Competition for 2 Madison School Board Seats

Matthew DeFour:

Nichols said though she disagreed with Silveira’s vote, “This is bigger than Madison Prep.”
“My motivation comes from listening to a lot of the community dialogue over the last year and hearing the voices of community members who want greater accountability, who want more diversity in the decision-making and just a call for change,” Nichols said.
Silveira did not return a call for comment Friday.
Two candidates have announced plans to run for the other School Board seat up for election next spring, which is being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. They are Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, and Michael Flores, a Madison firefighter, parent and East High graduate.

Will high-school football become a big-money sport?

Ben McGrath:

THE SPORTING SCENE about the football program at Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, New Jersey. Don Bosco, which belongs to the Salesian order of Roman Catholicism, was founded in 1915, as a boarding school for Polish boys, and shut its dormitories for good in 1969. Its reinvention as a football factory began in 1999, with the arrival of a new principal, Father John Talamo.) Talamo, who was thirty-four, had grown up on the outskirts of New Orleans, and brought with him the football-centric values of his native Louisiana.

Charter School Climate Comparison: Illinois education officials review proposals for charter school at Great Lakes Naval Station

Associated Press, via a kind reader’s email:

State and local education officials are reviewing proposals for a charter school at Great Lakes Naval Station in northern Illinois.
The Illinois State Board of Education and a school district in North Chicago say they’ve gotten three applications to run a charter school on the base.
The school would be open to all families within the district’s boundaries, including those not connected to the military.

Review the charter proposal here: Charter School Opportunity PDF.
Related: The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

Why is India so low in the Pisa rankings?

Tyler Cowen:

That is a request from J. and here is one recent story, with much more at the link:

A global study of learning standards in 74 countries has ranked India all but at the bottom, sounding a wake-up call for the country’s education system. China came out on top.

On this question, you can read a short Steve Sailer post, with comments attached. Here are my (contrasting) observations:
1. A big chunk of India is still at the margin where malnutrition and malaria and other negatives matter for IQ. Indian poverty is the most brutal I have seen, anywhere, including my two trips to sub-Saharan Africa or in my five trips to Haiti. I don’t know if Pisa is testing those particular individuals, but it still doesn’t bode well for the broader distribution, if only through parental effects.

Want to Improve Schools? Make Parent Involvement Meaningful

Al Vann:

Truly involving parents and communities in our public schools, and the decisions that affect them, is essential to improving our school system.
While parent involvement is crucial to a child’s educational success, the reality is that such involvement is not always present for various reasons. However, the larger communities in which a student’s school and home are located also play an instrumental role in nurturing educational achievement, as expressed by the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Unfortunately over the past several years, the Department of Education has consistently failed to meaningfully empower and involve these important stakeholders in its decisions about schools. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the Education Department’s decisions and proposals regarding closing or phasing out schools, and opening new ones.

Fargo’s Plains Art Museum to open K-5 art education center

Dan Gunderson

The Plains Art Museum announced plans Thursday to open a “Center for Creativity” that will teach art to thousands of local elementary school students.
The $2.8 million center will open next fall near the museum in downtown Fargo.
Museum Director Colleen Sheehy said in the first year the center will serve 5,000 Fargo elementary students. Schools will pay a fee for the classes.
Ultimately, Sheehy said the new center will teach art education to the 12,000 K-5 students in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Programs offered at the center will replace some existing art education programs in the schools.
The center will significantly increase the number of people who use the museum, she said.

Education and Income, Not Race

Ivory A. Toldson:

Lower marriage rates among black women have less to do with the character of black men, and more to do with specific social characteristics that are associated with lower marriage rates among all men and women, but are more common among black people. A black woman with a postsecondary degree is more likely to be married than a white woman who dropped out of high school. A black woman with a personal annual income of more than $75,000 is more than twice as likely to be married as white women who live in poverty. White women living in New York and Los Angeles have much lower marriage rates than most black women who live in small towns.
Black and white women who are younger than 40 have higher college graduation rates, lower incarceration rates and lower mortality rates when compared to their male counterparts. However, black men on average have higher incomes than black women, and there are hundreds of thousands more black men earning $75,000 a year or more than black women. Eighty-eight percent of all married black men are married to black women, a figure that changes less than five percentage points with more education and income.

Undocumented students learn about path to college

Rupa Shenoy:

More than 100 students attended Minnesota’s first-ever conference for undocumented high school students seeking a college education Saturday at the University of Minnesota.
The event, organized by the group Navigate, included workshops on the legal and financial steps to college.
Navigate Executive Director Juventino Meza said the group had a lot of support for the event, but he says there was some criticism over calling it a conference for, quote, “undocumented students.”
“And we decided, you know what, there is a negative rhetoric already in our communities and there is fear, and we want to make sure students have a space where they can be undocumented — where they can talk about it and ask questions,” he said.

Study finds faults in S.C. colleges and universities

Wayne Washington:

Many South Carolina public colleges and universities are excessively expensive and have strayed too far from their core mission: educating students, according to a recent study by a Columbia-based think tank.
Tuition is rising faster than household income in South Carolina, says the study of eight colleges and universities by the S.C. Policy Council, a public policy research and education foundation that advocates for more limited government.
The study, which did not include Winthrop University, The Citadel and many other state institutions, also says:
The colleges and universities do a poor job of retaining and graduating students.

L.A. schools’ healthful lunch menu panned by students

Teresa Watanabe:

It’s lunchtime at Van Nuys High School and students stream into the cafeteria to check out the day’s fare: black bean burgers, tostada salad, fresh pears and other items on a new healthful menu introduced this year by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
But Iraides Renteria and Mayra Gutierrez don’t even bother to line up. Iraides said the school food previously made her throw up, and Mayra calls it “nasty, rotty stuff.” So what do they eat? The juniors pull three bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and soda from their backpacks.
“This is our daily lunch,” Iraides says. “We’re eating more junk food now than last year.”
For many students, L.A. Unified’s trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.

Paper pursues a political agenda as it accuses teacher of pursuing a political agenda

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

It’s dangerous to be away. I briefly left the country a few weeks ago, and while I was gone, the district superintendent announced her retirement and The Spokesman-Review (SR) launched what I see as a media “lynching” of a local high school teacher.
Did you read about the attack on Jennifer Walther, an Advanced Placement English teacher ( search) at Ferris High School in Spokane, WA? Are you shocked by the newspaper’s biased coverage? I’m not shocked. Nowadays, the SR doesn’t bear much resemblance to the newspapers I’ve enjoyed reading. Smaller, thinner and nastier, it contains less content, less local news and more ads. Often biased, incomplete or hypocritical, the paper tolerates questionable material that fits an editorial agenda.
I’m an avid newspaper reader, but I canceled the SR in 2008 when it kept quoting unsubstantiated rumors from the ex-boyfriend of the daughter of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Things have not improved since then.
Now, the SR is using its bully pulpit to accuse Walther of doing something the SR appears to do nearly every day of the week – pursue a biased political agenda. Evidence suggests that, rather than stand up for this teacher, the school district and teachers union initiated or are assisting with the pile-on.

STEM charter high school planned at DSU

Wade Malcolm:

Earlier this year, two top Delaware State University officials visited two colleges in Ohio.
President Harry L. Williams and Provost Alton Thompson took the trips not to meet with fellow leaders in higher education. They wanted to see two high schools — operated by and located on the campuses of Akron University and Lorain County Community College.
The model they saw in action on their visits is known as “Early College High School.” And if the state approves its charter school application, DSU will open the first school of that type in Delaware on its Dover campus by the fall of 2013.

Five Things the Census Revealed About America in 2011

William H. Frey, Alan Berube, Audrey Singer, Jill Wilson:

A cascade of statistics from the 2010 Census and other Census Bureau sources released during 2011 show a nation in flux–growing and moving more slowly as it ages, infused by racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants in its younger ranks, and struggling economically across a decade bookended by two recessions. The nation’s largest metropolitan areas, and especially their suburbs, stood on the front lines of America’s evolving demographic transformation. Following is a slideshow of the five most important findings to emerge from our State of Metropolitan America analyses over the past year. Additional insight from co-author William H. Frey is available in a related video and at

Final 2011-12 Sun Prairie Tax Levies & Mill Rates


Wow….talk about standing out in a crowd!
The SPASD Administration wants SPASD to stand out, and it sure does now.
We’re the leaders! Well…in millrate anyway.
If we look at SPASD vs. the 20 similar sized school districts (10 larger and 10 smaller in enrollments), Sun Prairie is head and shoulders above the rest in mill rate ($12.62) and has the 4th highest tax levy!
While our rival, Middleton-Cross Plains bests out slightly in terms of tax levy, we cream them in mill rate.
A $200,000 home in Sun Prairie will pay $482 MORE in taxes this year than a similar value home in MCPSD.

The Uncertain Future Of Charter School Proliferation

Matthew Di Carlo:

As discussed in prior posts, high-quality analyses of charter school effects show that there is wide variation in the test-based effects of these schools but that, overall, charter students do no better than their comparable regular public school counterparts. The existing evidence, though very tentative, suggests that the few schools achieving large gains tend to be well-funded, offer massive amounts of additional time, provide extensive tutoring services and maintain strict, often high-stakes discipline policies.
There will always be a few high-flying chains dispersed throughout the nation that get results, and we should learn from them. But there’s also the issue of whether a bunch of charters schools with different operators using diverse approaches can expand within a single location and produce consistent results.
Charter supporters typically argue that state and local policies can be leveraged to “close the bad charters and replicate the good ones.” Opponents, on the other hand, contend that successful charters can’t expand beyond a certain point because they rely on selection bias of the best students into these schools (so-called “cream skimming”), as well as the exclusion of high-needs students.

Teachers accused of cheating still working in schools

Diane Rado and Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah:

Educators forced out or disciplined by local districts over cheating and other state testing violations continued working in schools or administering state exams as their cases languished in Springfield without investigation, the Tribune has learned.
Contrary to Illinois law, state officials for years didn’t investigate or pursue discipline of educators reported for testing misconduct — from excessive coaching to giving students answers to prepping them with actual test questions, a Tribune investigation found. Some may have been allowed to keep teaching even if the state had investigated, but in the meantime, educators were allowed to jump easily to new jobs while the state delayed.
Illinois State Board of Education officials say they were instead focused on higher-priority discipline cases because of limited resources, though lawmakers have given the agency $1.3 million since 2008-09 to pursue educator misconduct. Typically, they addressed violations by throwing out test results and letting local officials discipline educators.

Buffalo group’s education initiative receives federal funding

Mary Pasciak:

Buffalo’s Promise Neighborhood project was one of five in the nation to secure federal funding to provide “cradle to career” services for children in an effort to improve educational outcomes among low-income areas, federal officials announced today.
The local initiative will receive five years of funding from the federal government, including $1.5 million in its first year. M&T Bank this fall pledged to match the federal funds and to raise an additional $9 million in private funding.
The initiative is largely modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, where families in a 100-block area receive wraparound services, from health care to educational support, beginning with prenatal care and leading through high school graduation.
Buffalo’s Promise Neighborhood will focus on the 14215 ZIP code, building on the success that has been realized in the Westminster Community Charter School. The plan seeks to stabilize the neighborhood, increase services to families, and ultimately improve the education at three schools in that area: Bennett High School, Highgate Heights Elementary and Westminster Community Charter School.

‘No Excuses’ Is Not Just for Teachers

Laura Klein:

When asked to identify the qualities that lead to success in life, experts often list the ability to overcome obstacles. Pushing past adversity, through determination and persistence, is the hallmark of the greatest leaders, the most successful parents, the most prized employees, we are told. Those who make no excuses, who do whatever it takes to get something done, are the ones who have the capacity to achieve greatness.
In education, we focus a lot on accommodating our student’s needs. We have English Language Learners (E.L.L.s) and special education students. We have kids with emotional disturbances and anger issues. We have kids who are acting out, and kids who are uninterested or bored.
It’s our job to teach them no matter what. We are often the adults that children see with the most consistency and frequency, and we are responsible for their educations, in the broadest sense of that word. But to truly help them be successful, we ourselves have to embody the “no excuses” attitude.

Glass says Iowa education reforms will take time

Mike Glover:

The director of the Iowa Department of Education said he’s willing to be patient with his plan to overhaul the state’s public school system, acknowledging that many people aren’t ready for changes he thinks are essential.
Gov. Terry Branstad chose 40-year-old Jason Glass largely because of his background in education reform, and since coming to Iowa he has been leading the push for dramatic changes to the state’s public schools.
Because he began his job only a couple weeks before the last legislative session began, this was supposed to be the session where Glass would see his ambitious plans enacted. He proposed a 15-page package of proposals that would shake up the state’s schools, changing the way they do business on everything from paying teachers to opening the profession to non-traditional educators.
That still may happen, but Branstad has temporarily shelved a proposed tiered system of teacher pay that increased salaries for beginning teachers and let teacher move through a series of pay grades based on performance in the classroom.

529 college savings plans have their downsides

Walter Hamilton and Stuart Pfeifer:

Sherri and Cliff Nitschke thought they were planning wisely for their children’s college educations when they opened a 529 savings account in 1998.
The Fresno couple saved diligently over the years in hopes of avoiding costly student loans. But their timing couldn’t have been worse.
When they needed the money a decade later, their 529 account had plunged in value during the global financial crisis. Their portfolio sank 30% in 2008, forcing the Nitschkes to borrow heavily to send their two sons to UCLA.
“529s were no friend to us,” Cliff Nitschke said. “Honestly, it’s probably one of the worst things we did. I could have made more money putting it in a mayonnaise jar and burying it in the backyard.”
Over the last decade, 529 savings plans have surged in popularity as parents scramble to keep up with rapidly escalating college costs.

Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students

Yun Xiang, Michael Dahlin, John Cronin, Robert Theaker, Sarah Durant:

Fordham’s latest study, “Do High Flyers Maintain Their Altitude? Performance Trends of Top Students,” is the first to examine the performance of America’s highest-achieving children over time at the individual-student level. Produced in partnership with the Northwest Evaluation Association, it finds that many high-achieving students struggle to maintain their elite performance over the years and often fail to improve their reading ability at the same rate as their average and below-average classmates. The study raises troubling questions: Is our obsession with closing achievement gaps and “leaving no child behind” coming at the expense of our “talented tenth”–and America’s future international competitiveness? Read on to learn more.

Schools build the mind, not body

Tang Yue & Yang Wanli:

The Chinese-language teacher “borrowed” the time allocated for physical education. Again. Instead of 45 minutes of running and playing, there was a quiz on reading and writing.
“We’re used to it. We knew she would never pay (the time) back,” Rong Yiyang, a third-grader, said as he blinked behind his glasses.
Losing a sports lesson that Tuesday morning pained him more than ever. The 9-year-old boy had just quit the school’s basketball team because practice was conflicting with his after-school English class.
Here comes the unwritten rule for Rong and most other Chinese students: Exercise is not bad, but study takes priority – despite a nationwide requirement that schools get kids moving regularly.

State education plan underwhelms

The Virginian – Pilot:

With one hand, Gov. Bob McDonnell touted his plan this week to pump millions more dollars over the next two years into Virginia’s K-12 education system. With the other, he proposed cutting millions of dollars that will leave holes in the budgets of school districts across the commonwealth.
The result, unfortunately, is a budget that fails to boost the quality of K-12 education in Virginia and, in fact, may ultimately undermine it.
McDonnell’s decision to withhold inflationary adjustments for so-called “non-personal” education expenses, including school utilities and employee health care and student transportation, means localities will be forced to cover an extra $109 million over the next two years. Revising a formula that factors in federal funds will allow the state to save another $108 million.

Schools Look to Donors: Private Fund Pours Money Into Bridgeport’s System, Following National Trend

Shelly Banjo & Lisa Fleisher:

Wealthy donors have created a fund to pay the salary of a new Bridgeport school superintendent, ushering in hopes of a new era of private money for reform efforts in Connecticut’s most troubled school system.
City and school officials said the fund would be administered by the Fairfield County Community Foundation, a $150 million organization where Democratic Rep. Jim Himes and former Bridgeport mayoral hopeful Mary-Jane Foster serve as board members.

‘Alarming’ new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools

Brian M. Rosenthal:

African-American students whose primary language is English perform significantly worse in math and reading than black students who speak another language at home — typically immigrants or refugees — according to new numbers released by Seattle Public Schools.
District officials, who presented the finding at a recent community meeting at Rainier Beach High School, noted the results come with caveats, but called the potential trend troubling and pledged to study what might be causing it.
Michael Tolley, an executive director overseeing Southeast Seattle schools, said at the meeting that the data exposed a new achievement gap that is “extremely, extremely alarming.”
The administration has for years analyzed test scores by race. It has never before broken down student-achievement data by specific home language or country of origin — it is rare for school districts to examine test scores at that level — but it is unlikely that the phenomenon the data suggest is actually new.

Iowa Governor Branstad reforms could bring more class time

Associated Press:

Sweeping education reforms proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad are likely to include the creation of a task force that would consider extending the amount of time Iowa students spend in school.
Branstad announced in October that he’ll ask lawmakers to approve reforms aimed at improving education for Iowa’s 468,000 students and better the quality of the state’s teachers.
Class-time extensions were not included in his original plan.
But Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, last week told an advisory group of school superintendents that Branstad is expected to add the creation of a task force to consider such extensions. The task force would likely consider adding 10 days to the school year, lengthening school days and requiring struggling students to go to school on Saturdays or take summer classes, the Des Moines Register reported (
Iowa currently has a 180-day school year. State law mandates that each school day last at least 5.5 hours, but most students are in class an average of 6.5 hours.

The Hormone Surge of Middle Childhood

Natlie Angier:

VIEWED superficially, the part of youth that the psychologist Jean Piaget called middle childhood looks tame and uneventful, a quiet patch of road on the otherwise hairpin highway to adulthood.
Said to begin around 5 or 6, when toddlerhood has ended and even the most protractedly breast-fed children have been weaned, and to end when the teen years commence, middle childhood certainly lacks the physical flamboyance of the epochs fore and aft: no gotcha cuteness of babydom, no secondary sexual billboards of pubescence.
Yet as new findings from neuroscience, evolutionary biology, paleontology and anthropology make clear, middle childhood is anything but a bland placeholder. To the contrary, it is a time of great cognitive creativity and ambition, when the brain has pretty much reached its adult size and can focus on threading together its private intranet service — on forging, organizing, amplifying and annotating the tens of billions of synaptic connections that allow brain cells and brain domains to communicate.

Education expert offers views after visiting Alaska schools: Discusses Finland Schools


Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University, and national expert on why schools in Finland are so successful, visited Anchorage and Bethel area schools last month, ate the lunches and sat in on classes.
Some things impressed him, and others illustrated problems that schools face across the U.S., he said.
Abrams was here to participate in a conference on how to improve Anchorage schools that was sponsored by Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Before and after the November conference, Abrams went to King Career Center and William Tyson Elementary in Anchorage for half-day each, and spent full days at Denali Montessori, Begich Middle and East High in Anchorage. He also observed classes at a school-within-a-school run by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council at Bartlett High.

A Polymath Physicist On Richard Feynman’s “Low” IQ And Finding Another Einstein

Jonathan Wai:

I encountered Steve by sending him an email to ask a question about one of his papers. After a few rapid fire email exchanges I found myself on the phone with him for over an hour the very next day discussing topics as wide ranging as his interests. He’s one of the first people I have met that I would definitely consider a polymath in that his expertise spans multiple disciplines (including my own). After our talk I sent him some questions. We covered everything from physics and Richard Feynman’s supposedly “low” IQ to his latest research in intelligence. Finally, I asked him if he thought we would ever find another Einstein.
1. In a nutshell, tell me what your physics research is about.
I’m interested in the basic constituents of nature (“fundamental particles”) and the rules that govern their interactions (“quantum field theory” or “quantum gravity”). My work involves things like quarks, black holes, the big bang, and quantum mechanics.

The profiteers have failed our exam system: In the rush for revenue, standards have been driven down and learning in schools devalued

Martin Stephen:

It would be easy to be shocked by The Daily Telegraph’s revelations about exam boards – but the truth is that Britain’s examination system has been heading for a crash for years. The culprit? The process that saw it transformed from a national treasure to a profit-driven industry. Today, examining is not an extension of teaching and learning, but a career in itself – one that has, on occasion, meant acting as little more than an arm of government.
The first mistake was to divorce the examination system from its end-users. In the past, academic exam boards were not only named after leading universities, but had a significant number of dons actually marking scripts. Today, the boards’ management structures hardly have any connection with the universities. Control of the content and structure of the examination system needs to be placed firmly in the hands of universities – and, in the case of vocational training, of employers – so they can ensure that students possess the knowledge and skills their bosses or lecturers require, not what is cheapest, most convenient or most politically correct.

Philanthropist Mary Burke believes everybody deserves a chance to be successful

Nathan Comp:

The phone call came late one afternoon last March. Rachel Krinsky — then the executive director for the Road Home, a nonprofit agency serving homeless families in Dane County — was preparing to meet with the board of directors, which had recently voted to end a three-year campaign to raise money to build apartments for homeless families.
Having fallen $900,000 short of its fundraising goal, the board decided to build seven apartment units instead of the 15 it had sought, meaning eight families would remain on the street. “We had been fundraising for a long time and were out of ideas,” Krinsky recalls. “Everyone was tapped out.”
On the phone was Mary Burke, a wealthy 52-year-old philanthropist and former business executive, calling with unexpected news: She wanted to give the $450,000 needed to build those eight additional units. (The remaining $450,000 was an endowment goal.)
Krinsky’s jaw dropped.
“I was just stunned,” she says. “Mary wasn’t even in our database.”

Burke announced recently that she plans to run for one of two Madison School Board seats on the April, 2012 ballot.

The agony of Madison Prep

Ruth Conniff:

The whole agonizing conflict over Madison Preparatory Academy did not end on Monday night, when the school board voted 5-2 against allowing the African American charter school to open next fall. Now comes the lawsuit.
But first, our community faces two immediate tasks: healing the wounds that were ripped open during the Madison Prep controversy, and getting something done about the urgent problem the charter school was developed to address — Madison’s disgraceful achievement gap for African American children.
Monday night’s six hours of emotional testimony mostly highlighted the first of those two problems. In front of the packed auditorium at Memorial High School, Urban League president and Madison Prep founder Kaleem Caire read “What happens to a dream deferred?” to the school board. Nichelle Nichols, the Urban League’s vice president of learning, read a poem that placed the blame for her own children’s spoiled futures squarely on Madison Metropolitan School District officials: “My kids are in the gap, a chasm so dark…. I ask, Mr. Superintendent, what happened to my sons…?”
The sense that Madison has mistreated children of color was a powerful theme. White business leader and former teacher Jan O’Neil pointed out the “huge amount of capital in this room,” all focused on solving the historic educational inequality for African American kids. A “no” vote, she warned the board, might be hopelessly polarizing.

A Push to Have Students Factor Into Teacher Evaluations

Rebecca Vevea:

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union opened negotiations earlier this month on a state-mandated requirement about what should-and should not-be included in teachers’ performance evaluations.
CPS and the union have until March to grapple with the specific terms, such as what tests to use for measuring academic growth, how much the results should factor into the evaluations, and how to measure the performance of teachers whose subjects are not tested on state exams.
To add to the mix, an organized group of public school students, the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), are preparing a formal request to CPS in the coming months to include student input in the new teacher evaluation system.
Some teachers want their students to weigh in on their performance.

Q & A With Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on Teacher Evaluations


ubliCola: What do you think of Attorney General Rob McKenna’s education reform agenda? [McKenna, a Republican, is running for governor.]
Gregoire: What is it? You’ll have to help me on that.
PubliCola: It seems more aggressive than the one you laid out. [Gregoire announced a reform proposal last week – AP report here – that will put a pilot project of 4-tiered teacher evaluations in play statewide]. It ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, calls for charter schools, and allows the state to step in and take over failing schools. It’s in sync with President Obama’s education reform agenda. The proposal you came out with last week seems like a “lite” version of that to education reformers [because the evaluations aren’t tied explicitly to “student academic growth”].
Gregoire: I don’t really think so. I think what it is is a Washington reform. The most recent studies on charter schools come out of Stanford. And there’s no guarantee of anything there. As many as there are doing OK, there are an equal number that are not. … Why would we go down a path where there’s no big success to be had? And our voters have already turned [charters] down three times.
I developed this lab school idea, which serves two purposes: One, you have our four-year university schools partner up with one of our bottom five percent schools and really run the school and get them to transition out of their low performance. And two, you really do take your schools of education and improve them dramatically, because if they’re going to train teachers, what better training for them than to be inside a classroom and see what works and what doesn’t work?
PubliCola: What about tying test scores to teacher evaluations?

How the Food Industry Eats Your Kid’s Lunch

Lucy Komisar:

An increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students — a captive market — fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. At a time of fiscal austerity, these companies are seducing school administrators with promises to cut costs through privatization. Parents who want healthier meals, meanwhile, are outgunned.
Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children. About 21 million of these students eat free or reduced-price meals, a number that has surged since the recession. The program, which also provides breakfast, costs $13.3 billion a year.

Our Love-Hate Relationship With the SATs

Andrew Rotherham:

There is little love for the SAT. How little, you ask? When a massive cheating scandal erupted this fall, fewer people rushed to defend the test than rose to defend Penn State officials for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of children. But as unpopular as the iconic SAT may be – among students and many educational activists alike – it’s actually pretty good at what it’s designed to do, which is to serve as a common measure across the hodgepodge of academic standards, grading systems and norms being used by America’s sprawling 25,000 high schools.
Unlike many of the tests that the education world loves to argue about, the SAT is an optional test; students choose to take it if they want to attend schools that require it for admission. So SAT angst is limited to the college-bound. (The test is administered by the New York-based nonprofit College Board, which is also in charge of high school Advanced Placement tests.) And although its only true fans are the intellectually insecure, the SAT, which used to be an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test, doesn’t show how smart or savvy students are or how successful, happy, or impactful they’re likely to be in life. But on average, it does fairly accurate gauge on how well students will do in their first year of college. That’s something admissions officials want to know. And that’s why good scores can boost an applicant’s chances of getting in and low scores can torpedo them.

Schools race teaches states a hard lesson

Ben Wolfgang:

Every race has losers, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education grant competition is proving to be no exception.
As nine states await their prize money after coming out on top late last week in the Education Department’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, the rest are left empty-handed, having spent thousands of hours carefully crafting plans that ultimately fell short.
“We invested a ton of time. That time equates to money,” said Bobby Cagle, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning.
Mr. Cagle estimated that he and his staff spent more than 2,000 hours on the effort, and said his agency is greatly disappointed by the result.

Rankings of the States 2010 and Estimates of School Statistics 2011; Wisconsin Ranks 18th in K-12 Staffing

National Education Association Research via a kind reader’s email:

The data presented in this combined report―Rankings & Estimates―provide facts about the extent to which local, state, and national governments commit resources to public education. As one might expect in a nation as diverse as the United States–with respect to economics, geography, and politics–the level of commitment to education varies on a state-by-state basis. Regardless of these variations, improvements in public education can be measured by summary statistics. Thus, NEA Research offers this report to its state and local affiliates as well as to researchers, policymakers, and the public as a tool to examine public education programs and services.
Part I of this combined report–Rankings 2010–provides state-level data on an array of topics relevant to the com- plex enterprise of public education. Since the 1960s, Rankings has presented facts and figures useful in determining how states differ from one another–or from national averages–on selected statistics. In addition to identifying emerging trends in key economic, political, and social areas, the state-by-state figures on government financing, state demographics, and public schools permit a statistical assessment of the scope of public education. Of course, no set of tables tells the entire story of a state’s education offerings. Consideration of factors such as a state’s tax system, pro- visions for other public services, and population characteristics also are needed. Therefore, it is unwise to draw con- clusions based solely on individual statistics in this report. Readers are urged to supplement the ranked data with specific information about state and local service activities related to public education.
Part II of this combined report–Estimates 2011–is in its 67th year of production. This report provides projections of public school enrollment, employment and compensation of personnel, and finances, as reported by individual state departments of education. Not surprisingly, interest in the improvement and renewal of public education continues to capture the attention of the nation. The state-level data featured in Estimates permit broad assessments of trends in staff salaries, sources of school funding, and levels of educational expenditures. The data should be used with the un- derstanding that the reported statewide totals and averages may not reflect the varying conditions that exist among school districts and schools within the state.
Public education in the United States is a joint enterprise between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, progress in improving public education stems primarily from the efforts of state education agencies, local districts, and indi- vidual schools. These public organizations deserve credit for recognizing that spending for education needs to be ac- knowledged as an investment in our nation’s most valuable resource–children. Similarly, this publication represents a collective effort that goes well beyond the staff of the National Education Association. Individual state departments of education and the NEA’s state affiliates participate in collecting and assembling the data shown here. As a result, the NEA appreciates and acknowledges the cooperation it receives from all those whose efforts make this publication possible.

Wisconsin ranks 21st in average teacher salaries (page 35), 10th in property tax revenue as a percentage of total tax revenue (page 52), 16th in per capita state individual income tax revenue (page 53) and 15th in public school revenue per student.

Teachers union leads effort that aims to turn around West Virginia school system

Lyndsey Layton:

The American Federation of Teachers, vilified by critics as an obstacle to school reform, is leading an unusual effort to turn around a floundering school system in a place where deprivation is layered on heartache.
The AFT, which typically represents teachers in urban settings, wants to improve education deep in the heart of Appalachia by simultaneously tackling the social and economic troubles of McDowell County.
The union has gathered about 40 partners, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco Systems, IBM, Save the Children, foundations, utility companies, housing specialists, community colleges, and state and federal governments, which have committed to a five-year plan to try to lift McDowell out of its depths.
The McDowell Initiative, to be announced Friday, comes in the middle of a national debate about what causes failing schools in impoverished communities: the educators or the environment?

Music education key for childhood development

Natalie Tejeda:

Growing up many of us played musical instruments in school but did you know that nearly half of the us population has never had any musical education. And with budget cutbacks it seems today’s youth may suffer similar consequences unless parents take it upon themselves to bring music education home. Monica Snow with Primrose School stopped by the Saturday morning show to talk about how to do just that.

On Land and in the Bay, Innovation Tackles Truancy

Trey Bundy:

On Monday morning, the start of the school week, five teenagers rowed toward the breakwater leading into San Francisco Bay.
“It’s so foggy you can’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Austin, a 17-year-old student at Downtown High School in Potrero Hill, as he worked the oars. When the students passed an old sailboat, their instructor, Jeff Rogers, told them it was built 120 years ago in Hunters Point.
“Hey,” Austin said. “My ‘hood.”
If not for the boating expedition, Austin might have still been home, in bed, instead of in school. But on that day his classroom happened to be a sailboat. Before coming to Downtown, he was a chronic truant in the San Francisco school system, one of the thousands of students at risk of dropping out. Now he attends school about 80 percent of the time.

In rating child care provider quality, Wisconsin can learn from other states

Milwaukee Public Policy Forum:

In June 2010, Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Finance approved YoungStar, a new quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for the state’s nearly 8,500 child care providers. YoungStar supporters believe the new system will improve the overall quality of childcare in Wisconsin by motivating and supporting providers to make quality improvements and by providing parents with the information they need to choose high-quality child care options.
In the Forum’s latest Research Brief, we examine several issues and challenges that have arisen in other states or jurisdictions with QRIS policies, how those entities have tackled those challenges, and the lessons their experiences might yield for Wisconsin. We found five common implementation challenges that have confronted other states and that have the potential to occur in Wisconsin, as well.

Trenton brings special ed. in-house

Matt Ruiz:

A year after Luiz Munoz-Rivera School shut its doors as the public school system dealt with a budget shortfall, the district has opted to reopen it for nearly the same reason.
Rebranded as the Rivera Learning Community, the school has become the flagship for the district’s efforts to invest in in-house special education programs rather than send students to expensive out-of-district institutions.
The rising cost of out-of-district placement for special education students has dogged the district for years and drawn heavy criticism from the state Department of Education.

Other cities might help Seattle close achievement gaps among black students

Paul Hill:

AFRICAN-American students are lagging behind other students, including other black ethnic students whose home language is not English, according to new numbers released by Seattle Public Schools. [“‘Alarming’ new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools,” page one, Dec. 19.]
This is an important problem that other cities have confronted head-on. First, they have admitted they really don’t know how to solve the problem. Second, they acknowledge that the normal remedies school districts use to solve achievement problems are too weak to work.
These admissions have led other cities to open themselves up to experimentation in schools serving the most disadvantaged: longer school days and years; no-excuses instructional models; new sources of teachers; partnerships with businesses and cultural institutions that can provide enrichment and role models; use of online instruction to teach subjects like science where school staff are often not qualified; new schools run by national institutions with track records of improving achievement for the most disadvantaged.

Madness: Even School Children Are Being Pepper-Sprayed and Shocked with Tasers

Rania Khalek:

There is something truly disturbing about a society that seeks to control the behavior of schoolchildren through fear and violence, a tactic that harkens back to an era of paddle-bruised behinds and ruler-slapped wrists. Yet, some American school districts are pushing the boundaries of corporal punishment even further with the use of Tasers against unruly schoolchildren.
The deployment of Tasers against “problem” students coincides with the introduction of police officers on school campuses, also known as School Resource Officers (SROs). According to the Los Angeles Times, as of 2009, the number of SROs carrying Tasers was well over 4,000.
As far back as 1988, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Congress of Parents and Teachers, American Medical Association, National Education Association, American Bar Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics recognized that inflicting pain and fear upon disobedient children is far more harmful than helpful. Yet, we continue to do it with disturbing results, despite mountains of evidence of more effective methods of discipline.

A Closer Look at Charter Practices

Christina Collins:

Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s new study of 35 New York City charter schools attempts to find a preliminary answer to the question of how different practices within charters are correlated with student progress on math and ELA tests. In general, this study’s premise and methods represent a promising shift away from just looking at test scores to measure school quality; it acknowledges variations between charters and gets to the issue of what policies and practices are actually happening inside these schools.
The researchers looked at a wide variety of possible practices based on surveys of principals, interviews with teachers, visits to schools, and reviews of site visit reports from authorizers. The result was that they found five policies that were significantly correlated to increased test scores: “frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations.” As Matt DiCarlo recently noted, the efficacy of some these factors in raising test scores — particularly increased instructional time — has also been supported in other studies.

3 Kansas counties join rural tuition program

Associated Press:

Three more Kansas counties have enrolled to participate in a new program that aims to attract new residents to rural areas by offering to repay college tuition debts.
The Kansas Department of Commerce said that Chautauqua, Gove and Pawnee counties had joined the state’s rural opportunity zone program aimed at slowing or reversing the rate of population decline in the counties. To date, 43 of 50 eligible counties are participating.
Counties participating in the program agree to partner with the state to offer student loan reimbursements of up to $3,000 a year for five years to new college graduates. The department said there were 158 applications from across the country for the program.

Stanford Online Classes. Like A Great Movie With A Bad Ending

Hernan Amiune:

Professors are AWESOME!
The exercises are AWESOME!
The classes are AWESOME!
But then they send you the Statement of Accomplishment. This was obviously done by engineers with no knowledge of public relations, marketing or people feelings. And maybe under the pressure of Stanford (lawyers?) to clarify that this wasn’t a Stanford class.
Before the course started they promised the Statement of Accomplishment as an incentive to get you in the course.
When they got a lot of users they said “You will receive a statement of accomplishment from the instructor, which will include information on how well you did and how your performance compared to other online students. Only students admitted to Stanford and enrolled in the regular course can receive credit or a grade, so this is not a Stanford certificate.”
At the end they send you a pdf file that says something like this: hey you didn’t complete any Stanford course, you were just part of an experiment and this is an automated message.

Choice program attributed to increase in Catholic school enrollment

Erin Richards:

Pierre “Nic” Antoine, principal of two Catholic schools in Racine formed by school mergers, understands the pain families feel when their schools are closed.
But with the expansion of private-school vouchers to Racine, Antoine believes Catholic education has been reinvigorated this year. Enrollment is stable at Our Lady of Grace Academy, which added 30 voucher students this year, and up by about 20% at John Paul II Academy, which added 40 voucher students.
“We went from being 70% full in 2010-’11 to being 95% full this year,” Antoine said of John Paul II Academy.
The boost in student enrollment is part of a larger trend in the Milwaukee Archdiocese this year – enrollment is up for the first time in 13 years, driven by voucher student enrollment that increased from 7,502 students last year to 8,831 students this year.
Nationwide and in Milwaukee, Catholic school enrollment has decreased over the years. After the recession caused families to tighten their budgets, some private schools’ enrollment figures dropped even further, prompting mergers and closures.

Hong Kong Rally urges 15 years of free schooling

Phila Siu:

Around 2,000 teachers, parents and children rallied outside the Legislative Council building in Tamar yesterday, urging the government to implement 15 years of free education starting from kindergarten.
The coalition of 17 groups – including the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union and the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers – also demanded a pay scale for kindergarten teachers that guarantees an annual salary rise, a better teacher- to-pupil ratio, and an improved Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme.
Union chairman Fung Wai-wah said the public has already agreed on the 15 years of free education and it should be implemented immediately.

Bill would require transparency in charter school management

Kathleen McGrory & Scott Hiaasen:

A Miami lawmaker wants public charter schools to be more transparent.
State. Sen Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, filed a bill Wednesday that would require charter schools to post information about their management companies on their school websites.
Bullard, vice chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Her proposal was submitted days after The Miami Herald concluded a three-part series examining South Florida’s $400 million-a-year charter school industry. The investigation found that charter schools have given rise to a cottage industry of for-profit management companies, some of which have almost total financial control over the charter schools they run.

Meet the former high school quarterback who lost a LEG playing football… and is now inspiring Tim Tebow

Associated Press:

Jacob Rainey is inspiring people all across the sports world – and no more so than giants from the NFL.
The Virginia prep quarterback who had to have part of his right leg amputated has moved the likes of Alabama coach Nick Saban, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.
A highlight film of Rainey on YouTube shows why college coaches had taken notice.
It shows the once-promising quarterback at Woodberry Forest School throwing a 40-yard dart for a touchdown, running into the line on a quarterback sneak, then emerging from the pile and sprinting 40 yards for a TD. There is also of clip of him running a draw for another 35-yard score.
All that was taken away, without warning when he was tackled during a scrimmage on September 3. He suffered a severe knee injury and a severed artery and part of his right leg had to be amputated.


Two of our overriding efforts in Lower Education in recent years have been: 1) raising the low math and reading scores of black and Hispanic students, and 2) increasing the number of our high school and college graduates capable of employment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM}.
Very recently evidence has been allowed to surface pointing out that while students in the bottom 10% of academic performance have indeed improved, students in the top ten percent of academic performance have stagnated, where they have not dropped out from boredom. Related evidence now suggests that complacency with secondary public education in our more affluent suburbs may have been quite misplaced as well.
As Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum point out in their recent book, That Used To Be Us, “average is over.” That is to say, students in other cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai) and countries (Finland, South Korea, Japan) take their educations so much more seriously than our students (and teachers) do that their economies are achieving gains on our own that are truly startling, if we take the time to notice.
If we are to retain good jobs, restart our manufacturing, and otherwise decide to compete seriously with others who seem to take both education and work more seriously than we have come to do, it might be wise to increase the interest of our students in STEM fields. According to the Kaiser Foundation, our students aged 8-18 are spending, on average, more than seven hours a day with electronic entertainment media.
Now of course we want our young people to buy our electronic entertainment hardware and software and we definitely want them to have a good time and be happy, but probably we would like them to be employable some day as well. Friedman and Mandelbaum point out that not only blue collar jobs and white collar jobs, but increasingly sophisticated professional work can be done to a high standard at a much lower cost in other countries than it can be done here.
Having our students spend 53 hours a week on their electronic entertainment media, while their high school homework tops out, in many cases, according to ACT, at three to four hours a week, is not a plan that will enable us to resume our competitive position in the world’s economies.
So perhaps we should assign students in high school 15 hours a week of homework (which would reduce their media time to a mere 38 hours a week) and pass on to them the information that if they don’t start working to a much much higher academic standard they will probably face a more depressing future in a greatly diminished nation than they currently imagine they will have.
But, is STEM enough? I remember the story told about a visit Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, made to the gleaming new Salk Laboratory in La Jolla. A young biologist, thrilled to be a guide to the Nobel Prize-winner, was very proud to be able to show off all the bright new spotless expensive state-of-the-art research equipment. When they finished the tour, the young man could not stop himself from saying, “Just think, Sir Alexander, with all this equipment, what you could have discovered!” And Sir Alexander said, “not penicillin.”
Because the discovery of penicillin relied on serendipity and curiosity. Fleming found some petri dishes contaminated by something that had come in, probably, through one of the dirty old badly-closed windows in his lab in England. Instead of washing the dishes so he could start over with them, as most scientists would have done, he asked himself what could have killed off those bacteria in the dishes. And a major breakthrough was made possible.
Just in passing, amid the rush for more STEM, I would like to put in a word for serendipity, which often fuels creativity of many kinds, by making possible the association of previously unrelated ideas and memories when in contact with a new fact or situation not deliberately sought out.
I argue that serendipity is more likely to occur and to be fruitful if our students also have a lot of experience with the ROOTS of civilization, that is, the history, literature, art, music, architecture and other fields which have provided the background and inspiration for so much that we find worthwhile in human life. Steve Jobs found his course in calligraphy useful when he came to think about Macintosh software, but there are countless examples of important discoveries and contributions that have been, at least in part, grounded in the ROOTS of civilized life. So let us push for more STEM, by all means, but if, in the process we neglect those ROOTS, our achievements will be fewer, and our lives will be the poorer as a result, IMHO.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

Louisiana to Push AP Courses for All

Will Sentell:

Louisiana education leaders have launched a five-year plan to reach the national average for high school students who earn college credit.
The courses, called Advanced Placement, can enhance college success and even make students more likely to attend college, officials said.
But only 4 percent of Louisiana students passed at least one AP exam in 2009, which is 49th in the nation and ahead of only Mississippi.
The national average is 16.9 percent, which state officials said is reachable by 2017.

Magnet Schools Are an Important Option for Los Angeles

Gary Orfield:

The Los Angeles Unified School District, second biggest in the United States with some 700,000 students, located in the center of the most segregated area in the country for Latino students, is a place where students of color are very often denied any opportunity to do any meaningful preparation for college and are often attending dropout factory high schools. In this system, where mandatory desegregation was abandoned in 1981, there’s one small place where’s there some racial and economic diversity and special programs offered for students who choose to participate in them.
More than 170 magnet school programs exist in the Los Angeles Unified School District. They have been funded with billions of dollars of state money for desegregation assistance. The strong magnets are one of the last vestiges of middle class education that exist in the City of Los Angeles and one of the few places where students from really disadvantaged backgrounds can come to classes with students from more advantaged backgrounds, in schools where the teachers want to participate in those schools and where there’s a special curriculum offered to draw them there. Not all of these schools are great schools. Some of them are phony magnets, and some of them are wonderful schools. But they are a really important option for the City of Los Angeles. When a student can transfer from a dropout factory school to one where many students go to college, a bus is a great educational investment.

Introduction to School Models

Opportunity Culture:

Only about one of every four U.S. classrooms has an “excellent teacher,” one who produces enough learning progress to close achievement gaps and help all students leap ahead to higher-order learning. Three-quarters do not.
The school models presented here aim to change that. These models use job redesign, technology, or both to help excellent teachers reach more students. Done right, all the models presented here can meet our Reach Extension Principles. Most models can be used for whole schools or single courses.
Here’s a quick overview: Our primary goal is to enable schools to reach significantly more students with excellent teachers. Every model outlined here identifies the excellent teacher in charge–the person who is truly accountable for learning. In more detailed models coming in 2012, we also indicate what people, technology, and other resources the excellent teacher has authority to choose and change. We organized the models around two key dimensions:

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Health care spending in Wisconsin 6% above average

Guy Boulton:

Health care spending in Wisconsin averaged $7,233 for each person – or almost $29,000 for a family of four – in 2009, according to a report released last week.
The amount was 6% higher than the national average of $6,815.
Wisconsin, which spent an estimated $40.9 billion on health care in 2009, ranked 35th in the country in per-capita spending, according to the report by researchers at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Thirty-four states spent less.
The study shows the wide variation in health care spending from state to state. The variation stems largely from demographics, such as the average age of the population, and the percent of the population with health insurance.
States with higher incomes and higher cost of living also tended to spend more on health care.
Utah, with a young population and healthy lifestyle, spent an average of $5,031 per person on health care, or 26% less than the national average. In contrast, Massachusetts, with higher incomes and nearly universal insurance coverage, spent an average of $9,278, or 36% more than the national average.

Gist has one gear: forward

Michael Souza:

That’s the question state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist asked the General Assembly this past June. It’s also the one she posed to a hundred people at Westerly Middle School Thursday night, appearing at a community forum on the state of education in Rhode Island.
“We want each of us to be asking each other ‘How’s school?’ We’re asking our teachers…. are they getting the support they need, are things moving forward for them?” Gist said. “We also want you to hold us accountable for all of the things we promised to you, that we would do, so that your school gets the support it needs.”
Gist has visited more than 100 schools in her two years as commissioner and said she considers input from students, teachers and administrators as a critical link in improving education.
In her opening remarks she commented on some significant achievements. New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) results for Rhode Island high schools increased last year. Math results were up 6 percentage points, science 5 points and reading 3 points.

Quick Question: Do you agree with the Madison School Board’s rejection of the Madison Prep Academy proposal?

Kevin Murphy:

Here’s how five people answered this week’s question posed by Capital Times freelancer Kevin Murphy. What do you think? Please join the discussion.
“I don’t agree with that decision. We need something to close that achievement gap and this was something that could have closed that gap and they won’t even take a chance with it. It’s the best idea to come forward so far and it should have been tried.”
Easter Carson
retired school district employee
“It was a good idea and I think anything new in the way of education needs to be tried. Give it a try. It was a pretty proposal with non-coed instruction, uniforms for students, minority staff. It certainly is worth a try given the track record the school district has had with minority students so far.”

To Make Algebra Fun, Rethink The Problem


For most people, the word “algebra” conjures classroom memories of Xs and Ys. Weekend Edition’s math guy, Keith Devlin, says that’s because most schools do a terrible job of teaching it. He talks with host Scott Simon about what algebra really is. Plus, Devlin explains how algebra took off in Baghdad, the Silicon Valley of the ninth century.

We Blew It on Madison Prep

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I can’t shake the feeling that something important was going on at our School Board meeting last Monday night to consider the Madison Prep charter school proposal, and that the actual School Board vote wasn’t it.
The bare-bone facts are that, after about 90 public speakers, the Board voted 2-5 to reject the Madison Prep proposal. I reluctantly voted against the motion because I was unwilling to violate the terms of our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.
After the motion failed, I moved that the Board approve Madison Prep, but delay its opening until the fall of 2013. My motion failed for lack of a second. (And no, I don’t have an explanation for why neither James Howard nor Lucy Mathiak, who voted in favor of the first motion, was willing to second my motion.)
Probably like most who attended Monday night’s meeting, I have thought a lot about it since. People who know I voted against the proposal have come up to me and congratulated me for what they say was the right decision. I have felt like shaking them and saying, “No, you don’t understand. We blew it Monday night, we blew it big time. I just hope that we only crippled Madison Prep and didn’t kill it.”
I appreciate that that’s an odd and surprising place for me to have ended up. To echo the Talking Heads, “Well, how did I get here?” I’ll try to explain.

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

Special education costs threaten to put Darien schools in a $250,000 hole

David DesRoches:

Despite efforts by school administration to streamline its special education services, an unforeseen 59 students joined special ed this year, causing the district to face a deficit for the third year running.
Superintendent Dr. Stephen Falcone told the Board of Education that he’s expecting a $251,866 shortfall, primarily due to out of district tuition increases of more than $550,000, and another year of reduced state funding. Darien also lost $225,000 in stimulus money after receiving it for the past two years.
To close some of this gap, Falcone advised a number of saving measures to get the schools back on track. [see related story]

How Peaceful is Camden?

New Jersey Left Behind:

The Courier-Post is all over Camden Public Schools’ failure to accurately report incidents of violence and vandalism. (See earlier story here.) Each year, per state mandate, districts file reports with the State DOE listing rates of violence and then the State reports out to the Legislature. While there has been a 6.4% increase in violent incidents (some of this, no doubt, attributable to the new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying legislation), Camden Public Schools appears to be a land of milk and honey: there were only 29 incidents all of last year and only 35 for 2010-2011.
Among other districts in the area “almost 30 districts reported more violent incidents than Camden – including Audobon, Cherry Hill, Cinnaminson, and Washington Township.”

Charter association’s call for closure of charter schools stirs controversy

Louis Freedberg and Sue Frey:

In a bold move that is generating controversy within its own ranks, the California Charter School Association is urging that 10 of the 145 charter schools up for renewal this year be denied their charters because they failed to meet academic performance benchmarks set by the association.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed the association for its “courageous leadership” in attempting to “hold schools accountable.” “This is an important conversation for California to have, and one that we need to have across the country,” Duncan said, echoing remarks made by several charter school leaders.
But the association’s action has also provoked fierce criticism from schools it has recommended for closure, as well as from some long-time supporters of the charter movement.

A Christmas Carol For Our Schools

Peter Meyer:

A new round of the popular education board game, Poverty Matters, began last week with a New York Times op-ed by Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske, titled, “Class Matters: Why Won’t We Admit It?” (Interestingly, the essay is really about poverty, not class, and the paper that Ladd wrote on which the essay is based is titled Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence. See also Kathleen Porter-Magee’s The `Poverty Matters’ Trap from last July’s Flypaper.)
Ladd and Fiske’s essay was one of those broadsides that spreads through the teacher ranks like a brush fire. I received my email copy from one of our district’s veteran teachers, a hard-working, dedicated woman who rarely misses an opportunity to remind me that she and her colleagues would be doing a fine job were it not for unmotivated kids and their irresponsible parents. And Diane Ravitch weighed in, calling to mind, in tune with the season, the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, offering to “update this tale for today’s school reformers” by calling attention to Ladd and Fiske’s op-ed. (Ravitch says she uses Ladd’sEducation and Poverty paper in her post.)
What I don’t understand in all of this is who exactly is claiming that class (or poverty or parents or kids) doesn’t matter? Ladd and Fiske spend most of their essay stating the obvious: that socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes. The evidence that our policymakers and reformers are in denial of this salient fact?

Thoughts on the College Search Process, Money & Parenting

Robert DeCock, via email:

Parents work very hard to get their children into college, and when that work pays off, they breathe a sigh of relief. After enduring mountains of paperwork, ruthless deadlines and constant second-guessing, the elusive acceptance letter suddenly makes it all worthwhile.
But then come the really hard questions. How are we going to pay for this? What if, after all this work, my kid doesn’t do well in school? What if he doesn’t graduate? What if he can’t get a decent job?
The key to college success is asking all of those questions much earlier. And that means starting the planning process itself much earlier.
How early? Think middle school. Seriously.
Starting early achieves a number of significant things:
As parents, you take control of the admissions and financial aid processes, rather than those processes taking control of you.
Your child develops an early sense of purpose as it relates to college – what areas of study interest him, what colleges fit his interests and his personality, and what careers might await
You turn the tables in the admissions process. Instead of hoping that a college says “yes” to your child, the college ends up hoping that your child will say “yes” to them
That last point is important. Colleges are in search of special students – those who stand the greatest chance of success during school and after graduation. Establishing early relationships with potential colleges can put your family in the position of “seller” instead of “buyer,” giving you financial leverage and negotiating power. And when that happens, aid packages can go up dramatically – sometimes by $2,000…$5,000…even $10,000 per year.
For parents, an early start in college planning often results in significant tuition savings. For students, starting early greatly improves the chances of success during the college years and the post-graduation job market.
For both of you, there’s an added benefit – less stress and a more enjoyable, rewarding experience.
Robert DeCock is a Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) with the National Institute of Certified College Planning Specialists. DeCock runs the Quest Pre-College Planning and Financial Aid Workshops, which provide hands-on, step-by-step, proven best practices for parents who want to minimize costs and maximize their child’s opportunity for success. Visit or call 608.438.2941 for more information.
Robert is holding a Pre-College Workshop is on Thursday, January 12, 5-8:00. Contact him for details.

Robert recently contacted me via the Madison Chamber of Commerce. I’ve met him once and found the conversation interesting. Contact him if you’d like to attend a Pre-College workshop or have questions.

High School Flight from Reading and Writing

Academic Questions, the journal of the
National Association of Scholars: 90K PDF
As concerns mount over the costs and benefits of higher education, it may be worthwhile to glance at the benefits of high school education at present as well. Of course, high school costs, while high, are borne by the taxpayers in general, but it is reasonable to hope that there are sufficient benefits for such an outlay.
In fact, 30 percent of ninth-grade students do not graduate with their class, so there is a major loss right there. In addition, it appears that a large fraction of our high school graduates who go on to college leave without taking any credential or degree within eight years. On November 17, 2008, the Boston Globe reported, “About two-thirds of the city’s high school graduates in 2000 who enrolled in college have failed to earn degrees, according to a first-of- its-kind study being released today.”1 The fact that this is a new study shows that the days of taking not just college, but high school education for granted may be ending as well. If public high schools were preparing their graduates (the 70 percent) adequately, they should be able to read and write in college.
Alternatives to high school are coming only slowly. Charter schools, some good and some bad, are being tried. Homeschooling serves some 1.5 million students, and some edupundits (and computer salesmen) are pushing for ever more use of virtual distance learning at the high school level.

Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

John Hechinger:

At Dugsi Academy, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota, girls wearing traditional Muslim headscarves and flowing ankle-length skirts study Arabic and Somali. The charter school educates “East African children in the Twin Cities,” its website says. Every student is black.
At Twin Cities German Immersion School, another St. Paul charter, children gather under a map of “Deutschland,” study with interns from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and learn to dance the waltz. Ninety percent of its students are white.
Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

Iowa Education report: Minority enrollment up, total student numbers fall

Mike Wiser:

Iowa’s school population is shrinking at the same time it becomes poorer and more racially and ethnically diverse, according to an Iowa Department of Education report released Wednesday.
The Annual Condition of Education report compiles a variety of statistics from the previous school year.
Wednesday’s 209-page report shows the continuation on several trends in Iowa’s school systems across the state.
“It’s useful in many ways,” said Jay Pennington, the department’s bureau chief of information and analysis services. “It provides local districts with a way to compare themselves with others in the state and provides the public with a lot of information about their district and others.”
Highlights of the report include:

Madison Prep, at Bottom

Rebecca Kemble:

The most straightforward, clear and dispassionate vote taken on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school proposal at last Monday’s Madison Metropolitan School District Board meeting didn’t even count. It was the advisory vote cast by the student representative, Philippo Bulgarelli.
The School Board turned down the controversial proposal on a 5-2 vote, and after nearly five hours of public testimony, all the school board members gave speeches explaining how they arrived at their decisions. In addition to being the most succinct, Bulgarelli’s statement penetrated all of the intense emotions and wildly divergent interpretations of data and personal anecdotes used to argue both for and against the proposal. Bulgarelli said that the students for whom he speaks did not have enough information to make a reasonably good decision, so he voted to abstain.

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

School Police Have Uncertain Impact On Student Arrests, Crime Prevention

Radley Balko:

A headline-generating study, published in the journal Pediatrics this week, suggests that approximately one in three Americans is arrested before age 23. That’s up from about one in five in 1965, the last time a similar study was conducted. The study used data from surveys given to the 7,335 people who enrolled in the federal government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1996.
This study, a recent joint initiative between the Departments of Justice and Education and a spate of anecdotal stories in the news all suggest a surge in the arrests of minors, and particularly in arrests that originate in schools. But the federal government is both fighting the “school-to-prison” pipeline while continuing to fund the same programs that critics say are causing it. Moreover, because the government hasn’t been collecting data on school-based arrests, and the little available data shows overall arrests of juveniles are down, it’s difficult to determine if a problem exists, much less whether federal initiatives are solving it — or contributing to it.

After Kim Jong Il’s death, a Korean language class shifts format

Geoff Decker, via a kind reader’s email:

Students in Democracy Prep High School’s Korean classes typically learn words that boost their vocabulary and develop basic grammar — standard fare for introductory foreign language instruction. But this week the lessons took a turn for the geopolitical.
Youngjae Hur greeted his students yesterday with an unusual pop quiz in English and asked them to define words such as “despotism,” “denuclearize,” and “repressive.”
For Hur, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s abrupt death over the weekend offered the school a unique opportunity to infuse what students learn about the South Korean language and culture every day with the politics that have shaped life on the Korean Peninsula for decades.
“It’s important to let them know not just the skills to understand the language, but also the culture, the history, the politics,” said Hur, a first-year teacher who moved to the United States from South Korea three years ago. “Especially at this special moment.”

Rainy River District School Board concedes ‘systemic failure’

Peggy Revell:

Changes to policies and procedures over the handling of funds will ensure that nothing like the theft of more than $300,000 from Fort High should occur again, the Rainy River District School Board said following the sentencing last Thursday of former FFHS secretary Fawn Lindberg.
“Obviously, there were some shortcomings in terms of oversight, both at the school and right through the board office–and those things hopefully have now all been corrected,” noted board chair Michael Lewis.
A press release issued by the board called the theft a “systemic failure from the top down.”
While Lindberg didn’t have the authority to authorize or sign cheques, it was noted during last Thursday’s court proceedings that a practice had developed whereby blank cheques would be signed in advance by the principal and vice-principal, who did have signing authority.
From June, 2005 to October, 2007, Lindberg fed a gambling addiction by stealing $312,426.45, using some 146 cheques she had made out in her name or to “cash.”
The theft came to light in the fall of 2007 after a deficit of more than $175,000 was noticed by board administration and investigated.

College Football Wins Lower Guys’ GPA

Tom Jacobs:

The gap in grade point averages between male and female students widens when their college football team is winning.
As the college football season approaches its climax, a just-released set of statistics should give fans of Bowl-bound teams pause.
According to three University of Oregon economists, when a university’s football team has a winning season, the grade point average of male students goes down.
At least, that was the case at their own school over the course of nine recent seasons. Given that the University of Oregon is “largely representative of other four-year public institutions,” they have no reason to believe the equation won’t apply elsewhere.

A Sociobiological Approach for At-Risk High School Students

PLoS/One: A Program for At-Risk High School Students Informed by Evolutionary Science
Improving the academic performance of at-risk high school students has proven difficult, often calling for an extended day, extended school year, and other expensive measures. Here we report the results of a program for at-risk 9th and 10th graders in Binghamton, New York, called the Regents Academy that takes place during the normal school day and year. The design of the program is informed by the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation and learning, in general and for our species as a unique product of biocultural evolution. Not only did the Regents Academy students outperform their comparison group in a randomized control design, but they performed on a par with the average high school student in Binghamton on state-mandated exams. All students can benefit from the social environment provided for at-risk students at the Regents Academy, which is within the reach of most public school districts.
One body of knowledge that we drew upon to design the Regents Academy is based on the work of Elinor Ostrom [19], [20], who received the Nobel Prize for economics in 2009. Ostrom is a political scientist by training but has become part of the evolutionary science community. Working primarily with groups attempting to manage common pool resources, she identified eight design features that contributed to the success of each group, which can also be used by groups attempting to achieve other shared objectives. Briefly, the design features are: 1) a strong group identity, including understanding and agreeing with the group’s purpose; 2) benefits proportional to costs, so that the work does not fall unfairly on some individuals and unearned benefits on others; 3) consensus decision-making, since most people dislike being told what to do but will work hard to achieve their own goals; 4) low-cost monitoring, so that lapses of cooperation can be easily detected; 5) graduated sanctions to correct misbehaviors, which begin with friendly reminders and escalate only as needed; 6) conflict resolution that is fast and perceived as fair by group members; 7) sufficient autonomy for the group to make its own decisions without interference from other groups; 8) relations among groups that embody the same principles as the relations among individuals within the group. These design features are consilient with the general evolutionary dynamics of cooperation and the social environment of small-scale human societies throughout our own history as a species. Any educational program, including one for at-risk high school students, can potentially benefit from implementing these design features.


The five-member majority of the board blew it this week by voting down the Urban League of Greater Madison’s request for an unusual charter school called Madison Prep

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school would have offered a longer school day and year, higher standards and expectations, uniforms, mandatory extracurricular activities, same-sex classrooms, more minority teachers as role models, and stepped-up pressure on parents to get involved in their children’s education.
Madison Prep represented a huge opportunity — with unprecedented community support, including millions in private donations — to attack the stubborn achievement gap for low-income and minority students.
But a majority of the School Board rejected Madison Prep, citing excuses that include a disputed clause in its teachers union contract and a supposed lack of accountability.

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

Cal State campuses overwhelmed by remedial needs

Matt Krupnick:

Wracked with frustration over the state’s legions of unprepared high school graduates, the California State University system next summer will force freshmen with remedial needs to brush up on math or English before arriving on campus.
But many professors at the 23-campus university, which has spent the past 13 years dismissing students who fail remedial classes, doubt the Early Start program will do much to help students unable to handle college math or English.
“I’m not at all optimistic that it’s going to help,” said Sally Murphy, a communications professor who directs general education at Cal State East Bay, where 73 percent of this year’s freshmen were not ready for college math. Nearly 60 percent were not prepared for college English.
“A 15-hour intervention is just not enough intervention when it comes to skills that should have been developed over 12 years,” Murphy said.
The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both.

Related: Madison’s Math Task Force and K-12 Literacy Program Evaluation.

Kaleem Caire should run for School Board

The Capital Times:

Madison Urban League President Kaleem Caire fought hard to win approval of his Madison Prep project. But the Madison School Board ultimately rejected a plan that would have steered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars into a project that board members felt lacked sufficient oversight and accountability.
The response of Caire and his fellow Madison Prep advocates was to suggest a variety of moves: the filing of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, or perhaps a request for state intervention to allow the project to go forward without state approval.
We would suggest another approach.
Caire has succeeded in garnering a good deal of support for Madison Prep. He could capitalize on that support and make a run for the School Board.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.
Changing the school board would either require: patience (just two of seven seats: Lucy Mathiak, who is not running after two terms and Arlene Silveira, who apparently is seeking a third term) are up in April, 2012 or a more radical approach via the current Wisconsin method (and Oakland): recalls. Winning the two seats may not be sufficient to change the Board, given the 5-2 no vote. Perhaps the “momentum”, if realized, might sway a vote or two?
Perhaps the TAG complaint illustrates another approach, via the courts and/or different government agencies.

Madison Preparatory Academy Board Commits to Establish Madison Prep as an Independent School in Fall 2012 and address the Achievement Gap in Madison’s Public Schools

Kaleem Caire, via email

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2011
Contact: Laura DeRoche-Perez
Director of School Development
Urban League of Greater Madison
2222 S. Park St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53713
608-729-1230 (office)
608-556-2066 (cell)
Madison, WI – This morning, the Board of Directors of Madison Preparatory Academy unanimously decided to pursue a set of actions that will assist with eliminating the racial achievement gap in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). These actions are consistent with the objectives of the Urban League of Greater Madison.
Specifically, Madison Prep’s Board has committed to partnering with the Urban League of Greater Madison to:
Work with the Madison Metropolitan School District to ensure MMSD has a bold and effective plan for eliminating the racial achievement gap that embraces innovation, best practices and community engagement as core strategies.
Evaluate legal options that will ensure MMSD affirmatively and immediately addresses the racial achievement gap.
Establish Madison Preparatory Academy as an independent school within the boundaries of the Madison Metropolitan School District in August 2012 as a model of whole school reform and a necessary education option for disadvantaged children and families.
David Cagigal, Chair of Madison Prep’s Board, shared that “Madison Prep is a necessary strategy to show how our community can eliminate the achievement gap and prepare our most vulnerable students for college. MMSD’s rejection of our proposal does not change this fact.”
Cagigal further stated that, “We look forward to engaging the Greater Madison community in addressing the racial achievement gap in Madison’s public schools and supporting the establishment of Madison Prep next fall.”
For more information, contact Laura DeRoche Perez, Director of School Development, Urban League of Greater Madison, at or 608-729-1230.
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Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school, here.

An RTT Cookbook With One Recipe

Julie McCargar:

I am ambivalent. My state, Tennessee, is the first state that has implemented the annual teacher and principal evaluations as required by Race to the Top (RTT). In 2010, I was involved with writing Tennessee’s successful RTT application, especially the section on “great teachers and leaders.” In my state role, I celebrated the RTT requirement for annual teacher and principal evaluations based substantially on student growth as one of the most important levers to accelerate student achievement.
Now, in 2011, I am at the local level watching the fall-out. Although I still support annual teacher evaluations that include student achievement growth and regular teacher observation scores, it is clear that the initiative is off to a rocky start. And this has implications for more than just the educators and students in Tennessee. As noted in Education Week, many policymakers are concerned that the rocky implementation of Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system may hinder efforts in other states.

Madison Prep proponents raise possibility of creating private school

Matthew DeFour:

Supporters of a controversial charter school proposal geared toward low-income, minority students said Tuesday they will continue to fight to establish it next fall — including possibly as a private school.
Their comments came Tuesday after the Madison School Board voted 5-2 early that day to reject a proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy, which would offer single-sex classrooms and a college preparatory curriculum.
The board didn’t vote on an alternate proposal to approve the school but delay its opening until 2013.
David Cagigal, president of the Madison Prep board, said a private school would be expensive because the school’s target low-income population wouldn’t be able to afford tuition. Instead, the board would ask private donors to replace the roughly $9,300 per pupil it had sought from the School District.
“Maybe money is not the issue if we want to go ahead and prove our point,” Cagigal said. “I can assure you we will persist with this idea of closing the achievement gap.”

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

Whither Madison Prep…

Peter Sobol:

The proposed Madison Prep Charter School was voted down by the Madison school board on Monday. A bold proposal to address the achievement gap in Madison, Madison Prep supporters have a very good point- the status quo is not working for minority students.
There wasn’t any magic to the Madison Prep proposal: longer school year, extended school days, smaller class ratios, additional support services, we know these things work, and taken together these things would likely make a significant impact on student achievement. But all these things cost significant amounts of money which is ultimately the problem. What distribution of resources is the most effective and fair?

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

Time to take a breath and solve the Madison Prep problem

Dave Cieslewicz:

Sometimes it’s possible to be absolutely right on the specifics of a thing and totally wrong about the big picture.
That’s what can be said about the Madison school board’s decision the other night to reject the proposal for the Madison Preparatory Academy. Board members were correct to be concerned that their support for the academy could have violated their contract with the Madison teachers union, and they were right to be concerned about lack of oversight over public funds.
But what the Urban League was saying about the big picture remains paramount:

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

Do colleges with test-optional admissions inflate their U.S. News ratings?

Jay Mathews:

Some readers mentioned, after a recent Admissions 101 discussion of using the average SAT score of the incoming class to pick the school best for you, that this method might be ruined by the growing number of colleges that do not require SAT or ACT tests. Some even suggested that these test-optional colleges might look better than they are on some measures, like the ranked U.S. News college list, because the lowest scorers in their freshmen classes are the ones most likely not to reveal their scores, and thus by not revealing, raising the freshman class SAT or ACT average that forms part of the U.S. News formula.

Where is UW support for charter school?

Chris Rickert:

Last week I wrote that it seemed hypocritical that average Madisonians and other liberals in city government and the left-leaning Madison press haven’t been beating the drum for proposed charter school Madison Preparatory Academy.
The school’s target clientele, after all, is one the left usually considers sympathetic: poor, disenfranchised minority youth historically denied access to educational opportunity.
But it took a reader to point out an even bigger elephant in this oddly somnolent room: UW-Madison.
It was only a few months ago that Madison’s prime educational attraction and the jewel of the UW System mounted a vigorous and very public defense of attempts to create a more diverse student body through its affirmative action policies.
You’d think this powerful institution might also be showing a little love for a similar social justice cause in its own backyard.

Cornell Alumnus Is Behind $350 Million Gift to Build Science School in City

Richard Perez-Pena:

The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University’s new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.
Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune, with large gifts to universities all over the world and an unusual degree of anonymity. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus — where he graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956 — bears Mr. Feeney’s name.
The $350 million gift, the largest in the university’s history, was announced on Friday, but the donor was not named. Officials at Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed on Monday evening that it was Mr. Feeney, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who is known for his frugality — he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch — as well as his philanthropic generosity, particularly to medical research.

Shocking outcome of School Board vote: MMSD says NO to Madison Prep

Kaleem Caire, via email:

Dear Madison Prep,
First, thank you to all of you who have supported the Madison Prep effort to this point. Your volunteer hours, work on Design Teams, attendance at meetings, letters to the district and media, and many other acts of support have not gone unnoticed by the Urban League and Madison Prep.
In earlier morning hours today, the MMSD Board of Education voted 5-2 AGAINST Madison Prep. This outcome came after hours of testimony by members of the public, with Madison Prep supporters outnumbering opponents 2:1. Lucy Mathiak and James Howard voted YES for Madison Prep; Ed Hughes, Arlene Silviera, Beth Moss, Maya Cole, and Marj Passman voted NO. After the vote was taken, Ed Hughes made an amendment to the motion to establish Madison Prep in 2013 (rather than 2012) in order to avoid what some see as a conflict between Madison Prep and the teachers’ union contract. Mr. Hughes’ motion was not seconded; therefore there was no vote on establishing Madison Prep one year later.
While the Urban League and Madison Prep are shocked by last night’s outcome, both organizations are committed to ensuring that Madison Prep becomes a reality for children in Madison. We will continue to press for change and innovation in the Madison Metropolitan School District and Dane County to ensure that the racial achievement gap is eliminated and that all children receive a high quality education that adequately prepares them for their future.
We will advance a number of next steps:
1.We will pursue different avenues, both public and private, to launch Madison Prep. We are still hopeful for an opening in 2012. There will be much the community will learn from Madison Prep and our children need this option now.
2.We will continue to coordinate community support and action to ensure that the Madison Metropolitan School District is accountable for eliminating the racial achievement gap. We will consider several strategies, such as implementing a Citizen Review Board that will hold the school board and district administration accountable for good governance, planning, implementation, execution, community engagement and student achievement results. We will also consider legal avenues to ensure MMSD understands and responds to the community’s sense of urgency to address the sizable and decades-long failure rates of Black and Latino children.
3.We must also address the leadership vacuum in K-12 education in Madison. Because of this, we will ensure that parents, students and community members are informed of their rights and responsibilities, and have a better understanding of promising educational strategies to close the achievement gap. We will also work to ensure that they have opportunities to be fully engaged in planning, working and deciding what’s best for the children educated in our public schools.
4.We will continue to work in collaboration with MMSD through our existing partnerships, and hope to grow these partnerships in the future.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to ensure that children in our schools and families in our community have hope, inspiration, support and opportunity to manifest their dreams and make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

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

Down Goes Madison Prep

Mike Ford:

As expected, the Madison Metropolitan School Board voted 5 -2 last night against authorizing the Madison Prep charter school. Only two board members overseeing a school district with an African-American graduation rate below 50% saw fit to support a new approach
Those voting against the school did offer reasons. Board member Beth Moss told the Wisconsin State Journal she voted no because of concerns about the school’s ability to serve students needing more than one year of remedial education. Board member Ed Hughes said he could not support the school until after the Madison teachers union contract expires in 2013.
But no worries, Superintendent Dan Nerad told the Wisconsin State Journal he has a plan:

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

After Madison Prep vote, it’s time to shake things up

Joseph Vanden Plas:

There’s nothing like standing in the schoolhouse door.
For me, the Madison School Board’s 5-2 vote to shoot down Madison Preparatory Academy, a proposed charter school specifically designed for low-income minority students, brings to mind images of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to block the integration of the University of Alabama, or state officials blocking James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi.
If you think that’s harsh, remember that those pieces of history were not only about Civil Rights and desegregation, they were about every person’s right to pursue a quality education.
In the Madison Metropolitan School District, a 48% graduation rate among African American students indicates that quality has not been achieved. Not even close.
Fortunately, this is one dream that’s not going to be allowed to die. Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is the driving force behind Madison Prep, and he isn’t ready to wave the surrender flag.
Following the school board vote, Caire vowed to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, and he also urged supporters of Madison Prep to run for school board.
Love it, love it, love it.
At one point in the development of Madison Prep, Caire sounded optimistic that the school district was a real partner, but the majority of board members had other ideas. Caire and the Urban League did their best to address every objection critics put in their way, and now it’s clear that the intent all along was to scuttle the project with a gauntlet of hurdles.

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

LearnZillion does a number on classrooms


Kai Ryssdal: For those who haven’t been in a modern public school classroom lately, there have been some changes since the days you had to whack the erasers together after class to clean them out. Chalkboards have been replaced not just by whiteboards, but by high-tech “smart” boards. Students are using laptops and iPads all over the place. In all, public schools spend roughly $3 billion a year on education technology — things meant to make teaching faster, easier and better.
Change can be hard, but companies are trying to ease the transition. From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR, Amy Scott reports.

To Stay Great, Never Forget Your Basics

This interview with Geoffrey Canada, president and C.E.O. of the nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What were some early management challenges for you?
A. At a school in Massachusetts where I once worked, we managed early on through consensus. Which sounds wonderful, but it was just a very, very difficult way to sort of manage anything, because convincing everybody to do one particular thing, especially if it was hard, was almost impossible.
Q. How big a group was this?
A. There were about 25 teachers and instructors and others. And very quickly I went from being this wonderful person, “Geoff is just so nice, he’s just such a great guy,” to: “I cannot stand that guy. He just thinks he’s in charge and he wants to do things his way.” And it was a real eye-opener for me because I was trying to change something that everybody was comfortable with. I don’t think we were doing a great job with the kids, and I thought we could perform at a higher level.

Teachers to be evaluated on new system in 2012-13

Megan Rolland:

Educators from across the state made a last-ditch effort Thursday to sway the state Education Board toward adopting their favorite of three teacher evaluation systems that next year will be used to evaluate every teacher in Oklahoma.
In the end, the board decided not to decide.
After an almost equal amount of support was expressed for two of the three systems, the board voted to adopt all three models for a one-year pilot.
School districts will be able to select any of the three models and will receive a portion of approximately $1.5 million in funding for the evaluation system based on student enrollment numbers.
“When I hear the dialogue back and forth about the strengths and weaknesses of these systems, I wonder if it’s really about the strengths and weaknesses of these systems or if it’s about who gets the money to further develop their model,” said state Education Board Member Lee Baxter, of Lawton. “I’d like to find a way to not make this decision. I’d like to find a way to go through the pilot program and allow the districts to be involved with the evaluation system that they want to over a year’s period of time.”

Urban League Plans Legal Action After Madison Prep Vote Fails

Proponents of the Madison Preparatory Academy said they’re looking to take legal action against the Madison Metropolitan School District after the school board voted against the proposed charter school.
The Madison Board of Education put an end to the Madison Prep proposal with a 5-2 vote early Tuesday morning, and reaction was swift.
“Because (the school board members) don’t take us seriously — they will sit right up here and look in our face and not even know they’re insulting us with the things that they say,” said Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League Of Greater Madison President, shortly after the vote. “We are going to turn our attention immediately, immediately, to address this legally.”

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

10 Years of Assessing Students With Scientific Exactitude

Michael Winerip:

In the last decade, we have emerged from the Education Stone Age. No longer must we rely on primitive tools like teachers and principals to assess children’s academic progress. Thanks to the best education minds in Washington, Albany and Lower Manhattan, we now have finely calibrated state tests aligned with the highest academic standards. What follows is a look back at New York’s long march to a new age of accountability.
DECEMBER 2002 The state’s education commissioner, Richard P. Mills, reports to the state Regents: “Students are learning more than ever. Student achievement has improved in relation to the standards over recent years and continues to do so.”
JANUARY 2003 New York becomes one of the first five states to have its testing system approved by federal officials under the new No Child Left Behind law. The Princeton Review rates New York’s assessment program No. 1 in the country.

For Cornell Tech School, a $350 Million Gift From a Single Donor

Richard Perez-Pena:

The donor whose $350 million gift will be critical in building Cornell University’s new high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, whose founder, Charles F. Feeney, is a Cornell alumnus who made billions of dollars through the Duty Free Shoppers Group.
Mr. Feeney, 80, has spent much of the last three decades giving away his fortune, with large gifts to universities all over the world and an unusual degree of anonymity. Cornell officials revealed in 2007 that he had given some $600 million to the university over the years, yet nothing on its Ithaca campus, where he graduated from the School of Hotel Management in 1956.
The $350 million gift, the largest in the university’s history, was announced on Friday, but the donor was not named. Officials at Atlantic Philanthropies confirmed on Monday evening that it was Mr. Feeney, a native of Elizabeth, N.J., who is known for his frugality — he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch — as well as his philanthropic generosity, particularly to medical research.

On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)

The Madison School Board voted early Tuesday morning against a charter school geared toward low-income minority students.
Moments later, Urban League of Greater Madison President Kaleem Caire announced to a crowd of emotional supporters that he planned to file a racial discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department. He also urged the supporters to run for School Board.
“We are going to challenge this school district like they’ve never been challenged before, I swear to God,” Caire said.
The School Board voted against the plan 5-2, as expected, just after midnight. In the hours leading up to the vote, however, hundreds of Madison Preparatory Academy supporters urged them to change their minds.
More than 450 people gathered at Memorial High School for public comments, which lasted more than four hours.
It was the first School Board meeting moved to Memorial since a 2001 debate over the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.

Nathan Comp:

But the night’s harshest criticism was leveled not at the proposal but at the board itself, over a perceived lack of leadership “from the superintendent on down.”
“You meet every need of the unions, but keep minority student achievement a low priority,” said one parent.
Others suggested the same.
“This vote is not about Madison Prep,” said Jan O’Neill, a citizen who came out to speak. “It’s about this community, who we are and what we stand for — and who we stand up for.”
Among the issues raised by opponents, the one that seemed to weigh heaviest on the minds of board members was the non-instrumentality issue, which would’ve allowed Madison Prep to hire non-union staff.
A work preservation clause in the district’s collective bargaining agreement with the teacher’s union requires the district to hire union staff. Board member Ed Hughes said he wanted to approve Madison Prep, but feared that approving a non-instrumentality school would put the district in breach of its contract with Madison Teachers, Inc.
“It’s undeniable that Madison school district hasn’t done very well by its African American students,” he said. “But I think it’s incumbent upon us to honor the contract.”

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