlines about California in decline.
The little house where I grew up on Voelker Drive still has no garbage disposal, no dishwasher, and no air-conditioning. But my brother Jim, the computer teacher at Baywood Elementary School, set up a Wi-Fi system and satellite TV. I felt up-to-date until I visited my alma mater, Hillsdale High School, a sprawling campus two blocks away on Alameda de las Pulgas.

Why do we still vary?

Razib Khan:

I notice that last summer Karl Smith asked “Why Are There Short People?” His logic is pretty good, except for the fact that the fitness variation seems to be much starker in males than females (there is some evidence I’ve seen that shorter women can be more fertile, though that’s balanced by the fact that larger women seem to be able to manage gestation better). In any case, height seems to be a fitness enhancing trait which is highly heritable, and yet the variation in height remains!
Karl’s readers offered some reasons. What do you think? Mind you, something which immediately comes to mind is that the logic presented for why everyone should be tall and vary only a touch is logic. Not all the assumptions need to hold. For example, has the advantage to height been invariant at all times and places? I have posited for example that the fact that humans became smaller after the Ice Age may have something to do with increased morbidity and declining mortality, where agricultural settlements “hugged” the Malthusian boundary more consistently than hunter-gatherers. In this sort of environment smaller individuals may have gained a fitness advantage because they required fewer resources to make it through the inevitable “starving times.”*

A Flawed Logic on Milwaukee School Finance

Mike Ford:

Milwaukee school board member Terrence Falk this week points out a looming budget disaster for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS): underfunded legacy costs. It is an issue we have followed here at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Unfortunately Falk sees fit to blame the Milwaukee school choice program for an issue rooted in collective bargaining agreements struck over fifteen years before the choice program began. Falk writes:

“Much of the problem directly relates to the impact of the choice or voucher program. The funding voucher flaw was partly fixed under the previous Democratic state administration, and it helped place our books more in balance. In addition, if all the students who left MPS for suburbs and private schools were still in MPS, the school system would have far fewer problems in supporting these retirees. But the new expansion of the voucher program and the state funding cuts make the long term viability of this school district perilous.”

Blaming the choice program makes little sense. What Falk calls the funding voucher flaw does not cost MPS revenue.

Transporting Finland’s education success to U.S.

Mark Phillips:

Finland is dominating my educational radar screen.
When I read Linda Darling Hammond’s excellent “The Flat World and Education” (2010) a few months ago, her description of “The Finnish Success Story” fascinated me. Watching the film American Teacher last month, the most hopeful piece of information for me was that in Finland teaching is the most admired job by college students. In the Q and A that followed a local showing of the movie, questions and comments about the Finnish system dominated. A few days later The Answer Sheet reprinted a compelling letter from Diane Ravitch to Deborah Meier reporting on her visit to Finland and on the Finnish system of education. Finland. Finland. Finland.
And now comes a book by Pasi Sahlberg, the leading authority on Finland’s educational reform strategy, “Finnish Lessons,” to be published next month by Teachers College Press. A former teacher, leader of professional development for the Ministry of Education and then with the World Bank, where he wrote a definitive report on Finnish education, Sahlberg is now the leader of one of Finland’s major organizations in the field of innovation.

Charters and Minority Progress

Wall Street Journal:

A tragedy of American politics is that civil rights groups like the NAACP oppose education reform, even as reform’s main beneficiaries are poor and minority students in places like Harlem and New Orleans. The latest evidence comes in a study showing that black students in charter schools outperform their peers in traditional public schools.
The California Charter Schools Association looked at the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), which runs on a scale from 200 to 1000, and found that the average black charter student outscored the average black traditional school student by an average of 18 points over the last four years of publicly available data.
In reform hubs like Los Angeles, the charter advantage was 22 points, in Sacramento 48 points, in Oakland 51 and in San Francisco 150. In San Diego, the other major urban center, traditional schools outscored charters by an average of eight points.

Grading the Teachers Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance

Melinda & Bill Gates:

America’s schoolteachers are some of the most brilliant, driven and highly skilled people working today–exactly the kind of people we want shaping young minds. But they are stuck in a system that doesn’t treat them like professionals.
In most workplaces, there is an implicit bargain: Employees get the support they need to excel at their jobs, and employers build a system to evaluate their performance. The evaluations yield information that employees use to improve–and that employers use to hold employees accountable for results.
At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not. Teachers don’t work in anything like this kind of environment, and they want a new bargain.

The State Of Education In Nebraska


After a bleak State of the Schools Report was released Wednesday by Nebraska’s Department of Education, many are wondering what needs to be changed in our schools to improve student scores. One special Omaha Public Schools teacher is not discouraged.
The Nebraska Teacher of the Year was awarded Tuesday at Liberty Elementary School at 20th and St. Mary. She has been a kindergarten teacher there for the past eight years. Despite the report, which some would say is disappointing, Luisa Palomo has a lot of hope for our students.
Palomo made her first official address under her new title Thursday at UNO to high school students interested in becoming future educators. “I did not see it coming, but I’m thrilled, I’m thrilled that I get to share the good things that are happening at our school and in Omaha with people around the country.”
Some of the alarming statistics outlined in the report show that Nebraska is falling behind, particularly in math scores. Palomo says steps are being taken to improve Nebraska’s education scores, including here in Omaha.

Some of the costs of doing education business with Washington

Education Sector:

Excerpt from Mikhail Zinshteyn’s article:
As the Senate moves forward with Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) bill to overhaul U.S. K-12 education, with a greater emphasis coming on the side of local control and funding flexibility, states are still shouldering federal expectations that aren’t expected to go away any time soon.
Here are two education funding obligations states have to the federal government — even as the country moves beyond NCLB — and one way for states to increase its funding flexibility.
One obligation to have persistently earned the ire of education advocates is test funding, with repeated critiques coming down on “billions” spent on assessments and test preparation. Sure, billions are being allocated, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to overall education spending.
Before NCLB, most states already had some form of student assessment in place. The 2002 law mandated no fewer than nine grades be monitored for student proficiency and improvement — a six grade jump from what was required previously. The costs of implementing, issuing, grading, and analyzing those assessments makes up a soupcon of total education spending.

Tea Party and Teachers’ Union Make Strange Brew

Jonathan Alter:

The age-old tension between federal authority and states’ rights is back in a big way in this year’s presidential campaign, with Republican candidates taking the let-the-states-handle-it position on everything from environmental regulation to health-care reform.
Now President Barack Obama’s education policy, a rare bipartisan winner, may also be headed back to the states, which were collectively responsible in recent years for dumbing down standards, ignoring obvious failure and otherwise jeopardizing the whole future of the country.
With the support of Republicans, Obama over the past three years has moved aggressively to set high education standards from Washington and let states and localities figure out how to meet them. But now the Tea Party is pushing Republicans to abolish the Department of Education and resist any federal “intrusions” into education.

Senate Panel Approves Bill That Rewrites Education Law

Sam Dillon:

Legislation rewriting the No Child Left Behind education law finally gained traction this week, and the Senate Democrat whose committee passed the bill said on Friday that progress became possible because lawmakers were irritated by the Obama administration’s offering states waivers to the law’s key provisions.
“Some of us on both sides of the aisle were upset with them coming out with the waiver package that they did, so that spurred us on,” Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who heads the Senate education committee, said in an interview. “It gave us a sense of urgency.”
Mr. Harkin’s committee voted 15 to 7 on Thursday to approve a bill that would greatly reduce Washington’s role in overseeing public schools. It was co-sponsored by Senator Michael B. Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who is the committee’s ranking minority member. Mr. Harkin called it “a good compromise bill” that would have bipartisan support in the full Senate.

History of Charter Schools; Second in the Series

Save Seattle Schools:

To note; again, not hugely comprehensive but a look at what the basic history is of charter schools. I think the history can best be summed up by saying the charter schools idea started as one thing and spread, like cracks on a windshield, in all directions. This is not to say that there are not some charters that are innovative. (I still need to do research to see if I can find even one charter that reflects the earliest thinking.)
Like NCLB, where we have 50 different tests and no real way to prove how American students are doing as a whole, there is charter law in 41 states and the District of Columbia and every single law is different, the numbers of allowed charters is different, the accountability is different and yet, the movement grows. When I get to the Landscape Today, I have some thoughts on why that is (and it’s not because charters do well).

More freedom for school choice

Aaron Rodriguez

In a seminal paper published in 1955, Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman envisaged a universal school choice program for parents of all economic stripes to find schools best suited to their children. Friedman argued that injecting competition into the education market would greatly expand the range of parental choice and result in higher levels of academic attainment.
Unfortunately, today’s school choice programs have yet to provide a real test for Friedman’s free market thesis. They are simply too encumbered with anti-competitive and anti-free market constraints meant to equalize opportunities for disadvantaged students.
Despite the constraints, some choice programs around the country have shown encouraging results. Studies in Florida, Maine, Vermont, Ohio and Wisconsin have demonstrated that the proximity of choice programs to public schools had improved public school performance.
A 2001 study done by Caroline Hoxby, an economist from Harvard University, showed that Milwaukee’s choice program had improved public school performance in math, science, language and social studies. Five more studies ensued, each showing results of increased academic productivity. According to Hoxby, just the threat of introducing choice competition into school districts had provoked a marked rise in public school productivity.

2011-2012 $369,394,753 Madison Schools Budget update

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet “Fund Equity“, or the District’s reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District’s property tax “underlevy” (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).
2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.
I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We’ve seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment.
Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District’s 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama’s Proposed Jobs Bill.

Minority Student Achievement Network Plan of Action

Madison School District Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad 215K PDF Presentation

During the annual conference the team of students engaged in.
1. College planning including a tour of Missouri University
2. Participated in Achievement Gap Readings including discussions and student action planning
3. Shared their ideas about how to motivate students to succeed and how their school could be made a meaningful and interesting place
4. Developed plans of action to implement these strategies for change and report these valuable messages to the academic leaders of their schools and districts (See Attached- MSAN Students Conference Agenda)

Madison Prep is so much more than same-sex classes

Scott Milfred

Let’s see:

  • A longer school day and year, with July classes.
  • Higher standards, expectations and school uniforms.
  • Mandated extracurricular activities.
  • Grades for parents based on their involvement at the school.
  • More minority teachers as role models.
  • More connections and internships with local employers.
  • Millions in private fundraising.

If the Madison Preparatory Academy can pull off all of that, how could it not improve the academic success of its largely black and Latino students?
That’s the big picture view Madison should adopt as it considers the Urban League of Greater Madison’s intriguing charter school request. Instead, a disproportionate amount of time and concern has been spent on a final part of the proposal:
Same-sex classrooms.

Related: Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Acdemy IB Charter school.

School Fear and Panic

Terrence Falk:

When the notice went out that there would be a facilities planning meeting at Reagan High School a few weeks back, the rumor shot around that the administration was considering closing Reagan and that people should pack the meeting to protest such a move. In reality, facilities planning meetings were being held all over the school district, including most high schools, to figure out the direction for the entire district. Milwaukee has more school buildings than what it needs, and we need to close some of our oldest buildings, but that does not mean Reagan is on the chopping block.
When the school year began this fall, school officials at both Rufus King and Riverside high schools discovered that each school was about a hundred students short. When they contacted the missing students, they discovered that many of them had elected to attend suburban and private high schools after hearing the dire predictions of overcrowded classrooms and cancelled programs.
Make no mistake about it, both schools took a financial hit, but the death of either school was wildly exaggerated. Both schools had to dig deeply into their waiting lists to fill up their student ranks this fall. Fortunately both schools report that recent orientation sessions for prospective students and parents were once again filled, and both schools will have little trouble filling their school with new students next school year.

High cost of first-year community college dropouts

Nanette Asimov:

Like making a bad bet in Vegas, taxpayers gamble hundreds of millions of dollars a year on community college students who quit as freshmen – many in California.
A new study shows that from 2004 to 2009, Americans spent nearly $4 billion on full-time students who dropped out after one year and didn’t transfer.
California’s first-year dropouts benefited from $480 million in tax-funded grants and allocations in that time – more than any other state – says the study, “The Hidden Costs of Community Colleges,” from the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C.
“I’m not in favor of pumping more money into the existing system where so many students don’t succeed,” said Mark Schneider, author of the report and vice president of the research group.
The 17-page report doesn’t advocate cutting off dollars to schools. Instead, it urges colleges to do a better job of retaining students: making it easier for them to get the classes they need, rewarding colleges for reducing dropouts or penalizing them for failing to do so. It also encourages officials to gather better information about what’s actually happening on their campuses.

Blame Game: Let’s Talk Honestly About Bad Teachers

Andrew Rotherham:

When a prominent educational figure remarked that, “a lot of people who have been hired as teachers are basically not competent,” it was a rare candid statement about teacher quality. The comment arguably overstates the problem and — in fairness — he was also quick to point out that with several million teachers there would of course be some lousy ones, just as there would be in any field. Still, it was a jarring thing to say.
Education policy debates are often like an argument between a couple in a bad relationship — about everything except the actual problems. Our leaders seem congenitally unable to lead a difficult but honest conversation about our nation’s teaching force that acknowledges that several things are all true at once — we have a teacher quality problem and a management problem, teachers are not to blame for all that ails our schools, we can’t fire our way to better schools, but removing some percentage of low-performers would be quite good for students. Instead we have a shallow debate dancing around the thing that matters most in schools: instructional quality.