K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Democracies and Debt

The Economist:

For a long time, there did not seem to be any limit to the amount democracies could borrow. Creditors have been more patient with democratic governments than with other regimes, probably because the risk of abrupt changes of policy (like the repudiation of Tsarist debts by Russia in 1917) are reduced. But this has postponed the crunch point, rather than eliminated it–and allowed stable democracies to accumulate higher debt, relative to their GDP, than many, more volatile countries ever achieved. Governments can, as Madison suggested, confiscate the wealth of domestic creditors via inflation, taxes or default. But however often they vote, democracies cannot make foreign lenders extend credit. That harsh truth is now being discovered.



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A review of The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

Henry Hitchings:

The language wars date from the beginning of language–the beginning, one suspects, of every language. A language is invented, new words added, a grammar devised, an approved syntax established, and in one of countless possible ways it proves inadequate, opponents gather, snipers fire verbal shots, polemical grenades are flung, canons lined up, and war is underway. The reigning rule of language is change, endless bloody change; it was forever thus, and always will be. Case–far from closed–permanently open.
In his richly informative book Henry Hitchings chronicles the language wars of English, its continuous skirmishes, its controversies, its often rancorous disputes. The Language Wars is impressively comprehensive, its author immensely knowledgeable. He takes up the subjects of spelling, grammar, punctuation, pronunciation, metaphor, regional speech, jargon, the influence on language of the internet, and profanity, both lyrical and gross. One cannot but admire his learning and high spirits as he makes his way through material that in a less deft hand would have drooped into pedantry or become inflamed with bad temper.
In writing about language one must prove that one can oneself manipulate language. Hitchings passes this test. His prose is lucid, nicely dappled with irony, and if not elegant then attractively virile. The only complaint I have against his prose style is that he tends to overuse the word “intriguing,” and uses it to mean interesting, sometimes fascinating, thereby ignoring what for me is the word’s root sense of making secret plans to do something illicit or harmful to someone. Spies have traditionally been thought to be intriguing, not authors of books on grammar and spelling. Many contemporary dictionaries approve Hitchings’s use of the word, often these days according it primary position in their numerical list of definitions. But dictionaries, as we know, are cowardly institutions, which tend to go along with the changed meaning of words, and hence are not to be trusted.

Chicago mayor and Obama confidant Rahm Emanuel explains his cool approach to the city’s teachers strike.

David Feith;

Rahm Emanuel is his generation’s most noted political pugilist, the guy who once mailed a dead fish to a fellow Democratic operative whose work had disappointed him. In 1992 he celebrated Bill Clinton’s presidential victory with a steak knife and an enemies list, stabbing a table and screaming “dead” as he recited each name. Over time Mr. Emanuel’s drive has made him a leader in Congress, chief of staff to President Obama and now the mayor of Chicago.
So you’d think that “Rahmbo” would be the perfect leader–a popular, bona fide progressive reformer unafraid to speak his mind–to stand up for students and parents by facing down the Chicago Teachers Union’s first strike in 25 years. But when the teachers walked off the job on Monday and the strike wore on, the political force of nature seemed hesitant to brawl.
Sitting for an interview on Tuesday in a reception room overlooking Chicago’s Millennium Park, with union members marching in the street, Mr. Emanuel presents himself as a man looking to make a deal. According to news reports at press time, he’s likely to sign one this weekend.

Are We Getting Smarter?

Radio National:

Are we getting smarter? Moral philosopher James Flynn discovered in the 1980s that our IQ scores have been steadily rising since we began measuring intelligence. This became known as the Flynn Effect. Now he’s making some interesting observations about intelligence and IQ in relation to the controversial questions of race, gender and class.

Dane County National Merit Semi-finalists

Wisconsin State Journal, via a kind reader

Seventy-eight students in the Dane County area and 330 students statewide are among about 16,000 high school seniors named 2013 National Merit Semifinalists, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced Wednesday.
Semifinalists represent the top 1 percent of the approximately 1.5 million students who took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last year. About 90 percent of semifinalists become finalists who are eligible to receive one of 8,300 college scholarships totaling more than $32 million next spring.
Dane County area semifinalists include:
Belleville: Michelle V. Chalupnik.
Edgerton: Casey N. Grittner.
Lodi: Samuel J. Taylor.
Madison (home school): Peter C. Walker.
Madison Edgewood: Cassidy McDonald, John C. Merfeld, Matthew R. Molina and Kathleen S. Wall.
Madison La Follette: Sarah E. Juhlin.
Madison East: Grace A. Coleman, Theodore D. Huwe, Patrick J. McCarthy, Scout M. Slava-Ross and Amelia L. Soth.
Madison Memorial: Srikar N. Adibhatla, Joel G. Cryer, Leah M. Fulmer, Sophia L. Gerdes, Ogden R. Greene, Charles Z. He, Caroline E. Hornung, Laurel J. Hunt, Matthew J. Lee, Daniel L. Li, Isaiah P. Mitchell, Owen S. Monsma, Rachel A. Mortensen, Aaron T. Senson, Kelly Shen, Thejas S. Wesley, Bethany N. Wolkoff, Edwin Y. Wu and William Xiang.
Madison West: Luella R. Allen-Waller, Madeline M. Batzli, Micah Y. Baum, Cindy T. Cai, Colin E. Davis, Rachel G. Feldman, Zuodian Hu, Amy H. Hua, Colin P. Keating, Rowan R. Meara, Stephen N. Petty Valenzuela, Ari S. Pollack, Oliver S. Redsten, Elizabeth M. Scholz, Ansa E. Seppalainen, Yang Song, Margaret M. Stanger, Claire M. Wang and Joel Q. Weng.
McFarland: Nicholas J. Perkl and Daniel E. Reschke.
Middleton-Cross Plains: Evan L. Bauch, Christie F. Cheng, Elizabeth J. Couser, Christopher J. Eom, Alexander T. Goodsett, Michael P. Hoot, Casey O. Hutchison, Rebecca C. Jin, Suzy Kim, Laura L. Knutsen, Megan A. Phillips, Victoria T. Wang and Kimberli R. Ward.
Monona Grove: Mitchell D. Paull, Karlyn C. Russell, Grant W. Smith and Amelia M. Speight.
Mount Horeb: Laura B. Meeker and Lucy M. Wallitsch.
Portage: Michelle M. Larson.
Reedsburg: James R. Urban.
Stoughton: Timothy A. Tyson.
Sun Prairie: Thomas A. Plagge.
Waterloo: Desiree J. Klein.

Madison teachers union to demand contract talks

Janesville Gazette:

The Madison teachers union will be demanding that the district begin new collective bargaining contract negotiations in light of a court ruling overturning parts of a state law that previously forbid it.
John Matthews, head of the Madison teachers union, said Monday that the request is likely to be sent to the district on Tuesday. District spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson had no immediate comment.
Madison school employees are currently covered under a union contract that ends on June 30, 2012. Typically, talks for the next two-year contract wouldn’t begin until February.

More, here.

MMSD/MTI to Pilot Educator Effectiveness Teacher Evaluation Process in 2012-13

Madison Teachers’, Inc. Solidarity enewsletter 80K PDF, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

Major changes to the manner in which teachers are evaluated in Wisconsin are on the horizon. The criteria for teacher evaluation which was first negotiated by MTI during a 1976 strike will be replaced effective with the 2014-15 school year by a state-mandated system and criteria. Driven by President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative, teacher evaluation procedures are changing from those which relied primarily upon locally-developed evaluation procedures based on principal observations to state-mandated procedures requiring the inclusion of student test scores in the evaluation of teaching staff. The “Wisconsin Framework for Educational Effectiveness” is the new process required to be utilized by Wisconsin schools commencing with the 2014-15 school year. This new evaluation model will base teacher evaluations 50% on “models of practice” and 50% on “student outcomes”. A summary of this model can be found at the DPI website at http://www.dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/edueff.html.
In preparation for the 2014-15 implementation of the new evaluation model, DPI will be piloting the program with select school districts during the 2012-13 school year. Feedback from that pilot will then be utilized for modifications for a state-wide pilot in 2013-14. Feedback from that effort will then be used to tweak some more before full implementation.
The MMSD and MTI have agreed to have Madison participate as one of the pilot districts this school year. This does not mean that MTI is supportive of the model as currently designed. There are elements to the plan which certainly present concerns to many educators, especially in light of dramatic eliminations of contractual protections caused by Act 10. However, given the current political landscape, both at the State and Federal level, this may very well be the plan we will have to work with in the foreseeable future. The MTI Board of Directors concluded that it was better to participate in the pilot and offer feedback than leave that to others, provided: 1) that MTI had a say in selecting which schools participate in the pilot; 2) that teacher participation in the pilot be entirely voluntary; and 3) that the pilot will only be used to provide feedback to DPI, the MMSD and MTI and will not be utilized to evaluate staff during the pilot period. The District agreed to these provisions (the latter two of which are also mandated by DPI as part of the pilot).
The school selected to participate in the pilot is Black Hawk Middle School. The Principal has been notified and volunteers have been selected to participate. The school team will include two to three teachers who have agreed to be “evaluated” (one of whom is required to be an initial educator); one peer mentor to do informal observations and offer coaching and feedback to teachers (whose work is essentially to support the development and expertise of the teacher without doing any formal observation); and the principal who will be conducting the formal observations and the evaluation . The participants will be required to attend a three (3) day DPI training October 8-10, with two more training days to be scheduled later in the year. Participants will also be asked to attend a couple of meetings with MMSD and MTI staff along the way to provide feedback to MMSD/MTI as well.
By participating, we are hopeful that the experience and feedback provided by the participants will be utilized to make any necessary modifications to the planned evaluation system so that it can deliver on its promise to fairly and accurately measure teacher effectiveness. If not, the experience will inform our concerns and critiques.

Training Teachers to Embrace Reform

Amanda Ripley:

Making sense of the Chicago teachers’ strike (where the two sides were reportedly moving toward resolution on Friday) is like trying to understand the failure of a friend’s marriage. You can’t help speculating about who’s to blame, but you’ll never really know. In truth, it doesn’t matter. Many countries have revolutionized their education systems in recent years, but not one of them has done it through strikes, walkouts or righteous indignation.
Just about every country in the developed world has a teachers’ union, so the mere presence of a union doesn’t determine the quality of a country’s schools. There is, however, a significant relationship between the professionalism of the union and the health of an education system. The all-important issue is not how easy it is to fire the worst teachers; it’s how to elevate the entire craft without going to war with teachers.

Chicago strike may not help students in the long run

Alan Borsuk:

After many months of difficult negotiations, the teachers’ union and school system announced last week agreement on a new contract making student performance a factor in teachers’ evaluations, giving school leaders more latitude in selecting teachers and keeping class sizes in middle grades in check.
In Chicago? Of course not.
So where? Boston.
While the Chicago teachers’ strike, which closed public schools for the week, got huge national attention, the Boston settlement, after more than two years of negotiations (and no strike), got minimal notice. Everybody loves a fight, I suppose. But I would argue that what happened in Boston was at least as important as the grand battle in Chicago.
Why? Because I doubt much good is going to emerge from Chicago. It sounded at week’s end as if negotiators were headed toward an agreement that won’t really change the status quo very much – and the status quo for Chicago kids is about as happy as it is for Milwaukee kids.
Boston is much more in line with what is happening nationwide, including growing interest, even among many union leaders, in striving for improvements in teaching. It’s a very complex and tricky path, but the willingness to explore it is, in itself, a positive thing. Wisconsin education leaders have been acting more in line with the Boston agreement than the Chicago brawl.

Computerized Tutors

Annie Murphy Paul:

Neil Heffernan was listening to his fiancée, Cristina Lindquist, tutor one of her students in mathematics when he had an idea. Heffernan was a graduate student in computer science, and by this point — the summer of 1997 — he had been working for two years with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University on developing computer software to help students improve their skills. But he had come to believe that the programs did little to assist their users. They were built on elaborate theories of the student mind — attempts to simulate the learning brain. Then it dawned on him: what was missing from the programs was the interventions teachers made to promote and accelerate learning. Why not model a computer program on a human tutor like Lindquist?
Over the next few months, Heffernan videotaped Lindquist, who taught math to middle-school students, as she tutored, transcribing the sessions word for word, hoping to isolate what made her a successful teacher. A look at the transcripts suggests the difficulties he faced. Lindquist’s tutoring sessions were highly interactive: a single hour might contain more than 400 lines of dialogue. She asked lots of questions and probed her student’s answers. She came up with examples based on the student’s own experiences. She began sentences, and her student completed them. Their dialogue was anything but formulaic.
Lindquist: Do you know how to calculate average driving speed?
Student: I think so, but I forget.
Lindquist: Well, average speed — as your mom drove you here, did she drive the same speed the whole time?

Can the Chicago Teachers’ Strike Fix Democratic Education Reform?

Richard Kahlenberg:

In 1960, when Albert Shanker and other members of New York City’s teachers union sought collective bargaining rights, they set a strike date for Monday November 7, the day prior to the presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The timing would provide maximum leverage, they reasoned, because the Democratic mayor, Robert Wagner, would not want to come down hard on striking teachers the day before the election. This strategy was vindicated when teachers won an agreement that led to bargaining rights after just a single day on strike.
The same logic surely crossed the mind of the shrewd president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, who knew that calling a strike this week would be highly disruptive to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. At a time when Obama is trying to rally his base, the strike reminded teachers across the country of his support for merit pay and nonunion charter schools–policies also backed by Obama’s former chief of staff and the current mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. And at a time when Obama is struggling in the campaign money chase, the strike negotiations have distracted Emanuel from helping the president raise dollars from wealthy donors. Both factors may help explain why the strike now appears close to settling.
But if the strike has been bad for Democratic presidential politics, it may ultimately be good for Democratic education policy, which for too long has aped right-wing rhetoric in the name of education reform. It can’t hurt to force a leading Democrat like Emanuel to spend a little more time negotiating with actual teachers and a little less time wooing hedge fund managers, many of whom passionately back the education policies that rank-and-file teachers despise.

Saving our universities? New Humanist interviews AC Grayling

Caspar Melville:

“I believe that a mature civilised society ought to be funding universities properly through tax. Students should go to university for nothing because it’s an investment that society’s making in itself.” The words belong to Professor Anthony Grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities (NCH). This unashamedly elite private university – student fees £18,000 a year – is housed in an 18th-century mansion in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, where its first students will be unpacking their suitcases and sticking up their Radiohead posters right about now.

Library as Platform

David Weinberger:

In May, 2007, Facebook was generating over 40 billion page views a month by providing its users with carefully constructed and controlled services. Yet on May 24, 2007 Mark Zuckerberg took the company in a new direction: developers outside of the company would be given access to many of the services and data at the heart of the work done by Facebook’s own development team. These external developers would be empowered to build whatever independent applications they wanted. The result was an outburst of creativity resulting in thousands and then hundreds of thousands of non-Facebook applications that expanded Facebook’s services and integrated it into other sites — each app potentially making Facebook more valuable to its users.
Facebook is in many ways an anti-model for libraries, but from this one action libraries can learn much. On May 24, 2007, Facebook became a platform: a set of resources — services, data, tools — that enable independent developers to create applications. Interesting possibilities open up if we think of libraries as platforms…open platforms.

A funny thing happened on the way to its predicted obsolescence. The library became more popular than ever. by Mark Lamster.

Milwaukee is wisely embracing charter schools

Mike Ford:

Say an enterprising kid in your neighborhood offers to mow your lawn for $50. Say he turns around and pays another kid $35 to mow your lawn. The lawn gets mowed, the kid who actually mows the lawn makes $35 and the enterprising kid makes $15.
Should you be upset that you paid $50 for a job that someone did for $35 or satisfied that the job you paid for was completed?
The way you answer that question probably explains how you feel about the Milwaukee Public Schools’ increasing willingness to authorize charter schools. The insiders call them non-instrumentality charter schools, which means they are freed from many bureaucratic regulations and are staffed with nonunion teachers.
In the eyes of the state, an MPS nonunion charter student is just like any other MPS student. Last year, the district received $9,799 in state aid and local property tax for each MPS pupil, including those in nonunion charter schools. The School Board, however, sends only $7,775 per pupil to nonunion charter schools. Meaning, nonunion charter students generate over $2,000 more per-pupil in revenue than the district spends to educate them.

Milwaukee Public Schoos are making tough choices to improve education.

Madison district serves up new after-school dinner program

Matthew DeFour:

District officials say the dinner program will improve student nutrition, encourage more participation in after-school academic programs and eventually lead to community dinners that will welcome more parents into the schools.
“What’s kind of unique about it is these are creative ways to help districts close the achievement gap,” food services director Steve Youngbauer said.
Unlike the lunch program, eligibility for a free dinner is based on whether the school qualifies for the program based on school poverty rates, rather than the income level of an individual student. So any student participating in an eligible after-school program can eat the dinner meal for free.
The program, starting at Falk, Black Hawk Middle School and Memorial High School this year, will eventually include hot meals and a salad bar. It’s projected to cost $65,000 for the three schools this year, with the cost covered by a $2.86 per-meal federal subsidy.

In Madison, poorer schools get less-experienced teachers; A Comparison of Randall & Sandburgs MAP Results

Matthew DeFour:

Randall Elementary School has one of the lowest poverty rates and some of the highest test scores in Madison. It also has the most experienced teaching staff in the district.
By contrast, Sandburg Elementary has one of the higher poverty rates and some of the lowest test scores. It also has the least experienced teaching staff.
Across the district, schools with higher concentrations of poverty are more likely to have teachers with less experience, according to a State Journal analysis of Madison School District data.
Experts say that while more experience doesn’t guarantee higher quality, teachers often need five to 10 years to reach their peak effectiveness.
“To consistently and disproportionately give the kids who need the most help people who aren’t at their best yet just disadvantages them,” said Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality for the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.,-based group that advocates for raising student achievement.

I quickly compiled the following charts (PDF version) from the 2011-2012 Madison School District’s MAP (Measurement of Academic Progress) math and reading results for Randall and Sandburg Elementary along with the District-wide results.

I added Randall, Sandburg’s and the Madison school district’s 3rd Friday, 2011 enrollment to the charts via the green rectangles. For example, the report states that 30 Sandburg 3rd grader’s took the MAP assessment while the District’s enrollment counts report 44 students in that class.

Who Is Victimizing Chicago’s Kids?

Joanne Barkan via a kind email:

Yes, schoolchildren in Chicago are victims, but not of their teachers. They are victims of a nationwide education “reform” movement geared to undermine teachers’ unions and shift public resources into private hands; they are victims of wave after wave of ill-conceived and failing policy “innovations”; they are victims of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which turned inner-city public schools into boot camps for standardized test prep; they are victims of Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, which paid states to use student test scores–a highly unreliable tool–for teacher evaluations and to lift caps on the number of privately managed charter schools, thus draining resources from public schools. Chicago’s children are victims of “mayoral control,” which allows Rahm Emanuel to run the school system, bully parents and teachers, and appoint a Board of Education dominated by corporate executives and political donors.

Unsure robots make better teachers than know-alls

Douglas Haven, via a kind reader:

The best way to learn is to teach. Now a classroom robot that helps Japanese children learn English has put that old maxim to the test.
Shizuko Matsuzoe and Fumihide Tanaka at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, set up an experiment to find out how different levels of competence in a robot teacher affected children’s success in learning English words for shapes.
They observed how 19 children aged between 4 and 8 interacted with a humanoid Nao robot in a learning game in which each child had to draw the shape that corresponded to an English word such as ‘circle’, ‘square’, ‘crescent’, or ‘heart’.
The researchers operated the robot from a room next to the classroom so that it appeared weak and feeble, and the children were encouraged to take on the role of carers. The robot could then either act as an instructor, drawing the correct shape for the child, or make mistakes and act as if it didn’t know the answer.

UW-Madison lab works with controversial data for Chicago schools

Todd Finkelmeyer:

Nearly 30,000 public school teachers and support staff went on strike in Chicago this past week in a move that left some 350,000 students without classes to attend.
And while this contentious battle between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union blew up due to a range of issues — including compensation, health care benefits and job security concerns — one of the key sticking points reportedly was over the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system.
That’s noteworthy locally because researchers with UW-Madison’s Value Added Research Center (VARC) have been collaborating with the Chicago Public Schools for more than five years now in an effort to develop a comprehensive program to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of schools and teachers in that district.
But Rob Meyer, the director of VARC, says his center has stayed above the fray in this showdown between the Chicago teachers and the district, which appears close to being resolved.
“The controversy isn’t really about the merits of value-added and what we do,” says Meyer. “So we’ve simply tried to provide all the stakeholders in this discussion the best scientific information we can so everybody knows what they’re talking about.”

Much more on “value added assessment”, here.

School accountability here to stay

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Teaching is a difficult job that deserves fair pay, good benefits and high respect.
Let’s start with and emphasize that important point.
But let’s also stick up for the students, parents and taxpayers who deserve accountability for results.
That’s what President Barack Obama, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have done.
Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/editorial/school-accountability-here-to-stay/article_153c0ac0-fd9e-11e1-a1ea-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz26P7BTY8e

Wisconsin School District Surpluses Reach $1,860,000,000 in 2010-2011

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance:

Total school district surpluses in Wisconsin reached $1.86 billion at the end of the 2010-11 school year, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).
This continues an upward trend that began in 2003, when those combined “fund balances” stood at $1.20 billion. Since then, districts have increased their combined reserves an average of 5.6% per year. They rose 6.1%, from $1.76 billion to $1.86 billion, during 2011.
Looked at a second way, total fund balances equaled 17.9% of school spending in 2011. However, this percentage ranged widely by district, an indication that Wisconsin school health varies considerably. Of 423 districts, 144 had reserves that were 25% or more of expenditures, a sign of fiscal strength, caution, or both.

There’s a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis

John Cook:

It’s an oft-noted irony of the confrontation in Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel sends his children to the private, $20,000-a-year University of Chicago Lab School, which means his family doesn’t really have much of a personal stake in what happens to the school system he is trying to reform. This is pretty routine behavior for rich people in Chicago, and there’s a pretty good reason for it: Chicago’s public schools are terrible. If you care about your children’s education, and can afford to buy your way out of public schools, as Emanuel can, it’s perfectly reasonable to do so. Barack and Michelle Obama made a similar decision, opting to purchase a quality education for their daughters at Sidwell Friends rather than send them to one of Washington, D.C.’s, deeply troubled public schools.
A lot of Chicago parents with the resources to do so have followed Emanuel’s lead: 17% of schoolchildren in Chicago attend private schools, and so don’t have to trouble themselves with whether or not their local public school has air conditioning, or a library (160 do not), or classes with 45 students. Those kids that don’t attend private schools tend overwhelmingly to be from families with less political power and resources than Emanuel’s: 87% of them are from low-income families, and 86% are black or hispanic.

Most students not proficient in writing, test finds

Christine Armario, Associated Press

Just a quarter of eighth and 12th grade students in the United States have solid writing skills, even when allowed to use spell-check and other computer word-processing tools, according to results of a national exam [NAEP} released Friday.
Twenty-seven percent of students at each grade level were able to write essays that were well-developed, organized, and had proper language and grammar-3 percent were advanced and 24 percent were proficient. The remainder showed just partial mastery of these skills.
“It is important to remember this is first draft writing,” said Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the Nation’s Report Card tests. “They did have some time to edit, but it wasn’t extensive editing.”
Students who took the writing test in 2011 had an advantage that previous test takers did not: a computer with spell-check and thesaurus. Previously, students taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress writing test had to use pencil and paper, but with changes in technology, and the need to write across electronic formats, the decision was made to switch to computers.
Orr said students use technology and tools like spell-check on a daily basis. “It’s as if we had given them a pencil to write the essay and took away the eraser,” she said.
She said word processing tools alone wouldn’t result in significantly better writing scores if students didn’t have the core skills of being able to organize ideas and present them in a clear and grammatical fashion.
Still, students in both grades who used the thesaurus and the backspace more frequently had higher scores than those who used them less often. Students in the 12th grade who had to write four or five pages a week for English homework also had higher scores.
Because this was the first version of the computerized test, the board cautioned against comparing the results to previous exams. In 2007, 33 percent of eighth grade students scored at the proficient level, which represents solid writing skills, as did 24 percent at grade 12.
The results at both grade levels showed a continued achievement gap between white, black, Hispanic, and Asian students.
There was also a gender gap, with girls scoring 20 points higher on average than boys in the eighth grade and 14 points higher in 12th grade. Those who qualified for free and reduced price lunch, a key indicator of poverty, also had lower scores than those who did not; there was a 27 point difference between the two at the eighth grade.
For the 2011 exam, laptops were brought into public and private schools across the country and more than 50,000 students were tested to get a nationally representative sample. Students were given prompts that required them to write essays that explained, persuaded, or conveyed an experience.
Kathleen Blake Yancey, a professor at Florida State University who served on the advisory panel for the test, said one factor is that research show most students in the United States don’t compose at the keyboard.
“What they do is sort of type already written documents into the machine, much as we used to do with typewriters four decades ago,” she said.
Yancey said for this reason there was some concern about having students write on the computer as opposed to by hand.
Likewise, having the advantage of spell-check assumes student know how to use it. And in some schools and neighborhoods, computers are still not easily accessible.
“There are not so many students that actually learn to write composing at the keyboard,” she said.
Yancey added that many students who do have access to computers are not necessarily using them to write at school, but to take standardized tests and filling in bubbles.
“Digital technology is a technology,” she said. “Paper and pencil is a technology. If technology were the answer, that would be pretty simple.”

“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
978-443-0022; 800-331-5007
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
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On Sun Prairie Teacher Compensation


The professional educators that spoke out this week in an attempt to cajole the school board into giving them not just a 2%, but a 3.1% raise were not providing full disclosure.
While their pleas are certain have touched a few hearts, we wonder if their pleas would have had any effect at all had they shared a little more information about their positions.
We heard very clear that they feel that they are undervalued…that they do not earn enough.

Concordia to cut tuition, fees by $10K

Jenna Ross:

Concordia University is pairing two words that don’t often come in contact — “tuition” and “cut.”
The St. Paul school will announce Wednesday that it is lowering its undergraduate tuition and fees by $10,000, or 33.7 percent, to $19,700 for the next school year. It will become the first college in Minnesota to slash its sticker price. But it joins a few others across the country who have responded to growing concern about the rising price of college with a similar dramatic move.
Just a handful of Concordia undergrads now pay the full $29,700 in tuition and fees. But Concordia hopes to attract families who are being scared off by the published price.

Strike highlights split over poverty’s role in learning

Stephanie Simon:

(Reuters) – The Chicago teachers strike, which appeared headed toward a resolution Friday, has underscored a fundamental split over the biggest issue confronting America’s public schools: how to provide a decent education to children mired in poverty.
Across the U.S., poverty is irrefutably linked to poor academic performance. On last year’s national reading exam, nine-year-olds from low-income families scored nearly three full grade levels below their wealthier peers. The gap was nearly as large in math.

Why These Kids Get a Free Ride to College

Ted Fishman:

According to census data, 39 percent of Kalamazoo’s students are white, and 44 percent are African-American. One of every three students in the Kalamazoo district falls below the national poverty level. One in 12 is homeless. Many of them are the first in their families to finish high school; many come from single-parent homes. Some are young parents themselves: Kalamazoo has one of the highest pregnancy rates among black teenagers in the state.
And yet, for the vast majority of the 500-plus students who graduate each year in Kalamazoo, a better future really does await after they collect their diplomas. The high-school degrees come with the biggest present most of them will ever receive: free college.
Back in November 2005, when this year’s graduates were in sixth grade, the superintendent of Kalamazoo’s public schools, Janice M. Brown, shocked the community by announcing that unnamed donors were pledging to pay the tuition at Michigan’s public colleges, universities and community colleges for every student who graduated from the district’s high schools. All of a sudden, students who had little hope of higher education saw college in their future. Called the Kalamazoo Promise, the program — blind to family income levels, to pupils’ grades and even to disciplinary and criminal records — would be the most inclusive, most generous scholarship program in America.
It would also mark the start of an important social experiment. From the very beginning, Brown, the only person in town who communicates directly with the Promise donors, has suggested that the program is supposed to do more than just pay college bills. It’s primarily meant to boost Kalamazoo’s economy. The few restrictions — among them, children must reside in the Kalamazoo public-school district and graduate from one of its high schools — seem designed to encourage families to stay and work in the region for a long time. The program tests how place-based development might work when education is the first investment.

Maybe their fight really isn’t our fight

Chris Rickert:

There are a lot of good things about public-sector unions, but solidarity for solidarity’s sake isn’t always one of them.
Wisconsin’s public-sector unions wasted no time showing solidarity with Chicago’s union teachers on Monday, when the latter hit the picket lines for the first time in 25 years.
“Their fight is really our fight,” John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., told this newspaper. “Whether we’re talking about Scott Walker or (Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emanuel, it’s the same thing.”
Except it’s not, and already embattled public-sector unions risk credibility by insisting otherwise.
In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Walker used his party’s takeover of state government last year to essentially push through the death penalty for most public-sector unions.
Unions that choose to take on the newly arduous task of recertifying can expect little more for their efforts than the right to bargain for raises limited to the rate of inflation.

Wisconsin K-12 Spending 18th in the USA, 4th Largest School State Tax Dollar Redistributions

Todd Finkelmeyer:

he Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reviewed budget documents from 48 states that “publish education data in a way that allows historic comparisons,” with Indiana and Hawaii being excluded from the review because they don’t do so. Overall, 35 states still are funding K-12 education below pre-recession levels, according to the paper.
“There is no doubt Wisconsin has deprioritized K-12 spending,” says Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, who chairs the state Senate’s Committee on Education and Corrections. “Education took the biggest cuts in the history of the state” over the 2011-13 biennium.
“The cuts counteract and sometimes undermine education reform and more generally hinder the ability of school districts to deliver high-quality education, with long-term negative consequences for the nation’s economic competitiveness,” the report states.
Some, however, say there are significant problems with the review by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Todd Berry, the president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, notes that while the report purports to show changes in per-pupil spending in each state, what it’s really showing is the amount of state aid appropriated per student. He says such numbers are “particularly useless in Wisconsin given the significant role that local property taxes” play in per-pupil funding here.

Open(ish)-source lexicography

The Economist:

HAVE you heard the “amazeballs” news about Collins Online English Dictionary? It’s become the “frenemy” of tradition-lovers after its recent additions of words crowdsourced from the public, which some might consider the equivalent of “mummy porn” slipping in to Shakespeare. Indeed, don’t be surprised if you spot a “bashtag” about this latest development, or someone demanding a “tweetup” to resolve the issue.
As dubious as this may sound to some, the above paragraph was legitimate English. Indeed, its veracity has passed the test of those sternest of eyes, the lexicographers at CollinsDictionary.com. These sticklers for spelling and high standards this week approved 86 new words that came in the form of online public submissions.
Of course every new dictionary has new words that upset traditionalists, and crowdsourcing is nothing new. John Simpson, the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, says that in 1859 the OED appealed to readers in America “to supply material for us” and that the dictionary is an “amalgamation of editorial effort, users contribution, and academic consultants who review what we put out before we publish it”.

Reading, Writing, and Rabble-Rousing Does unionization make for better teachers?

Brian Palmer:

The Chicago teacher strike seemed to be heading toward resolution on Thursday, although school probably won’t be back in session until next week. Among the teachers’ complaints was Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to base evaluations largely on student test scores and to expand charter schools that hire non-union teachers. Are unionized teachers better than non-unionized teachers?
It’s not clear. Despite decades of trying, no one has come up with a perfect study design to measure the effects of unionization on teacher performance. One strategy favored by economists is to ask what happens to student outcomes when the teachers in a school district unionize. These studies don’t reflect well on unions. An oft-cited 1996 study found that the high school dropout rate in a school district increases 2.3 percentage points after its teachers unionize. The study also suggested that unionization tends to soak up a district’s financial resources: When non-union districts increase salaries and reduce class size, the dropout rate decreases. In unionized districts, however, the dropout rate is virtually impervious to increased spending. Another studied, published in 2009, was slightly kinder to unions, finding that teacher unionization had no significant impact on the dropout rate.

9/19/2012 Madison Event: “Education System Has Been, Currently Is, and Could Be”

170K PDF, via Suzanne Alexander & Dave Baskerville:

The Madison Club
5 E Wilson St., Madison, WI
Lake Dining Room
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012
Coffee and continental breakfast: 9:30 a.m.
Panel discussion: 10-11 a.m.
Panelists will include Democratic and Republican legislative education leaders to be determined at a later date, as well as:
Mary Bell
Wisconsin Education Association Council

Dr. Michael Thompson
Deputy State Superintendent
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Dan Rossmiller
Director of Government Relations
Wisconsin Association of School Boards
Elaine Richmond
Administrator, Division of Early Care and Education
Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
The panel will be moderated by Alan Borsuk, Senior Fellow in Law and
Public Policy at the Marquette University Law School

Madison school taxpayers on the hook for stays at four-star hotels

MD Kittle:

In total, district employees racked up $44,723 worth of hotel bills and $10,036 worth of restaurant bills in last year, according to EAGnews, which reviewed district credit card statements and check registers.
On the spending list:
$15,474.22 charged at Hyatt Hotels in Chicago on July 13, 2011.
$3,133.55 at the Sheraton NY Hotel and Towers on Jan. 6, 2011.
$4,736 in charges at Hotel 71 in downtown Chicago on Dec. 19, 2011
Two transactions -each worth $288.96 – were made at the Rio Suites in Las Vegas on April 27, 2011.
$223.57 in charges at the Heidel House Resort and Spa on June 23. There was another charge of $756.64 at the same resort six days later.
The spending occurred as Madison Metro and its teachers stressed over apparent deep cuts in state aid and the implementation of Act 10, the law, led by Gov. Scott Walker, that gutted collective bargaining for most public employees.
James Howard, president of the Madison Metropolitan School Board, told Wisconsin Reporter the nearly $55,000 in credit card charges for hotels and restaurants represent a fraction of the district’s approximately $376 million budget. The board, Howard said, thought the expenditures were “reasonable.”
“The real question is for us, do we have procedures in place, checks and balances to make sure we don’t have unreasonable expenses in this area?” he said, noting the board is considering that question as the result of EAG’s investigation.
It boils down to simple economics, Howard said.

Related: 2012-2013 Madison school district $376,200,000 ($15,132 for each of its 24,861 students) budget notes and links.

Why Do Colleges Compete by Becoming More Expensive?

Victor E. Ferrall, Jr.:

It is ceaselessly (and correctly) observed that college tuition has gone through the roof and something must be done to get the cost of higher education under control. In the 10 years between 2000 and 2009, while the median income of American families grew a modest 16 percent, the cost of attending college shot up 63 percent; more than 70 percent for in-state students at public universities. Even during the terrible year 2009, when family income actually fell more than 2 percent, average tuitions rose nearly 4 percent at all institutions; more than 4 percent at public universities. Today, the list price for a student from an average American family to attend a prestige college or university for 7 1/2 months is only slightly less than her family’s entire income in 12 months.
Free marketers champion for-profit universities as the answer. If they are, it is an odd answer: 80 to 90 percent of the for-profits’ income comes from federal tax dollars–$26.5 billion in 2009. Another odd “solution” presently in play is to radically cut state aid for state universities which, of course, forces the universities to increase tuition even faster (and to try to replace in-state students with out-of-staters, for whom tuition is typically two to three times higher).

Internship Tips

Alexander Taub:

1) How To Get An Internship
Getting an internship can be easier than finding a full-time job, but not always. This mostly depends on in which industry you are looking to work. For example, Wall Street internships typically go to students in “core” schools targeted by that company (read: Ivy League or equivalent) or with close relationships to the management. For startups, your school is less important than your persistence, interest, and ability.
Here are some tips to get the internship you want:

In Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is in a showdown against teachers

Peter Slevin:

Rahm Emanuel is not big on ambiguity. He was thrilled, a few days before he took office last year, when the Illinois House voted 112 to 1 for a school improvement package that, among other things, made it harder for teachers unions to call strikes.
A “historic day of opportunity for kids in the city of Chicago,” he said after the vote. Rank-and-file teachers were less pleased, particularly when an Emanuel ally boasted, “The unions cannot strike in Chicago.”
Teachers are now on strike in Chicago– loudly and enthusiastically — and Emanuel (D) finds himself in a far more pointed and public battle than he had bargained for. Under a national spotlight, his famous dealmaking skills are being severely tested by an increasingly familiar set of schoolhouse issues seen in communities across the country as contentious and often personal.

Math anxiety causes trouble for students as early as first grade

William Harms:

Many high-achieving students experience math anxiety at a young age — a problem that can follow them throughout their lives, new research at the University of Chicago shows.
In a study of first- and second-graders, Sian Beilock, professor in psychology, found that students report worry and fear about doing math as early as first grade. Most surprisingly math anxiety harmed the highest-achieving students, who typically have the most working memory, Beilock and her colleagues found.

Who Killed the Liberal Arts?

Joseph Epstein:

In a loose definition, the “liberal arts” denote college study anchored in preponderantly Western literature, philosophy, and history, with science, mathematics, and foreign languages playing a substantial, though less central, role; in more recent times, the social science subjects–psychology, sociology, political science–have also sometimes been included. The liberal arts have always been distinguished from more specialized, usually vocational training. For the ancient Greeks, the liberal arts were the subjects thought necessary for a free man to study. If he is to remain free, in this view, he must acquire knowledge of the best thought of the past, which will cultivate in him the intellectual depth and critical spirit required to live in an informed and reasonable way in the present.

MIT beats Cambridge and Harvard to top spot in world university rankings

Jeevan Vasagar:

Cambridge has lost its place as the number one ranking university in the world, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US university that specialises in science and technology, taking over the top slot.
MIT came first, while Cambridge, which topped the list in 2011, came second and Harvard third in the QS World University Rankings, published on Tuesday.
The QS table is based on measures of research quality, graduate employability, teaching and how international the faculties and student bodies are.
University College London, Oxford, Imperial College, Yale, the University of Chicago, Princeton and Caltech, in that order, make up the top 10.

Students Over Unions

Nick Kristof:

The most important civil rights battleground today is education, and, likewise, the most crucial struggle against poverty is the one fought in schools.
America’s education system has become less a ladder of opportunity than a structure to transmit inequity from one generation to the next.
That’s why school reform is so critical. This is an issue of equality, opportunity and national conscience. It’s not just about education, but about poverty and justice — and while the Chicago teachers’ union claims to be striking on behalf of students, I don’t see it.

Is College a Lousy Investment?

Megan McArdle:

Why are we spending so much money on college?
And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?
The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

Role of testing at issue in Chicago teachers’ strike

Judy Keen & Greg Toppo:

The teachers’ strike that went through its second day Tuesday highlights tensions between public schools and the federal government, unions and administrators, and teachers and their bosses.
It’s a trend that began under President George W. Bush with No Child Left Behind, which required states to test students to qualify for federal funds, and continues with President Obama’s Race to the Top, a federal grant competition that pushes schools to use standardized test scores to retain and reward teachers.
“We are at a critical moment,” says Kevin Kumashiro, a University of Illinois at Chicago education professor. At stake, he says: Whether unions can resist a nationwide shift toward the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, the spread of charter schools that hire non-union teachers and the erosion of teachers’ job security.

Why Men Fail

David Brooks:

You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.
In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.

College Is No Place for Remedial Education

Richard Vedder:

More than 2 million U.S. college students this fall will be spending a good bit of their time reviewing what they were supposed to learn in high school or even earlier. They are taking “remedial” education courses.
A recent study issued by ACT Inc., a testing organization measuring “college readiness,” found that less than one-third of graduating high-school seniors met benchmark standards for science, and a majority failed to meet them for math. Even in English and reading, a large minority of students were below a level that would mostly earn a grade of C or better in college- level work.
The results are depressing. In science, most students don’t come close (within three points) of meeting the ACT benchmark standards. Yes, it is often pointed out, some population groups are less prepared than others: Only 5 percent of black students meet all four ACT criteria. But for white students, for every high-school graduate who meets the benchmarks, there are two who don’t. The student at least partially unprepared for college is the rule, not the exception.

Ontario teachers’ boycott of after-school programs creates confusion

Louise Brown and Megan Ogilvie:

So, will there be early-morning cross-country practice Thursday or not?
Students and parents are holding their breath to see which of Ontario’s 76,000 elementary teachers will decide not to run after-school activities to protest the new law that freezes their wages.
While the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has asked members to take a “pause” in extracurricular activities, it stopped short of ordering them to do so or telling them how long the boycott should last.
So no one — not parents, not school boards, not even some local teacher unions — seems to know quite what will happen.

All Wisconsin high school juniors would take ACT in 2014-15 under Evers proposal

Erin Richards:

“There’s a general recognition that our current testing regime is not getting the job done and that we always knew we were going to have to do something different,” he said. “When people understand the importance of measuring growth over time instead of raw test scores and getting testing information back to teachers in a more timely manner, I think they will look more favorably on spending money on new tests.”
Still, Kestell said $7 million was a lot, and probably would not have been considered at all two years ago when the state made significant cuts to education spending.
For the next budget cycle, he said: “It could very well happen, but it’s way too early to predict anything positive.”
The DPI’s Johnson pointed to Milwaukee Public Schools as a model district that has begun ACT testing for all juniors, setting aside time for them to take the four-hour exam in school. Though testing all juniors has lowered the district’s average ACT composite score, the move has received praise for opening opportunities to more students who may not have known they were ready for college, and for providing a broader measure of student performance.

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin would pay for all public high school juniors to take the ACT college admissions test starting in two years as part of a $7 million budget initiative State Superintendent Tony Evers announced Wednesday.
The proposal also includes administering three other tests offered by ACT to measure college and career readiness in high school. The tests would replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, which is currently administered to 10th-graders to comply with federal testing requirements.
“We need to give our students and their families better resources to plan for study and work after high school,” Evers said. “It makes sense to use the ACT to fulfill state and federal testing requirements at the high school level with an exam package that provides so much more than the WKCE: college and career readiness assessments and a college admissions test score.”
Under the proposal, all public school ninth-graders would take the ACT EXPLORE assessment in spring of the 2014-15 school year. All 10th-graders would take the ACT PLAN test, and all 11th-graders would take the ACT and the WorkKeys tests.
The state would pay for students to take each test once. Those who want to take an ACT a second time to improve their score would have to pay for it themselves.
Also, by training all schools to administer the ACT, the proposal would help students in rural districts who lack access to certified ACT testing sites, Evers said.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

How Public Unions Became So Powerful

Paul Moreno:

The Chicago teachers strike has put Democrats in a difficult position. Teacher unions are the most powerful constituency in the Democratic Party, but their interests are ever more clearly at odds with taxpayers and inner-city families. Chicago is reviving scenes from the last crisis of liberalism in the 1970s, when municipal unions drove many American cities to disorder and bankruptcy. Where did their power come from?
Before the 1950s, government-employee unions were almost inconceivable. When the Boston police unionized and went on strike in 1919, the ensuing chaos–rioting and looting–crippled the public-union idea. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge became a national hero by breaking the strike, issuing the dictum: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Woodrow Wilson called the strike “an intolerable crime against civilization.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt also rejected government unionism. He told the head of the Federation of Federal Employees in 1937 that collective bargaining “cannot be transplanted into the public service. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer” because “the employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws.”

Louisiana’s top education official sketches plans for closer scrutiny of private schools

Andrew Vanacore:

The state’s top education official, Superintendent John White, laid out a broad framework Tuesday for revising the way Louisiana vets state-sanctioned private schools, a process under greater scrutiny now that those schools can apply to receive tax dollars through the state’s new voucher program. Without going into detail — the superintendent plans to bring a fleshed-out plan before the state board of education next month — White told members of the board’s nonpublic school council that his approach will vary from school to school based on the number of children affected and the amount of tax dollars at stake.

Rising to the Challenge of College and Career Readiness


Nearly every state has adopted the goal of college and career readiness for all students. At the end of 2011, 45 states had adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics,1 with the stated goal to prepare students to “graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit- bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs” (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010a).2 Other states, such as Texas and Virginia, have also focused on aligning their content and performance standards with college and career readiness requirements (Virginia Department of Education, 2010; Texas Education Agency & Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2009).
Not surprisingly, current research shows that many students are not on target to meet college and career readiness requirements. For example, if performance standards for the Common Core State Standards are set at a level comparable to ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks–consistent with the goal of preparing students for college and careers–the majority of today’s students are not well prepared to meet those standards (ACT, 2010).

High school football participation

Tim Keown:

A couple of weeks ago, at a high school football game near where I live, a team showed up and played with just 13 players in uniform. Predictably, the game ended 53-0, and it was a struggle for the winning team to keep from scoring 100. At one point, a kid running a punt back for a touchdown intentionally fell at the 20 because enough was enough.
On the same night, at Galt High School near Sacramento, the school’s administration decided to forfeit a game rather than play with 14 healthy bodies. This was a big enough story to make the 11 o’clock news; Galt High has been playing football for 89 years, many of them with distinction, and this was the first time it had been forced to forfeit.

Do Top Teachers Produce “A Year And A Half Of Learning?”

Matthew DiCarlo:

One claim that gets tossed around a lot in education circles is that “the most effective teachers produce a year and a half of learning per year, while the least effective produce a half of a year of learning.”
This talking point is used all the time in advocacy materials and news articles. Its implications are pretty clear: Effective teachers can make all the difference, while ineffective teachers can do permanent damage.
As with most prepackaged talking points circulated in education debates, the “year and a half of learning” argument, when used without qualification, is both somewhat valid and somewhat misleading. So, seeing as it comes up so often, let’s very quickly identify its origins and what it means.
This particular finding is traceable to a 1992 paper by economist Eric Hanushek, one which focused primarily on the relationship between achievement and family composition in Gary, Indiana (the data are from the early- to mid-1970s, and include only low-income students). After reviewing his (very interesting) main results on the relationship between student achievement and family size, birth order and the interval between births, Hanushek presents an analysis of test-based teacher effects.

Chicago Seven: 7 Early Takaways From The Chicago Teachers Strike

Andrew Rotherham:

As the strike in Chicago enters its second day there is a lot of uncertainty but here are some early takeaways events in Chicago should probably remind us of:
Seriously, it’s not all about the kids. Saying it’s ‘all about the kids’ is education’s version of a routinized benediction. You hear it all the time – and often just preceding or just after some decision that’s actually not that good for kids. The system is more or less still set up for the benefit of adults – and that’s not just teachers unions, it’s management, vendors, and so forth, too. In this case, if the kids really mattered most then almost 400K of them wouldn’t be without places to go today because the adults charged with teaching them decided to strike.
This is a clash of values. This Ed Trust statement calls out the teachers union for low-balling expectations for kids. It’s a good illustration of how underneath the posturing and rhetoric and the substantive disagreements Chicago is really about what kind of school system they city is going to have – the old kind, which was a quasi-jobs program or the new type where performance and execution matter most. In that way the strike is an important national moment.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Athens Teacher unions complain of staff shortages

Athens News:

In a statement to reporters, Arvanitopoulos noted that the school year was launched with all schools fully equipped with books and staff, with books arriving even in remote Gavdos.
“Primary and kindergarten teachers and teachers of all basic subjects in secondary education were at their posts today. During the next week, when the size of each class is finalised, we will appoint every necessary reserve teacher, down to the last,” he said. Arvanitopoulos noted that even in a time of dire economic crisis, the ministry proved able to ensure that schools were open, supplied with books and that teachers were in their place.

How much do Chicago teachers make?

Ezra Klein:

Luckily, we don’t have to guess, since CPS publishes median salary statistics (see page 198 in this pdf). As is often the case with stats like these, the median salary is below the mean: for the 2010-11 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, the median salary was $67,974, as opposed to the mean of $74,236 that year (as reported, pdf, by the Illinois State Board of Education). That mean is slightly different than the one reported by CPS because it relies on more recent ISBE data.
Some of that salary has to go to pension contributions. Teachers are required to contribute 9 percent of their salary to their pensions, and support personnel must contribute 8.5 percent, as opposed to 6.2 percent if they were part of the Social Security system. But the Chicago Public Schools system pays for 7 percent of the employee contribution. So the more relevant comparison is a 1.5 to 2 percent contribution for CPS employees compared to 6.2 percent for private sector workers paying Social Security tax. So the median after-pension income is $66,614, which a private sector employee on Social Security would need to earn $71,017 a year to make. So a median of $71,017 (or a mean of $77,560) is the most relevant number for comparing Chicago public school teachers to other workers.
What about the longer school day that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is implementing? The school day is increasing from five hours and forty-five minutes for elementary school and seven hours for high school, to seven and seven and a half hours, respectively. Isn’t an increase in hours of that scale effectively a wage cut, in per-hour terms?

Everything you need to know about the Chicago teachers’ strike, in one post

Ezra Klein:

Chicago performs quite poorly on national assessments of educational quality. As Reuters notes, fourth-graders in Chicago performed an average of nine points worse than the big city average and sixteen points worse than the national average on the math section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the national gold standard for measuring learning. On reading, they were eight and seventeen points worse than big city and national averages, respectively. That’s a bit better than Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. but worse than New York.
Chicago also has shorter than average school years and school days. Many students are only in class for 170 days a year as of a few years ago, below the state minimum of 176 days and the national average of 180 days; under Emanuel, the year was lengthened to 180 days. The school day in Chicago averages five hours and forty five minutes in elementary schools (as opposed to the national average of six hours and forty-two minutes) and seven hours for secondary schools, above the national average of 6.6 hours. Emanuel and teachers recently negotiated a deal to hire 500 new teachers to allow for a 90 minute school day extension without increasing hours for current teachers.

Advocating Public Teacher Contract Negotiations

Andrew Rotherham:

Spoiler alert: when Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new feature film, Won’t Back Down, hits theaters later this month, its plot hinges on the forcing of school officials to make big decisions in front of parents rather than behind closed doors. The film is fictional, but raging against backroom power politics is not. Teachers’ unions and district officials almost always negotiate privately, so when those negotiations reach a deal or an impasse — or lead to a strike, as they did in Chicago yesterday — the public gets to hear only part of the story as families scramble to figure out what to do with their kids. Chicago, whose 400,000 students make it the U.S.’s third largest school district, today offered safe havens for kids in dozens of public libraries and churches and, for a four-hour stretch this morning, in nearly 150 public schools staffed with nonunion workers.

Surge at Tampa Bay community colleges ends

Jodie Tillman:

Community college enrollment has started to decline, signaling a possible end to the recession-fueled boom that sent large numbers of local job-seekers back to classrooms.
Enrollment statewide began leveling off last year, but area colleges are now seeing significant dips in their fall term head counts.
The number of students enrolled so far this fall is down 4.4 percent at Hillsborough Community College and 2.5 percent at St. Petersburg College. Pasco-Hernando Community College is seeing an even steeper decline — about 8 percent.
Those decreases follow explosive growth — double-digit percentages in some years — at all three colleges in recent years.

Webinar: Accountability and Choice

Center on Reinventing Public Education, via a kind Deb Britt email:

An important part of supporting choice is providing families with good information about school performance. However, families often do not have access to school performance information when deciding on schools. The Florida Department of Education implemented an A-F School Grading System that works to provide transparent, objective, and easily understood data to parents, educators, and the public to spur improvement among all schools. State and district leaders will spark a frank conversation about whether and how to use a state accountability system in districts’ school choice processes and will ask participants for feedback on how to expand the use of school performance information.
Mike Kooi, Executive Director of the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education
Dr. Pansy Houghton, Director of Choice and Magnet Programs, Hillsborough County Public Schools
Terrie Dodson-Caldevilla, Choice Marketing and Communications Managers, Hillsborough County Public Schools

Hortonville: The Strike That Changed Wisconsin

Christian Schneider:

When 25,000 Chicago teachers walked off the job on Monday, it provided a perfect bookend to the sturm und drang Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker faced in his recent attempts to lessen teachers union power.
But while the Chicago imbroglio marks the end of the Wisconsin struggle, many have forgotten that Wisconsin played a central role in birthing the framework that emboldens teachers unions.
In 1974, tiny Hortonville, Wis., saw one of the longest and ugliest work stoppages in American education history.
Before it was over, the town would be flooded with thousands of union activists and would draw the attention of the nationwide media. In fact, the Hortonville strike would prompt many of the changes Walker only recently revoked.
In March 1974, teachers unions were still a relatively new phenomenon. Wisconsin was one of 11 states in the late 1960s and early ’70s where statewide teachers unions were formed. (The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association became the first certified teachers bargaining agent in Wisconsin in 1964.) Between 1969 and 1974, Wisconsin teachers struck 50 times.
But the state hadn’t seen anything like what happened in Hortonville on March 18, 1974, when 88 teachers walked off the job. The teachers were seeking pay increases of 16.5% in the 1974-’75 school year; the district offered 1.2%. After several days of picketing, the district fired 86 of the striking teachers and immediately brought in replacements to get the schools running again.

How teacher strikes hurt student achievement

Ezra Klein:

Talks between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union broke down yesterday, and now the city’s teachers are on strike, just as class was about to start for the 2012-13 school year. Labor will insist that the strikes lead to contracts that attract good teachers who promote student learning in the long-run, while Emanuel notes that the teachers are striking over his proposed evaluation system, which he argues will help achievement going forward. Leaving that debate aside, what does the strike itself mean for students?
Nothing good, the best empirical evidence suggests. Two of the best recent studies on the effects of teacher work stoppages and strikes concern labor disputes in Ontario schools in the late ’90s and early 2000s. One, by the University of Toronto’s Michael Baker, compared how standardized test scores rose between grade 3 and grade 6 for students who lost instructional time because of the Ontario strikes, and for students who were unaffected.

Achievement Gap Plan – Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

Madison School District:

Accountability Plan for All Achievement Gap Programs and Positions
The following motions were passed by the Board of Education on June 18, 2012, to assure that all staff responsible for the program or position/s follow the following protocol for accountability. Each staff member must submit to the Deputy Superintendent their plans for accountability in sections 1, 2 and 3 by September 1, 2012 (See attached template).

New Jersey Interdistrict Choice: Overcoming the Trap of Geography

Courier Post, via Laura Waters:

Interdistrict school choice is one of the best new education programs legislators and Gov. Chris Christie have signed off on in recent years. Certainly, its scale is small — statewide there are only about 3,300 “choice” students who’ve moved to another district this year. Next year, that number is expected to jump to about 6,100. Still, that’s a drop in the bucket. Many of the schools accepting “choice” students only take a small number like 10 or 20 total.

Understanding School Discipline in California: Perceptions and Practice

Edsource PDF:

As concerns grow about the effects of discipline policies on schools and students, and especially their disproportionate impact on African American and Latino students, attempts to reform these policies have also gained momentum.
To better understand how discipline policies are being implemented in California schools, EdSource conducted a survey of 315 of the state’s largest school districts. Collectively these districts enroll two-thirds of California’s students. This new EdSource report describes the findings from that survey and presents the perspectives of the district administrators in charge of student discipline policies for their schools.
Key findings include:

  • School officials express a need for support to more effectively manage discipline issues, including additional school counselors and community resources.
  • More than 80% said the state’s budget crisis has affected their ability to deal with student behavior and discipline.
  • School districts are trying a range of alternative approaches to suspension and expulsions.
  • Two-thirds of officials express concern about the differential impact of discipline policies on students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Kathryn Baron

The survey found that an overwhelming 81 percent of administrators ranked student discipline and behavior management as a concern when compared to other issues facing districts, although just 22 percent said it was a major concern. They worry about the disproportionate number of expulsions and suspensions of Latino and African American students, about not having discretion when it comes to the state’s zero tolerance policies, and about the financial burden of student discipline on the schools in staff time, legal fees, and security measures.
“They are keenly aware of the challenges they face and are actively searching for solutions and support,” said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource.

Debt Collectors Cashing In on Student Loan Roundup

Andrew Martin::

At a protest last year at New York University, students called attention to their mounting debt by wearing T-shirts with the amount they owed scribbled across the front — $90,000, $75,000, $20,000.
On the sidelines was a business consultant for the debt collection industry with a different take.
“I couldn’t believe the accumulated wealth they represent — for our industry,” the consultant, Jerry Ashton, wrote in a column for a trade publication, InsideARM.com. “It was lip-smacking.”
Though Mr. Ashton says his column was meant to be ironic, it nonetheless highlighted undeniable truths: many borrowers are struggling to pay off their student loans, and the debt collection industry is cashing in.
As the number of people taking out government-backed student loans has exploded, so has the number who have fallen at least 12 months behind in making payments — about 5.9 million people nationwide, up about a third in the last five years.

Scholarism’s Joshua Wong embodies anti-national education body’s energy (Hong Kong)

Ada Lee:

15-year-old Joshua Wong Chi-fung, co-founder of the group Scholarism, has come to symbolise the anti-national education movement’s energy.
You know Joshua Wong Chi-fung is a busy young man the moment he meets you. With the government headquarters in Admiralty alive with protest action, he walks fast, talks almost too quickly to catch his words, and hardly has time to chat at all.
The driven 15-year-old can claim credit for an anti-national-education message that is now all over the city. From a YouTube video showing his eloquent engagement with reporters, to mass rallies organised by a group he co-founded, he has grown in stature beyond his years, becoming an icon in the snowballing movement against the classes.

A message to high school students who hate high school; Here is why you hate it

Roger Schank:

The other day an article written by me appeared in the Washington Post saying that algebra was useless and shouldn’t be taught in high school.
The hate mail that followed (written mostly by math teachers) was unbelievable. Mostly accusing me of being irrational and incapable of thought, and stating that math teaches people to think. This is pretty funny because if math is supposed to teach one to think, as they argue, they might have looked me up and discovered that not only was I a math major in college, but I was also a professor of computer science.
Of course, it is not only high school math I am against. I believe that every single subject taught in high school is a mistake. What I write here will infuriate teachers, but teachers are not my enemy. It isn’t their fault. They are cogs in a system over which they have no control. I believe there are many great teachers, and I believe that teaching and teachers are very important.

LSAT Scores at Top Schools Are Dropping Like Flies

Vivia Chen:

If you think you’re a pretty smart cookie–but not spectacularly so–this might be the year that you can squeeze into a better law school than you thought possible.
The reason is simple: There are fewer applicants, which results in more opportunities at more prestigious law schools. You’ve probably heard about that 25 percent drop in law school applications in the past three years or so, but did you know that the top 14 law schools will be forced to accept students who are below the top 2 percent of their LSATs? (Sobs, please.)
Here’s the nitty gritty from Blueprint, an LSAT tutoring company, based on statistics from the Law School Admissions Council, Inc.:
We see that in 2010/2011, there were 3,430 students in the top 2 percent on the LSAT (171+), which is at or near the median LSAT score for most elite (top 14 or T14 as determined by U.S. News & World Report rankings) law schools. That number drops to 2,600 in 2011/2012, resulting in nearly 1,000 fewer top percentile scores from which law schools can recruit.

Commentary on Student Tenure and Achievement in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Given that, we should be cautious not to overreact to recent data the school district provided at the request of Mayor Paul Soglin. Yet the data is intriguing. And the numbers highlight the academic peril that often follows a transient student.
For example, in tracking the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination scores of eighth-graders, we learn that those students who took the math portion of the test in Madison as both a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader scored significantly higher than those who took the test here only in eighth grade.
For the longer-term students who took the test last school year, 78 percent scored proficient or advanced in math while, for the shorter-term students, 65 percent were proficient or higher. The story is much the same in reading scores. Of long-term students in the district, 81 percent scored proficient or higher as an eighth-grader while, for the more recently arrived students, just 65 percent hit that mark.

I look forward to seeing a more in-depth analysis of this question.

Where first school kids go to college

Jay Matthews:

Sidwell Friends is a special school, an exemplar of the best education we can provide in America for $34,268 a year. It is simlar to many other selective private schools, except that the children of the president of the United States attend. You might call it the First School or High School One.
I was drawn to a page of the most recent Sidwell alumni magazine enumerating where the class of 2012 went to college. Some people have the impression that kids at schools like Sidwell all go to the Ivy League, but that’s not true. One of the most popular colleges among Sidwell’s 123 graduates this year was a state school, the University of Michigan, number 28 on the U.S. News list.. More Sidwell students (15) were admitted there than any other college sought by the senior class, and more (6) chose it than any other college.

Madison School Board & Employee Handbook

Madison Teachers’, Inc. 46K PDF, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Not only did Governor Walker’s Act 10 strip from the Madison Metropolitan School District the ability to engage in collective bargaining regarding wages, benefits and working conditions, but it gave full authority to the Board to unilaterally create a “replacement document”, the Employee Handbook.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, MTI Executive Director John Matthews delivered a letter to the Board in which, after acknowledging the negative impact of Act 10, he told the Board that Act 10 DID NOT take away the Board’s ability to engage in conversation with representatives of MTI about the subjects to which the parties had previously agreed in bargaining, as well as any other topics. Board President James Howard called Matthews to tell him that the Board’s process is still being developed and offered to meet with Matthews after the Board next meets about the Handbook.
MTI has developed a process for Handbook development for which MTI has asked to present that to the Board of Education. MTI’s proposed process includes a recommendation that those elected by the members of MTI’s various bargaining units be appointed to the BOE’s Handbook Committee. This will assure both elected representation and input from all employee groups.
Matthews told Board of Education members about the discussions he and representatives of the AFSCME, Firefighters and Police Unions have been having with Mayor Soglin, County Executive Parisi and Supt. Nerad about the need to maintain positive employment relations, particularly relative to the development of the Handbook. Unfortunately, this effort at creating goodwill hit a bump in the road by former Supt. Nerad’s failure to inform Interim Supt. Belmore. Working together to solve issues is the Madison way.

Chicago Teachers Union on Strike – Administration offered 16% Salary Increase over 4 Years, Charter Schools Unaffected

Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Joel Hood and Kristen Mack:

“This is about as much as we can do,” Vitale said. “There is only so much money in the system.”
The district said it offered teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years and a host of benefit proposals.
“This is not a small commitment we’re handing out at a time when our fiscal situation is really challenged,” Vitale said.
Lewis said the two sides are close on teacher compensation but the union has serious concerns about the cost of health benefits, the makeup of the teacher evaluation system and job security.

More from
Justin Katz and Daily Kos.

Analysis: Striking Chicago teachers take on national education reform.

Chicago teachers walk picket lines for first time in 25 years.
Update: Madison Teachers’, Inc. [PDF] on the CTU Strike:

MTI Stands with Chicago Teachers
In August, over 90% of the members of the Chicago Teachers’ Union voted for authorization to strike. Our CTU brothers and sisters have long been fighting against the charter school initiatives supported by Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a Democratic city council. On August 22, several MTI members attended a “Solidarity with CTU” night at SCFL. MTI members made up almost half the room. CTU member Becca Kelly spoke passionately about the injustice, inequity and blatant racism present in Chicago Public School policies and closures. In an interview, Chicago Teachers’ Union President Karen Lewis stated, “Our students deserve smaller class sizes, a robust, well-rounded curriculum, and in-school services that address their social, emotional, intellectual and health needs. They deserve culturally-sensitive non-biased and equitable education, especially students with IEPs, emergent bilingual students and early childhood children. And all of our students deserve professional teachers who are treated as such, fully resourced school buildings and a school system that partners with parents.” This is what the CTU is fighting for.
This past year CTU fought side by side with parents to halt 17 schools closings or “turn arounds” in the city. The parents did secure a meeting with the city council, but all 17 schools were closed. Next year, Kelly shared, there are over 70 Chicago Public Schools identified for “turn around or closing.”
On August 22, the MTI Board voted unanimously to support the resolutions put forth by the CTU. The MTI Board also recommended further fundraising efforts. MTI President Kerry Motoviloff spoke in support of the CTU that evening. She called for MTI members to stand with our CTU brothers and sisters as they stood with us when we called them. Speaking of the anti-worker movement, she said, “This is not a Madison issue. This is not a Chicago issue. This is not a Wisconsin issue. This is not even limited to a union issue. This is a worker issue.” She continued, “Scott Walker, Rahm Emanuel, they cannot define us. They can make things difficult. They can give us hoops to jump thorough. They can try to throw us off our focus to play defense. But the more we control our message, our voice, the more potent our acts become. This is all one fight. We are all one movement. We will win this.” The Chicago Teachers Union has published a booklet and a page of 10 talking points, both can be downloaded in PDF on the CTU website. Members are encouraged to visit it for more details. MTI will keep members abreast of future solidarity actions.

CTU Parent Flyer (PDF) and CTU in the news (PDF).
Stephanie Banchero:

The Chicago battle has pitted Karen Lewis, one of the country’s most vocal labor leaders, against Mr. Emanuel, one of its most prominent mayors and the former White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama. The Democratic mayor has made efforts to overhaul the city’s public education a centerpiece of his administration.
The two sides have been negotiating for months over issues including wages, health-care benefits and job security. The city has offered teachers a 3% pay raise the first year and 2% annual raises for the next three years. The average teacher salary in Chicago is about $70,000.
On Sunday night, city officials and union leaders said the wage issues aren’t the sticking point. Rather, the two sides are at loggerheads over a new teacher-evaluation system and how much of it should be weighted on student test scores, and over job security for teachers laid off from low-performing schools.

Best reformers create optimism, energy as they push strong change

Alan Borsuk:

I probably shouldn’t do this, but I keep thinking about Heidi Ramirez when I should be focusing on Darienne Driver.
Ramirez is gone now after two years as chief academic officer of Milwaukee Public Schools. Driver is freshly arrived as MPS’ chief innovation officer (a new position). The two jobs aren’t exactly the same, but there is reason to juxtapose Ramirez and Driver.
Specifically, when school opened in 2010, Ramirez was a youngish, very smart, change-minded, powerful MPS leader, fresh in from Philadelphia with degrees from Harvard and Stanford. And when school opened in 2012, Driver was a youngish, very smart, change-minded, powerful MPS leader, fresh in from Philadelphia with a lot of work done on a Harvard PhD.
More important, there are lessons from Ramirez’s time in Milwaukee that help frame the challenges Driver faces.

Who sends most competitors to the Paralympics?


THE biggest national team at the Paralympic games in London is from the host country, Great Britain. The British team is 295-strong, larger even than that of the world’s most populous country, China. China topped the medal table at the games it hosted in Beijing four years ago, with Britain second, and these two countries were in the same position halfway through the London games. (America, which came third in Beijing, is trailing in sixth place at present.) Ranking the number of competitors on a population-weighted basis inevitably flatters tiny nations (Ireland is the biggest country in the top ten), but it does provide an interesting snapshot. Of the richer countries, Antipodean and Nordic nations appear to take their involvement in both the Olympics and the Paralympics pretty seriously. At the other end of the table, India and Indonesia, among the world’s four most populous nations, have sent tiny teams to the Paralympics and share the lowest ranking with another ten countries. Around 40 nations, however, did not even make it into the ranking as they sent athletes to the Olympics but not to the Paralympics. Five countries have sent more competitors to the Paralympics than they did to the Olympics: Iraq, Rwanda, Iran, Thailand and Bosnia (not shown).

For success in the long run, brain power helps, but what our kids really need to learn is grit

Paul Tough;

We are living through a particularly anxious moment in the history of American parenting. In the nation’s big cities these days, the competition among affluent parents over slots in favored preschools verges on the gladiatorial. A pair of economists from the University of California recently dubbed this contest for early academic achievement the “Rug Rat Race,” and each year, the race seems to be starting earlier and growing more intense.
At the root of this parental anxiety is an idea you might call the cognitive hypothesis. It is the belief, rarely spoken aloud but commonly held nonetheless, that success in the U.S. today depends more than anything else on cognitive skill–the kind of intelligence that gets measured on IQ tests–and that the best way to develop those skills is to practice them as much as possible, beginning as early as possible.
There is something undeniably compelling about the cognitive hypothesis. The world it describes is so reassuringly linear, such a clear case of inputs here leading to outputs there. Fewer books in the home means less reading ability; fewer words spoken by your parents means a smaller vocabulary; more math work sheets for your 3-year-old means better math scores in elementary school. But in the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate group of economists, educators, psychologists and neuroscientists has begun to produce evidence that calls into question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.
What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years of life. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us often think of them as character.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Problems plaguing UW’s online course management system

Todd Finkelmeyer:

A technological glitch is confounding information technology experts and causing major headaches for some students and professors across the UW System as the 2012-13 academic year gets under way.
The problem lies within the university’s online learning and course management system, which is provided by the company Desire2Learn and managed by UW-Madison’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT).
According to this university update posted Friday at noon: “DoIT technologists continue to work daily with experts from Desire2Learn (D2L) and Microsoft to address the issue of slow application response. We’re keenly aware of the problem and regret the impact on the UW educational community. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resolve this situation and provide regular progress updates on the status. Please note this situation has the attention of top leadership within DoIT and Desire2Learn.”

Chicago Teachers Say Latest Offer is Disappointing

Tammy Webber & Don Babwin:

The vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union said Saturday the city school district’s latest offer in contract negotiations was disappointing and that the wrangling would continue throughout the weekend, as tens of thousands of teachers readied to walk off the job on Monday.
Chicago teachers say they’re prepared to walk off the job for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. A strike would cause massive disruptions in the nation’s third-largest school district, which has 400,000 students.

Madison Looks To Arlington, VA Schools for Achievement Gap Solutions; Arlington’s Tax Base & Demographics Quite Difference

Madison School District PDF Summary Document:

The 2005 to 2011 Strategic Plan was adopted by the School Board in June 2005. It outlines major objectives for the Arlington Public Schools for the six years covered by the plan. The Strategic Plan process was designed to result in clear direction for the school system that focuses on improved student learning for all students. For each goal of the plan, the School Board has defined specific objectives, indicators, and targets or benchmarks to measure progress over each of the 6 years. This summary provides selected findings from the results presented for 2009-10.


I hope the Madison School Board reviews additional Districts. Arlington’s demographics and tax base are substantially different than Madison.

A manifesto for the new rules on human capital

Tom Peters:

I recently spoke at the World Strategy Forum event in Seoul, where the theme was “The new rules: reframing capitalism”. Predictably, the discussion focused on global financial infrastructure. But, as one of the few non-economist speakers, I instead argued that employment/unemployment is even more affected by the changing nature of work – and the wildly accelerating effectiveness of technology, which is encroaching on activities that employ tens of millions of people, especially in the developed world.
This is, I believe, in the mid to long term, both the number one problem and the number one opportunity for businesses and wider society. But the specifics of what follows were triggered by the debate at the event and were eventually encapsulated in what I grandly call: “A human capital development manifesto at the enterprise and national government level”.

Adjusting for inflaton, the cost of attending a public, in-state college rose 268% from 1981 to 2011

John Pelletier:

Late summer is when parents bring their children to college. As they drive to campus they’re worried about tuition increases, the burden of student debt and whether their children will find jobs when they graduate.
Some parents and high-school students are beginning to question the value of a four-year college degree in this post-Great Recession world. And you can certainly understand why they have these concerns:
College costs keep rising. The College Board reports that from 1981 to 2011, after adjusting for inflation, the average published cost of going to college is up 180% for private, nonprofit four-year colleges and 268% for in-state, public four-year colleges.

Wow. I remember my first semester at the UW- Madison 31 years ago. In state tuition was $399/semester. That is $944 in 2010, according to this calculator. Current in state UW-Madison tuition is about 5,000/semester. Crazy.

Grandparents as Source of College Funds

Inside Higher Ed:

A study from the MetLife Mature Institute found that 29 percent of grandparents have given their grandchildren financial support for education, spending an average of $8,276 over five years. Of those grandparents who did fund their grandchildren’s education, 32 percent helped with tuition or loan payments, 29 percent donated to a college savings plan, and 7 percent helped pay for graduate school.

Integrating Film into Classroom Lessons: Three Teachers

Larry Cuban:

8:00 AM in a Northern California charter school.
I am observing Mr. Lesser (pseudonym), a U.S. history teacher for the past four years at the school. Students sit in six rows of six movable desks facing the front of the room. Teacher settles the students down and begins a review from the text (Bower and Hart, History Alive!) of what happened in U.S. after World War I. In rapid fire fashion, the teacher asks a series of questions to the entire class:
“What was the ‘Red Scare?
“What were the Palmer Raids?
“Who were Sacco and Vanzetti? Why do we study them?”

Researchers Hack Brainwaves to Reveal PINs, Other Personal Data

Geeta Dayal:

Don’t you dare even think about your banking account password when you slap on those fancy new brainwave headsets.
Or at least that seems to be the lesson of a new study which found that sensitive personal information, such as PIN numbers and credit card data, can be gleaned from the brainwave data of users wearing popular consumer-grade EEG headsets.
A team of security researchers from Oxford, UC Berkeley, and the University of Geneva say that they were able to deduce digits of PIN numbers, birth months, areas of residence and other personal information by presenting 30 headset-wearing subjects with images of ATM machines, debit cards, maps, people, and random numbers in a series of experiments. The paper, titled “On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain Computer Interfaces,” represents the first major attempt to uncover potential security risks in the use of the headsets.

A Reverse Wisconsin: In Michigan, unions try to enshrine union power in the constitution

The Wall Street Journal:

The proposed amendment text would make the “rights” to organize and bargain collectively a constitutional guarantee, and any state law that would “abridge, impair or limit” collective bargaining would be repealed. Last Monday, the Michigan court of appeals ruled that the measure could appear on the ballot, and the state Supreme Court heard arguments on the case Thursday.
In a filing to challenge the ballot measure, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette say the huge impact of the law can’t possibly be captured in the 100 words of a ballot measure. It is misleading, Mr. Schuette wrote, for unions to “propose an innocuous-sounding constitutional amendment that has the secret effect of wholesale changes in Michigan law.”
The problem is that the amendment language is so broad that the courts could interpret any union-related measure as a violation. It explicitly refers to all current and future laws. In 1997, for instance, Michigan moved new state employees to a defined-contribution pension from a defined-benefit plan. If the amendment passes, unions will challenge the new plan as unconstitutional and it could be invalidated at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Clusty Search: Michigan “Protect Our Jobs” Amendment.

Studies Find More Students Cheating, With High Achievers No Exception

Richard Perez-Pena:

Large-scale cheating has been uncovered over the last year at some of the nation’s most competitive schools, like Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the Air Force Academy and, most recently, Harvard.
Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades.
Experts say the reasons are relatively simple: Cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated, and both schools and parents have failed to give students strong, repetitive messages about what is allowed and what is prohibited.

Admit it, first day of school exciting

The Leader-Telegram:

The issue: It’s the first day of school.
Our view: Students should take advantage of the exciting opportunity in front of them.
Even those who cheered the loudest back in June when school let out probably admit to at least a smidgen of excitement as they head off for the first day of school this morning in Eau Claire and districts around Wisconsin.
Soon enough, though, the routine of the school year will settle in, leading some students to question the point of the lecture or lesson in front of them.
“I’ll never use this,” we can hear them say, because many of us said the same thing when we were their age.

Is Academia Becoming an “Idea Graveyard?”

PBS NewsHour:

Question: Science and technology don’t seem to be producing the jobs or economic improvement many would hope. What often gets forgotten is that many science and technology ideas are developed in academia where they are owned by the institutions. The schools are not businesses to turn them into products and businesses have a harder time making money on ideas they don’t own. So these intellectual property portfolios become idea graveyards. What if the rules changed so that the individuals who came up with the ideas could own a majority stake in their own ideas? Could they not then follow it out of academia and out to product? Seems like that would start more businesses, give universities more money (some of something as opposed to all of nothing), and even take some of the weight off of long term government support for science. Am I being naive to think that we could fix science and improve the economy?
Paul Solman:Yes, I think you are being naive. I know quite a few people at universities- professors and students both – and more and more of them talk about commercializing their research, or are actively engaged in doing so. Ideas do not seem to be trapped in the groves of academe. Just the opposite. If you think I’m wrong, readers, I trust you to let me know in the Comments section below.
A much more important hurdle to innovation may be the U.S. patent system, strengthened last week by the jury judgment against Samsung from infringing Apple patents. A number of economists have written about the anti-competitive constraints imposed by the patent system in the past decade, including Adam Jaffe of Brandeis and Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School (“Innovation and its Discontents”) and two economists at Washington University, St. Louis: Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine.

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia’s Proficiency Targets?

Matthew DiCarlo:

The accountability provisions in Virginia’s original application for “ESEA flexibility” (or “waiver”) have received a great deal of criticism (see here, here, here and here). Most of this criticism focused on the Commonwealth’s expectation levels, as described in “annual measurable objectives” (AMOs) – i.e., the statewide proficiency rates that its students are expected to achieve at the completion of each of the next five years, with separate targets established for subgroups such as those defined by race (black, Hispanic, Asian, white), income (subsidized lunch eligibility), limited English proficiency (LEP), and special education.
Last week, in response to the criticism, Virginia agreed to amend its application, and it’s not yet clear how specifically they will calculate the new rates (only that lower-performing subgroups will be expected to make faster progress).

Confessions of a Seventh-Grade Texas History Teacher

John Spong:

Of all the remote corners of Texas considered difficult to reach–the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, in Big Bend National Park; the center-field wall at Minute Maid Park, in Houston; the butcher block at Franklin Barbecue, in Austin–the single most challenging can actually be found in every big city and rural burg in the state: the mind of a seventh grader. It’s a destination with no clear path, the ground around it littered with hormonal land mines, the terrain ever shifting as growth spurts are endured or, even worse, anxiously awaited. In one of God’s great dirty tricks, an awareness of peer pressure presents itself during roughly the same week as zits. Soon come a new voice, a new shape, a new smell. Nothing about it is easy, not for the seventh graders and certainly not for the teachers charged with trying to get through to them.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Dane County property taxes highest in state, taxpayer group reports


Seventeen of Wisconsin’s 72 counties reduced property tax levies. Dane County was one of five that increased them by more than 3 percent.
Median property taxes in Dane County have increased 32.8 percent in the last 10 years. Home values have grown at a similar rate — the median Dane County home is worth $230,800, an increase of 38.6 percent in the last decade.

WISTAX 2011-2012 Property Tax Report.
Madison School District 2012-2013 Budget Update; Reduced3.47% Property Tax Increase due to Increased State Tax Dollar Spending.

Suits Challenge Classrooms That Segregate Boys, Girls

Caroline Porter:

Public-school students in some parts of the country this year are going back to very different classrooms than they are used to: ones with both boys and girls.
A decade long campaign to separate genders in schools–based on the theory that children learn better that way–has sparked a backlash that is chalking up victories. Critics have sued three districts to end their single-sex classes, and sent letters of concern to 15 others.
A judge in one of those lawsuits last week ordered a school district in West Virginia to halt its single-sex program, and a handful of other districts around the country have voluntarily suspended their own split-gender classes for the new school year.

Meet a Revolutionary Educator: Thomas Jefferson

Nat Hentoff:

II’m surprised that with all the warfare under way about teacher tenure and performance evaluation, together with standardized testing and schools as dropout factories, there has been hardly any mention of the leading active educator among our founders, Thomas Jefferson.
Some know of him only as the creative founder of the University of Virginia, but when he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Jefferson introduced what he considered his most important educational effort, “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” in 1778.
In the invaluable The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge University Press, 2009), there is a chapter by Darren Staloff that I strongly recommend to present-day school boards, principals, teachers, students and members of Congress of both parties.
The chapter is titled “The politics of pedagogy: Thomas Jefferson and the education of a democratic citizenry.” In the primary grades, the goal of education was to ensure a citizenry that would be made “the safe, as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty.”

Disappearing Mothers

Katie Rophie:

If, from beyond the grave, Betty Friedan were to review the Facebook habits of the over-30 set, I am afraid she would be very disappointed in us. By this I mean specifically the trend of women using photographs of their children instead of themselves as the main picture on their Facebook profiles. You click on a friend’s name and what comes into focus is not a photograph of her face, but a sleeping blond four-year-old, or a sun-hatted toddler running on the beach. Here, harmlessly embedded in one of our favourite methods of procrastination, is a potent symbol for the new century. Where have all of these women gone? What, some earnest future historian may very well ask, do all of these babies on our Facebook pages say about “the construction of women’s identity” at this particular moment in time?

IBM making smartphone version of Watson

Sarah Frier:

International Business Machines researchers spent four years developing Watson, the computer smart enough to beat the champions of the quiz show “Jeopardy!” Now they’re trying to figure out how to get those capabilities into the phone in your pocket.
Bernie Meyerson, IBM vice president of innovation, envisions a voice-activated Watson that answers questions, like a supercharged version of Apple’s Siri personal assistant. A farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.
Finding additional uses for Watson is part of IBM’s plan to tap new markets and boost revenue from business analytics to $16 billion by 2015. After mastering history and pop culture for its “Jeopardy!” appearance, the system is crunching financial information for Citigroup Inc. and cancer data for WellPoint Inc. The next version, dubbed Watson 2.0, would be energy-efficient enough to work on smartphones and tablets.

Union Money in Elections

Amy Payne:

This election year, millions of Americans will donate to the political candidates and initiatives of their choice at the local, state, and federal levels. But for unionized workers, union dues come out of their paychecks and go to political causes–and they aren’t consulted on where that money will go.
In July, The Wall Street Journal’s Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins published an eye-opening report that “Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought.”
They broke down the unions’ political spending from 2005 to 2011: $1.1 billion “supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions’ own coffers.”