Genetic damage and paternal age

The Economist:

WOMEN have to get their reproducing done early. The menopause curtails it, and even before that a woman’s fertility falls significantly over the years. Men–those who can find willing partners, at least–do not suffer in quite the same way, as many stories of celebrity elder fathers testify. But perhaps such ageing Lotharios should think twice, for evidence is accumulating that their offspring are at greater-than-average risk of genetic disease.
The latest study to this effect has just been published in Nature by Kari Stefansson and his colleagues at deCODE Genetics, a genetic-analysis company based in Reykjavik that was founded to take advantage of Iceland’s excellent medical records and its unique genealogical history. Recent immigrants apart, the relationship of almost everybody on the island to everybody else is known back as far as the first census, in 1703. In many cases it is known back to the first human settlement of the island, in 874.

Education gap in Des Moines metro area ranks 24th lowest in nation, report shows

Donnelle Eller:

The Des Moines metro area ranks 24th nationally for its relatively low gap between worker education and the education required for open jobs, a new report today shows.
The Brookings Institute developed an education gap index, looking at educational attainment and the education required for job openings between January 2006 and February 2012. The group also examined economic factors such as demand for a metro area’s products and housing prices.
The report said the education gap can have a long-term impact on the economy, resulting in “unemployment rates that are two percentage points higher in areas with large education gaps.”

Questioning Kristof on Chinese Education

Alex Lew:

Nicholas Kristof last wrote about Chinese schools shortly after the release of some stunning news: on a comprehensive exam testing students in 65 countries, China had come in first – thirty spots ahead of the U.S. in math. Kristof praised the Chinese model and ended with a warning: “These latest test results should be our 21st-century Sputnik.”
This wasn’t the first time Kristof had celebrated Chinese schools, but I remember it clearly, because at the time I was enrolled in one. I had come to China to bolster my Mandarin, but I was also excited to experience a Chinese education for myself. My imagination had been stoked by Kristof’s descriptions, and I was eager to see how real Chinese schools stacked up. I would live ten months with a Chinese host family and attend classes at a high-ranked local school. I wondered: Would the real thing impress me as much as the reports?
As I took my first glance around my host brother’s room, I was convinced it would. On the ride to his apartment, Edward had mentioned that studying consumed his summers, but it didn’t register until I saw just how much homework he’d done. Piled on his desk were dozens of worksheets, all of which Edward had dutifully completed. When he told me he’d spent hours each day on the problems, I asked if all his classmates were so diligent. Yes, in fact he said he was something of a slacker.

Beware of Partisan Politics in the Classroom

Peter Wood:

As faculty members at Ohio State last week double-checked their syllabi, glanced at their rosters, and ran through the usual routines for the start of fall courses, some of them found a surprise in their e-mail in boxes. A senior English professor invited his colleagues to open their classrooms in the weeks ahead to organizers in the Obama campaign. They would first encourage students to register to vote and then, if the instructors were willing, encourage students to volunteer for the Obama campaign.
But don’t take my word for it. Here is the memo, from Brian McHale, with the subject line “How to turn students into voters”:

The Impact of Charter Schools on Public and Private School Enrollments

Richard Buddin:

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have considerable independence from public school districts in their curriculum development and staffing decisions, and their enrollments have increased substantially over the past two decades.
Charter schools are changing public and private school enrollment patterns across the United States. This study analyzes district-level enrollment patterns for all states with charter schools, isolating how charter schools affect traditional public and private school enrollments after controlling for changes for the socioeconomic, demographic, and economic conditions in each district.
While most students are drawn from traditional public schools, charter schools are pulling large numbers of students from the private education market and present a potentially devastating impact on the private education market, as well as a serious increase in the financial burden on taxpayers.

When to Brief the Teacher, and When to Bite Your Tongue


Is your child left-handed? Left-brained? Sensitive to feeling left out? And to the extent you know that these things impact her schoolwork, how much of a heads-up will you give her teachers before or around the first day of school?
The question of whether to brief the teacher on your child’s particular quirks or learning style is one that dogs parents of typically developing children at the start of every school year. Of course, we know our children best. We know which ones weep in frustration over a setback, which will listen to verbal instructions and which need to be shown, and which just need to be allowed to make their own mistakes. Why not help the teacher get them off to a good start?

An Innocent in the Ivy League ‘Sex and God at Yale,’ by Nathan Harden

Hanna Rosin:

Like many home-schoolers, Harden is a true American eccentric. He quit before he finished high school, got a G.E.D. and spent his interim years drifting: loading cow manure for the gardening department at Walmart, working as a baggage handler for United and as a lounge singer in Florida, and volunteering with a medical relief charity. Somewhere in there he found his true love and, almost on a whim, married. Harden’s accounts of his itinerant travels are in some ways the most entertaining parts of the book, although he takes pains to avoid seeming too world-weary so that when he arrives on campus he can be truly, deeply shocked.
Harden had been twice rejected by Yale before being accepted, and he had the misfortune of coming to New Haven during the decade when students were cementing a new tradition known as Sex Week. For days leading up to this biennial extravaganza Harden receives e-mails advertising seminars like “The Female Orgasm” and “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex (and Sex Toys!).” When the big week arrives, he, along with hundreds of fellow students, attends lectures by porn stars and porn moguls and peddlers of every sex toy on the market (all eco-­friendly, of course). Most of what he describes seems like fodder for satire, but Harden approaches it all with great seriousness, pausing often for helpful definitions: ” ‘double anal penetrations’ — a dangerous and frequently harmful act during which two males penetrate the anus of the female simultaneously.”

Conclusion of a speech given by Neil Armstrong at the National Press Club in 2000

The majority of the top 20 achievements would not have been possible without electricity. Electrification changed the country’s economic development and gave rural populations the same opportunities and amenities as people in the cities. It provides the power for small appliances in the home, for computers in control rooms that route power and telecommunications, and for the machinery that produces capital goods and consumer products. If anything shines as an example of how engineering has changed the world during the twentieth century, it is clearly the power that we use in our homes and businesses.
So, there you have it, the top 20. My descriptions have been sometimes trite, and it’s likely that I missed some of the most important societal contributions from the nominees. And, without question, I did not even mention the work from those nominations that did not make the top 20 list, yet in many cases were of enormous importance to certain sectors of society or certain parts of the world. And in all honestly, I am guilty of a bit of subterfuge. Certainly the nominations were worthy and the committee was honest and diligent in evaluating them. And certainly you have been given their well-reasoned conclusions. The subterfuge is that my purpose was not to promote the competitive nature of the event, or to congratulate the winner, or to convince you that electrification was the most important technical activity of this past century. All of you have your own opinions on the importance of various technical developments to our society. What I really hoped to do was shamelessly use this occasion to remind you of the breadth, and the depth, and the importance of engineering as a whole to human existence, human progress, and human happiness.
There are perhaps, even more far-reaching consequences of this exercise. The likelihood of today marking the end of creative engineering is nil. The future is a bit foggy, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the twenty-first century will enjoy a rate of progress not unlike the twentieth. And a century hence, 2000 may be viewed as quite a primitive period in human history. It’s something to hope for.
For three decades I have enjoyed the work and friendship of Arthur Clarke, a prolific science and science fiction writer, who back in 1945 first suggested the possibility of the communications satellite. In addition to writing some wonderful books, he has also proposed a few memorable laws. Clarke’s third law seems particularly apt today: Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Truly, it has been a magical century.

About the Author: Neil Armstrong, NAE, is a former astronaut and chairman of AIL Technologies. This article is an edited version of his remarks delivered at the National Press Club, 22 February 2000.

The Siege of Academe

Kevin Carey:

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon on Easter, and I’m standing on a wooden deck in the Corona Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, looking out toward Nob Hill. A man is cooking large slabs of meat on a gas grill as two dozen people mingle with glasses of bourbon and bottles of beer in the cool, damp breeze blowing in off the ocean. All of these people are would-be movers and shakers in American higher education–the historic, world-leading system that constitutes one of this country’s greatest economic assets–but not one of them is an academic. They’re all tech entrepreneurs. Or, as the local vernacular has it, hackers.
Some of them are the kinds of hackers a college dean could love: folks who have come up with ingenious but polite ways to make campus life work better. Standing over there by the case of Jim Beam, for instance, are the founders of OneSchool, a mobile app that helps students navigate college by offering campus maps, course schedules, phone directories, and the like in one interface. The founders are all computer science majors who dropped out of Penn State last semester. I ask the skinniest and geekiest among them how he joined the company. He was first recruited last spring, he says, when his National Merit Scholarship profile mentioned that he likes to design iPhone apps in his spare time. He’s nineteen years old.

Students Who Stay Awake to Study Do Worse in School the Next Day

Garth Sundem:

Students who average more study hours do better in school. But a study published last week in the journal Child Development shows that students who stay awake to study more than their average — i.e., to cram — up their odds of failing a test or having difficulty understanding instruction the next day.
To allay fears of correlation not implying causation and all the myriad other factors that could confound a study like this (perhaps students who cram are the same students most likely to do poorly in school?), the UCLA researchers Gillen-O’Neil, Huynh, and Fuligni had 535 students keep track of their sleep time, study time and academic problems for 14-day spans in 9th, 10th and 12th grades. The longitudinal data of these student “diaries” allowed the team to ask how individual students performed on days after average sleep/study, compared to the same student’s performance on days after which the student had traded sleep for study.
Interestingly, they found that in 9th grade, there was no penalty for cramming. In 10th grade, staying awake to study started to predict higher next-day hits for the responses “did not understand something taught in class” and “did poorly on a test, quiz, or homework.” And by 12th grade, kids who traded sleep for study showed a marked spike in academic problems the day after cramming.

Higher Education Bubble Spawns Demographic Decline Among Educated Americans

Hans Bader:

The buildings at my French-born wife’s alma mater don’t look very impressive, although she studied and learned a lot there. If a French university outwardly looks more like a high school than a Harvard, that’s OK with them. What matters to them is the learning that takes place within, not whether it looks like a college marketer’s movie-set image of what a university should look like. French students also study a lot more than American students, so they may be more accustomed to not having spare time (something that may help prepare them to have kids after they graduate, since parents of young children have little free time).
U.S. colleges are borrowing lots of money for fancy, unnecessary facilities, gambling that they can pay the interest on their increased debt by increasing tuition on future students. This is already resulting in growing numbers of American universities facing “financial trouble,” notes The Economist.

23 Mathematical Challenges

Defense Sciences:

Discovering novel mathematics will enable the development of new tools to change the way the DoD approaches analysis, modeling and prediction, new materials and physical and biological sciences. The 23 Mathematical Challenges program involves individual researchers and small teams who are addressing one or more of the following 23 mathematical challenges, which if successfully met, could provide revolutionary new techniques to meet the long-term needs of the DoD:
Mathematical Challenge 1: The Mathematics of the Brain
Develop a mathematical theory to build a functional model of the brain that is mathematically consistent and predictive rather than merely biologically inspired.

The Parent-Trigger War Escalates

The Wall Street Journal:

It has come to this in California’s saga over “parent-trigger” education reform: A local school board is openly defying a judge’s order, with one member declaring “If I’m found in contempt of court, I brought my own handcuffs, take me away.” So now the stalwarts of the status quo will break the law rather than allow parents school choice.
A California Superior Court judge ruled last month that several hundred parents in Adelanto, California had successfully pulled the nation’s first parent trigger to force change at their children’s failing public school. The judge “commanded” the Adelanto school board to let the parents “immediately begin the process of soliciting and selecting” proposals to transform Desert Trails Elementary into a charter school.

The tree of knowledge

The Economist:

REES are a gift to students of the past. An entire discipline, known as dendrochronology, is devoted to using tree rings to date ancient wooden objects and buildings. Linguistic archaeologists, it seems, share these arboreal inclinations, though the trees they examine are of an altogether different species.
In 2003 a team led by Quentin Atkinson, of the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, employed a computer to generate a genealogical tree of Indo-European languages. Their model put the birth of the family, which includes languages as seemingly diverse as Icelandic and Iranian, between 9,800 and 7,800 years ago. This was consistent with the idea that it stemmed from Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey, whence it spread with the expansion of farming. A rival proposal, that their origin amid the semi-nomadic, pastoralist tribes in the steppes north of the Caspian Sea, supposes their progenitor to be several thousand years younger.
Some proponents of the steppe hypothesis remained unconvinced. They pointed out that the computer-generated phylogeny, to give the tree its technical name, showed only how Indo-European tongues evolved over time. It said nothing about how they spread across space. As Dr Atkinson and his colleagues report in Science, this issue has now been addressed. The results lend further credence to the Anatolian theory.

College trap: Do for-profit schools adequately serve students?

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Sarah Koran was excited about applying for entry into the veterinary technician program at Madison College in 2010 but her application was denied. That meant hopes of starting the popular associate degree program, which often has a waiting list, was likely pushed down the road for two years.
So instead of putting her life on hold, she decided to investigate other options and was thrilled to learn that Globe University in Middleton, which is part of the burgeoning for-profit higher education industry, also offered a vet tech degree — and she could start classes almost immediately.
Although the total cost of that two-year program at Globe (about $51,000) would be more than four times the price she could expect to pay at Madison College (about $12,200), Koran was eligible for $5,500 per year in federal grant aid and figured it was worth it to take out student loans to help pay for the rest.
“They were like, ‘Oh, we know it’s expensive but you’re going to get a great education and a great-paying job,'” says Koran, noting she now realizes vet techs tend to earn between $10 and $15 per hour after first graduating, not exactly big bucks.

Student Attrition Is A Core Feature Of School Choice, Not A Bug

Matthew DiCarlo:

The issue of student attrition at KIPP and charter schools is never far beneath the surface of our education debates. KIPP’s critics claim that these schools exclude or “counsel out” students who aren’t doing well, thus inflating student test results. Supporters contend that KIPP schools are open admission with enrollment typically determined by lottery, and they usually cite a 2010 Mathematica report finding strong results among students in most (but not all) of 22 KIPP middle schools, as well as attrition rates that were no higher, on average, than at the regular public schools to which they are compared.*
As I have written elsewhere, I am persuaded that student attrition cannot explain away the gains that Mathematica found in the schools they examined (though I do think peer effects of attrition without replacement may play some role, which is a very common issue in research of this type).
But, beyond this back-and-forth over the churn in these schools and whether it affected the results of this analysis, there’s also a confusion of sorts when it comes to discussions of student attrition in charters, whether KIPP or in general. Supporters of school choice often respond to “attrition accusations” by trying to deny or downplay its importance or frequency. This, it seems to me, ignores an obvious point: Within-district attrition – students changing schools, often based on “fit” or performance – is a defining feature of school choice, not an aberration.

Vocational Education and the Voices of Workers: Blast from the Past #2

TJ Mertz:

In 1911, Wisconsin passed a pioneering Vocational Education law. It was far from perfect, but in two places the law made sure that in making public provision for explicitly preparing students fro employment our state was not simply turning education over to businesses and employers. This was done by guaranteeing that labor had an equal voice in the programs that were created. On the state Board:

Chicago teachers union gives 10-day strike notice

Tammy Weber:

The Chicago Teachers Union issued a 10-day strike notice Wednesday, saying teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district are ready to walk off the job for the first time in 25 years.
Union President Karen Lewis said contract talks with the Chicago Board of Education, which have been under way since November, have not yet touched on some issues that teachers are most concerned about, including wages. She said job security and teacher evaluations also are issues.
The notice means the soonest teachers could strike is Sept. 10, but it doesn’t mean a strike will definitely happen.

Madison Teachers, Inc. has been supportive of the Chicago Teachers Union’s position. School Board members Marj Passman and Arlene Silveira provided food to traveling MTI members.

College Becoming the New Caste System

Niall Ferguson:

School is in the air. It is the time of year when millions of apprehensive young people are crammed into their parents’ cars along with all their worldly gadgets and driven off to college.
The rest of the world looks on with envy. American universities are the best in the world–22 out of the world’s top 30, according to the Graduate School of Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Once it was Oxford or Cambridge that bright young Indians dreamed of attending; now it is Harvard or Stanford. Admission to a top U.S. college is the ultimate fast track to the top.
Little do the foreigners know that all is far from well in the groves of American academe.
Let’s start with the cost. According to the College Board, average tuition and fees for in-state residents at a sample of public colleges have soared by 25 percent since 2008-09. A key driver has been the reduction in funding as states have been forced to adopt austerity measures. In the same time frame, tuition and fees at private universities rose by less (13 percent), but still by a lot more than inflation.

Why schools should refuse iPads

David Steinhafel:

Educational institutions shouldn’t use proprietary software for these (and other) reasons. There are free software replacements that:
allow the students to study the program and even change it to function differently or better;
don’t cost any money or cost way less than Apple and Windows machines;
help emphasize general and best computer practices, so students can figure out how to use any computing operating system and platform, not just the one they were forced to use in school.

Disruptive innovation in the lecture theatre

The Economist:

DROPPING out of university to launch a start-up is old hat. The twist with Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman and Jim Grandpre is that their start-up aims to improve how universities work. In May 2011 the three founders quit the University of Pennsylvania to launch Coursekit, soon rebranded as Lore, which has already raised $6m to develop what Mr Cohen, its 21-year-old chief executive, describes as a “social-learning network for the classroom”.
Lore is part of a trend that builds on the familiarity with social networking that has come with the success of Facebook. It customises the rules of a network to meet the specific needs of students. Anyone teaching a class would reasonably worry that students using Facebook were gossiping rather than learning useful information from their network of friends. Lore allows teachers to control exactly who is in the network (by issuing a class-membership code) and to see how they are using it. They can also distribute course materials, contact students, manage tests and grades, and decide what to make public and what to keep private. Students can also interact with each other.

10 Must-Have Apps for Successful High School Students

Neha Prakash:

A high school student’s plate isn’t just filled with classes, but also sports, clubs, SATs and a social life of proms and pep rallies. Don’t head into the classroom unarmed — turn to your phone or tablet. There are plenty of apps to help keep your hectic life organized.
In high school, your courseload will tip the scales and the pressure of college apps and AP classes will challenge every moment. Use these 10 apps to make sure you’re on top of homework assignments, ensuring studying is effortless and efficient rather than stressful and unproductive.

Student opinion at elite schools is showing ‘diversity.’ The faculty is another matter.

Ruth Wisse:

Four years ago at the beginning of Harvard’s school term, I was going over an assignment with a freshman when she confessed that she was feeling guilty–because she was working for the Obama campaign. I assumed she meant that her campaign work was taking too much time from her studies, but she corrected me: She was feeling guilty because she supported John McCain.
So why, I asked, was she working for his opponent? She answered: “Because I wanted so badly to get along with my roommates and with everyone else.”
Few of us survive adolescence without some conflict of the kind experienced by this freshman and dramatized by Tom Wolfe in his novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (2004): the conflict between the demands of new surroundings and the moral beliefs and values one brings from home. Every environment dispenses its conventional wisdom, and swimming against the current is always hard. But our freshman’s predicament was driven by an exaggerated impression of “everyone else.”

The future of education in Africa is mobile


Education systems are under stress.
It is a problem felt in many parts of the world, but in Africa, the strain is even more acute.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 10m children drop out of primary school every year. Even those fortunate enough to complete primary school often leave with literacy and numeracy skills far below expected levels.
In addition, there is a major shortage of trained and motivated teachers. It is estimated that to ensure that every child has access to quality education by 2015, sub-Saharan Africa will need to recruit 350,000 new teachers every year. It seems increasingly unlikely that this will happen.
Throw in one of the highest concentrations of illiterate adults in the world, and you begin to understand the scale of the problem.
In the last decade many African countries have, against these significant odds, made solid progress in improving their education levels. However, the challenges are often too large. The “usual” tried and tested methods of delivering education are not enough.
Yet there is a potential solution.
While education struggles to cope, mobile communication has grown exponentially. Africa is today the fastest growing and second largest mobile phone market in the world. While in some countries – including Botswana, Gabon and Namibia – there are more mobile subscriptions than inhabitants, Africa still has the lowest mobile penetration of any market. There is plenty more growth to come. Over 620 million mobile subscriptions mean that for the first time in the history of the continent, its people are connected.

Anger management makes for a respectful parent-child dynamic

Angela Baura:

When Karen Johnson tripped over yet another toy that her son had left lying on the living room floor recently, she was furious – and just a hair’s breadth away from shouting at him. So she closed her bedroom door and yelled into a closet. Then she gently reminded her little boy to clear away his toys, which he did. Johnson is sourcing anger-management techniques from the Orange Rhino Challenge – a parenting support network on Facebook derived from an American mother’s public commitment to not yell at her children for 365 days.
The challenge, which began on January 21, is the brainwave of a stay-at-home mother of four boys, aged 5½ years and under. She chose the pseudonym Orange Rhino to symbolise her determination to forge ahead like a rhino, yet remain warm like the colour orange.

Scrapping Hong Kong national education ‘an option’

Peter So:

All options will be considered by the government-appointed advisory body on the controversial national education curriculum – including scrapping it.
The panel’s head, executive councillor Anna Wu Hung-yuk, said it may also produce a “minority report” to reflect disagreement among members to the administration.
Her latest remarks, in a TVB (SEHK: 0511) interview, contrast with what she said on Wednesday when she was appointed to head the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education. Then, Wu declined to respond to questions on whether the committee – set up to look into difficulties in introducing the curriculum and screen teaching materials – would consider ditching the subject.

The UK university landscape is changing, but not fast enough

The Economist:

IT IS as much a summer ritual as Wimbledon. Every August Britain’s 18-year-old school-leavers tear open envelopes containing their A-level results and see whether they have done well enough to get into their chosen universities. The most successful students (and the prettiest ones) find their pictures splashed across the national newspapers. The less fortunate face the prospect of trying to get a place through “clearing”, the mopping-up exercise in which state universities offer their unfilled places to the best of the rest.
But this year, thanks to both the parlous state of government finances and renewed attempts to make universities compete among themselves for students, the landscape is significantly different.
Undergraduates starting in the autumn will be the first to pay up to £9,000 ($14,000) a year for tuition, almost triple the previous maximum. Fears that higher fees would deter poorer students from applying have not been borne out. While there has been a small fall in the application rate among English students (somewhat different rules apply in devolved Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), the drop was sharper among those from wealthier areas.

Spilt, Spoiled, Lost and Tossed: Exploring Two Worlds of Food Waste

PBS NewsHour:

Monday on Marketplace, the “Food for 9 Billion” project looks at two very different worlds of waste. First, reporter Jori Lewis travels to a remote area of Senegal, where cattle herders throw away much of the milk their cows produce because they have no way to get it to market. Then Adriene Hill visits an elementary school near Los Angeles, where much of the milk kids take with their lunches ends up in the trash.
The stories echo the dual nature of the food waste challenge: In poor countries, most losses occur on the farm or in transit and storage, while in rich countries, the waste is greatest at the consumer end.
What’s to be done? That depends on where in the world you are.

American Colleges’ Tenuous Business Model

Matthew Yglesias:

Kevin Carey’s Washington Monthly feature on online higher education startups is a great read, but, fortunately for those of us looking to add value with a blog post, I think he buries the lead. The key thing you have to understand about the threat that Massive Open Online Courses pose to the business model of traditional colleges is that traditional colleges have a business model. It’s a bit of a strange business model because the colleges aren’t organized as businesses, but it’s a business model all the same.
The way it works is that you charge the same price for all the courses. When I took Patrice Higonnet’s five-person seminar on Vichy France, I didn’t need to pay a premium tuition over what I paid to take his 150-person lecture survey course on the French Revolution. Part of the way the college works is that the large courses generate profits that subsidize other activities, including the small seminars. The seminars themselves happen in part because some of the faculty wants to do them, and in part as an investment in the value of the brand. But while it would be very difficult to replicate the value of the small Vichy seminar, it’s pretty easy to imagine a French Revolution MOOC that’s both higher quality than your average French Revolution lecture-format survey course and radically cheaper:

The Coming Civil War over General Purpose Computing

Cory Doctorow:

The closest approximation we have for such a device is a computer with spyware on it– a computer that, if you do the wrong thing, can intercede and say, “I can’t let you do that, Dave.”
Such a a computer runs programs designed to be hidden from the owner of the device, and which the owner can’t override or kill. In other words: DRM. Digital Rights Managment.
These computers are a bad idea for two significant reasons. First, they won’t solve problems. Breaking DRM isn’t hard for bad guys. The copyright wars’ lesson is that DRM is always broken with near-immediacy.
DRM only works if the “I can’t let you do that, Dave” program stays a secret. Once the most sophisticated attackers in the world liberate that secret, it will be available to everyone else, too.
Second, DRM has inherently weak security, which thereby makes overall security weaker.
Certainty about what software is on your computer is fundamental to good computer security, and you can’t know if your computer’s software is secure unless you know what software it is running.

Pascal’s Other Apology

Carlos Bueno:

That means, as teachers, we’re probably starting in the wrong place.
It don’t think it has to be this way. What do we expect children to understand about math? Negative numbers, zero, exponents, the square root of two, pi. In those boring little facts I see hope, precisely because they are boring little facts. It wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time, the existence of negative numbers was considered the most difficult question in the world. People died arguing about the hypotenuse, for God’s sake. The fact that we can teach these things to innocent children is evidence of progress. Real, measurable, personally empowering progress. The kind of progress we haven’t had time to make in computer science.
If the mathematicians are making fun of you for being too complicated, you know there’s work to do.

Victims of EPISD cheating: Students were removed, says Bowie High School administrator

Zahira Torres:

A Bowie High School administrator admits he helped remove students who might keep his campus from meeting federal accountability standards as part of a districtwide scheme that has shaken the El Paso Independent School District.
Johnnie Vega, an assistant principal at the South El Paso campus, said in an interview with the El Paso Times that he and others feared for their jobs and followed district and campus directives to prevent some students from enrolling, kick others out and award credits to yet other students who should have failed courses for not showing up.
“I feel terrible,” Vega said. “I have nightmares. I don’t want to say that it is post-traumatic stress, but in a way it is. I have nightmares about what we did. I have nightmares about the FBI coming to my office and handcuffing me and taking me out and EPISD firing me.”
One of the students Vega admits pushing out of school is Roger Avalos, now 21, who said he was angry that he and his two brothers were kicked out of

A different Kind of College Ranking

Washington Monthly:

Our ranking of liberal arts colleges also reveals institutions that stand out in unconventional ways. Bryn Mawr is ranked first this year, continuing a long tradition of women’s colleges serving their country. Berea College in Kentucky is ranked third, far above its U.S. News position, because it enrolls a predominantly low-income student population and charges no tuition. Most colleges with 90 percent of students eligible for Pell Grants struggle to graduate even half of their students; at Berea nearly two-thirds finish in a reasonable amount of time. Tougaloo College, a small, private, historically black institution in Mississippi, has struggled financially in recent years. But it continues to enroll large numbers of low-income students, graduate more of them than expected, and keep prices low. Tougaloo also ranks above better-known colleges in research, helping to put the college in the top twenty on our rankings. The Johnnies of St. John’s College in Maryland (number nineteen) remain proudly independent, sticking to a “Great Books” curriculum even as many colleges eschew any curriculum at all. It’s not for everyone, which is probably why the college’s 73 percent graduation rate, while respectable, is still slightly below par. But those who remain go on to earn PhDs at a rate far beyond their numbers, and the college’s success in sending graduates into the Peace Corps is just as impressive. St. John’s also has a campus in New Mexico, which, for very similar reasons, ranks second on our list of master’s universities.
Everyday Excellence
Research universities and liberal arts colleges that draw students from across the nation get the lion’s share of attention from the media. But huge numbers of students attend regional, master’s-granting universities and colleges that focus on job-related fields along with the liberal arts. The best of them give far more to their country than do their more prominent peers. Elizabeth City State University, a public, historically black institution in North Carolina, tops our ranking of baccalaureate institutions. Tuskegee University, another historically black college, comes in at number three. Both enroll large numbers of low-income students and graduate more of them than statistics predict. Elizabeth City is extremely affordable, with one of the lowest reported net prices in the nation. Tuskegee maintains a strong pipeline into the ROTC program, and tops all but a handful of peers in research. Converse College, an economically diverse all-female liberal arts college in South Carolina, is our third-ranked master’s institution, by virtue of its strong commitment to service and record of graduating women who go on to earn PhDs.

Dear Class of 2016: Get Moving on Your Future

Emily Glazer:

Welcome to the hallowed halls of academia. Now start planning for life in the real world.
It’s still a tough jobs market out there and likely will continue to be for some time. So it isn’t too early for freshly minted college students to start making themselves more marketable–from taking classes that polish essential skills to building a strong network.
“The size of your support network and mentoring group can often be as important as your degree,” says Rich Feller, president of the National Career Development Association, which provides programs and services for career development.
Here’s a timeline on the moves to make over the next four years:

Milwaukee’s University School

Head of School Laura Fuller:

I invite you to visit University School and explore why now is the right time to invest in your child’s education. Our expectations are different. We help all students reach their greatest potential and that leads to the best results.
In these uncertain and challenging times, there is no comparison to a USM education. We develop the strongest possible foundation for lifelong learning. Our students become critical thinkers and problem solvers, and they acquire the character skills, confidence, and work ethic necessary to make good decisions, contribute to society, and enjoy rewarding lives.

A few links:

Tools of the Mind: Promising pre-k curriculum looking less promising

Daniel Willingham

A lot of data from the last couple of decades shows a strong association between executive functions (the ability to inhibit impulses, to direct attention, and to use working memory) and positive outcomes in school and out of school (see review here). Kids with stronger executive functions get better grades, are more likely to thrive in their careers, are less likely to get in trouble with the law, and so forth. Although the relationship is correlational and not known to be causal, understandably researchers have wanted to know whether there is a way to boost executive function in kids.
Tools of the Mind (Bedrova & Leong, 2007) looked promising. It’s a full preschool curriculum consisting of some 60 activities, inspired by the work of psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Many of the activities call for the exercise of executive functions through play. For example, when engaged in dramatic pretend play, children must use working memory to keep in mind the roles of other characters and suppress impulses in order to maintain their own character identity. (See Diamond & Lee, 2011, for thoughts on how and why such activities might help students.)

Big changes in the works for Madison’s 2012-13 school year

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin students, parents, teachers and property owners will feel the impact of major changes rolling out in Wisconsin’s public schools this school year.
This fall for the first time:

  • The state will assign numerical ratings to schools based on various test score measures.
  • Most students will start to see a new, more specific curriculum — in math and language arts, and with literacy incorporated in all subjects — in anticipation of a new state test in two years.
  • And dozens of schools, including three in Madison, will take part in the state’s new teacher evaluation system, which takes into account student test scores.

“This is huge,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said. “I’ve been doing this for 37 years and I haven’t seen this level of reform efforts.”
The unifying reason for the changes is the end of the No Child Left Behind era and the national move toward a more rigorous set of standards for what students are expected to know at each grade level, said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison. In order to obtain a waiver from NCLB, Wisconsin had to adopt the accountability system, higher curriculum standards and a teacher evaluation system.
“This has nothing to do with the turmoil we experienced in Wisconsin last year,” Gamoran said. “This is happening in every state in the country.”


A scheme that can help keep youngsters out of jail comes to America

The Economist:

IN A small classroom four teenage boys laugh and roll their eyes at each other’s wisecracks. The instructor, sometimes speaking in Spanish, encourages them to think about their futures. For his family, one says, “I want to buy a big-ass house.” Another wants to work with cars. A third thinks a family reunion would be great. The classroom is on Rikers Island, New York City’s biggest jail. The teens are participating in the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) programme, which helps them focus on personal responsibility through cognitive behaviour therapy. The programme’s goal is to cut the re-incarceration rate among the youngsters, and it is funded using social impact bonds (SIB).

Trading Caps and Gowns for Mops

Quentin Fottrell:

After four years of college, many graduates are ending up in jobs that only require the ability to operate a cash register with a smile.
After commencement, a growing number young people say they have no choice but to take low-skilled jobs, according to a survey released this week. And while 63% of “Generation Y” workers — those age 18 to 29 — have a bachelor’s degree, the majority of the jobs taken by graduates don’t require one, according to an online survey of 500,000 young workers carried out between July 2011 and July 2012 by, a company that collects data on salaries, and Millennial Branding, a research and management consulting firm.
Another survey by Rutgers University came to the same conclusion: Half of graduates in the past five years say their jobs didn’t require a four-year degree and only 20% said their first job was on their career path. “Our society’s most talented people are unable to find a job that gives them a decent income,” says Cliff Zukin, a professor of political science and public policy at Rutgers.

Where American Education Lines Up Against China

Charles Blow:

It’s no secret that America’s educational systems could use some help. New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow charges that the country is in dire straits. Lining up statistics from a recent report, Blow details how students in the United States have little chance of besting their competitors — specifically, students in China.
This week, the Center for American Progress and the Center for the Next Generation released a report entitled “The Race That Really Matters: Comparing U.S., Chinese and Indian Investments in the Next Generation Workforce.” The findings were breathtaking:
Half of U.S. children get no early childhood education, and we have no national strategy to increase enrollment.

Marcella Kreiter has more.

ACT Results: Only 25% Ready for College

The Center for Education Reform:

Only 25% of 2012 ACT test takers met college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested. The ACT is a college-entrance exam that tests high schoolers in English, Reading, Math, and Science. The ACT defines college and career readiness as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs
to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.”
Breaking down college readiness by subject yields better numbers. For instance, 67% of students tested met English college readiness benchmarks. However, that means 33% of students taking the ACT have not been sufficiently prepared by their schools for learning at the next level. And that’s just students taking the ACT.

Black teenager ‘stopped 50 times’ plans to sue Met police for harassment

Diane Taylor:

A black teenager who says he has been stopped about 50 times by the Metropolitan police is planning to sue the force, claiming he has suffered almost four years of harassment and false charges, which he believes have been motivated by racism.
Between the ages of 14 and 17, the college student says he has faced a series of charges of which he has either been found not guilty or which have been dropped before getting to court, as well as numerous stops and searches and two strip searches, none of which identified any criminal activity. He says he has also been detained several times in police cells after which he was released without charge.
Last week the teenager appeared at Bromley youth court, south London, charged with assaulting a police officer. The case collapsed after CCTV footage contradicted the evidence in court of PC John Lovegrove, who claimed to have been assaulted by the youth during a stop and search.

Union, Las Vegas school district again at odds

Las Vegas Review-Journal:

If the loss of more than 1,000 teaching positions in this county’s underperforming school district wasn’t enough to alert the public to the state’s political and policy dysfunction, would the loss of 1,000 more do the trick?
That’s the scenario that could play out next summer if parents and taxpayers fail to demand massive changes to a collective bargaining process that discourages good-faith negotiations, rewards union obstinance, ignores the community’s interests and insulates elected officials from accountability.
The Clark County School District starts a new year Monday with about 1,000 fewer teachers in the classroom. That’s because last spring an out-of-state arbitrator awarded teachers pay raises the taxpayers couldn’t afford rather than accept the district’s offer of a pay freeze.

Colleges Ship Freshmen To Paris To Boost Tuition Coffers

Jeanna Smialek, via a kind Zach Galin email:

U.S. colleges including New York University and Northeastern University are pushing freshmen into study-abroad programs — before the students even set foot on campus — to enroll larger classes and get more tuition dollars.
NYU and Boston-based Northeastern, which both charge more than $50,000 a year to attend, make some freshmen spend the first semester or two abroad. They then use the students and their tuitions to fill the beds of midyear dropouts and upper classmen heading overseas. While some students find the opportunity rewarding, others are disoriented at not starting off with their class or having a choice.

Inquirer Editorial: School rules do have limits

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Teen drinking is a complicated issue. Just how complicated can be seen by taking a look at the Haddonfield schools.
The school board six years ago established a so-called “24-7 policy,” which was supposed to control even students’ off-campus behavior. Students charged with alcohol offenses were barred from extracurricular activities, including athletic teams, choir, and drama productions.
It seemed to be a good and reasonable measure to many Haddonfield residents, especially a year after the policy was implemented, when a reportedly intoxicated 17-year-old football player leaped to his death from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
Indeed, a central component of public education should be the protection of children. In that regard, children’s education should include showing them that bad personal decisions have consequences. Supporters of the 24-7 policy stressed that point. The policy, though, appears doomed.

Indiana has seen a quiet whirlwind of education reform

The Economist:

IN THE summer of 2011 a 16-year-old girl called Dayana Vazquez-Buquer arrived at the reception desk of Roncalli High School, a nice private school in the south side of Indianapolis. Her parents were Mexican immigrants who could not afford the $8,030 tuition fees. Yet Miss Vazquez-Buquer felt Roncalli would be better for her than her current public school and said she had heard about a new school voucher scheme that would pay most of the fees. She was correct. Today she is a student at Roncalli and on track to attend university.
The voucher scheme, potentially the biggest in America, was set up a year ago as part of a big package of educational reforms led by Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels, and his superintendent of schools. These include teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, giving school heads more autonomy and encouraging the growth of charter schools. Jeanne Allen, president of the Centre for Education Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group, says the reforms are unique because Indiana has looked at education reform in its “totality”, rather than taking a piecemeal approach as many other states have done.

Roncalli’s tuition is currently $8,030 for the first student in a family. The Indianapolis Public Schools 2013 budget will spend $540,000,000 for 32,000 students, or $16,875/student. Madison will spend $15,128/student during the 2012-2013 school year.

Wisconsin’s ACT scores tell story of student benchmarks

Alan Borsuk:

The first question when ACT releases its annual wave of data on college entrance test results is: What’s our score?
The statewide answer in the results released last week was pretty good, which is to say, almost exactly the same as every year for more than a decade. Wisconsin (22.1 overall average score) did better than the nation as a whole (21.1). Some schools and districts were up, some down, most almost exactly the same.
But if you really want to know how we did, there are insights in the results that go deeper than one number. They deserve attention not only in schools but in every home where children are at the start of a new school year. Let’s look at four:
Early grades: In addition to college entrance tests, ACT offers tests such as EXPLORE, which assesses whether eighth-graders are on track to succeed. In fact, as part of the new “waiver” plan to improve student success, Wisconsin officials are going to push to have that test used more widely.
An eye-catching result, based on national data: ACT determines what percentage of eighth graders meets some or all of four benchmark goals. The percentages of kids who meet zero, one, two, three or all four goals in eighth grade are almost exactly the same as the percentages who meet comparable benchmarks in 12th grade.

Related: Madison’s ACT scores lowest since 1995, still above average.

Mythbusting 101: Uncomfortable Truths Your College Won’t Tell You

Mark Hendrickson:

If you or anyone close to you is grappling with the decision of whether to commence or continue college or graduate studies, there are several important facts of life you should know about–facts that colleges themselves aren’t likely to mention. These are a few of the uncomfortable truths they won’t tell you:
1) “Far more people earn degrees in many liberal arts majors than can be employed in those fields.”
Consider the following statistics: More than half of Americans under the age of 25 who have a bachelor’s degree are either unemployed or underemployed. According to The Christian Science Monitor, nearly 1 percent of bartenders and 14 percent of parking lot attendants have a bachelor’s degree.
Adding additional degrees is no guarantee of employment either. According to a recent Urban Institute report, nearly 300,000 Americans with master’s degrees and over 30,000 with doctorates are on public relief.

The Effect of School Choice on Intrinsic Motivation and Academic Outcomes

Justine S. Hastings, Christopher A. Neilson, Seth D. Zimmerman:

Using data on student outcomes and school choice lotteries from a low-income urban school district, we examine how school choice can affect student outcomes through increased motivation and personal effort as well as through improved school and peer inputs. First we use unique daily data on individual-level student absences and suspensions to show that lottery winners have significantly lower truancies after they learn about lottery outcomes but before they enroll in their new schools. The effects are largest for male students entering high school, whose truancy rates decline by 21% in the months after winning the lottery. We then examine the impact attending a chosen school has on student test score outcomes. We find substantial test score gains from attending a charter school and some evidence that choosing and attending a high value-added magnet school improves test scores as well. Our results contribute to current evidence that school choice programs can effectively raise test scores of participants. Our findings suggest that this may occur both through an immediate effect on student behavior and through the benefit of attending a higher-performing school.

New Book: Shadowbosses Sheds Light on Public Sector Union Spending & Tactics


Shadowbosses, released this week, tells a story of intrigue, drama, and corruption and reads like an organized crime novel. Amazingly, it is actually a true story of how public sector labor unions (including teacher unions) are spending member dues and controlling the political process.
Written by Mallory and Elizabeth Factor, this compelling and insightful book exposes how unions have organized federal, state, and local government employees without their consent, and how government employee unions force members into paying for partisan political causes and elections.
This is a great read for teachers interested in the history and path of modern-day teacher unions. Remember, forced unionism and forced dues are serious business for the unions. In 2010, teachers unions collected $2 billion in union dues. $1.3 billion of those dues came from states with compulsory unionism. This book sheds light on the lengths the unions take to bring members into the fold and illustrates their true priorities.

Believe you can change

Aaron Swartz:

Carol Dweck was obsessed with failure. You know how some people just seem to succeed at everything they do, while others seem helpless, doomed to a life of constant failure? Dweck noticed that too — and she was determined to figure out why. So she began watching kids, trying to see if she could spot the difference between the two groups.
In a 1978 study with Carol Diener, she gave kids various puzzles and recorded what they said as they tried to solve them. Very quickly, the helpless kids started blaming themselves: “I’m getting confused,” one said; “I never did have a good rememory,” another explained.
But the puzzles kept coming — and they kept getting harder. “This isn’t fun anymore,” the kids cried. But still, there were more puzzles.
The kids couldn’t take it anymore. “I give up,” they insisted. They started talking about other things, trying to take their mind off the onslaught of tricky puzzles. “There is a talent show this weekend, and I am going to be Shirley Temple,” one girl said. Dweck just gave them even harder puzzles.
Now the kids started getting silly, almost as if they could hide their failure by making it clear they weren’t trying in the first place. Despite repeatedly being told it was incorrect, one boy just kept choosing brown as his answer, saying “Chocolate cake, chocolate cake.”1

Finding Unity in the Math Wars

Kalid Azad:

I was elated and furious: “Why didn’t they explain it like that the first time?!”
Paranoid I’d forget, I put my notes online and they evolved into this site: insights that actually worked for me. Articles on e, imaginary numbers, and calculus became popular — I think we all crave deep understanding. Bad teaching was a burst of gamma rays: I’m normally mild mannered, but enter Hulk Mode when recalling how my passion nearly died.
My core beliefs:
A bad experience can undo years of good ones. Students need resources to sidestep bad teaching.
Hard-won insights, sometimes found after years of teaching, need to be shared
Learning “success” means having basic skills and the passion to learn more. A year, 5 years from now, do people seek out math? Or at least not hate it? (Compare #ihatemath to #ihategeography)

Commentary on Teacher Pay for Performance

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

As Wisconsin school districts enter their second year in a post-Act 10 world, some are beginning to experiment with performance-based pay. It’s a good idea.
But it’s also an idea that will work only if it’s based on sound measures to determine who gets that extra pay.
A few districts, including Hartland-Lakeside in Waukesha County, are trying performance-based pay on a voluntary basis this year; it would be mandatory for all teachers by 2015 in that district, reports the Journal Sentinel’s Erin Richards.
We think districts are wise to wait for full implementation until a new statewide educator evaluation system is in place. The Educator Effectiveness System is being piloted in a few districts this year and is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.
“We have to get the evaluation part right in the beginning, or this won’t work,” state Superintendent Tony Evers said during a meeting with the Editorial Board last week. He’s right.
It’s important to acknowledge a few facts of life:

Caryl Davis:

In an effort to improve teacher quality, legislators and education reformers now are turning to performance-based pay.
Their aim appears to be noble: improving student outcomes.
But I can tell you from experience, it won’t work. And, in fact, it may be harmful if the whole range of factors that affects achievement isn’t considered.
Performance-based pay is a formula derived from behaviorist business models. Like the laboratory mouse and wheel, performance-based pay distributes rewards for correctly modeled behavior.
But this isn’t a realistic model for education; educators aren’t like employees in the business world where incentives are based on profit growth.
Why create an environment that breeds competition among colleagues, that creates situations in which one teacher is rewarded because her class gets high marks while another has less success because of the variables of her students in that particular year?
Also, since student success on standardized tests may be a large part of a teacher’s evaluation, a flaw with performance-based pay is that decision-makers haven’t decided yet on what our children should be learning. Do they want students to learn how to pass tests or to gain tools that will sustain them through life and careers?
Merit pay also will produce educators who teach to the test, which hurts students and teachers alike. As noted in the 2000 article by John R. Deckop and Carol C. Cirka, “The Risk and Reward of a Double-edged Sword: Effects of a Merit Pay Program on Intrinsic Motivation,” teachers are largely driven by two factors: helping students achieve and collaborating with colleagues. Effective teachers are motivated by their collective efforts to ensure the day-to-day growth of students.


The New Common Core Standards call for a 50% reduction in “literary” [aka fictional noninformational texts] readings for students, and an increase in nonfiction informational texts, so that students may be better prepared for the nonfiction they will encounter in college and at work.
In addition to memos, technical manuals, and menus (and bus schedules?), the nonfiction informational texts suggested include The Gettysburg Address, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and perhaps one of the Federalist Papers.
History books, such as those by David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Paul Johnson, Martin Gilbert, etc. are not among the nonfiction informational texts recommended, perhaps to keep students from having to read any complete books while they are still in high school.
In the spirit of Turnabout, let us consider saving students more time from their fictional noninformational text readings (previously known as literature) by cutting back on the complete novels, plays and poems formerly offered in our high schools. For instance, instead of Pride and Prejudice (the whole novel), students could be asked to read Chapter Three. Instead of the complete Romeo and Juliet, they could read Act Two, Scene Two, and in poetry, instead of a whole sonnet, perhaps just alternate stanzas could be assigned. In this way, they could get the “gist” of great works of literature, enough to be, as it were, “grist” for their deeper analytic cognitive thinking skill mills.
As the goal is to develop deeply critical analytic cognitive thinking skills, surely there is no need to read a whole book either in English or in History classes. This will not be a loss in Social Studies classes, since they don’t assign complete books anyway, but it may be a wrench for English teachers who probably still think that there is some value in reading a whole novel, or a whole play, or even a complete poem.
But change is change is change, as Gertrude Stein might have written, and if our teachers are to develop themselves professionally to offer the new deeper cognitive analytic thinking skills required by the Common Core Standards, they will just have to learn to wean themselves from the old notions of knowledge and understanding they have tried to develop from readings for students in the past.
As Caleb Nelson wrote in 1990 in The Atlantic Monthly, speaking about an older Common Core at Harvard College:
The philosophy behind the [Harvard College] Core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so….
The New Common Core Standards are meant to prepare our students to think deeply on subjects they know practically nothing about, because instead of reading a lot about anything, they will have been exercising their critical cognitive analytical faculties on little excerpts amputated from their context. So they can think “deeply,” for example, about Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, while knowing nothing about the nation’s Founding, or Slavery, or the new Republican Party, or, of course, the American Civil War.
Students’ new Common academic work with texts about which they will be asked to Think & Learn Deeply, may encourage them to believe that ignorance is no barrier to useful thinking, in the same way that those who have written the Common Core Standards believe that they can think deeply about and make policy for our many state education systems, without having spent much, if any time, as teachers themselves, or even in meeting with teachers who have the experience they lack.
It may very well turn out that ignorance and incompetence transfer from one domain to another much better than deeper thinking skills do, and that the current mad flight from knowledge and understanding, while clearly very well funded, has lead to Standards which will mean that our high school students [those that do not drop out] will need even more massive amounts of remediation when they go on to college and the workplace than are presently on offer.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
24 August 2012

Is Private School Not Expensive Enough?

R. Scott Asen:

ANY parent of a private-school child will tell you that tuitions are painfully high — and getting worse every year. Many New York City schools are approaching the $40,000 mark. And it’s not just New York: charges at many private secondary boarding schools are now touching $50,000. Outrageous, many say.
But I would argue that, if anything, charges may be too low. At least for some of the customers.
Virtually every private-school parent has heard about “the gap” — the difference between tuition dollars received by the school and the actual costs of operating the institution. This information is usually delivered by the development (read fund-raising) office, along with a heartfelt plea to help plug that gap with a donation.

Former Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Begins Anew in Birmingham, MI

Laura Houser:

Coming to Birmingham from Madison — and from Green Bay, WI, before that — has been an adjustment for Nerad, he said, and not just because Birmingham is significantly smaller.
In Madison, Nerad and the school board there were mired in controversy, resulting in Nerad’s March announcement that he wouldn’t seek an extension of his contract, even though it didn’t expire until June 2013.
Nerad had served as Madison’s superintendent since 2008 and before that, was the superintendent in Green Bay, where he had moved up through the ranks, beginning his career as a school social worker.
“As much as I look at myself as a unifier, I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily been successful in doing that (in Madison),” Nerad said during his first interview with the school board in May.
However, Nerad said communities are what develop perceptions, and now that he’s in Birmingham, he’s dedicated to providing “child-centered” leadership, remaining transparent and adding value to programs already in place.
“There has to be a sense of trust (between a school district and a community),” Nerad said. “I think that exists here. Tensions can exist and it’s incumbent upon all of us to address those tensions and be available.”

Rate of de novo mutations and the importance of father’s age to disease risk


Mutations generate sequence diversity and provide a substrate for selection. The rate of de novo mutations is therefore of major importance to evolution. Here we conduct a study of genome-wide mutation rates by sequencing the entire genomes of 78 Icelandic parent-offspring trios at high coverage. We show that in our samples, with an average father’s age of 29.7, the average de novo mutation rate is 1.20 × 10−8 per nucleotide per generation. Most notably, the diversity in mutation rate of single nucleotide polymorphisms is dominated by the age of the father at conception of the child. The effect is an increase of about two mutations per year. An exponential model estimates paternal mutations doubling every 16.5 years. After accounting for random Poisson variation, father’s age is estimated to explain nearly all of the remaining variation in the de novo mutation counts. These observations shed light on the importance of the father’s age on the risk of diseases such as schizophrenia and autism.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: California State payroll up 9.3 percent, costs 42.4 percent in last decade

Dan Walters:

California’s state government had 9.3 percent more employees in 2011 than it did 10 years earlier – closely tracking overall population growth – but its payroll costs had jumped by 42.4 percent, according to a new Census Bureau report.
That data are gleaned from the bureau’s annual report on state government employment, which also reveals wide swings in the makeup of the state’s workforce, which includes all agencies, regardless of funding source, and institutions of higher education.
In 2001, the state had the “full-time equivalent” of 372,678 employees and was paying them $1.7 billion a month. By 2011, the FTE’s, as they are dubbed, had increased to 407,321 and payroll costs to $2.4 million billion.

Marlborough opens international school in Malaysia


Marlborough College is the latest well-known independent school to open an outpost in Asia.
Some 350 children are set to begin their first term at Marlborough College Malaysia on Monday.
The Wiltshire-based school joins the likes of Dulwich College, Harrow and Wellington College in the international school market.
Private schools, like universities, often use overseas outposts to fund bursaries and lower fees in the UK.
Speaking in advance of the launch, master of Marlborough Jonathan Leigh, described the move as a “significant expansion of one of England’s finest schools”.

Sunshine Review: Madison School District

The good

  • 2011-2012 budget information is provided, but previous budgets are not available.
  • Budget gap and tax impact options are provided.[1]
  • School board members and their individual contact information are listed.[2]
  • School board meetings and minutes are posted.[3]
  • Administrative officials in differing departments are listed.[4]
  • Recent budget information is provided.[5]
  • Some information is provided on contracts and employment.[6]
  • Audits are posted.[7]
  • Recent statewide test results are posted.[8]
  • Background check information is briefly reviewed in the employment tasks information.[6]

[edit]The bad
Does not archive past budgets.
No public records information is provided.
[edit]School board
The school board is comprised of a superintendent and “such other officers as the legislature shall direct.” The superintendent is appointed by the state legislature in the same manner as members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The superintendent can hold office for 4 years.[9] According to the state constitution the board of education may not prevent a non−union teacher from speaking of a bargaining issue at an open meeting, as was ruled in the U.S. Supreme Court case Madison School District v. Wisconsin Employment Commission.[10]

I support the Sunshine review initiative. However, the last paragraph, regarding the Superintendent, is of course incorrect.

Sides dig in as Chicago teachers strike looms

Dan Babwin & Tammy Webber:

Teachers picketed outside a district office Wednesday in the shadow of a giant inflatable rat as school board members inside authorized spending $25 million in the event of the first Chicago teacher strike in a quarter-century.
The brinksmanship came just weeks after the two sides reached an agreement on hiring new teachers to allow for a longer school day. That issue once seemed to be the biggest roadblock to a new contract, but the bargaining and posturing has not let up as the two sides come down to the last few weeks before 400,000 Chicago students are all back in public schools.
“We have had 45 sessions of negotiations, and we’re still pretty far apart,” Karen Lewis, the teachers’ union president, told the Board of Education at Wednesday’s meeting.


Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

Getting Rid of the College Loan Repo Man

Stephen Burd:

Gregory McNeil, 49, is living out his days at a veterans home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His room is so cramped he can barely fit his twin bed, dresser, and the computer desk he had to sneak in because it was against regulations. His only income comes from the Social Security disability payments he began receiving last year after undergoing quadruple-bypass heart surgery. These payments go directly to the veterans home, which then gives him $100a month for his expenses. McNeil fears that if he leaves the home, the government will seize a portion of his Social Security to pay off the federal student loan he defaulted on two decades ago. “This veterans home may become my financial prison,” he says. “And this is no way to live.”
McNeil’s fears are well grounded. For years, private collection companies acting under contract with the U.S. Department of Education have hounded him. The government garnisheed his wages for a time, and threatened to sue him. He says he always wanted to repay, but has never had the income he would need. Meanwhile, interest continues to accrue on his debt, and has already tripled the amount he owes.

A Look At The Changes To D.C.’S Teacher Evaluation System

Matthew Di Carlo:

D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) recently announced a few significant changes to its teacher evaluation system (called IMPACT), including the alteration of its test-based components, the creation of a new performance category (“developing”), and a few tweaks to the observational component (discussed below). These changes will be effective starting this year.
As with any new evaluation system, a period of adjustment and revision should be expected and encouraged (though it might be preferable if the first round of changes occurs during a phase-in period, prior to stakes becoming attached). Yet, despite all the attention given to the IMPACT system over the past few years, these new changes have not been discussed much beyond a few quick news articles.
I think that’s unfortunate: DCPS is an early adopter of the “new breed” of teacher evaluation policies being rolled out across the nation, and any adjustments to IMPACT’s design – presumably based on results and feedback – could provide valuable lessons for states and districts in earlier phases of the process.
Accordingly, I thought I would take a quick look at three of these changes.

Recent State Action on Teacher Effectiveness

Sara Mead:

During the 2010, 2011, and 2012 legislative sessions, a combination of federal policy incentives and newly elected governors and legislative majorities in many states following the 2010 elections sparked a wave of legislation addressing teacher effectiveness. More than 20 states passed legislation designed to address educator effectiveness by mandating annual evaluations based in part on student learning and linking evaluation results to key personnel decisions, including tenure, reductions in force, dismissal of underperforming teachers, and retention. In many cases states passed multiple laws, with later laws building on previous legislation, and also promulgated regulations to implement legislation. A few states acted through regulation only.

Interview with MMSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Jane Belmore

A. David Dahmer:

Literacy is also important to Belmore who has a background and training as a reading specialist. “I’m a person who has quite a bit of expertise in curriculum and literacy so I’m really interested in the literacy goals that go throughout,” she says.
One of the things that Belmore is going to be pulling together is a Literacy Summit that she will facilitate. “The Summit is bringing together all of the pieces of the literacy initiative — middle schools, high schools,” Belmore says. “We’re going to work with the people who have been guiding that work just to communicate better so that high school teachers have a better understanding of what elementary school teachers are doing. I think it helps people understand that they are not alone and that it really takes all of us to do this.”
Belmore has been reaching out to the community — going to functions and talking to parents and meeting with agencies and non-profits. “There is a fair amount of that that goes along with this role and I actually enjoy that part of it,” she says. “I like to get out with people and talk about the work we’re doing and seeing what kind of questions they have. I’ve met with a lot of major community partners already — many whom I already had relationships with at Edgewood.”

Notes and links on interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore, here.

44th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll Shows a Nation Divided Over Public Education Issues

Associated Press:

Though Americans clearly have opposing stances on many education issues, when the poll — conducted annually by Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) in conjunction with Gallup — asked Americans whether they believe common core state standards would provide more consistency in the quality of education between school districts and states, 75 percent said yes. In fact, more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe common core state standards would make U.S. education more competitive globally.
Ninety-seven percent of the public also agrees that it is very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, and almost two of three Americans (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of urban schools. Eighty-nine percent of Americans agree that it is very or somewhat important to close the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students.
And though Americans are almost evenly split in their support for requiring that teacher evaluations include how well students perform on standardized tests, with 52 percent in favor, they are in agreement about increasing the selectivity of teacher preparation programs. In fact, at least three of four Americans believe that entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs need to be at least as selective as those for engineering, business, pre-law, and pre-medicine.

View the complete poll results via this 1.75MB PDF file.

A Critique of Education Spending

Neal McCluskey:

Begin with Head Start, a nearly $8 billion program that’s politically untouchable, not only because it deals with education, but it’s for preschool kids. It’s almost tailor-made for demagoguery, with anyone who’d dare trim — much less eliminate — the program practically begging to be declared a rotten so-and-so who hates even the littlest of children.
But the fact is there’s no meaningful evidence the program does any good. In fact, the most recent federal evaluation found that Head Start produces almost no lasting cognitive benefits, and its few lasting social-emotional effects include negative ones. Only the people employed by Head Start money — and the politicians who appear to “care” — are really benefiting.
This is repeated in elementary and secondary education, only with a bigger bill. In 2011 Washington spent almost $79 billion on K-12 education, and the latest federal data show inflation-adjusted federal outlays per pupil ballooning from $446 in 1970-71 to $1,185 in 2008-09. Meanwhile, scores for 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — the “Nation’s Report Card” — have been stagnant.
Oodles “invested,” no return.

A tale of two charters

Carol Inkellis:

Is it the best of times or the worst of times for charter schools in Marin?
Well, it certainly hasn’t been the best of times in the Lagunitas School District for the past few months. In fact, it seemed to be “deja vu all over again.” Forty years ago a group of parents and educators fought hard to bring the child-centric Open Classroom emphasizing individual learning styles to the small district–a program that continues to flourish.
In addition to the Open Classroom and a Montessori program, the district offers the Lagunitas Waldorf Inspired Program (LWIP), based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. It is one of very few public school Waldorf programs in the state or country. (The Novato Charter School is also a Waldorf-inspired model.)

Putting Education First in Timor-Leste

Justin Van Fleet:

Last week, the UN Secretary-General, accompanied by his Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, visited Timor-Leste on an education tour. The trip came in advance of a major announcement in September of the Secretary-General’s new global education initiative, Education First, which aims to raise the political profile of education and accelerate progress towards the 2015 education goals and beyond.
The scenario in Timor-Leste was all too familiar for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who grew up during war in South Korea knowing firsthand the power of the international community’s support for education. “All I had for a classroom was the tree we gathered around. We had no chalkboards or textbooks. I know education deprivation first-hand. I also know the power of education to transform,” Ban said in his speech to school children during his trip.

McSweeney’s Brings Design Magic Back to Children’s Books

Allison Arieff:

The folks at McSweeneys’s McMullens (the children’s book department of McSweeney’s Quarterly & Books) totally get that. They realize that a lot of children’s literature is absurd but not in the way it should be. (It’s absurd, for example, that a child should be saddled with the name of Pinkalicious and not in a compelling sort of way.)
As such, it is genius to republish a book of stories from the ’70s written by Eugene Ionesco, one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. The stories in his Stories 1234 (available on Sept. 12) are silly, filled with sentences (and sauerkraut) and drawings that combine enough beauty, confusion and nonsense to captivate any kid.

New Jersey Superintendent Salary Caps

Laura Waters:

New Jersey Journal examines the impact of the state’s superintendent salary caps on the retention of superintendents and asks whether they are fleeing to greener pasture. Roy Montesano, NJ’s 2012 Superintendent of the Year, is profiled: lately of Ramsey Public Schools, he’ll leave for New York State and the chief position at the public schools in Hastings-on-Hudson.
At Ramsey in Bergen County, Montesano made about $220,000 as superintendent of the five-school district with a total enrollment of 2,686 kids. The new cap would cut his salary to $165,000. At Hastings he’ll make $230,000.
Reactions in the field are mixed. Some say that more superintendents will flee to non-capped pastures, particularly in Bergen County, a short hop to New York. (That benefit could be short-lived since Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a similar cap.) Others say that Jersey districts have had no trouble filling positions, and the Journal notes that “the cap was created in response to public outrage after a few administrators accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in buy-outs and other compensations.”

School vouchers make a comeback amid concerns about quality

Sarah Carr:

As Louisiana debuts one of the nation’s most extensive private-school voucher programs, deep divides persist over who should be accountable for ferreting out academic failure and financial abuse: the government or parents.
Across the country, vouchers have resurged in a big way over the last two years–both as a form of school choice and a political lightning rod. Republican governors in Louisiana, Indiana, New Jersey and other states have championed them as a solution to the challenges besetting public education. More recently, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined the chorus, saying he hopes to turn an eight-year-old voucher program in Washington, D.C. into a “national showcase.”

Madison’s ACT scores lowest since 1995, still above average

Matthew DeFour:

Madison’s average ACT score dipped last year to the lowest level since 1995, according to state and district records.
Madison’s average score of 23.7 out of 36 was still well above the state average of 22.1 and national average of 21.1 among 2012 graduates.
State records go back to 1996 and differ slightly from Madison records, but show last year’s average score was the lowest during that period. Madison records go back to 1995 when the average score was 23.5.
Madison’s scores once again highlight the achievement gap — white students scored 7.4 points higher than black students and 4.8 points higher than Hispanic students, according to the Department of Public Instruction.

Math Professional Development

Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute via a kind Richard Askey email:

These modules are prepared by AMSI as part of The Improving Mathematics Education in Schools (TIMES) Project.
The modules are organised under the strand titles of the Australian Curriculum

  • Number and Algebra
  • Measurement and Geometry
  • Statistics and Probability

The modules are written for teachers. Each module contains a discussion of a component of the mathematics curriculum from early primary up to the end of Year 10. There are exercises that teachers may wish to undertake – answers are given at the end of the module and often screencasts giving a solution are linked and indicated by an icon.

“Negligent” Teacher Retention

Laura Waters:

The Star-Ledger discusses NJ’s “landmark” tenure reform bill passed earlier this year which “enjoyed near-universal support,” but notes that “there is also a consensus among leading Democrats and Republicans that it doesn’t go far enough for inner-city schools.”
Tough luck. From The Ledger: “Interviews with administration officials, Democratic lawmakers and NJEA leaders reveal that whatever momentum there was for education reform has mostly fizzled. Instead, they’re back to bickering over how much teachers should earn and which ones should be laid off first when budgets are tight. And nobody’s budging.”

Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2016

Tom McBride:

This year’s entering college class of 2016 was born into cyberspace and they have therefore measured their output in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds. They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future, and are entering college bombarded by questions about jobs and the value of a college degree. They have never needed an actual airline “ticket,” a set of bound encyclopedias, or Romper Room. Members of this year’s freshman class, most of them born in 1994, are probably the most tribal generation in history and they despise being separated from contact with friends. They prefer to watch television everywhere except on a television, have seen a woman lead the U.S. State Department for most of their lives, and can carry school books-those that are not on their e-Readers-in backpacks that roll.
The class of 2016 was born the year of the professional baseball strike and the last year for NFL football in Los Angeles. They have spent much of their lives educating their parents to understand that you don’t take pictures on “film” and that CDs and DVDs are not “tapes.” Those parents have been able to review the crime statistics for the colleges their children have applied to and then pop an Aleve as needed. In these students’ lifetimes, with MP3 players and iPods, they seldom listen to the car radio. A quarter of the entering students already have suffered some hearing loss. Since they’ve been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp.
Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, authors of The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal (John Wiley and Sons), it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation. Mindset List websites at and, as well as the Mediasite webcast and their Facebook page receive more than a million visits annually.

Todd Finkelmeyer comments, here.

Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?

John Schmitt and Janelle Jones:

The U.S. workforce is substantially older and better-educated than it was at the end of the 1970s. The typical worker in 2010 was seven years older than in 1979. In 2010, over one-third of US workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from just one-fifth in 1979. Given that older and better-educated workers generally receive higher pay and better benefits, we would have expected the share of “good jobs” in the economy to have increased in line with improvements in the quality of workforce. Instead, the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy has actually fallen. The estimates in this paper, which control for increases in age and education of the population, suggest that relative to 1979 the economy has lost about one-third (28 to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs. The data show only minor differences between 2007, before the Great Recession began, and 2010, the low point for the labor market. The deterioration in the economy’s ability to generate good jobs reflects long-run changes in the U.S. economy, not short-run factors related to the recession or recent economic policy.

We Consistently Underestimate Kids

John Peebles:

I’ve long believed that we seriously underestimate kids. Hanging around with my friend’s daughters who were 2, 3, and 5 when I was in college was really illuminating as I found myself interacting and conversing with his (admittedly smart) 2 year old daughter on a level that we often wouldn’t even attempt with highschoolers.
I have a very clear memory of being nine years old, reading an autobiography about a family who adopted several kids. At some point they became stranded in an airpot. Don’t worry though! It was no problem the author (and mother) helpfully pointed out, because nothing fascinates a nine year old like riding the elevator up and down for hours. What a load of crap, I thought to my nine year old self. It’s like that mom thinks we’re mentally disabled or something.

Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain

Melinda Beck:

Many parents of 20-somethings worry that their offspring haven’t yet found a career path, gotten married or become financially independent.
These parents should chill out, experts say.
Recent research into how the brain develops suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s than earlier in the decade. The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person’s third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain, scientists say.

US teen invents advanced cancer test using Google


Fifteen-year-old high school student Jack Andraka likes to kayak and watch the US television show Glee.
And when time permits, he also likes to do advanced research in one of the most respected cancer laboratories in the world.
Jack Andraka has created a pancreatic cancer test that is 168 times faster and more than 1,000 times less expensive than the gold standard in the field. He has applied for a patent for his test and is now carrying out further research at Johns Hopkins University in the US city of Baltimore.
And he did it by using Google.
The Maryland native, who won $75,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May for his creation, cites search engines and free online science papers as the tools that allowed him to create the test.

Udacity Cancels Free Online Math Course, Citing Low Quality

Jeffrey Young:

Udacity, a start-up company offering free online courses, last week canceled a course, “Logic and Discrete Mathematics,” that was due to begin this summer, saying the lectures and materials it had prepared on the topic did not live up to its quality standards.
“We recorded the entire class and edited most of it, but in our internal tests it didn’t meet our quality bar,” said Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity, in an e-mail interview on Sunday. “We have an enormous respect for our students’ time and don’t want to release anything that wouldn’t meet our bar.”
He declined to say how many students had signed up for the course or to answer further questions about the future of the offering.
The course had originally been slated to start in June. At first Udacity officials announced that it would be delayed a few weeks. But last week they said they would “not be launching this course.”

The Textbook Industry & Greed: My Story

Luke Thomas:

There’s nothing more upsetting than knowing that you are being taken advantage of. I have four classes until I graduate college, and every semester the same thing happens time and time again.
I’m required to spend hundreds of dollars on the latest college textbooks and three months later I can barely fetch half of what I paid. It’s the same story, but this past semester I was confronted with something much worse.
The Textbook Salesmen
I rarely visit my professors’ office hours, but twice last semester I had the opportunity to watch salesmen from textbook giants (Cengage, Pearson, McGraw-Hill) work their way down through the faculty hallways, moving from office to office, with the goal of persuading my professors to purchase “custom editions” for their classes.
“Custom edition textbooks are tailored to your classes so only the content you choose is there. It’s great for you and your students,” they would say. I listened to this well-dressed team of salesmen with anger – I had just spent the last two weeks conversing with the university bookstore about unethical textbook practices by my English professor…

Playtime: why holidays are so important

Tara Jenkins and Karen Pittar:

What makes a memorable family holiday? Certainly not the organisation: packing for five, finding someone to look after the family pet, stopping the newspaper delivery and buying a vat of sunscreen. So why, year after year, do we put ourselves through it?
Family holidays are all about building special bonds and memories, according to Kathy Wong Kin-ho, executive director of Playright Children’s Play Association in Hong Kong.
“They are a time for play and new experiences, a chance for adventure and exploration, and importantly, for rest and relationship building.”
Family holidays don’t have to be expensive or far-flung, Wong says – just fairly regular. “We all need time every day for rest, play, sleep, love and communication. The problem is we all live in cities, and city life has taken these basic things away from us. Family holidays are a time for us to re-experience these things, and we should look forward to a break every year, as much as possible.”

Skilled Work, Without the Worker

John Markoff:

At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way.
At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human.
One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.
All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools

TNTP Reimagine Teaching:

To identify and better understand the experience of these teachers, we started by studying 90,000 teachers across four large, geographically diverse urban school districts. We also examined student academic growth data or value-added results for approximately 20,000 of those teachers. While these measures cannot provide a complete picture of a teacher’s performance or ability on their own–and shouldn’t be the only measure used in real- world teacher evaluations–they are the most practical way to identify trends in a study of this scale, and research has demonstrated that they show a relationship to other performance measures, such as classroom observations.3 We used the data to identify teachers who performed exceptionally well (by helping students make much more academic progress than expected), and to see how their experiences and opinions about their work differed from other teachers’–particularly teachers whose performance was exceptionally poor.

Rising to the challenge of home-schooling

Mark Graham:

Home-schooling children is a tough challenge, even with a support group in the neighbourhood and the help of internet resources.
American doctors Bill and Ana Moody made it even harder by moving to an out-of-the-way Chinese village where, despite the many obstacles, they successfully home-schooled their sons.
The upside of being in an isolated environment where little English is spoken or understood was that their boys learned to speak fluent colloquial Chinese. The eldest son, Matthew, is now at college in the US, where fellow students are dazzled by his command of the language.

National education policy — oh, how it’s changed

Indiana University:

The way legislators, experts and other opinion leaders discuss the role of parents and schools in reducing educational inequalities has changed dramatically since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act first passed in 1965. Put simply, parents were viewed as part of the problem then, with schools seen as the solution. In recent years, with No Child Left Behind and more school choice options, these roles have flipped.
“There has been a continued focus on reducing educational inequalities; however, there are stark contrasts in the way policymakers and experts talked about what they saw as the root problems and how to solve them from 1965 to 2001 — especially the roles of parents and schools,” said Emily Meanwell, sociology doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was the federal government’s first major education policy and is described by Meanwell as “one of the most important education policies in American history. Created to reduce educational inequalities found across the country, its goal was to increase opportunities for poor and disadvantaged children as part of the War on Poverty.”

700 more kids need mentors

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

A parent — usually a single mother — has the courage to pick up a phone and call for help.
That’s how most children and teenagers enter the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Dane County.
But too many requests for mentors for the children of caring yet struggling single parents go unfilled. Some 700 young people in Dane County are on the organization’s waiting list, which has grown in recent years during the recession and slow economic recovery.
That’s almost as many children and teenagers as the 750 who now are matched with an adult to meet with them a few hours each week, either at an area school or on their own.
The push is on in Dane County to recruit more Big Brothers and Big Sisters for this fall to provide a positive influence in more kids’ lives.

An inconvenient truth is hiding behind the current excitement about educating girls.

Kavita N. Ramdas:

Girls are hot. Reproductive rights are not. This is the strange and yet unspoken contradiction endemic in the current development discourse about gender equality. From the boardrooms of Exxon Mobil, to the World Bank, to the offices of the Nike Foundation and the overflowing halls at Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative, you can hear people talking about the importance of investing in girls. Women are often added as an afterthought–their inclusion is often phrased as “girls and women” rather than as “women and girls.” Most often you hear that “educating girls” is the magic bullet of the 21st century.
The last time I heard something being prescribed as often as the solution to everything from low GDP rates and malnutrition in infants to endemic poverty, it was the early 1990s and the buzz was about something started by a Bangladeshi man named Muhammad Yunus. Girls’ education is the new microfinance. Yet educating girls about their sexuality and providing funding for access to contraception, safe and legal abortion, and broad education about their reproductive health and rights–which was a significant emphasis of global philanthropy in the 1980s and 1990s–has now dwindled in popularity. Although a few dedicated foundations and the European bilateral aid donors continue their commitment to organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, the new global actors are focused on girls’ access to schools and learning.

Sun Prairie Athletic Field Fees


Thanks to school board Veep John Welke’s attention to detail and investigative prowess, the public learned that the high school softball fields had been reserved ALL SUMMER LONG from 7:30 am to 8:00 PM. Talk about a monopoly.
Um…who’s paying for the exclusive use of those fields? Sure the SP Little League ponied up $75,000 initially, but how far does that go?
The cost of reserving the varsity softball field for 67 days at $300/day (12 hrs/day x $25/hr)= $20,100.
Add in the JV field and that comes to $40,200 JUST for the summer of 2012.
Shouldn’t SOMEONE be saying “Nay, Nay”?
We didn’t receive a dime. Who’s watching this? Who would have allowed one “renter” to reserve two complete fields for 12 hours or more EVERY day for 67 days this summer???? We’re think that SOMEONE with some common sense should have said, “Nay, Nay”.

Special Needs Kids Staying in Traditional Schools

Christina Hoag:

The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren’t always readily open to those requiring special education.
The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students.
School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.
“It raises an ethical responsibility question,” said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts.”

Isn’t that Spatial? Analyzing Our World Using Digital Maps and Spatial Thinking (TSA101)


The goal of Teaching Using Spatial Analysis 101 is to provide confidence, skills, and the spatial perspective necessary to foster spatial analysis in geography, earth and biological sciences, history, mathematics, computer science, and in other disciplines.
It will accomplish this through a series of hands-on activities where participants investigate a series of fascinating issues relevant to the 21st Century, including population, natural hazards, energy, water, current events, sustainable agriculture, and more. These activities will be supplemented by short readings and reflections that will build a community of educators focused on the value of investigating the world through a spatial perspective.

Is Our Children Learning Enough Grammar to Get Hired?

Room for Debate:

“Grammar is my litmus test,” the C.E.O. of iFixit wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review. “If job hopefuls can’t distinguish between ‘to’ and ‘too,’ their applications go into the bin.”
But grammar often seems to be a low priority in education. A student could pass the New York State English Regents exam by writing: “These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.”

Majoring in Free Content

Paul Fain:

The Saylor Foundation has nearly finished creating a full suite of free, online courses in a dozen popular undergraduate majors. And the foundation is now offering a path to college credit for its offerings by partnering with two nontraditional players in higher education – Excelsior College and StraighterLine.
The project started three years ago, when the foundation began hiring faculty members on a contract basis to build courses within their subject areas. The professors scoured the web for free Open Education Resources (OER), but also created video lectures and tests.
“I was able to develop my own material,” said Kevin Moquin, who created a business law course for Saylor. A former adjunct professor for a technical college and a for-profit institution, Moquin said the foundation gave him the “flexibility to adjust it as I needed.”

School districts explore performance-based pay models

Erin Richards:

Before this summer, tramping around the woods near Chippewa Falls at an environmental science camp would have earned Alicia Moore personal fulfillment and knowledge to share with her students in the fall.
The camp would not have counted as the kind of formal education credit that, along with extra years of experience, has historically increased teachers’ salaries over their careers.
But the recent wilderness lessons may indirectly help Moore boost her salary this year in the Hartland-Lakeside School District, because the Waukesha County district is debuting a new compensation system that aims to reward good performance over seniority – something a few Wisconsin districts are experimenting with in the wake of state legislation that opened the door for rethinking how teachers are paid.
So while Moore, 34, plotted GPS coordinates and learned computer mapping software, she also planned how to teach those concepts to students and measure their learning. Later this school year she’ll include all that data in a portfolio to convince administrators and educators she’s worthy of a raise.
“You, as a teacher, have to now demonstrate that what you’re doing is having a transformational effect on student achievement,” explained Moore, who worked with about 17 other teachers to design the new compensation system.