Raising the Bar


It has recently been suggested that, in order to elevate the quality and status of teachers in America, teachers need to take a “bar exam.” After all, doctors and lawyers have serious hurdles to jump over in order to secure and maintain their licenses. The work that you do as a teacher is just as important as the work that a doctor or a lawyer does–in fact you educate future doctors and lawyers. Why shouldn’t teachers be held to the same standard as lawyers and doctors?
Being an effective teacher requires more than just attending professional development workshops. Excellent instruction in the classroom facilitates student learning, which leads to better achievement on formal assessments and standardized tests. Starting the discussion with disappointing test results, however, often brings up the “chicken or the egg” dilemma: is poor performance on standardized tests the fault of the teacher for not providing quality instruction or is it the fault of the student for failing to work hard and learn? Frequently, teachers are shouldering the blame.

Tennessee Directs Nashville to Back Charter School; Per Student Spending Comparison

Stephanie Banchero:

The Tennessee State Board of Education has cleared the way for a charter school backed by neighborhood parents to open in middle-class West Nashville.
The board voted Friday to direct the Metro Nashville Public Schools to approve an application by Great Hearts Academies, a nonprofit that operates prep-school-like charter schools in the Phoenix area, to open a school in 2014. The group hopes to open four more schools across Nashville after that.
The Nashville school board, whose members are elected on a nonpartisan basis, approved two other charter schools last month. But it twice rejected Great Hearts’ application, claiming the school would recruit only affluent students and harm diversity efforts in the district, where 45% of elementary students passed state reading exams last year, and 33% passed math. The local teachers union didn’t take a public stand on the application.

Nashville schools spent $674,034,800 [PDF] to educate 79,117 students [District Fact Sheet PDF, 71% “economically disadvantaged”] during the 2011-2012 school year ($8519.47/student), 42% less than Madison’s $14,858.

When Andrew Hacker asks “Is Algebra Necessary?”, why doesn’t he just ask “Is High School Necessary?”


Yes, I admit, the editorial at the New York Time entitled “Is Algebra Necessary?” pushes my buttons. Hacker makes some valid and relevant points, and I’ll get back to that. However, the core of his argument is the ultimate in anti-intellectualism. What’s worse, it’s the kind of anti-intellectualism that you get from intellectuals, the sort of thing that sprouts from those on the math-ignorant side of the “two cultures” identified by C. P. Snow.
Andrew Hacker’s argument against making algebra necessary for high school and college students is essentially: Math Is Hard. Having to do it gets in the way of people who could be amazing at other things, because they will drop out of high school because Math Is Hard. So, rather than stop them from achieving all that they might achieve, we should just remove algebra from the high school curriculum. He points out that failing math is one of the main reasons students leave school. Now, I might think that this is a reason to look at our educational culture, at how math is taught, at the fact that it is somehow deemed acceptable and indeed normal to find basic math impenetrable. But, if you’re on the other side of the two cultures, evidently this means that we as a society should just give up on the general teaching of basic algebra. Evidently, it’s OK that the elites who understand the simplest things about science become that much more separated from the general educated public, and that the generally educated public know that much less about them.

A New Type of Mathematics for non-Mathematicians

Gowers Blog:

As I said would happen in my post about a possible approach to teaching maths to non-mathematicians aged 16-18, I went last Wednesday to Watford Grammar School for Boys to try the approach out. The headmaster there, Martin Post, was remarkably helpful and assembled a usefully varied group of pupils, some from his school, some from the equivalent school for girls, and some from a nearby mixed comprehensive school (I wasn’t told which one) whose pupils receive some of their teaching in scientific subjects from Watford Grammar School. What’s more, some of the people there were doing maths and further maths, some were doing just maths, and some were not doing either. The one thing that was not representative about the group was that they were much brighter than average: for example, the non-mathematicians there had been chosen by their teachers as clever people who could have done maths but decided that they were more interested in other things. For most of the rest of this post, I’ll say what questions I discussed and how the discussions went. All but two of them were taken from the list in the earlier post.

Information Asymmetries and the Market for Higher Education

Elizabeth Malm:

Here is how it works. Each year, a student (or more likely, their family) fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In this cumbersome, complicated process, families report income and other related assets. Essentially, this reports to the government the family’s estimated ability to pay for higher education–not willingness to pay, but ability to pay. This is an important point. The government then calculates what is known as the “expected family contribution,” which is sent to colleges, reporting what exactly the government deems a family can devote to their student’s education.
Let’s step back for a moment and frame this problem a little differently. Imagine you are on the market to purchase a new car. When a salesman approaches, you (the buyer) have an information advantage. You know exactly what you are willing to pay for the car based on your own personal preferences and your personal belief as to how much of your family budget you can realistically devote to purchasing the car. With this knowledge, you are in the driver’s seat on negotiating the price of the car.

Questions on Louisiana School Vouchers

Mike Hastens:

After the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved state Superintendent John C. White’s version of accountability for voucher schools this week, some people were asking “what accountability?”
They especially feel that way since White reserved the right to waive any and all restrictions imposed in the accountability plan if he believes it’s merited.
If a school doesn’t have 40 students, there are no repercussions, even if every voucher student fails the state assessment tests.

E-Books in Libraries: A Briefing Document Developed in Preparation for a Workshop on E-Lending in Libraries

David O’Brien, Urs Gasser, and John Palfrey:

This briefing document was developed with helpful inputs from industry stakeholders and other practitioners in preparation for the “E-Books in Libraries” workshop, hosted on February 24, 2012, by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society with the generous support of the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
The “E-Books in Libraries” workshop was convened as part of a broader effort to explore current issues associated with digital publishing business models and access to digitally-published materials in libraries. Workshop attendees, including representatives from leading publishers, libraries, academia, and other industry experts, were invited to identify key challenges, share experiences, and prioritize areas for action. This document, which contains some updates reflecting new developments following the February workshop (up to June 2012), is intended to build on and continue that discussion with a broader audience, and encourage the development of next steps and concrete solutions.

Our generation’s Legos

rogue Lynn:

First time I heard about raspberry pi was through twitter. I thought: Oh I bet that’s a cute name for a new python module. Didn’t look into it.
Then I overheard a very dedicated PyLady saying “OMG my Raspberry Pi shipped today!”
Wait, a module shipped? She doesn’t develop python modules. Is this a physical thing?
Then, weeks later, I asked another friend, “What is this Raspberry Pi?”
The world stopped to him. “What, are you serious?” he responded. “Yeah…?” Clearly I wasn’t getting “it.” Then I preceded to get educated in “it.”

Addressing the Middle School Achievement Gap

GE Citizenship:

Dr. Sabrina Hope King is Chief Academic Officer for the New York Department of Education’s Office of Curriculum and Professional Development. As part of her role, she leads the Campaign for Middle School Success, a multi-year strategic plan to develop a culture of success in schools throughout the city and improve the academic performance of middle school students.
The Campaign for Middle School Success is a $35 million initiative supported by both public and private funds, including a five-year, $17.9 million grant from the GE Foundation as part of the Developing Futures™ in Education program.
Dr. King’s audio perspective discusses how New York City schools are addressing the achievement gap and creating a system of middle schools that help prepare children for success in further education and future careers.

My Education in Home Schooling

Quinn Cummings:

I don’t know how most people spend their second morning home schooling. I spent mine hyperventilating into a paper bag. After less than 24 hours of educating my child at home, I was struck by the realization that I wasn’t up to the task and should move immediately to Plan B. Except I didn’t have a Plan B.
For two years leading up to this I had watched my daughter convince experienced, well-meaning teachers that she was incapable of mastering long division when, in fact, she simply didn’t like long division. Alice’s ploy raised a larger concern: At age 9, she appeared to be cruising along in school without actually doing any work. To my sorrow, it appeared I had given birth to myself, another pleasant slacker fated to a lifetime of successfully studying for midterms between classes until barely paying attention stopped working. Alice wasn’t learning how to learn, she was learning how to coast. Maybe I could wait and see if she came to learning on her own. Or maybe she needed a different kind of education.
Her father and I checked out a few middle-school programs known for their rigor. Each promised to challenge Alice academically but also promised hours of homework every night. I’m greedy. I want my child challenged, but I don’t want her staying up until 2 a.m. every night translating “The Aeneid.” I knew we had a small window of opportunity to teach Alice to love learning, but I also knew there was an equally small window for her to be a child. Her academic options seemed to lie on either side of a wide chasm: a fluffy pillow on one side, a jackhammer on the other. I tried home schooling because I couldn’t find a better alternative.

An Interview with Laura Waters: Parent, Activist, School Board President, Citizen, Blogger

Laura Waters
39MB mp3 audio file
President, Lawrence Township Board of Education [Note the “user friendly” budget ($14,483/student, about 4% less than Madison’s $15,132/student)], publisher of the New Jersey Left Behind blog and author of an occasional column. .

I appreciate the time Laura took to discuss her activism, experience and aspirations along with her views on where our ed system is going. Laura further discussed her District’s recent turnaround strategy. Finally, Laura offered several useful suggestions for parents researching schools.

Academies told they can hire “unqualified” teachers

By Angela Harrison:

England’s new academy schools can now hire unqualified teachers, after a change to the rules.
Government officials say this means academies will be free to hire “great linguists, computer scientists and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before”.
Unions for head teachers and teachers have attacked the move, describing it as a damaging backward step.
The change is immediate.
Until now, most state-funded schools could only employ people with what is known as “Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)“, meaning they have been trained and approved as meeting a range of standards.
Independent schools are exempt.
The change also brings academies in line with the new free schools, which are already free to employ people without QTS.

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

Talks collapse over Hong Kong national classes delay

Jennifer Cheng and Dennis Chong:

The subject is intended to engender national pride but is derided as a “brainwashing” tool by critics.
A representative of the central government’s liaison office waded into the furore, urging parents to back the curriculum.
While Ng claimed there had been no “falling out”, leaders of the National Education Parents Concern Group said they walked out of the talks and felt “disrespected” by Ng.
Convener Eva Chan Sik-chee said the talks were like “playing music to a bull” and called for more parents to join the march, due to start at 2.30pm in Victoria Park and end at government headquarters in Admiralty.
Chan said the talks were no more than a gesture, intended to “turn down the heat” before the protest.

Inside the Coursera Contract: How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses

Jeffrey Young:

Coursera has been operating for only a few months, but the company has already persuaded some of the world’s best-known universities to offer free courses through its online platform. Colleges that usually move at a glacial pace are rushing into deals with the upstart company. But what exactly have they signed up for? And if the courses are free, how will the company–and the universities involved–make money to sustain them?
Some clues can be found in the contract the institutions signed. The Chronicle obtained the agreement between Coursera and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the first public university to make such a deal, under a Freedom of Information Act request, and Coursera officials say that the arrangement is similar to those with the other partners.
The contract reveals that even Coursera isn’t yet sure how it will bring in revenue. A section at the end of the agreement, titled “Possible Company Monetization Strategies,” lists eight potential business models, including having companies sponsor courses. That means students taking a free course from Stanford University may eventually be barraged by banner ads or promotional messages. But the universities have the opportunity to veto any revenue-generating idea on a course-by-course basis, so very little is set in stone.

New York’s Charter Schools Get an A+

Joel Klein:

During the eight years I served as chancellor of New York City’s public schools, the naysayers and the apologists for the status quo kept telling me “we’ll never fix education in America until we fix poverty.”
I always thought they had it backward, that “we’ll never fix poverty until we fix education.” Let me be clear. Poverty matters: Its debilitating psychological and physical effects often make it much harder to successfully educate kids who grow up in challenged environments. And we should do everything we can to ameliorate the effects of poverty by giving kids and families the support they need. But that said, I remain convinced that the best cure for poverty is a good education.
And I’m equally convinced that pointing to poverty as an excuse for why we fail to properly educate poor kids only serves to condemn more of them to lives of poverty.

‘Exceptional’ Is the Standard U.S. Education Must Aim For

Ed Moore:

The use of the phrase “global marketplace” has become so commonplace it is almost trite.
It has developed into one of those catch phrases that fill the hours of talking heads and appear in virtually every paper issued on the American economy.
Americans like to think of our country as an undefeated champion, capable of conquering every challenge. Yet, we find ourselves in an increasingly competitive universe of economies, all seeking to become economic giants; all working hard to become leaders across the spectrum of competitive fields.
In “Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World Class Education,” published by the National Governors Association (NGA), the plea was made clear: “what matters is how a state’s students compare to those in countries around the globe. America must seize this moment to ensure that we have workers whose knowledge, skills and talents are competitive with the rest of the world.”

Related: www.wisconsin2.org

Catholic schools can learn from charters

Sean Kennedy:

Charter schools, only 20 years old, are on the rise across America as parents and students try to escape failing public schools. The growth in charter schools has hit Catholic schools especially hard, as education historian Diane Ravitch noted, “Where charter schools are expanding, Catholic schools are dying.” Instead of fearing the rise of Charter schools, Catholic schools should learn from their innovative practices.
Parents who once preferred Catholic schools to the failing public system are abandoning Catholic schools en masse. This coming school year (2012-2013), more American elementary and secondary school students will enroll in charter schools than Catholic schools for the first time.
Charters have grown precisely because they took some of the best practices of Catholic schools – uniforms, discipline and high expectations – and applied them zealously. Now, Catholic schools should adopt some of the best practices used by charters to stage a comeback.
Milwaukee’s Catholic schools have a special opportunity to lead reform. Starting in the fall of 2013, one of the most innovative charter school networks, Rocketship Academy of San Jose, Calif., will open its first franchise in Milwaukee.
Rocketship plans to open eight in total and enroll 4,000 students in the coming years. Rocketship’s model has improved student outcomes dramatically, especially for English language learners. More important, Rocketship spends half as much per pupil than traditional schools.

Not all math classes are the same even in the same school

Maureen Downey:

Researcher William H. Schmidt believes education has become a game of chance in which the odds of success are predicated on factors outside the control of the students, including where they live, the schools they attend, the teachers they have and the textbooks they use.
An internationally recognized researcher on effective math education, Schmidt says that U.S. students lack equal opportunities to learn math, something he saw firsthand when he took sabbatical from Michigan State University to spend a year at the University of Virginia.
As an author of Michigan’s math standards, Schmidt knew his second grader would have been learning multiplication tables up to the number five back home in East Lansing. In Virginia, multiplication was not taught at all in second grade, reinforcing what Schmidt already realized from his international comparisons: All math classes are not equal and students do not have the same opportunities to learn math.

Why do charter schools in N.J. generate so much heat?

Laura Waters:

N.J. charter schools are, by statute and conception, public schools. They are funded by public money on a per pupil basis, just like traditional schools, although the sending districts keep a small portion. They are all non-profits.
They adhere to the same fiscal and curricular metrics as other N.J. public schools. The kids take the same tests. Staff members can unionize, although they don’t have to. Admissions policies can’t discriminate against kids new to the English language or children with disabilities. 

The charter universe in N.J. is tiny, serving only 2 percent of students, mostly poor minority kids.
While there’s no current legislation that restricts new charters to needy districts, eight of the nine new charters just approved by the DOE are in Newark, Camden, Jersey City, and Willingboro.

Calif. Student Sues Teacher, District Over C+ Grade

Katie Kindelan, via a kind reader’s email:

A C+ is considered average on the grading scale but for one California high school student it was well below average, enough so that he filed a lawsuit against both his teacher and school district.
Bowen Bethards, 17, was a sophomore in Peggy Carlock’s chemistry class at Albany High School in Albany, Calif., outside of San Francisco, in the 2010-11 school year when she gave him the C+ grade at the center of the suit, according to court records first reported by the Albany Patch.
Bethards, in a lawsuit filed with his mother, Laureen, in Contra Costa County Superior Court last month, claims that he has suffered severe physical and emotional suffering, damage to his academic reputation, and diminished chances of getting into his college of choice because of the grade.
The Bethards claim that Carlock, who no longer teaches at the school, punished Bowen for missing class on a day that his fellow students performed a lab. Bethards, according to the suit, had to miss class to attend the adoption hearing for his younger sister and so informed Carlock of his absence ahead of time. The two agreed upon a make-up date but when Bethards showed up on the agreed-upon date, he says, Carlock said he could not make up the lab and was instead, “going to fail him,” according to court documents.

55 Year Old CPA With 169 LSAT Sues Baylor Over Admissions Denial, Says His 3.2 GPA Was Earned Before Grade Inflation

Paul Caron:

Following up on my previous post, Baylor Law School Sends Mass Email With Personal Data on Each of its 442 Admitted Students (Apr. 6, 2012): C. Michael Kamps, a CPA who was denied admission to Baylor Law School, has filed an age discrimination lawsuit agains the school based in part on the improperly released data, claiming that his 169 LSAT was higher than 97% of Baylor’s admitted class and that the school failed to take into account the fact that his 3.2 GPA from Texas A&M (Class of 1979) was earned in the days before rampant grade inflation.

From the complaint (2MB PDF):

Plaintiff, more than thirty years ago, graduated from a major and wel-respected university in the top quarter of his class comprising primarily his similarly aged peers.
Plaintiff first applied to Defendant Baylor University’s Law School in 2009, for the fall quarter commencing in 2010. Plaintiff also applied for a specific merit based scholarship with published and long-established qualifying criteria which Plaintiff met. The candidate pol for this class, and for the scholarship, generally consisted of applicants substantially younger than Plaintiff.
2. Plaintiff expected to be, and insists that he be, allowed to compete on an equal footing with the much younger candidates for admission to Law School and access to merit based scholarships.
Plaintiff expects, and insists, that Defendants judge and evaluate his application as one submitted by a top quarter graduate of a major and wel- respected university.
3. Defendants refuse and insist upon applying disparate standards to older vs. younger candidates. Defendants pretend that these are not disparate standards at all ,but rather one factually neutral and uniform standard.
These standards, as applied by Defendants, are biased with respect to age and are therefore in violation of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42U.S.C.§6101etseq., (“the Act”) and its implementing Regulations at 34C.F.R. Part 10 (“Regulations”). Defendants persist in this practice
even while faced with overwhelming evidence of, and while actually acknowledging, the bias.
Plaintiff scored at the 97th percentile on the Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”), with a score of 169. Plaintiffs “Baylor Index,” an index calculated by multiplying Plaintiff’s UGPA by a factor of 10 and adding that product to Plaintiffs LSAT score, is 201.

Is Algebra Necessary?

Andrew Hacker:

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.
My question extends beyond algebra and applies more broadly to the usual mathematics sequence, from geometry through calculus. State regents and legislators — and much of the public — take it as self-evident that every young person should be made to master polynomial functions and parametric equations.

Teaching students to stake out their own personal cloud namespaces, to which they’ll attach a variety of services, is an excellent lesson

Jon Udell:

In the mid-2000s I made some friends in the world of higher education who were starting to think like the web and to imagine how that might transform an institution that everyone could see needed to change. One of them, Gardner Campbell, invited me to speak at the University of Mary Washington’s Faculty Academy on Instructional Technologies. There I met an inspired team of thinkers and doers who were pioneering the academic use of what we now call cloud technology.
UMW isn’t a wealthy school; there wasn’t a big budget for IT; that was a constraint well embraced. Gardner’s dream team found their way to BlueHost where, for $8/month, they could spin up web servers, wikis, and most importantly the blogs that have become central to the intellectual life of the school. Here’s Jim Groom, aka Mr. Edupunk, reflecting on what UMW Blogs has become.

All kids need a great education: Common Core as a Panacea

Bill Berezowitz and Tim Sheehy:

As the CEO of Manpower Group, Jeff Joerres knows a lot about what’s required to fill the job needs of employers all over the globe, and as he has noted “we are in the human age, where economies compete and survive based mainly on talent.”
Wisconsin’s release of a new measure of student academic performance in grade and high school was a warning sign worth our attention (“Student scores slip with new standard,” July 17). Credit goes to the state Department of Public Instruction, led by Superintendent Tony Evers, for its on-point and timely release of this new data showing how Wisconsin’s students perform when we use a higher common standard to compare with students in other states.
The results were tough to swallow, 36% proficient in reading and 48% proficient in math on standards that are more representative of what is needed to compete nationally and globally. It looks as if we have been training our students on the low hurdles, when in reality we are running in an international high-hurdle race where jobs are the finish line.
We recently attended a conference sponsored by GE on this very topic. The national audience of business and education leaders came together to better understand the implications of all states adopting a common core set of standards to measure educational performance in K-12. Wisconsin has significant ground to make up.

Through the looking glass.

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

Maria Popova:

“The real enemy is the man who tries to mold the human spirit so that it will not dare to spread its wings.”
In an age obsessed with practicality, productivity, and efficiency, I frequently worry that we are leaving little room for abstract knowledge and for the kind of curiosity that invites just enough serendipity to allow for the discovery of ideas we didn’t know we were interested in until we are, ideas that we may later transform into new combinations with applications both practical and metaphysical.
This concern, it turns out, is hardly new. In The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (PDF), originally published in the October 1939 issue of Harper’s, American educator Abraham Flexner explores this dangerous tendency to forgo pure curiosity in favor of pragmatism — in science, in education, and in human thought at large — to deliver a poignant critique of the motives encouraged in young minds, contrasting those with the drivers that motivated some of history’s most landmark discoveries.

How academic standards disappear

Jay Matthews:

A literature professor at a Washington-area college wasn’t surprised by my column last week on the terrible quality of college essays purchased on the Internet. She had suffered from the output of the paper mills and told me a story illustrating how bogus work sells even when it is bad.
One of her students wanted to raise his grade with extra-credit work. Because he had not understood a 19th-century novel that was key to her course, she said, she suggested that he “read a particular journal article and write a short summary/review of the author’s analysis.”
She thought this would be a plagiarism-proof assignment. She may have been right about that, but the essay she received had other flaws.
“It was clear to me that the writer of the submitted paper had read no more than two or three pages of the article, and although it was well-written, it did not really answer the assignment,” she said. “I suspected that the paper was custom-ordered and custom-written.”

The spectre of plagiarism haunting Europe

Debra Weber-Wulff:

A spectre is haunting Europe, and this time it is the spectre of plagiarism and scientific misconduct. Some high-profile politicians have had to resign in the last 18 months – but the revelations are also shaking respected European universities.
Many European countries, especially Germany, have long considered it unnecessary to give plagiarism more than a cursory look. One trusts in the self-cleansing powers of science, end of story.
Last February, a reviewer of German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s doctoral dissertation discovered and documented some plagiarised passages.
When the papers pounced on this, zu Guttenberg denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “absurd”. If he had messed up the odd footnote, he said he would fix it for the second edition.

More schools moved to balanced calendar with shorter summers, more breaks

Lauren Casey & Suzanna Couch:

Perry Meridian Middle School student Trevor Russell will head back to his Indianapolis education facility on Tuesday – what many consider the middle of summer – but he’s excited.
He gets to see friends sooner. He’s going to have more breaks throughout the year. And he thinks he might start the semester remembering more from last year.
“I think most of my friends are excited too,” Trevor said. “We usually get bored by the end of summer break because it is so long, so now we get to see each other more during the year.”

Teachers are hampered by education establishment

Thomas Zachek:

Sometimes I wish I could take the education establishment by the throat and throttle it.
I know, I know – teachers are the problem. But teachers are like foot soldiers on the front lines, carrying out orders but rarely having a say in them. The real education establishment is the administrators, board members, legislators, think tanks, textbook publishers, testing services, educational researchers and “experts” who truly create the education agenda in our society. And these forces place teachers and students in a tug of war with political agendas and shifting priorities.
Anyone in education for more than a decade has seen trends come and go. I remember when everything had to be geared to the college-bound. Then came the Tech-Prep Initiative, wherein we were reminded that not everybody needed to go to college and schools needed to prepare students for workforce skills. I remember the eras of behavioral objectives, of Madeline Hunter, of WIDS. If you don’t know what those mean, think buggy whips or Betamax.

Are Unpaid Internships Worth the Effort?

Melissa Korn:

It’s drilled into college students’ heads from day one: get an internship, you’ll get a job.
But a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that the equation isn’t quite so tidy. That internship might lead to a job-but your chances are far better if you’re getting paid.
The group released a study this week showing that 60% of 2012 graduates who worked a paid internship got at least one job offer, while just 37% of those in unpaid gigs got any offers. That’s slightly – only slightly – better than the offer rate for graduates who skipped internships entirely, at 36%.
Unpaid internships are ubiquitous. A 2010 survey from NACE found that nearly 95% of member schools allow organizations to post unpaid internship opportunities, and less than a third of those require students to earn academic credit or some form of certificate for their work. Intern Bridge, a recruiting research and consulting firm, found that more than half of internships reported for its 2011 Internship Salary Report were unpaid.

This cyber school study ignored key details

Priya Abraham:

Eleanor Chute’s July 19 story “Report Criticizes Progress at Cyber Charter Schools” cites a new University of Colorado study showing that students in public cyber schools using education provider K12 Inc. programs are “falling behind.” However, the article and study neglect important facts on Pennsylvania performance and funding.
While cyber schools are similar to school districts in both size and age groups served, they are assessed at a higher standard than school districts because of a flaw in Pennsylvania’s education assessment system. To make adequate yearly progress, districts need to meet performance goals for only one age group, whether elementary, middle or high school. In contrast, individual schools including cyber schools must meet AYP standards overall, or they fail.
Moreover, Ms. Chute repeats an error advanced by the Colorado researchers and state Auditor General Jack Wagner that asserts cyber schools spend less per student than traditional public schools and therefore should get less funding. But cyber schools spend less because they receive less.

Turnaround firm sues Gary schools to get records

Associated Press:

GARY, Ind. (AP) — A company appointed by Indiana to run and try to turn around a troubled Gary high school is suing the Gary Community School Corp., demanding that it turn over student records it needs to run the school.
Edison Learning Inc. senior vice president Todd McIntire told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/MK29IQ ) for a story published Wednesday that the lawsuit requires the district to release student records and provide the for-profit firm with services as required by law, including those associated with student transportation and school maintenance.

US States With Education Waivers Offer Varied Goals

Motoko Rich:

In excusing more than half of the states from meeting crucial requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law, the Obama administration sought to require states to develop more realistic tools to improve and measure the progress of schools and teachers.
A report being issued on Friday by the liberal Center for American Progress shows that while some states have proposed reforms aimed at spurring schools and teachers to improve student performance, others may be introducing weaker measures of accountability.
“The increased flexibility of the waivers means that some states will experiment and move ahead,” said Jeremy Ayers, associate director of federal education programs at the organization, “while others may backtrack.”

Going Broke for Reform In Michigan, insolvency leads to school choice opportunity

The Wall Street Journal:

Muskegon Heights and Highland Park–two of Michigan’s most insolvent school districts–this year are handing their classroom keys over to charter school operators to save money. That’s good news for local taxpayers, but the biggest beneficiaries may be the kids.
Both districts were running deficits that approached two-thirds of their budgets, thanks to the double whammy of rising labor costs and declining enrollment. To help the districts avert bankruptcy, Governor Rick Snyder appointed emergency managers who under a new state law can break collective-bargaining agreements. While such flexibility was essential to get their books in order, it may not have been sufficient.
According to Muskegon Heights manager Don Weatherspoon, the district would have to slash salaries by 35%–reducing hourly wage rates to about $10–merely to break even. That would have likely caused a teacher walk-out. When the emergency manager for Detroit schools last month proposed extending a 10% pay cut for a year, teachers threatened to strike.

Some Assembly Required: Building a Better Accountability System for California

Kevin Carey:

On October 8, 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown took a stand. Throughout the 2011 session of the California General Assembly, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg had been pushing legislation designed to revamp the state’s system for holding K-12 schools accountable for student success. California’s Academic Performance Index (API) system hadn’t been updated since 1999 and relied mostly on standardized tests of basic proficiency in reading and math. Steinberg’s bill, SB 547, would have changed the system to include graduation rates and measures of career and college readiness.1 The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate by wide margins and with bipartisan support, in addition to the backing of diverse organizations including business groups, charter school operators, and school administrators.

Madison’s Spending Priorities: Another $170K administrator or Teaching Kids to Read, among other topics?

News that Madison’s new, interim Superintendent Jane Belmore seeks to add a “Chief of Staff” provides taxpayers, parents and students an opportunity to reflect on the District’s priorities within the planned $376,200,000 2012-2013 budget ($15,132/student).
The District’s job #1, in my view is to address its reading problems. A kind reader mentioned that Reading Recovery was discussed at this past Monday’s school board meeting (video).
Will the status quo continue?
Related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”.

The Education I Wish I Had

Luke Thomas:

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m pretty disappointed with the majority of my college classes over the past few years. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on creating a sample curriculum that I wish I had in college; after all, what’s the point in complaining without coming up with an alternative?
In high school I was home-schooled & attended a technical center in conjunction with taking college classes, so my past educational experience wasn’t “the norm.” I’ll be borrowing certain elements from my past, simply because they worked for me!
While I’ll be the first to admit that this curriculum is not for everyone (in fact, it’s only for a small set of self-learners); my purpose is to challenge assumptions and create a simple learning framework for a fraction of the cost of a college degree.

Declining US STEM Performance and National Defense

Col. Chuck Bowes:

Today’s high school graduates suffer from systemically deficient abilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that poses considerable challenges to our increasingly technological military force. Research findings reported by the United States Mission to the Organization for Economic and Co-operation Development (OECD) reveals that U.S. middle school and high school students are habitually under-performing their international peers in STEM achievement measures.
President Obama, Secretary of Education Duncan, and Bill Gates also express concern that too few young people are acquiring the knowledge they need to use technology in creative and innovative ways. As U.S. student STEM achievement continues to race to the bottom of all industrialized competitors, adding non-volunteer recruits worsens the problem.

Texas State University System Has $10,000 Degree Plan

Reeve Hamilton:

The Texas State University System is the state’s third major university system to announce the development of a bachelor’s degree that only costs $10,000 — a response to Gov. Rick Perry’s 2011 call for more affordable higher education offerings.
Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College, an upper-division college in the Texas State University System, has partnered with Southwest Texas Junior College to create a new “10K Scholars Program.” Its degree model, which will become available in fall 2013, appears to be something of a hybrid of the previous two models introduced in the state.
Texas A&M University-San Antonio partnered with Alamo Colleges to offer a bachelor’s of applied arts and sciences in information technology with an emphasis on computer security. In order to keep costs down, students must earn an associate’s degree while still in high school and then take advantage of the lower costs at one of the Alamo community colleges before proceeding to A&M-San Antonio. At the University of Texas-Permian Basin, a $10,000 degree can be earned entirely at the institution for students who qualify for the new Texas Science Scholar program, essentially providing them a merit scholarship that caps their tuition.

What Does the “Twilight of the Elites” Mean to Elite Higher Ed?

Joshua Kim:

My wife and I were both born in 1969. Here is a short list of debacles, missteps, and failures that we’ve witnessed in our time on the planet: stagflation, the energy crisis (gas lines), the tech bubble, the 2nd Iraq war, the housing bubble, and the great recession (and you can add to this list). Another way we could describe the past 40 or so years, if feeling negative, could be: rising inequality, stagnant real wages, rapid increases in health care and education costs, growth in structural unemployment/underemployment, and political polarization and ineffectiveness in the face of these challenges.
Christopher Hayes, editor-at-large for the Nation, thinks that many of the problems listed above can be traced back to the failures of elite decision making. These are problems that could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, if those in charge of the political and financial levers had demonstrated a modicum of clear thinking and firm leadership. Perhaps the 2003 Iraq invasion and failure of post-occupation planning is the most obvious elite failure, but in retrospect those policies that pumped up the housing bubble (lax regulation and non-existent oversight of sub-prime loans) constitute a clear example of elite malfeasance.

IBM’s interesting THINK App

Lee Green:

The history of measurement may seem arcane, but consider how people centuries ago measured time, length, or the Earth’s rotation. Compare that to measuring atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope — and all the historic milestones in between.
Today IBM is releasing a free, interactive app, IBM THINK, for iPad and Android tablets. It shows how early tools have evolved into modern advances that make the world word work better — healthier populations, greener energy and safer, less congested cities. The app is for people of all ages who love science, history and technology — think of it as an “innovation time machine.”

Madison schools’ interim superintendent talks with WISC-TV


WISC-TV: Are you good at “minding the ship” or are you going to want to make some changes?
Belmore: I will be making a few changes and I already have a few things in the works. But those changes will be made in a very mindful way; I’m kind of looking at this as short-term changes for long-term good. So, I will not do anything that will drastically impede anyone else coming in. At the same time, I think there are a few changes that need to be made so we can have a year of growth and constantly moving ahead.
WISC-TV: What are some of those changes?
Belmore: One of them is that I’m kind of reorganizing a little bit so that some people are reporting directly to me who were not reporting directly to the superintendent in the current organizational scheme. Basically, that is just for the fact that (my tenure here) will be a year. I won’t have time to move through the steps of the organization; I’m going to need that communication directly with myself.

Much more on Madison’s interim Superintendent Jane Belmore, here.

Wisconsin Governor Walker calls for end of denial on education standing

Arthur Thomas:

The Harvard program, started by Peterson in 1996, seeks to develop a scientific basis for school reform policy.
In his speech, Walker said Wisconsin has undertaken more education reform in the last 18 months than during the last 18 years. He said it’s important to admit a problem exists.
Education reform doesn’t tilt toward either political party, according to Walker. He said politicians on both sides of the aisle have tried to tackle various issues.
“It comes from risk takers,” he said.
The study put the United States behind 24 countries in terms of improvement on test scores. Walker said it is important to break down denial about the country’s standing academically. If all states were able to match student achievement growth of the top five states in the study, the U.S. would be leading the world, he said.
“We’ve done it before in so many areas, we can do it here,” Walker said.

Related: Wisconsin’s Achievement Stagnation: 1992 – 2011 and wisconsin2.org.
Raising standards and comparing Wisconsin students to the best in the world is long overdue.
Meanwhile, Madison’s new “interim” Superintendent seeks to add a “Chief of Staff”.

How to Build a Better Teacher

Ray Fisman:

The conversation about how to improve American education has taken on an increasingly confrontational tone. The caricature often presented in the press depicts hard-driving, data-obsessed reformers–who believe the solution is getting rid of low-performing teachers–standing off against unions–who don’t trust any teaching metric and care more about their jobs than the children they’re supposed to be educating.
But in some ways the focus on jobs misses the point. As New York State School Chancellor John King has pointed out, with the exception of urban hubs like New York and L.A., few school districts have the luxury of firing low-performing teachers with the knowledge that new recruits will line up to take their places.
If we take firing off the table, what else can be done to resolve America’s education crisis? The findings of several recent studies by psychologists, economists, and educators show that–despite many reformers’ claims to the contrary–it may be possible to make low-performing teachers better, instead of firing them. If these studies can be replicated throughout entire school systems and across the country, we may be at the beginning of a revolution that will build a better educational system for America.

College Degrees, Designed by the Numbers

Marc Parry:

Campuses are places of intuition and serendipity: A professor senses confusion on a student’s face and repeats his point; a student majors in psychology after a roommate takes a course; two freshmen meet on the quad and eventually become husband and wife.
Now imagine hard data substituting for happenstance.
As Katye Allisone, a freshman at Arizona State University, hunkers down in a computer lab for an 8:35 a.m. math class, the Web-based course watches her back. Answers, scores, pace, click paths–it hoovers up information, like Google. But rather than personalizing search results, data shape Ms. Allisone’s class according to her understanding of the material.

The Online Student

Steve Kolowich:

The average student pursuing a postsecondary credential completely online is a white, 33-year-old woman with a full-time job and a household income around $65,000 per year, according to a new survey sponsored by two companies involved in online consulting.
This woman is likely to be studying business — the chosen field of 34 percent of students who are, recently were, or soon plan to be enrolled in fully online programs, according to the survey. Business administration and management, a popular avenue for students across all of academe, is far and away the most popular degree among the survey respondents, enrolling a greater percentage of fully online students than STEM fields, the social sciences, and the humanities combined.
“Schools simply cannot offer enough business programs if they want to attract large numbers of online students,” write the authors of the survey on behalf of its sponsors.
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/07/25/survey-provides-insight-who-enrolls-fully-online-programs-and-why#ixzz21h0eOzWi
Inside Higher Ed

Education In China Is A Sure Bet

Suresh Gupta:

In order to appreciate the recent explosion of business opportunities related to private education in China, we need to understand the cultural realities that have played a contributing role. Some of these factors include the traditional Chinese family structure with its emphasis on education, China’s one child policy and China’s explosive economic growth during the past twenty years. Additionally, with the rising growth of its middle class (currently at fifty-two plus million and projected to grow to over ninety-eight million people by 2015), one is far from surprised to see an education market currently valued at over $240 billion dollars and estimated to grow by 15% a year. Deloitte predicts that by 2015, the private education sector will have reached a market size nearing or in excess of $102 Billion.

Education Law Center Launches Lakewood (New Jersey)Investigation

Laura Waters:

ELC says that the investigation was instigated by a series of articles in the Asbury Park Press, which detailed the district’s privileging of white Jewish students over the almost-entirely Hispanic and black public school students. While there are 28,000 schoolchildren in Lakewood, almost 22,000 attend private yeshivas. Current student enrollment in Lakewood Public Schools is about 5,600, almost all Hispanic and black. The district spends about 20% of its annual operating budget on transportation. (NJ districts transport students regardless of school location).
In addition, Lakewood sends many of its white special-needs kids to the School for Hidden Intelligence. Annual tuition is about $100,000 per student per year. Minority special needs kids stay in-district and receive sub-standard services.

In Defense of Parenthood: Children Are Associated With More Joy Than Misery

S. Katherine Nelson, Kostadin Kushlev, Tammy English, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Sonja Lyubomirsky

Recent scholarly and media accounts paint a portrait of unhappy parents who find remarkably little joy in taking care of their children, but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive. In three studies, we used a strategy of converging evidence to test whether parents evaluate their lives more positively than do non-parents (Study 1), feel relatively better than non-parents on a day-to-day basis (Study 2), and experience more positive feelings during childcare than other daily activities (Study 3). The results indicate that, contrary to previous reports, parents (and especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life.
Modern evolutionary psychologists position parenting at the top of the pyramid of human needs, reflecting its central role in human life (Kenrick, Griskevicius, Neuberg, & Schaller, 2010). Yet, some research has indicated that parenting is associated with reduced well-being (e.g., Evenson & Simon, 2005; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2004; McLanahan & Adams, 1987). In particular, attention has revolved around a study showing that working mothers in Texas enjoy parenting less than watching TV, shopping, or preparing food (Kahneman et al., 2004).
Although recent media accounts paint a dismal picture of parenting, the underlying scientific research is surprisingly unclear and inconsistent. Meta-analyses have linked parenthood to lower marital satisfaction on average (Twenge, Campbell, & Foster, 2003) and to decreases in life satisfaction in the months after childbirth (Luhmann, Hoffman, Eid, & Lucas, 2012). Few analyses, however, directly compare parents and non-parents on global measures of well-being. Instead, most investigations control for multiple demographic variables, which vary across studies. Some of these studies find that parents exhibit a higher prevalence of depression (Evenson & Simon, 2005), along with less positive and more negative affect (Ross & Van Willigen, 1996), than non-parents, whereas others reveal a net zero or small negative parenting effect (e.g., Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004; Di Tella, MacCulloch, & Oswald, 2003; Ferrer-i- Carbonell, 2005). Furthermore, other work suggests that parents do not experience these negative outcomes (Keizer, Dykstra, & Poortman, 2010; Kohler, Behrman & Skytthe, 2005; Rothrauff & Cooney, 2008), and, on the contrary, report relatively higher feelings of meaning, gratification, and reward (Russell, 1974; Umberson & Gove, 1989; White & Dolan, 2009). Such conflicting findings could be due to the use of divergent methods, analytical approaches, and measures, making it almost impossible to draw clear conclusions from this literature. The importance of this topic and its prominence in popular discourse demonstrates the need for rigorous examination of the link between parenthood and well-being, using multiple methods and broad well-being measures.

At Freshman Orientation, Helping Mom and Dad Let Go

Sanette Tanaka:

At Augustana College, they call it “the short goodbye.”
It’s when administrators at the small private college in Rock Island, Ill., give parents 15 minutes to say goodbye to their children. Then, students are told to report to the gym for freshman orientation, while parents are basically told to shove off.
“Parents go meet with advisers in small groups to compose themselves, and then they need to go home,” says Evelyn Campbell, dean and vice president of student services at Augustana.
Faced with what a Syracuse University administrator calls “the most over-involved generation of all time,” colleges across the country are increasingly focusing on parents who are struggling with the transition from high school to college. Colleges are holding special orientation seminars for parents, appointing administrators to handle outreach with parents and providing emailed newsletters and specific parent portal websites, among other services.
One of the toughest parts, administrators say, is educating parents how to stay involved without coming across as overbearing, or worse, a hovering “helicopter parent.”

Plan for holding private schools accountable in voucher program wins board approval

Andrew Vanacore:

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, approved a new set of academic standards Tuesday for private schools participating in Louisiana’s expanded voucher program. By a vote of 9 to 2, the 11-member panel adopted a plan proposed by state Superintendent John White that will require private schools to hit roughly the same academic bar that public schools do in order to continue accepting public funding, though only if they take 40 or more students through the program.
The plan sparked heated debate among board members, with Lottie Beebe, from St. Martin Parish, and Carolyn Hill, from Baton Rouge, twice trying to get the decision put off until White could come back with tougher standards. Hill compared the board’s vote to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, warning that “evil is going to arise” from the board’s decision.
Chas Roemer, a board member who also represents parts of Baton Rouge, offered the most full-throated support for White, calling the vote “one of our proudest moments as a board.”

The Mass Production of Education

Terran Lane

There’s been a lot of excitement in the media about Stanford’s 100,000+ student computer science courses, MIT’s open-sourced classes, and other efforts at mass, distance-education. In some ways, these efforts really are thrilling — they offer the first truly deep structural change in how we do education in perhaps a thousand years. They offer democratization of education — opening up access to world-class education to people from all over the globe and of diverse economic and social backgrounds. How many Ramanujans might we enable, if only we could get high-quality education to more people?
But I have to sound three notes of caution about this trend.
First, I worry that mass-production here will have the same effect that it has had on manufacturing for over two centuries: administrators and regents, eager to save money, will push for ever larger remote classes and fewer faculty to teach them. Are we approaching a day in which there is only one professor of computer science for the whole US?
Second, I suspect that the “winners win” cycle will distort academia the same way that it has industry and society. When freed of constraints of distance and tuition, why wouldn’t every student choose a Stanford or MIT education over, say, UNM? How long before we see the AT&T, Microsoft, or Google of academia? How long before 1% of the universities and professors garner 99% of the students and resources?

Make teaching a more desirable career to improve education

Douglas Fick:

Imagine this scene: A young high school graduate, the class valedictorian, sits at the kitchen table with his parents, his newly opened acceptance letter from Cornell lying in front of him. Mom is crying softly, while Dad awkwardly pats his son’s shoulder with a goofy grin plastered on his face.
“What about the money, Dad?” his son asks.
“We’ll figure it out somehow,” Dad replies as he starts to wonder how to come up with anything close to the $43,000 yearly tuition. The boy has worked so hard and come so far; there is no way he is letting money keep him from his dream school.
Now comes the second big moment. The boy has been mulling it over for months.
“I finally decided what I want to study when I get there. I know it’s right for me,” he hesitates. “I want to be an elementary school teacher!” His parents leap from their chairs and literally jump for joy as the pride and excitement washes over them.

Tech key to Malaysian education hub

Ram Ramachandran:

MALAYSIA has set for itself an ambitious goal to become the region’s premier centre for higher education, aiming to attract 200,000 international students to its shores by 2020, on top of its local student intake.
Success will mean that Malaysia would have been able to shake off stiff competition from neighbouring Singapore or even Indonesia, rake in billions in educational revenue and add significant depth to the country’s manpower pool to ensure future growth in a knowledge-driven economy.
However, high costs of building infrastructure and the speed required to attract students and roll out curriculum effectively could pose major bottlenecks.
The price of failure will not only be lower student enrolment and insufficient skilled workers but also will deny Malaysia the opportunity to position itself as a leading global player in offering off-campus online education — another opportunity which can have major benefits for the country.

The Real “Trouble” With Technology, Online Education And Learning

Esther Quintero:

It’s probably too early to say whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a “tsunami” or a “seismic shift,” but, continuing with the natural disaster theme, the last few months have seen a massive “avalanche” of press commentary about them, especially within the last few days.
Also getting lots of press attention (though not as much right now) is Adaptive/Personalized Learning. Both innovations seem to fascinate us, but probably for different reasons, since they are so fundamentally different at their cores. Personalized Learning, like more traditional concepts of education, places the individual at the center. With MOOCs, groups and social interaction take center stage and learning becomes a collective enterprise.
This post elaborates on this distinction, but also points to a recent blurring of the lines between the two – a development that could be troubling.

Online Learning State Comparison

The Center for Education Reform:

The CER Education Map provides a unique and compelling look at how the states are doing in providing the critical policy ingredients necessary for effective schools to serve all children. Though individual states may — like real weather patterns — have varying forecasts, the sunny spots are few and far between. Each state has been given an grade for each of several components, and those grades collectively factor into an overall grade and general education weather forecast for that state. As states adopt new policies and programs, the grades may change.

CPS to hire 477 teachers for longer school day

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah

Chicago Public Schools will hire nearly 500 teachers for subjects including art, computer tech and physical education to accommodate a longer day for students that will only marginally increase the workday for teachers, under a plan announced Tuesday by CPS and Chicago Teachers Union officials.
The longer school day has been a major sticking point in ongoing contract negotiations between teachers and the district, and the deal announced Tuesday could go a long way to avoiding a threatened teachers strike.
Under the proposal, the day for elementary school students will remain at 7 hours, while high schoolers will be in school for 7 1/2 hours four days of the week, as originally planned.

Sesame Street steps into Indian education business

Mark Garrison:

Tess Vigeland: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? By way of India?
The Children’s Television Workshop has built Sesame into a global brand over nearly half a century. It broadcasts in more than 145 countries and licenses everything from books to Elmo toys. Now in India, it’s launched a franchise business of for-profit Sesame Street-branded schools. It plans to open 20 preschools by next spring and 380 within five years.
Marketplace’s Mark Garrison has this report, brought to you by the letters N and Y, for New York

Bound Hand & Foot

In ancient China, upper-class women had their feet tightly bound as children, preventing the bones from growing normally, so that they could be hindered in their walking, and only capable of cute little “feminine” steps around the house.
We don’t do that, of course. What we do instead with all our young people is see to it that they do not read a single complete history book in school (maiming their knowledge of history) and we confine their writing mostly to fiction, compositions about themselves, or brief little five-paragraph “essays” about something else (doesn’t matter what), which cripples their ability to write.
Even when we ask them to apply to college and show us their writing, admissions officers ask only for 500-word pieces in which they talk about themselves and their lives.
In Boston the Boston Globe has a competition that asks young people to write about courage. But is it the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or John Quincy Adams, or James Otis, or Patrick Henry or John Paul Jones, or Florence Nightingale that they want to hear about? Not a chance. They want the youngsters to write about their own courage, for instance perhaps when they spoke to a fellow student who was not popular, etc.
Thus we bind their learning and their imagination, and we try to prevent their access to knowledge of history and the achievements of mankind, and we try to keep them from learning how to write a serious term paper or read a substantial history book.
Why is this happening? One example of the problem is a writing consultant from Teachers’ College, Columbia, who was given a $50,000,000 (yes, $50 million) contract to teach students reading and writing in New York City. When I asked her if she would be having the students write about history, she told me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much.” So, naturally, the students her grant enabled her to “work” with probably didn’t get into content that much either.
Mark Bauerlein wrote (The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future) that on the NAEP history test 57 percent scored “Below Basic.” To score “Basic,” the student has to know who George Washington was. To score “Below Basic” the student has to know that Scooby-Doo was never President, but they probably could not name anyone who ever was President. “Of those taking the exam, a majority, 52 percent, when asked to identify a U.S. Ally during World War II selected a member of the Axis powers–Germany, Italy, and Japan–rather than the Soviet Union” [or Great Britain].
We hear lots of complaints from many quarters that our kids are ignorant of history and cannot write. It would have made as much sense to criticize upper-class Chinese women in the Imperial days because they had such poor times in the 100-yard dash.
If we continue to keep history books away from our students, and limit their writing to brief solipsistic exercises, then we can only expect that they will continue to demonstrate the damage we have done to them, when we test them and look over the writing they are able to produce for us.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®

A cure for bad teaching of writing

Jay Matthews:

Forty-five years ago, I married the best editor I have ever known. Most of the reasons I love Linda have nothing to do with writing, but it’s useful to have her around when wrestling with a difficult column.
I’m lucky. Few people are willing to and capable of helping others produce engaging and instructive prose. Many editors of my books were helpful, but I still remember the one who did not change a word, good for my ego but not for the book. Newspaper editors, at The Washington Post and elsewhere, have more stories to deal with than ever before, but no more time to fix them.
This problem is particularly acute in our schools, where almost all of us learn to write. I got little instruction before a required composition class my sophomore year of college. The situation has gotten worse since then. Few teachers have enough experience and training to show students what is good writing and what is not. Those who have that skill lack the time to share it with all their students and still have lives.
In a recent column, Michael Shaughnessy of EducationViews.org discussed this with Will Fitzhugh, whose Concord Review publishes exemplary high school research papers. They agreed that writing instruction is in crisis. The latest solution – letting computers grade papers – is a dead end.
“These programs don’t care if you are writing an ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ or an ‘Ode to an iPhone,’ ” Fitzhugh said. “The content is of no interest to the robo-graders. They are programmed only to ‘worry’ about a small circumscribed set of writing skills, and the subject of your composition counts for nothing. You can write a dull composition, which amply displays ignorance, and still get a good score from the computers.”

To be fair to the software that reads essays, and the people who created it, in most cases at least one human being also assesses the writing when the grade means something. Rachel Toor, a former editor who is an associate professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University, acknowledged in a piece she wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education that a student can be helped by an Apple program that points out clichés, wordy phrases and needlessly complex words, such as “conceptualizing” instead of “thinking.”
But the rest of Toor’s essay was chilling. She cares about improving her students’ writing. She finds that most college professors won’t or can’t do it. At a party, she met a political scientist with an Ivy League education who teaches at a good liberal arts college. He told her he never commented on his students’ writing. “It’s simply not part of his grading process,” she wrote. “He assesses their ideas, he says, not the prose.”
When she asked how he could separate the ideas from their expression, he said “he didn’t feel that he had the expertise to comment on their writing,” she wrote. “He wouldn’t know, he said, what good writing looked like.” She asked whether he thought he was a good writer. “He said yes, because he’s been published,” she wrote.
That suggests that it is better to teach writing in high school. I know several fine, if marginally employed, journalists who could do it. Writing is often mentioned as one of the premier 21st century skills, and it can be taught without exhausting the teachers.
Require students to take at least one semester of reading and writing instead of their regular English class. A paper is due each Monday. In class, students read whatever they like or work on next week’s essay while the teacher calls them up in turn and edits their papers as they watch.
At the end of the day, there are no stacks of student papers to ruin the instructor’s home life. Each student gets personal attention. Even Linda Mathews might be persuaded to teach that class.

A cure for bad teaching of writing

Jay Matthews:

Forty-five years ago, I married the best editor I have ever known. Most of the reasons I love Linda have nothing to do with writing, but it’s useful to have her around when wrestling with a difficult column.
I’m lucky. Few people are willing to and capable of helping others produce engaging and instructive prose. Many editors of my books were helpful, but I still remember the one who did not change a word, good for my ego but not for the book. Newspaper editors, at The Washington Post and elsewhere, have more stories to deal with than ever before, but no more time to fix them.
This problem is particularly acute in our schools, where almost all of us learn to write. I got little instruction before a required composition class my sophomore year of college. The situation has gotten worse since then. Few teachers have enough experience and training to show students what is good writing and what is not. Those who have that skill lack the time to share it with all their students and still have lives.
In a recent column, Michael Shaughnessy of EducationViews.org discussed this with Will Fitzhugh, whose Concord Review publishes exemplary high school research papers. They agreed that writing instruction is in crisis. The latest solution — letting computers grade papers — is a dead end.

California parents set to take over failing school

Stephanie Simon:

Parents in the impoverished desert community of Adelanto, California, will become the first in the nation to seize control of a failing public school under a controversial “parent trigger” law, the parents announced Monday.
The Adelanto School District had fought to preserve control over Desert Trails Elementary School. But on Friday, Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ruled that the parents had met all the requirements under the trigger law by gathering signatures from the legal guardians of at least half the students at Desert Trails.
Judge Malone ordered the district to validate the petitions and clear the way for parents to take over the school.

Elite College ($50,000 a Year) or Good State School ($20,000)?

Richard Vedder:

The new Sallie Mae-Gallup survey of attitudes toward higher education, “How America Pays for College 2012,” shows that Americans are becoming increasingly resistant to rising college prices. Some people who were saying “I want the best college money can buy” a few years ago, are now saying “We aren’t going to pay sky-high tuition when there are much cheaper colleges nearly as good.”
How sensitive are people to price? I woke up in the middle of the night with a minor epiphany about this. My surmise is that, by and large, in the era before massive federal student loan programs and also smaller private scholarship offerings, the demand for college was highly elastic–people were extremely sensitive to price. In, say, 1925, when family incomes in today’s dollars were typically perhaps $20,000 or $25,000, the cost of any school was burdensome, and the Ivy League, costing perhaps $8,000 or $10,000 a year for all costs (in today’s dollars), was a luxury for the truly rich, while state schools, costing perhaps $4,000 a year, were available for some middle class people but by no means all.
Fast forward to today. Incomes have doubled or tripled, but the cost of college has gone up far more -five or six fold. The availability of loans and the development of a culture arguing that higher education is a good “investment” has made the demand for college not only larger, but also far more insensitive to price. A good college is now considered a necessity of life, almost like salt or life-sustaining drugs, whereas earlier it was what John Stuart Mill might call a “superfluidity.”

Madison should land top talent for school superintendent

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Those remarks seemed unduly negative and failed to give full recognition to the myriad qualities this market offers any newcomer. Like many, we favor the “who wouldn’t want to work in Madison?” view.
Not to worry, said School Board member Ed Hughes, who asked the question that prompted Ray’s comments at last week’s meeting.
“It was reassuring to me,” Hughes said. “It showed they had done their homework about this market. I thought it was realistic and useful.”
Next, Ray and Co. will talk to board members about their desires for a superintendent, then add some community outreach to the fact-finding process. If all goes well, this nationwide search will yield a strong, successful leader for one of the most important jobs in town.

Madison certainly has the community, financial and nearby (University of Wisconsin, Madison College, Edgewood College) assets to offer a world class K-12 education. Getting there will require substantial change and… change is very hard.

To boost test scores, schools clamor for a horseman’s advice

Teresa Watanabe:

On a ranch of willows and wild grass outside Sacramento, the cowboy cooed to his tawny mustang. Then he led Little Buck through basic commands — back up, step forward — and rewarded him with a biscuit.
Dennis Parker is a part-Cherokee trainer in rural Zamora, Calif., who sports a silver ponytail beneath his cowboy hat. But his recent demonstration was aimed at training a different breed grappling with far bigger tasks: educators under mounting pressure to raise students’ standardized test scores.
As a dozen educators watched, Parker explained that good relationships are key toward boosting achievement and that horses and humans both respond to similar strategies. Build rapport with friendly chatter. Gain respect by giving out tasks. And give treats not simply as rewards but just to be fun.
“Can you do that with your kids?” Parker asked. “It’s like training horses; you don’t break them, you teach them.”

Students sue school district for violating their ‘right to read’

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, via a kind reader’s email:

In a first-of-its-kind legal maneuver, students whose reading skills are below grade level are suing their state and school district. If successful, the lawsuit could spawn others nationwide
Students are suing the state of Michigan and their Detroit-area school district for violating their “right to read.”
The class-action lawsuit appears to be the first of its kind, and potentially signals a new wave of civil rights litigation in the United States to enforce laws intended to boost academic achievement, education law experts say.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed what it has dubbed the “right to read” lawsuit on behalf of the nearly 1,000 students in the impoverished district.
Two-thirds of 4th-graders and three-quarters of 7th-graders in the Highland Park school district are not proficient on state reading tests; 90 percent of 12th-graders fail the reading portion of the final state test administered in high school, according to the complaint. Nearly 100 percent of the district’s students are African-American.

Online courses free for the taking

Maureen Downey:

“I think this is the most remarkable social development certainly of the last few years,” said Eric D. Fingerhut at a Brookings Institution panel last week. The former chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Fingerhut is vice president of education and STEM learning for the research firm Batelle.
“One of America’s greatest products is our higher education system,” said Fingerhut. “And we are opening it up for free to people anywhere in the world. You’d be amazed how many people have broadband connectivity, but didn’t have access to a University of Virginia course or a Stanford course. There are, in fact, people all over the world accessing for free that which only an elite, small number of people could utilize.”

Wisconsin & California Public Finance

Steve Malanga:

Californians should understand those fiscal pressures. Average annual pay for a local government employee in the state rose by 60%, to $61,185 (excluding benefits), between 1999 and 2008, according to the Little Hoover Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy. That’s about 70% more than the increase in private sector wages in the state over the same period. Average pay for cops and firefighters climbed 69%, to $89,056, again excluding benefits, in the same period.
Benefit costs have soared even more than wages. The annual cost of funding pensions in California’s 20 largest municipalities has grown from $1.3 billion in 1999 to $5.1 billion last year, according to a study by Stanford University professor Joe Nation. That’s an annual growth rate of better than 11%.
Faced with such increases, municipalities in California haven’t had nearly the flexibility to mend their budgets that officials in Wisconsin have.
In San Jose, where the average cost of employing a city worker, including benefits, has soared to an extraordinary $142,000 annually, Mayor Chuck Reed had to fight long and hard for a ballot measure to reduce pension costs that was passed by voters in June. In the three years before the vote, the city had to lay off about 2,000 employees and cut back on parks, libraries and other services.

Louisiana sets rules for landmark school voucher program

Stephanie Simon/a>:

State money will continue to flow to scores of private and religious schools participating in Louisiana’s new voucher program even if their students fail basic reading and math tests, according to new guidelines released by the state on Monday.
The voucher program, the most sweeping in the nation, is the linchpin of Louisiana’s bold push to reshape public education. The state plans to shift tens of millions of dollars from public schools to pay not only private schools but also private businesses and private tutors to educate children across the state.

10 More Years of Dumdums: Dissenting Thoughts on Education Reform II

New Educational Foundations, via a kind Richard Phelps email

In a top-down era of rubrics, standards, and bureaucracy, and in an unprecedented atmosphere of teacher-bashing, NEW EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATIONS will offer independent and alternative voices. We invite outside-the-box critiques and nonstandard suggestions, ranging from opinion pieces to scholarly articles, for an online refereed journal of ideas and dialogue.
Because we expect to establish NEW EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATIONS (NEF) within the framework of a nonprofit organization, we are relying on NewFoundations Press (newfoundations.com) for support only during our start-up phase.
In this journal we are looking for neither cheerleading nor venting — those are for blogs. We will neither favor nor reject any ideological bent, since as a group, we, the editors and reviewers of NEF ourselves, represent different, often conflicting commitments to fundamental beliefs.
Nor do we want to nurture either the culture of complaint or that of compliance — we have politicians who do that for a living. Rather, we are looking for the kind of ideas and research that just don’t normally arise in committee meetings or handpicked commissions, selecting for quality of thought and presentation and editing principally for space and grammar.

Bogus college essays graded F

Jay Matthews:

Cheating is so widespread these days. Students take stuff off the Internet, uncredited, with little remorse. What is there to stop them?
Maybe we have missed something. Maybe dishonest shortcuts are not as irresistible as they seem. Consider, for instance, a remarkable column by Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
His examination of cheating in college appeared in the Los Angeles Times under the headline “What money can’t buy.” He credits his lab manager, Aline Grunelson, with helping arrange a sting of the term paper industry. The piece’s contrarian conclusion is both troubling and heartening, a neat trick.
Ariely designed an experiment to test his worries about essay mills. They provide papers to order for high school and college students. The companies say they are only supplying reference material — wink, wink — but everyone knows what is going on. Ariely ordered an essay from four companies. He told them he wanted 12 pages for a college-level social psychology class using 15 sources, conforming to American Psychological Association style guidelines.

Is higher education doomed?

Ryan Bradley:

A dire statistic, followed by a troubling fact: The cost of education has increased 550% since 1985; and the sector has, in the words of Coursera founder Daphne Koller, “not benefited at all from leveraging technology to reduce cost.” Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company. It puts college courses online, for free. And, in just a year since its creation, it has registered 680,000 students in 43 courses offered by Princeton, Stanford, Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. Today, the start-up announced another dozen universities are joining, which Koller says will add about 20 more courses by the fall.
So, can education be fixed? Or, following the example of Peter Thiel — whose “20 Under 20” fellowship pays young entrepreneurs to eschew higher education — is the system so broken it needs to be swept aside? Or is there, through Coursera and others like it, a new model emerging?

Analysis: Emanuel learning a lesson from teachers in union contract flap

Fran Spielman:

For a political chess player who never makes a move without thinking three moves ahead, Mayor Rahm Emanuel looks more like a high school clubber than a grand master when it comes to the teachers contract.
Emanuel pushed for a change in state law that raised the strike authorization threshold to 75 percent, a benchmark so high, at least one education advocate with ties to the mayor predicted that it could never be met.
Instead, the Chicago Teachers Union roared passed that benchmark, fueled by their anger against a mayor who had already stripped them of a previously negotiated 4 percent pay raise and tried to muscle through a longer school day immediately.
That same state law championed by Emanuel set up a fact-finding process that has now blown up in the mayor’s face.

Conscientiousness and Online Education

gwern branwen:

Online education like Khan Academy has been hailed as a major innovation which will revolutionize higher & lower education, educate students better, and cut costs. But in general, it seems unlikely that online education will reduce all costs equally and educate all students equally better. Hardly any change ever preserves all relative positions or ratios – someone benefits disproportionately, someone benefits only a little.
So what differentials can we expect from online education? Hoary articles from the ’90s about the’digital divide’ might make one predict that it will benefit middle and upper-class whites; but on the other hand, proponents love to talk about favored minorities (eg. a foreign black female – that is, a girl in an African village) who can now access online education through cheap cellphones, so one might predict that online education will instead level the playing field. No longer will there be a big gap between receiving essentially no education and receiving a real education, a gap that perpetuates cycles of poverty. As Internet access becomes more common than access to quality schools, quality school delivered through the Internet will lead to an equalizing effect (the elites will be no better off than before, and the non-elites now have the chance to obtain a prerequisite to becoming an elite).

Education for migrant children, a mirage?

Mohamed Imranullah S:

Under RTE Act, mobile schools could be a solution to address needs of migrant labourers, says activist
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 has come into force and the Supreme Court too has upheld its validity. But a question that remains unanswered is: How the authorities obligated to implement the legislation are going to compel the children, especially those of migrant labourers, who do not want to go to school?
A case in point, in the digital era, is of R. Raja, a 12-year-old child labourer engaged in laying underground optic fibre cables for private telecommunication conglomerates. The boy, hailing from a hamlet close to Harur in Dharmapuri district, has been digging the roadsides of Madurai along with his family members for the past few days.
Many have seen him and a girl almost of the same age handle a wrecking bar and a shovel right outside a middle school run by the Madurai Municipal Corporation at Narayanapuram near here. But very few bothered to enquire as to why the children were toiling outside the school campus under the hot sun at an age when they were supposed to be sharpening their intellect inside the school.

For now, UW will observe free online course movement from sidelines

Todd Finkelmeyer:

“The single most important experiment in higher education,” reads the headline to this piece posted at TheAtlantic.com.
Slate.com asks: “Will online education startups like Coursera end the era of expensive higher education?”
Those posts were related to the news announced earlier this week that a dozen more universities have signed on with Coursera to deliver free, online classes to the masses that are known as MOOCs (massive online open classrooms).
“The news certainly caught my eye,” says Paul Peercy, the dean of UW-Madison’s College of Engineering, which has a long tradition of delivering master’s degrees and continuing education online. “I’m convinced that the rapid advances in information technology are going to change the world. And they’re going to change education at all levels.”
That said, UW-Madison officials explain they’re not ready to jump on the MOOCs bandwagon just yet, instead opting for a more cautious approach to getting involved with this exploding trend in higher education.

I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.

Kyle Wiens:

If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.
Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.
Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have “zero tolerance.” She thinks that people who mix up their itses “deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave,” while I just think they deserve to be passed over for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

Teacher contract negotiations moving quickly

Arthur Thomas:

In the summer of 2002, more than half of Wisconsin’s school districts had been without teacher contracts for over a year. This summer, contract negotiations are being settled in as little as 15 minutes.
“I mean really, what’s there to talk about?” said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union.
Brey said it is still a bit too early to establish an average. But negotiations are going quickly for the most part, according to Barry Forbes, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Under Act 10, only changes to base wages – defined as salary paid based on seniority, not educational attainment – are subject to collective bargaining, and those conversations are limited to a cost-of-living increase set by the Department of Revenue.
For the 2011-’12 school year, the maximum cost-of-living increase was 1.64%. Because the rules defining base wages were set in late March, many districts are now negotiating contracts for the 2011-’12 year. Once districts finish those negotiations, they can move on to the 2012-’13 year. For contracts beginning July 1, 2012, the maximum increase will be 3.16%.

Student Debt Hits The Middle-Aged

Josh Mitchell:

Student debt is rising sharply among all age groups, but middle-aged Americans appear to be struggling the most with payments, according to new data released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The delinquency rate–or the percentage of debt on which no payment has been made for 90 days–was 11.9% for debt held by borrowers aged 40 to 49 as of March. That compares with a rate of 8.7% for borrowers of all ages.
The New York Fed, which based its data on a sampling of consumer credit reports, said delinquency rates for all groups are much higher if one excludes loans in deferment for reasons such as a borrower still being in school.

The End of Teachers Unions

Terry Moe:

In the next two decades, their political power will wane, and America will finally achieve meaningful K-12 reform.
Editor’s note: In this essay, the author blends prediction with prescription to paint a vivid picture of what American education will look like in 2030. The essay is from an online publication of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, American Education in 2030.
In 2012 the American education system was doing what it did best. It was surviving. For decades, it had been subjected to blistering–and well-justified–criticism for its relentlessly poor performance. But thanks to powerful defenders in politics, it had weathered the storm like a rock, virtually immune to the efforts of reformers to bring about major change.
The school system of that era really had two problems. It had a performance problem. That much was obvious. But it also had a political problem–which, in the grander scheme of things, was more fundamental than the performance problem itself because it prevented the performance problem from being addressed and resolved. Reformers had been butting their heads against a wall of power, winning a few battles along the way but consistently losing the war. The system was a disappointment. It was failing the nation. But it was strong and resilient where it counted–in power politics–and it doggedly prevailed.

Summer Programs

Alan Borsuk:

Nothing like a stifling hot classroom in the middle of July for an opportunity to learn about ductility.
OK, maybe you’re inclined to other subjects in other places at this time of year. Suit yourself.
But if you’re going to win “Are You as Smart as an MPS Fourth Grader in Summer School,” you better brush up on ductility. I admit I would have lost at this when I walked into the room at Hi-Mount School on the west side one morning last week.
A fan was blowing across an aluminum pan filled with blue cold-packs to try to get some cooler air moving in the un-air-conditioned room. But it was still very hot. Despite that, 16 students appeared to be listening with reasonable attentiveness to MPS veteran teacher Dianne Ross.

Practice, drilling, memorization

Daniel Willingham:

What’s the difference between practice, drilling, and memorization?
In the psychological literature Practice has a formal definition, which I know through Anders Ericsson; I think it originates with him but am not certain. Practice includes feedback on performance, and it’s executed for the purpose of improvement. The distinction is important because it differentiates practice from performance (which is done for the pleasure of others) or play (which is done for one’s own pleasure) or the routine execution of a task (which is done to achieve a goal).
Thus, if I practice guitar I’m trying to improve, and I’m monitoring my performance for the sake of noting errors and thinking of new ways to do it. Performance and play of the guitar differ in obvious ways. Routine execution might apply to a task like handwriting. My handwriting is pretty bad, despite thousands of hours of execution, because during all of that time I wasn’t practicing. I was just writing to get something on paper.

Mom Arrested For Hacking School Computers to Change Kids’ Grades

Sydney Lupkin:

A Pennsylvania mom faces six felony charges for allegedly hacking into her children’s school computer to change their grades and read school officials’ emails.
Catherine Venusto, 45, of New Tripoli, worked for the Northwestern Lehigh School District from 2008 through April 2011 and has at least two children in the district, according to the District Attorney’s office.
She has been accused of changing her daughter’s failing grade from an F to an M for “medical” in June 2010, and then changing her son’s 98 to a 99 in February 2012, nearly a year after she quit her job as an administrative office secretary to work at another school district.

Eliminate the Federal Role in Education

Dave Murray

he federal government should have no role in education, and state and local leaders are best equipped to reform schools, said Clark Durant, who is bidding to become the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
Speaking Friday on WGVU-TV’s “West Michigan Week,” Durant said he’d vote to eliminate the U.S. Education Department and use a Senate seat as a bully pulpit to encourage communities to work more closely to improve their schools.
“Arne, get out of our backyard!” he said, referring to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who described Detroit Public Schools as “ground zero in American education.” “The federal government is too far away. They can drop in and get their pictures taken, but then they go home again.”
Durant is co-founder of Cornerstone Schools, a group of charter schools and independent schools in Detroit. He also served on the state Board of Education, including a stint as board president.

Tapping Technology to Keep Lid on Tuition

David Wessel:

U.S. colleges and universities have been able to keep raising tuition because so many people, from the U.S. and overseas, will pay to get an American degree. The average tab for tuition, room and board at a four-year public school–even after accounting for financial aid–has risen an inflation-adjusted 42% in the past decade, a period in which inflation-adjusted incomes of families in the middle of the middle class fell.
This is unsustainable. It can go on a while longer, not for another decade.
Higher education, meanwhile, has been changed less by information technology than, for example, music, movies, newspapers, books, finance, telephones, air travel, retailing and even health care.
Which raises a big question: Can technology restrain the cost of higher education without diminishing what students learn?

To some Africans in U.S., children’s education is best left to the homeland

Tomi Obaro:

Twelve-year-old Oladimeji Elujoba kept getting into fights at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown. Every time the teacher took attendance in the morning, she would stumble over his polysyllabic name and inadvertently elicit jeers and giggles from his classmates.
“I’m not the kind of person to watch people laugh at me,” Elujoba, now 17, says matter-of-factly.
And so he fought. He fought so much he got in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, after-school detentions. His parents, Ruth and Olalekan Elujoba, worried.
“One of the teachers in the middle school called me,” Olalekan Elujoba recalls. “They had suspended him and said that if I don’t take any action on this, I will spoil the boy’s future. I couldn’t sleep that night.”

How Often Do Proficiency Rates And Average Scores Move In Different Directions?

Matthew DiCarlo:

New York State is set to release its annual testing data today. Throughout the state, and especially in New York City, we will hear a lot about changes in school and district proficiency rates. The rates themselves have advantages – they are easy to understand, comparable across grades and reflect a standards-based goal. But they also suffer severe weaknesses, such as their sensitivity to where the bar is set and the fact that proficiency rates and the actual scores upon which they’re based can paint very different pictures of student performance, both in a given year as well as over time. I’ve discussed this latter issue before in the NYC context (and elsewhere), but I’d like to revisit it quickly.
Proficiency rates can only tell you how many students scored above a certain line; they are completely uninformative as to how far above or below that line the scores might be. Consider a hypothetical example: A student who is rated as proficient in year one might make large gains in his or her score in year two, but this would not be reflected in the proficiency rate for his or her school – in both years, the student would just be coded as “proficient” (the same goes for large decreases that do not “cross the line”). As a result, across a group of students, the average score could go up or down while proficiency rates remained flat or moved in the opposite direction. Things are even messier when data are cross-sectional (as public data lmost always are), since you’re comparing two different groups of students (see this very recent NYC IBO report).
Let’s take a rough look at how frequently rates and scores diverge in New York City.

Charter schools raise educational standards for vulnerable children

The Economist:

“EVERYONE’S pencil should be on the apple in the tally-mark chart!” shouts a teacher to a class of pupils at Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis. Papers and feet are shuffled; a test is coming. Each class is examined every six or seven weeks. The teachers are monitored too. As a result, Harvest Prep outperformed every city school district in Minnesota in maths last year. It is also a “charter” school; and all the children are black.
Twenty years ago Minnesota became the first American state to pass charter-school laws. (Charter schools are publicly funded but independently managed.) The idea was born of frustration with traditional publicly funded schools and the persistent achievement gap between poor minority pupils and those from middle-income homes. Charters enroll more poor, black and Latino pupils, and more pupils who at first do less well at standardised tests, than their traditional counterparts.

Proposed US Student Loan Modifications

US Department of Education:

The Secretary proposes to amend the Federal Perkins Loan
(Perkins Loan) program, Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program,
and William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) program
regulations. The proposed regulations would implement a new Income
Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan in the Direct Loan program based on the
President’s “Pay As You Earn” repayment initiative, incorporate
recent statutory changes to the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan in
the Direct Loan and FFEL programs, and streamline and add clarity to
the total and permanent disability discharge process for borrowers in
the title IV, HEA loan programs. The proposed regulations implementing
a new ICR Plan and the statutory changes to the IBR plan would assist
borrowers in repaying their loans while the proposed changes to the
total and permanent disability discharge process would reduce burden
for borrowers who are disabled and seeking a discharge of their title
IV debt.

Students’ online photos of California tests delay release of scores

Howard Blume:

Student photos of state standardized tests posted on social networks have caused a two-week delay in the release of scores and could result in more serious ramifications for nearly 150 California schools.
In a letter sent to all state school districts this week, the Department of Education announced the postponement of the 2012 test results until Aug. 31.
“It is imperative that when districts, teachers, parents and students receive their test results, we all can be assured that the integrity of the system remains intact,” Deb Sigman, deputy superintendent of public instruction, said in the letter.
Most of the posted images were of such things as “closed test booklets or blank answer documents,” said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the Education Department.

Fitch publishes exposure draft of charter school rating criteria


Fitch Ratings has published an exposure draft of the charter school criteria outlining the agency’s changes to the way it analyzes charter schools. The draft includes a number of proposed amendments to existing criteria. If applied in the proposed form, the exposure draft would trigger a substantial number of downgrades to existing charter school ratings. Recent events in the charter school sector led Fitch to re-evaluate its assessment of the financial and operational downside risks facing these entities. Fundamentally, Fitch views charter schools as inherently non-investment grade because of their typically high leverage and lack of operational and financial flexibility. Those schools with significant credit strengths could reach investment grade, but will be capped in the ‘BBB’ rating category. Fitch invites feedback on the exposure draft during a four-week comment period ending Aug. 20, 2012. Please submit comments to csfeedback@fitchratings.com

My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids

The Onion:

When I graduated college last year, I was certain I wanted to make a real difference in the world. After 17 years of education, I felt an obligation to share my knowledge and skills with those who needed it most.
After this past year, I believe I did just that. Working as a volunteer teacher helped me reach out to a new generation of underprivileged children in dire need of real guidance and care. Most of these kids had been abandoned by the system and, in some cases, even by their families, making me the only person who could really lead them through the turmoil.
Was it always easy? Of course not. But with my spirit and determination, we were all able to move forward.

Sandra Day O’Connor Champions Civics Education

Donna Krache:

But inside, she’s got the heart of an educator.
Of course, Sandra Day O’Connor will always be associated with her historic “first,” as the first woman justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to that appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she also served as a judge and a state senator.
Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, she has found a new passion – civics education.
How did she decide to become a champion of that cause? O’Connor says that in her last year on the bench, she was “very much aware of the major issues and debates” being brought before the high court. There were lots of complaints about the decisions, she says, and many were directed at the judicial branch – with some blaming the justices for certain outcomes.
“As you analyzed it, it appeared to show in many cases that the concerns were misdirected: There was a tendency to blame the courts for things that were really not a judicial matter,” she told CNN.
The solution to that misunderstanding, she believes, is civics education – a subject she notes has changed through the years. She remembers her own schooling in El Paso, Texas, and how she learned about Texas government. Civics knowledge was helpful to her later in life, O’Connor says, and she’s disappointed that today, many schools have stopped teaching the subject.

Florida schools must identify complaining students

Bill Kaczor:

The identity of students who submit complaints about teachers to public schools, including colleges and universities, are public records and must be disclosed to citizens, a Florida appellate court ruled Thursday.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said Gainesville-based Santa Fe College must release the name of a student who sent the school an email complaining about former math instructor Darnell Rhea’s classroom performance.
“Hot diggity dog,” said Rhea, who doesn’t have a lawyer and argued the case himself, when he learned of the decision from The Associated Press. “This is amazing.”
The appellate panel unanimously agreed with Rhea’s argument that the student’s name is not covered by state and federal laws granting confidentiality to education records because such complaints don’t directly relate to students. Instead, they directly relate to teachers but only tangentially to complaining students, District Judge Stephanie Ray wrote for the panel.

Essay mills — a coarse lesson on cheating

Dan Ariely:

Sometimes as I decide what kind of papers to assign to my students, I worry about essay mills, companies whose sole purpose is to generate essays for high school and college students (in exchange for a fee, of course).
The mills claim that the papers are meant to be used as reference material to help students write their own, original papers. But with names such as echeat.com, it’s pretty clear what their real purpose is.
Professors in general are concerned about essay mills and their effect on learning, but not knowing exactly what they provide, I wasn’t sure how concerned to be. So together with my lab manager Aline Grüneisen, I decided to check the services out. We ordered a typical college term paper from four different essay mills. The topic of the paper? Cheating.
Here is the prompt we gave the four essay mills:

Essential Explanations

Kohn Cowan:

This page comprises a list of 1009 “essentialist explanations” of the form “Language X is essentially language Y under conditions Z”. I have edited some entries for uniformity, clarity, or good English. The entries are grouped for convenience rather than correctness. In particular, fictional languages belonging to actual language families are grouped with their natural language relatives. New contributions are solicited, especially for American and African languages. No flames, please.
Note: Entries attributed to me (John Cowan) are often ones that I have heard or read somewhere, or ones that were suggested by other people’s contributions but heavily modified by me.
“[We] do but jest, poison in jest, no offence in the world.” –Hamlet

The Single Most Important Experiment in Higher Education

Jordan Weissman:

A dozen major universities announced that they would begin providing content to Coursera, an innovative platform that makes interactive college classes available to the public free on the web. Next fall, it will offer at least 100 massive open online courses — otherwise known as MOOCs*– designed by professors from schools such as Princeton, CalTech, and Duke that will be capable of delivering lessons to more than 100,000 students at a time.
Founded by Stanford computer scientists Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera is one of a handful of efforts aimed at using the web’s cost savings to bring Ivy League-quality courses to the masses. Its peers include the joint Harvard-MIT project edX and Udacity, a free online university created by Google executive and former Stanford professor Sebstian Thrun. (Another high-profile startup, Minerva, is attempting to create an actual “online Ivy” that students will pay to attend.)
But the deals Coursera announced Tuesday may well prove to be an inflection point for online education, a sector that has traditionally been dominated by for-profit colleges known mostly for their noxious recruitment practices and poor results. That’s because the new partnerships represent an embrace of web-based learning from across the top tier of U.S. universities. And where the elite colleges go, so goes the rest of academia.
Coursera has previously teamed with Stanford, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan to offer 43 courses, which according to the New York Times enrolled 680,000 students. It now adds to its roster Duke, Caltech, University of Virginia, Georgia Tech, University of Washington, Rice, Johns Hopkins, University of California San Francisco, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, University of Toronto, University of Edinburgh, and Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Charter Schools, California and New York City: $6000 vs. $13,500 Per Pupil

Bob Sutton:

He isn’t exaggerating. I was shocked to see, for example, that (according to the article) the State of California is currently providing less than $6000 per pupil each year; in contrast, New York City provides $13,500. Ouch. I know that government wastes lots of money, and certainly there are inefficiencies in education. But can we afford to do this our kids and our future? As Tony suggested, California has degenerated to the point where all they can do is support a teacher for every 30 kids or so, a tired old classroom and school, and little else.
I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad. There is plenty of blame to go around — we all have our own pet targets — but perhaps it is time to put our differences aside and do the right things.

Why California Democrats Protect Sex Abuser Teachers

Patrick Range McDonald and Jill Stewart:

State Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles had every reason to hope that the 11 members of the obscure but powerful state Assembly Education Committee in Sacramento would back his new legislation, Senate Bill 1530, designed to let public schools more easily fire teachers who commit sexual, physically abusive or drug-related acts with their students.
The bill, written by the former L.A. city councilman from the San Fernando Valley, a graduate of MIT who is seen by many as a man with a political future, had sailed through the Senate Education Committee in the upper house on a bipartisan vote. In the state Capitol, news reports about disgusting teachers who weren’t fired thanks to rigidly protective laws — teachers such as alleged sex pervert Mark Berndt — were fresh in legislators’ minds.
Egregious-behaving teachers have formidable powers. LAUSD secretly paid Berndt $40,000 to quit. That was far less money than LAUSD would have shelled out for attorneys and Berndt’s ongoing salary — only to perhaps see him reinstated by California’s unusually powerful, three-person Commission on Professional Competence, controlled by two teachers-union appointees who are increasingly criticized for not acting on behalf of children.
Since Berndt, a series of bad-teacher incidents has played out. Most recently, gym teacher Kip Arnold careened off a freeway after officers tried to question him about oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object of a girl at Nimitz Middle School in 2005. Kip told the officer he wanted to kill himself, fled and crashed.