Student Debt: Onerous for the young, a drag on society – and a major future problem

Fabius Maximus:

We have heard from a number of sources that researchers at the New York Federal Reserve Bank are worried that without some form of mortgage debt relief we may face a crisis in a couple of years that eclipses the one that took place in 2008. In line with such worries, the New York Fed has started collecting previously unavailable data on student debt, a form of indebtedness that’s a major burden on the young, and also more of a macroeconomic drag than many analysts realize. Here are some details on all that.
Runaway Inflation
The rise in college tuition has been relentless, far outpacing the famous rise in the cost of health care (see graph, below). Since 1980, the overall CPI is up 194%. Its medical care component is up 436%, more than twice as much. But its college tuition component is up 829%, more than four times as much.

Bureaucrats Paid $250,000 Feed Outcry Over College Costs

John Hechinger:

J. Paul Robinson, chairman of Purdue University’s faculty senate, strode through the halls of a 10- story concrete-and-glass administrative tower.
“I have no idea what these people do,” said Robinson, waving his hand across a row of offices, his voice rising.
The 59-year-old professor of biomedical engineering is leading a faculty revolt against bureaucratic bloat at the public university in Indiana. In the past decade, the number of administrative employees jumped 54 percent, almost eight times the growth of tenured and tenure-track faculty.
Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000 chief diversity officer. It employs 16 deans and 11 vice presidents, among them a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.

Public responses to school report cards raise key questions

Matthew DeFour:

Gov. Scott Walker recently solicited feedback on the state’s new school report cards and received a few dozen responses offering a variety of suggestions and critiques.
The report cards are part of the state’s new school accountability system. They rate schools on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student math and reading achievement, improvement on test performance over time, how well schools are closing achievement gaps, and whether students are on track for college or a career.
Some themes that emerged from the responses Walker received:
Is the rating scale confusing?

Manhattan district schools protest Moskowitz co-locations

Micah Landau:

“Hey, Eva, we’re no fools! We won’t let you ruin our schools!” chanted more than 70 teachers from the six schools on the Washington Irving Campus, near Manhattan’s Union Square, as they rallied on the campus steps on Oct. 18 against the possible co-location of a new Success Academy charter school inside their building.
Washington Irving is one of two Manhattan high school campuses outside the Success Academy’s traditional domain in Harlem that the charter school chain has targeted for co-location. The other, Graphic Arts, is located in Hell’s Kitchen and is home to three schools. Parents, teachers and students from both campuses are putting up a spirited fight against the co-location proposals.
Speaking at the rally outside Washington Irving, International HS at Union Square Chapter Leader Thomas Hasler blasted Harlem Success founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz for creating “separate and unequal schools.”

What’s the Impact of Drop-Out Rates on High School Proficiency Scores?

Laura Waters:

Today’s Trenton Times reports on a recent Trenton School Board meeting at which board members puzzled over seemingly conflicting test scores: high school students performed better on standardized tests last year but younger students did worse than in previous years.
Specifically, last year 38% of high school students taking the HSPA reached proficiency in math and 65% reached proficiency in language art, an increase from the previous year. But at grades 3 -8, scores were flat, less than 50% proficient, and sometimes much lower than 50% proficient. Board President Toby Sanders complained about the district’s lack of academic leadership:

Hong Kong Baptist University ‘Blue Book’ criticises recruitment of foreign teachers

Stuart Lau:

A Baptist University-initiated publication already under academic investigation contains another contentious allegation about the British Council’s role in recruiting teachers under the native English-speaking (NET) scheme, the South China Morning Post found.
The Chinese-language Blue Book of Hong Kong: Annual Report on Development of Hong Kong (2012) says the NET scheme, in place since 1997, should be abolished because of its social and political bearing on Hong Kong. It describes some of the teachers selected as having “taken root in Hong Kong”.
The British Council said it had long stopped playing a role in the selection of these teachers.
Chinese University has already complained about the Blue Book’s “defamatory” claim that its liberal studies curriculum was influenced by a US foundation. Baptist University vice-chancellor Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi pledged yesterday to offer a satisfactory apology to Chinese University should its academic investigation panel find material in the book was not accurate.
“If we have been wrong, we should apologise,” he said.

Math Professor Teaches High School Classes

Darryl Long:

During the 2009-2010 academic year I did something unusual for a university mathematician on sabbatical: I taught high school mathematics in a large urban school district. This might not be so strange except that my school does not have a teacher preparation program and only graduates a few students per year who intend to be teachers.
Why did I do this? I, like many of you, am deeply concerned about mathematics education and I wanted to see what a typical high school in my city is like. Because I regularly work with high school mathematics teachers, I wanted to experience the life of a high school teacher for myself. I had neither a research project nor an agenda for changing schools or teachers.
I kept a blog during my adventure, but it took some months after that experience before I could begin to process all that had happened. Four lessons emerged from my experience that I hope will give college and university educators a clearer view of what teaching high school mathematics is like.

A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities

National alliance for public charter schools:

For the past 20 years, the public charter school movement has been a leader in innovation and education reform. By unleashing an environment of creativity in states and communities, charter schools have demonstrated that children of all backgrounds are capable of achieving high standards and that college and career readiness is a goal attainable for all. Charter schools have led efforts to narrow achievement gaps and are showing that success is possible in neighborhoods where schools have been failing for generations.
For these reasons, public charter schools have been the fastest-growing sector of America’s public education system. Beginning with a handful of charter schools in 1992, the number of charters has grown rapidly, especially in the past four years. Today, demand for public charter schools is at an all time high. In 41 states and the District of Columbia, more than 2 million students – almost 5 percent of total enrollment in public schools – now attend a charter school. The growth in public charter school enrollment presented in this report shows that parent demand for school options continues.
For seven years, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has tracked the growth in student enrollment at public charter schools. The enclosed report, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter School Communities identifies school districts that have the highest percentage and highest number of public school students enrolled in public charter schools. In communities where families have choice, families are increasingly selecting public charter schools over the traditional public schools. The 2012 Phi Delta Kappa (PDK)/Gallup poll indicates that two thirds of Americans favor charter schools. A recent poll of Detroit residents, for example, found that more than half of them believe charters are a better option than the schools in the traditional public system. In countless other communities, parents are clamoring for more high quality public options for their children. As a result, the public education landscape is shifting in many major cities.

Why online education works

Alex Tabarrok:

Oxford University was founded in 1096, Cambridge in 1209. Harvard, a relative newcomer, was founded in 1636. Other than religions, few institutions appear to have maintained their existence or their relative status for as long as major universities. And few institutions, notably again other than religions, have seen so little change. Oxford in 2012 teaches students in ways remarkably similar to Oxford in 1096, seated students listening to professors in a classroom.
I suspect that these two facts are related; stasis in methods has led to stasis in status. And I suspect that both of these facts are about to change. Online education will change how universities teach; as a result, online education will change which universities teach.

Wanted: More school board candidates

The Wisconsin State Journal

Local school boards prioritize spending and programs, hire top staff and help shape curriculums. They set long-term goals and schedule building referendums.
Too many school board races go uncontested. And a big reason for the lack of competition is simple: Being a school board member is a difficult, time-consuming and in many ways thankless job.
Yet strong school leadership is crucial to the success of your city, village or town.
Four candidates competed for two Madison School Board seats last spring. It wasn’t just an opportunity to pick leaders for the local district. It was a chance to have a high-profile conversation about how our schools and students are doing — and what they need to do better.

Three Madison school board seats will be on the Spring, 2013 ballot. Beth Moss recently announced that she does not plan to seek re-election during the spring, 2013 contest. James Howard is running. Maya Cole, according to Matthew DeFour’s article will decide after Thanksgiving if she plans to seek re-election.

Middle school students to showcase Girls’ Biz at Women’s Expo

Dennis Punzel:

When Sarah Buob moved from Rockford, Ill., to Madison last year, one of her first moves was to join the Wisconsin Women’s Entrepreneurs South Central Chapter.
As a freelance graphic artist, she figured it would be the best way to make some business contacts and develop some friendships along the way.
It didn’t take long for her to realize her daughter Quinn could accomplish much the same thing by joining the Girls’Biz program co-sponsored by the WWE and the Girls Scouts of America-Badgerland Council.
“I thought it would be good for Quinn because she didn’t know anybody up here either,” Buob said. “She liked the fact that she could make some money, make some friends and learn a little bit about business and make some money on top of it.”

UW-La Crosse gets $50K from the Gates Foundation to improve remedial math


The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received a $50,000 grant to help incoming students who need remedial math courses.
The UW System says one in five incoming freshmen needs remedial math. And for under-represented minority students, that figure is double.
To bring those students up to speed faster, the La Crosse campus is using the grant money to develop an online math course. The program will be available to high school students who want to evaluate how ready they are for college, and for non-traditional students who’ve been away from school and need a refresher before coming back.

Remarkable. Are we making no progress? Perhaps it is time to revisit the math forum audio and video.
What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning

Alix Spiegel:

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.
“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ ”
Stigler knew that in American classrooms, it was usually the best kid in the class who was invited to the board. And so he watched with interest as the Japanese student dutifully came to the board and started drawing, but still couldn’t complete the cube. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the rest of the class whether the kid had gotten it right, and the class would look up from their work, and shake their heads no. And as the period progressed, Stigler noticed that he — Stigler — was getting more and more anxious.

Firestorm Erupts Over Virginia’s Race-based Education Goals

Claudio Sanchez:

As part of Virginia’s waiver to opt out of mandates set out in the No Child Left Behind law, the state has created a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for blacks, Latinos and students with disabilities.
Virginia Democratic state Sen. Donald McEachin first read about the state’s new performance goals for schoolchildren in a newspaper editorial.
“And I was shocked to find that the state board of education [was] putting in place permanent disparities between different subgroups — Asians at the top, African-Americans at the bottom,” says McEachin.
Here’s what the Virginia state board of education actually did. It looked at students’ test scores in reading and math and then proposed new passing rates. In math it set an acceptable passing rate at 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for blacks and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.

Newark teacher contract a turning point for teachers, students

Star-Ledger via Laura Waters:

The long effort to improve Newark schools faces a critical test on Wednesday when teachers will vote on a pioneering new contract that would put city schools on the vanguard of national reform. It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed, one that is good for kids and generous to teachers.
Despite the huge investment, half of Newark kids drop out of school. And of those who make it to college, 90 percent need remedial help. Clearly, money is not the entire answer. Reform of the teaching profession is needed as well.
The contract provides generous increases averaging 14 percent over three years. It offers highly effective teachers $5,000 bonuses, another $5,000 if they agree to work in struggling schools, and yet another $2,500 if they teach subjects such as math and science, jobs that are harder to fill.

Beaver Dam School District looking back and ahead

Beaver Dam Superintendent Steve Vessey, via a kind Erich Zellmer email:

I would like to take this opportunity to look back at the 2011-2012 school year in the Beaver Dam Unified School District and glance forward to the advancements we will make throughout this year.
It has been an exciting time in education at the local, state and federal levels. We have accomplished much and will continue to move forward, reaching for excellence and continuing to sustain our position as the district of choice in South Central Wisconsin.
Academically, we have made significant gains in growing our students’ academic capabilities, increasing the academic rigor throughout our schools and offering new and exciting opportunities for the youth of Beaver Dam and the greater Dodge County area.
This past school year, we had in excess of 175 students take advantage of 300 advanced placement (AP) testing opportunities at our high school, resulting in 14 National Advanced Placement Academic Scholars. Through our full menu of AP courses, our students collected more than $100,000 worth of college credits. We have expanded our middle school math program to include eighth grade Algebra. We currently have 133 middle school Algebra students who will be positioned to explore advanced math opportunities as early as their sophomore year.

Federal Barriers to K-12 Innovation

Raegen Miller & Robin Lake, via a kind Deb Britt email:

While some federal initiatives have been aimed at promoting innovation in education, some of the fiscal requirements of two large federal education programs stand in the way. This paper identifies three fiscal requirements that encourage the status quo, instilling in districts a profound deference for existing staffing and spending patterns. The report recommends closing the Title I comparability loop hole, streamlining its supplement-not-supplant requirement, and instituting a “challenge waiver” system for IDEA Part B maintenance of effort. The report also recommends redirecting Title II funds to support programs and initiatives designed to develop effective new instructional technologies and take them to scale. According to the authors, these modifications would break down barriers to innovation as well as promote smarter, fairer uses of taxpayer money to support public education.

White House Petition: provide University graduates ability to trade their diplomas back for 100% tuition refunds.

Whitehouse Petition Website

Because of the inability of recent college graduates to find gainful employment in order to repay their college debt, and since this college debt cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy, and most of the recent additions to the job market have been in service related industries, the Obama administration should take up the cause of reducing college debt and hold those accountable responsible.
In the name of Consumer Protection, recent college graduates should have the ability to return the diploma and not make any reference to receiving education from the college in exchange for a 100% refund of college tuition. This may be extended with a graduated (ha, get it?) reduction for the last four years, with a red line at January 20, 2008.

Admissions 101: Obama-Romney guide to great college essays

Jay Matthews:

Are you feeling the tension among the college-applying families you know? Nov. 1 — Thursday — is the deadline for many early action and early decision applications. Applicants still have time to use a tip demonstrated recently by President Obama and Mitt Romney. Their technique, if done well, guarantees an essay that will capture the hearts of every admissions officer.
This isn’t from the debates. If you use those rhetorical devices — insult, ire, overloaded erudition — your application will be consigned to the wastebasket.
I am referring to the candidates’ speeches at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner — all those jokes you saw on TV. Some of their wit didn’t work, but both men revealed a keen grasp of a device that is not only funny but sends the powerful message that you would be great to have on campus.

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (Book Review)

Bill Gates:

The quality of our colleges and universities – particularly for undergraduates – should be a topic we all care about as a country. College is crucial in educating and preparing young people to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy.
We’ve seen for some time the disturbing data that America is falling behind other countries in the number of students who attend and complete post-secondary education. Now, new data suggests that many U.S. students who make it to college, and even succeed there, are actually learning very little.
The data comes from the book Academically Adrift, which raises some fundamental and surprising questions about the quality of U.S. undergraduate education. The authors, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, are sociologists who analyzed results from essay tests and surveys given to more than 2,000 students at the beginning of their freshman year and the end of their sophomore year. Between 2005 and 2007, data was collected from 24 four-year institutions, including state universities and liberal-arts colleges.
Two key findings have received a lot of attention:

Should this school be saved? The fight over Chicago’s Dyett High

Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher:

By just about any definition, Walter H. Dyett High School has failed.
Just 10 percent can pass the state math exam; barely one in six is proficient in reading. The technology lab is so ancient, some of the computers still take 3-inch floppy disks. More teens drop out than graduate.
Yet when the Chicago Board of Education announced plans to shut the place down, it sparked a community uprising.
Students, parents and teachers have staged sit-ins outside the mayor’s office; earlier this month, 10 were arrested for refusing to leave the fifth floor of City Hall. The protestors have held rallies. They’ve sued the school board. A group of students has filed a federal civil-rights complaint seeking to keep Dyett open.
Their quest to save a failed school may seem quixotic. But it is echoed in communities across the United States, as a rising anger at school closures takes hold.
The bipartisan education reform movement sweeping the nation – and promoted by President Barack Obama – calls for rating schools by their students’ test scores and then taking drastic steps to overhaul the worst performers by firing the teachers, turning the schools over to private management or shutting them down altogether.

Online Courses Put Pressure on Third-World Universities How a teacher in El Salvador became an advocate of massive open online courses, and why hardly anyone listens to him yet.

Antonio Regalado:

When prominent U.S. universities began offering free college classes over the Web this year, more than half of the students who signed up were from outside the United States. Consider the story of one of them: Carlos Martinez, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of El Salvador.
Last spring, Martinez enrolled in a class on electronic circuits offered by edX, the $60 million collaboration between MIT and Harvard to stream “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, over the Web. He thought it was so good that he began traveling around El Salvador to convince others to join the class and launched a blog in English to document his adventures as his country’s first “MOOC advocate.”

Tennessee Higher Education Commission report on Fast Track Teacher Certification

Professor Baker’s Blog:

Beginning public school teachers who earn their credentials from alternative types of programs in Tennessee are as effective as veteran teachers in some subject areas and even more effective in a few areas, according to a state report released this morning.
The alternative programs, such as Teach for America, allow college graduates from other fields to teach while participating in a fast track to certification.
“In looking at both traditionally and alternatively licensed graduates, there are four programs that stand out,” said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE.

Teachers’ benefits cuts offset much of school-aid losses

Jason Stein:

In the state budget, Walker and GOP lawmakers sharply reduced aid to schools and then also dropped by more than 5% the cap on how much money schools can raise through state aid and local property taxes.
To offset that cut amounting to $451 million in the first year, Walker and lawmakers eliminated through the Act 10 legislation most collective bargaining for teachers and most other public workers and then required most public employees to pick up at least half the required contributions to their pensions. The legislation also required state workers to pay 12% of their health insurance premiums and allowed schools to require the same of their employees.
These changes, however, don’t currently apply in districts such as Milwaukee Public Schools, where unions and the district still have a valid contract laying out different terms.
The taxpayers alliance found that districts reduced their benefit costs by $366.3 million overall, which amounted to 81% of the total amount of revenue cuts to schools. However, part of that was due to schools shedding staff.
The study found that, through layoffs or simply not filling vacancies, districts statewide cut 2,312 positions, or 2.3%, last year, up from 1,519 positions, or 1.5%, the previous year.
Those staff cuts accounted for about $79 million of the overall benefits savings. They also contributed to a statewide rise in average student-to-teacher ratios to 14.4, up from 14.1 in 2011 and 13.9 in 2010.

Solidarity eNewsletter: Sick Leave Bank Assessment

Madison Teachers, Inc., via a kind Linda Doeseckle email 82K PDF.

he Sick Leave Bank (see Section VII-G of MTI’s Teacher Collective Bargaining Agreement) is an innovative and progressive Contract provision. Because of its value to those in need, unions across the country have tried to emulate it. A sign of Union solidarity, the Sick Leave Bank (SLB) has provided income to many teachers who otherwise would go without.
The SLB was created by MTI’s 1980 negotiations, with each member of MTI’s teacher collective bargaining unit donating three sick days to fund the “Bank”. The Sick Leave Bank acts as a short-term disability policy for teachers needing to be off of work for medical reasons and who have consumed their earned sick leave. SLB benefits begin after a teacher has been absent eleven (11) consecutive work days and has exhausted his/her Personal Sick Leave Account. SLB benefits are payable for a maximum of forty-four (44) days, or until the Contract provided long term disability benefit begins, whichever occurs first. The SLB Contract provision enables pay at 100% of the individual’s daily rate of pay for each work day from the SLB. Without the SLB, teachers without sufficient sick leave to cover an extended illness would be forced to go without pay until long term disability benefits begin when one is absent for 55 work days; i.e. until one qualifies for long term disability coverage.
Teacher recipients are not required to “repay” the bank for days withdrawn; rather all teachers are assessed an additional day from their personal sick leave account, when the balance of days in the SLB drops below the contractually defined threshold of six (6) days per teacher. To help offset the need for assessment, MTI negotiated that 80% of the unused sick leave of the Retirement Insurance Account of one who resigns or dies is transferred to the SLB. This has minimized the need for members of the bargaining unit to be assessed days to fund the Bank.
The SLB is yet another way that, through our collective efforts, MTI members are able to assist each other.
Given that the Sick Leave Bank balance has now dropped below the contractual minimum, all teachers will be assessed one earned sick leave day on their February 1 paycheck. Teachers who do not have at least one sick day in their personal sick leave account may be docked one day’s pay on the February 1 paycheck. This is only the fourteenth (14th) time in the thirty-two (32) year existence of the SLB that an assessment has been necessary.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (running for re-election in 2013) Proposes New State Tax $ Redistribution Scheme

Jennifer Zahn and Erin Richards:

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Monday reintroduced a proposal from two years ago to increase state funding for public education and change the way the state finances its public schools as part of his 2013-’15 budget request.
The proposal calls for a 2.4% increase in state aid in the first year of the budget and a 5.5% increase in 2014-’15, which Evers said would put the state back on track to return to two-thirds’ state support for public school costs by 2017.
The Department of Public Instruction’s 2013-’15 budget proposal guarantees state funding of $3,000 per pupil and would result in every school district either getting more state money or the same money as before, but Republican legislators on Monday did not express confidence in the total package.
Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee and a Republican from Ripon, said Evers’ “Fair Funding for our Future” plan just shifts money around between districts and doesn’t really award more money to schools.
Olsen did say he would like to increase districts’ revenue limit authority per student – or the combined amount they can raise in state general aid and local property taxes – by at least $200 per pupil starting in the first year of the next biennial budget.
Evers announced his 2013-’15 state public education budget request Monday at Irving Elementary School in West Allis.


Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the proposal will be reviewed in the context of the overall budget, but said education is one of Walker’s top budget priorities.
“The governor will work to build off of the work done with Superintendent Evers on school district accountability and Read to Lead as he creates the first version of the state budget, which will be introduced early next year,” Werwie said.
Evers also said he’ll run for re-election next year, adding that despite the funding cuts, he’s excited to continue pushing reform and accountability.
“In order for us to create a new middle class and to move our state forward in a positive way, our public schools need to be strong, and the reforms we’re implementing now are going a long way toward accomplishing that,” Evers said. “We’re in a great place as a state and we’ll keep plugging away.”
Various conservative education sources said no candidate has come forward to challenge Evers yet, but talks were ongoing with potential challengers. Nomination papers can be circulated Dec. 1 and are due back to the GAB Jan. 2.

Matthew DeFour has more.

Sun Prairie Teacher Contract Bargaining Documents

Teacher Union proposal via sp-eye:

Really? You really think that under the new climate in Wisconsin that your existing contract should be allowed to stand? What the teachers union needs to come to grips with is that its getting harder and harder for the public to support their petulant positioning.
Can you name one…just one…occupation that gets an automatic 3% pay raise every year just for being a year older? And then…on TOP of that, you expect a big raise from the school board as well? About 4-6 weeks ago, you fine folks made a plea for a 3.1% increase. Those on “the grid” would then receive a 6.1% increase. What other occupation still gets an annual “step increase for basically continuing to work and having a birthday.

The District’s Contract proposal, via sp-eye:

SPEA, and across the state other teachers’ unions, have long spoken out about the low wage paid to entry level teachers. In the past, the “grid” has impeded the district’s ability to single out one group of SPEA members for above average pay increases. In addition, SPEA, like many teachers unions, establishes a “negotiations committee” which is heavily (if not totally) comprised of teachers earning wages either at the far end of the salary grid, or even “off” the grid. It can be argued that these “negotiators” are looking out more for their own interests than those of their lesser paid brethren.
Act 10, however, changed all that. And SPASD administration and members of the school board worked diligently to develop an offer that would earmark roughly one-third of the budgeted $552,392 towards raising the base wage for all entry level teachers. The new starting salary would be raised from $32,505 to $35,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree and $38,000 for a Master’s Degree. 96 SPEA members (roughly 17% of all SPEA members) would see their base wages increased to $35,000.
How could SPEA’s negotiation team argue against such a plan? It’s a no-brainer, right? Raising the floor would allow SPASD to be more competitive and attract the best and brightest teachers to work in the district. And that’s consistent with SPEA’s desires…right?

What will the 2012 election mean for education?

American enterprise Institute:

Although education was not the most salient issue of the 2012 US election season, a panel of education experts unveiled the issue’s growing significance at an AEI event on Thursday. AEI’s own Andrew Kelly began by asking what America’s largely status-quo election results mean for education.
Panelists agreed that Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett’s defeat was the most surprising outcome for education. AEI’s Rick Hess noted that the incumbent Republican’s loss is a foreboding trend on the national education horizon, one that indicates both union strength and a frustration with the highly partisan nature of the Common Core State Standards.
Panelists expressed a less-unified response to the next four years of education policy. Kristen Soltis of the Winston Group emphasized that the Obama administration must shift public opinion about education policies such as teacher pay, teacher evaluation, the Common Core, and class sizes to make progress in education reform and improve student outcomes.

How to Get an A in Lifelong Learning

Yvette Kantrow:

Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” And these days, experts on aging agree. Studies continue to show that lifelong learning is the key to keeping our minds sharp and our brains strong, an important contributor to wellness overall, as we grow older. “Cognitive decline is not a normal function of aging,” insists Andrew J. Carle, executive in residence and the founding director of the program in senior housing administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “The brain doesn’t have to be in decline. You can keep it strong; you can exercise your brain.”
For many years, the idea of cognitive calisthenics conjured up images of silvered-hair retirees playing bridge or noodling over the New York Times crossword puzzle, ideally while relaxing by the pool. While those activities certainly do contribute to brain health, they’re only the tip of the iceberg of what’s available to mature adults who want to educate themselves in effective, enjoyable, and, in some cases, luxurious, ways. From downloading Harvard lectures to their computers, to spending a semester at sea with a ship full of students and professors, options for lifelong learners abound. Here are five of the best:
Lectures in the Living Room
You don’t have to leave home to exercise your brain — just pop a disc into your CD or DVD player, or download a digital video. The Great Courses of Chantilly, Va., formerly known as the Teaching Company (, makes and sells video and audio recordings of some 390 classes, taught by professors of top universities, on everything from literature to math to wine-tasting. Best sellers include “Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy” ($229.95 on DVD); and “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” ($699.95 on DVD).

Teaching Career Pathways: Curriculum Design and School Partnerships

David B. Cohen:

Note: in November 2012, Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) released the policy report “Promoting Quality Teaching: New Approaches to Compensation and Career Pathways.” The following post is the second in a series of profiles showing how California teacher leaders are beginning to develop and follow diversified career pathways. California teachers, and our peers around the nation, are looking for opportunities to innovate and lead in our field, but without having to leave the classroom. Our argument is that educational leadership will improve the more its carried out by those still in the classroom, and that students will benefit from having more accomplished educators remaining the in classroom rather than taking on entirely non-teaching positions.
This profile focuses on the Algebra Success Academy (see video, below), a project founded and directed by math teacher Wendy Gallimore, and funded in part by the California Teachers Association through its Institute for Teaching. The program has become a model of collaboration involving a district, union, and university. The policy recommendations in our report, if adopted, would pave the way for districts to staff similar programs, and to cultivate the conditions that lead to similar innovations aimed at improving student learning.

Vouchers can break union’s grip on Illinois education

Scott Reeder:

A while back, I showed up at the post office a half-hour before closing time and got in line to mail a package.
An officious man came up to me, pointed at the clerks working behind the counter and said, “If you are still in line at 5:30 p.m. you’ll have to leave because I’m not going to pay those people overtime.”
So I left the post office and drove across town to FedEx.
I can’t imagine standing in line to pay for groceries at the supermarket and being turned away out of fear that maybe I’d still be in line past closing time.
To be sure, I’ve had my share of annoying experiences with private businesses.

Election Day brings victories and setbacks for teachers unions

Lyndsey Layton:

Teachers unions scored political victories in several states Tuesday, beating back proposals that ranged from merit pay to school vouchers and unseating a Republican school superintendent with a national reputation for aggressively changing the way teachers are evaluated and compensated.
But the unions also lost several battles, including an attempt to enshrine bargaining rights in the Michigan constitution and to quash proposals to create public charter schools in Washington state and Georgia.
The mixed election results reflect the complexity of a larger national debate about how to improve public education.

Madison Education Event: 12.6 & 12.7 John Legend, Geoffrey Canada and more

via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

Join John Legend, Geoffrey Canada and Madison’s own education luminaries, Gloria Ladson-Billings and Sal Carranza as they discuss what our children need to succeed in school and life, and answer questions from the audience.
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former president of the American Education Research Association.
Salvadore Carranza is a Senior Academic Planner in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin System and co-founder and Chair of the Latino Education Council of Dane County.

Michigan Proposal 2: Unions lose big-money, high-profile effort to restore clout in Michigan

Dave Murray:

Proposal 2, which unions and Democrats hoped would restore some of the clout lost in the 2010 elections and potentially head off right-to-work legislation in Michigan, apparently was soundly rejected by voters.
With more than $45 million spent by both sides, the campaign was the most expensive for a ballot issue in the state’s history, drew national attention and, was considered a potential template for unions in other states.
The measure failed 58 percent to 42 percent, with 2,571,501 voting against the proposal and 1,855,063 voting in favor, with 95 percent of the precincts counted..
The coalition backing Proposal 2 said its goal was to protect workers from corporate special interests, restoring the ability for employees to have a voice in a state with a rich tradition of organized labor.

Switch to healthy, fresh foods a hit at Sacred Hearts school

Doug Erickson:

Two years ago, administrators at Sacred Hearts Catholic School noticed a sudden drop in the number of students buying hot lunches from the cafeteria.
They soon learned a boycott was under way, led by a group of seventh-graders and involving dozens of students.
“We weren’t getting the nutrition we needed,” said Kelly Brehmer, 13, an eighth-grader who took part in the boycott as a sixth-grader. The food wasn’t healthy enough, she said, and the menus were too repetitious.
The student revolt led to sweeping changes. Made-from-scratch meals, using fresh vegetables grown locally, replaced much of the highly processed government food. An amped-up salad bar sprouted garbanzo beans, cabbage and pea pods. Sweet desserts faded to just a twice-a-month treat.

Hoosier Fiasco a Wakeup Call to Both Sides of Common Core Debate

Matthew Ladner:

Let me start by noting that what I write here, as always, is my own personal view. It does not reflect the views of my employer or any other group with whom I collaborate. It is my hope, for reasons I will explain below, to serve as an equal opportunity offender. Three days later I can speak only daggers to both sides of our currently idiotic Common Core debate.
A few days before the election some polling data was released from Indiana showing that Superintendent Tony Bennett had a problem with-of all people-conservative Republicans. It has quickly passed into the Conventional Wisdom that Tony’s support for Common Core cost him re-election. This result is an insult to a dumpster fire for both sides of the Common Core debate.
Let’s get two things clear from the outset: no one has yet to convince me that Common Core is a good idea and Common Core opponents have revealed themselves to be unsophisticated ya-hoos as easily led by weak arguments as any Ravitch-zombie. Whether Indiana adopts or chooses not to adopt Common Core is ultimately of trivial to modest importance in driving academic outcomes in Indiana. Neither side of the argument in Indiana seemed to appreciate this stunningly obvious fact.

Great teaching inspires us. The Fishman Prize honors amazing teachers with $25,000 and the chance to share their knowledge with educators nationwide. Apply for the 2013 Prize today!


Launched in 2012, the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice is an annual award for exceptionally effective teachers working in high-poverty public schools. No more than five teachers are awarded the prize each year. The prize is named for Shira Fishman, a TNTP-trained math teacher currently teaching at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, DC.
In addition to receiving $25,000 each, Fishman Prize winners participate in an intensive summer residency during which they reflect critically on their classroom practice, explore the larger issues that shape their profession, and write a short paper on the elements of effective teaching. The residency enables the winners to share their expertise with educators across the country without taking time away from the classrooms where they do their best work.

Spokane will seek charter school

Jody Lawrence-Turner:

Although votes are still being counted on Washington’s charter school initiative, Spokane Public Schools officials have already decided the district will apply to have one if it passes.
“If we are trying to do some innovative programs, we should have a good shot,” said Superintendent Shelley Redinger, who helped set up a charter school as a superintendent in Oregon. “Part of it is if we don’t have one to offer our community and someone else does, I’m afraid the students will go elsewhere.”
Initiative 1240, which in Thursday night vote totals was leading with 51 percent approval, allows for as many as 40 charter schools – eight per year, set up over the next five years. They would be established either by public school districts or by nonprofit organizations.

For Seniors, a College Checklist for November

Darnell Heywood & Jen Fitzpatrick:

For this week’s installment of The Choice on India Ink, we present our Counselor’s Calendar, designed to keep students on track during the college admissions process.
We’ve asked Darnell Heywood and Jen FitzPatrick, the director and associate director of college counseling at Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio, for admissions advice for high school seniors. — Tanya Abrams
Seniors often need to brace themselves around this time of year, when relatives all ask the same question: “So, where are you going to college next year?”
In our experience, this is the last question seniors want to hear. They want a break. They need a break. Many feel vulnerable, as this question has been posed to them hundreds of times over the last three months.

Adoption: why the system is ruining lives

Meg Henderson:

Troubled children are driving many adoptive parents to nervous breakdowns – or worse – because the social services aren’t giving them adequate support.
In Glasgow two months ago a 14-year-old boy was jailed for seven years for fatally stabbing his 34-year-old foster mother. The incident took place a year ago. In the days leading up to the murder, the boy had been grounded, and his Xbox, mobile phone and laptop – which he used to keep in contact with his natural mother – were taken from him as punishment for his behaviour. According to his foster father, Bryan McKenzie, who had left the family home an hour before the attack, the boy didn’t seem overly upset by the punishment. Dawn and Bryan McKenzie were first-time foster parents and were, perhaps, through no fault of their own, out of their depth with the boy. As seasoned fosterers/adopters are aware, there is a fine line when it comes to disciplining children who are already disturbed by their backgrounds, and taking so much from him was obviously inadvisable.

Northwest Secondary closure shows Milwaukee Public Schools isn’t complacent

Alan Borsuk

I watched President Barack Obama’s first inaugural address four years ago with hundreds of students at Northwest Secondary School.
The truth is, the adults in the room were paying attention, but hardly any of the kids were. They were noisy and unfocused. Maintaining control was clearly a challenge and priority for the staff. Whatever anyone thinks about hope and change in terms of Obama – not my subject here – I left the Milwaukee Public Schools building near N. 76th St. and W. Silver Spring Drive that day feeling unhopeful about change there.
With barely a ripple, the Milwaukee School Board voted a couple weeks ago to make official what Superintendent Gregory Thornton’s administration effectively set in place a year ago: The school will be closed at the end of this year.
The decision comes a year after MPS leaders took the extraordinary step of pulling more than 500 eighth- and ninth-graders out of the school midyear, citing, at various times, the poor academic results, safety issues and the inability to find qualified teachers willing to work there. (My reaction, in order, is ugh, ugh and wow.)
The demise of Northwest Secondary speaks to several major issues shaping MPS and Milwaukee education in general. Among them:

Childhood Autism and Assortative Mating

Hays Golden:

Diagnosed rates of autism spectrum disorders have grown tremendously over the last few decades. I find that assortative mating may have meaningfully contributed to the rise. I develop a general model of genes and assortative mating which shows that small changes in sorting could have large impacts on the extremes of genetic distributions. I apply my theory to autism, which I model as the extreme right tail of a genetic formal thinking ability distribution (systemizing). Using large sample data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I find strong support for theories that autism is connected to systemizing. My mating model shows that increases in the returns to systemizing, particularly for women, can contribute signi ficantly to rising autism rates. I provide evidence that mating on systemizing has actually shifted, and conclude with a rough calculation suggesting that despite the increase in autism, increased sorting on systemizing has been socially bene ficial.

Madison West High Student’s Logo Chosen by Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers


The Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association (WCTPA) announces the winner of its Logo Design Contest as Lisa Feigl, a junior from Madison West High School in Madison. Her entry received the highest number of votes by Christmas tree growers at the WCTPA summer convention. The contest was open to Wisconsin high school students, giving them an opportunity to use their skills in a real life situation.

The Best Teachers in the World: Why we don’t have them and how we could get them

John Chubb, via a kind email:

“My manicurist requires a license to do my nails, but our nation isn’t sure we should license teachers.” Camilla Benbow, Peabody College
Camilla Benbow is the dean of the top-ranked school of education in the United States, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Under her leadership, which began in 1999, Peabody has risen in stature–passing Harvard, Stanford, and other elite institutions–to reach the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report rating system, which it has occupied since 2009. Peabody is the only school of education in an elite national university that trains undergraduates to become licensed K-12 teachers.
Because Vanderbilt is a very selective institution overall (ranked in the top twenty of national universities), and because the brightest high school students in the United States have few choices if they wish to become teachers upon graduation from a four-year institution, Peabody enrolls extremely high-achieving students. Their average SAT combined math and critical reading score in 2011 was 1438.3

University of Wisconsin Regents discuss economic future of higher education

Cheyenne Langkamp:

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents discussed Thursday the national and state higher education climate in relation to economic development–a topic that Board of Regents President Brent Smith said will be brought up in many upcoming board meetings.
The board streamed a video conference with Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who spoke about the nation’s increasing skills gap.
According to Carnevale, while technology-based, post-secondary skills are becoming increasingly necessary to get a job, access to higher education is becoming less attainable.
Carnevale said he predicts this inconsistency will continue and may prevent economic improvement, saying access to the middle class is becoming more and more dependent on access to post-secondary education.

On Madison School District Administrator Accuracy & Accountability

TJ Mertz:

Or who should be held accountable for the accountability design work being done by MMSD? These aren’t easy questions. Accountability is confusing, maybe not as confusing as the Abbott and Costello routine, but confusing (who should or should not be held accountable for the results of accountability measures is even more confusing….add teachers, families, the economy, inequality, …. to the list below). The chain of accountability goes from the voters who elect Board Members, to the Superintendent who the Board hires, fires and evaluates, to the administrators the Superintendent hires (with the consent of the Board, but for better or worse this has been a rubber stamp consent), supervises and evaluates. It also loops back to the Board, because they are responsible for making sure administrators have the resources they need to do good work, but this chain continues back to the Superintendent and the administrators who prepare draft budgets and should communicate their needs and capacities to the Board. The Superintendent is the bottleneck in this chain each time it loops around because the the MMSD Board has almost entirely limited their action in evaluation, hiring and firing to the Superintendent. Right now MMSD has an Interim Superintendent, so evaluation, hiring and firing is moot and the key link in the chain is broken. Like I said, confused.
What is clear is that the only lever of accountability community members hold is their vote in school elections. Three seats are up in April (Board President James Howard has announced his intent to run for re-election; Maya Cole and Beth Moss have not publicly stated their plans).
Mary Burke noted that the left hand and the right hand didn’t appear to be coordinating. To be more specific, she pointed out that on page 15 (of the pdf) there is a chart with the stated goal “95% of all 11th graders will take the ACT in 2012-13,” but chart itself shows annual incremental increases, culminating at 95% for all groups in 2016-17. It was long ago decided that all students would take the ACT in 2012-13, whoever prepared the left part of the chart knew this, but whoever did the increments on the right did not (and apparently didn’t read the left part). Here it is:

This is not the first time administrative accountability issues have been raised.
It would certainly be a new day in the Madison schools should radical governance change arrive via school board elections.

UK 11-year-olds to be barred from using calculators in tests

Richard Garner, via a kind reader’s email:

Children are to be barred from using calculators in the maths national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds.
Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss is announcing the move today in a bid to encourage pupils to master mental arithmetic skills whilst in primary school.
Research shows 10-year-olds from England are amongst the highest users of calculators in the world – with 98 per cent resorting to them in lessons compared with an international average of 46 per cent.
Ms Truss said children were too reliant on calculators at present, adding that there was a need to get more rigour into maths lessons. Calculators should omnly be introduced when pupils were confident in their mental and written arithmetic and knew their times tables.

Thinking Boldly at 18

Geoffery Gagnon:

When he was 14, Wilson built a nuclear-fusion reactor. Then, a bomb-sniffing device that impressed even the president. Now 18, the prodigy is skipping college and using a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to try to crack the riddle of harnessing energy from nuclear fusion–a feat that plenty consider impossible.
I was about 10 when I got into nuclear science. That was when that spark hit me. It took a few years of research, but when I was 14, I produced my first nuclear-fusion reaction.
Since then, the areas where I’ve made a lot of innovation are counterterrorism and nuclear medicine. I’ve been focused on detecting nuclear terrorism at ports, in cargo containers, and I developed and built detectors that are extremely cheap and also very sensitive. My other big development is a system to produce medical isotopes that are injected into patients and used to diagnose and treat cancer. It’s a design that costs less than $100,000 and wheels right into a hospital room–replacing multimillion-dollar, warehouse-size facilities.

Teacher Absence as a Leading Indicator of Student Achievement

Daniela Fairchild:

The sun rises in the East. Grass is green. And teachers are the most important in-school factor in determining student achievement. This last truth has long guided the push for more robust teacher-preparation programs, heartier evaluation systems, and altered HR policies. This short report by Raegen Miller highlights another strategy, small but fruitful, for eking more out of today’s instructional workforce: Ensure that teachers come to school each day. Using data from the Civil Rights Data Collection survey, Miller discovers that, on average, 36 percent of teachers were absent (whether for sick or disability leave or vacation time) ten or more days during the 2009-10 school year. Nationally, these missed school days cost taxpayers $4 billion.

John Dewey on comparing students — Blast from the Past/Quote of the Day

TJ Mertz

The current “accountability” madness is almost all based on misusing metrics of questionable value to make comparisons among students, among teachers, among schools, among districts, among nations (see here and here for two recent manifestations). If we are going to be “holding people accountable,” I’d prefer the metric be whether they are providing all students with the “opportunities to employ his [or her] own powers in activities that have meaning.”

Korea’s obsession with education

Simon Mundy and Laeticia Ock:

At no time this year was South Korea’s national obsession with education more starkly on show than on Thursday, as more than 660,000 youngsters sat their university entrance exams. Traffic was diverted away from exam halls, airline schedules were tweaked to avoid distractions and police cars were put at the disposal of students who risked arriving late for their exams.
Such a sweeping show of support would doubtless be appreciated by stressed-out, sleep-deprived examinees in other countries. But the degree of national interest in the entrance exams reflects what, according to critics, is an excessive level of pressure on the shoulders of the country’s youth.

The Election Has Compromised Education Reform

Andrew Rotherham:

The 2012 Presidential election sidestepped the issue of school reform. Neither candidate spent much time laying out, let alone talking up, an education policy agenda. But around the country, there were ballot referendums and state and local races with big implications for schools. Teachers unions had a good night, but so did charter schools. In other words, Nov. 6 left the country with an education mandate as unclear as the electoral mandate overall. Still, what happened in various states will influence what happens in Washington during President Obama’s second term. Here are four key education issues to watch:
The biggest omen for the Obama Administration is, ironically, the defeat of a high-profile Republican, Indiana state schools superintendent Tony Bennett. He has been a quiet Obama ally, most notably in the fight to reform teacher evaluations and develop common academic standards in all 50 states. The latter effort didn’t endear him to conservatives, and Bennett’s Democratic opponent said she’d pull the state out of the standards initiative. Bennett also angered teachers unions with his blunt talk and his support for one of the toughest teacher-evaluation laws in the country. This left-right convergence led to Bennett’s losing on the same night a conservative Republican won the governorship, and that doesn’t bode well for Obama’s centrist approach to education reform. Or, for that matter, for GOP leaders on these issues including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has championed many of the initiatives that got trounced on Tuesday night.

New Jersey’s annual teachers conference is an outdated idea

Laura Waters:

Ask any New Jersey parent: it’s been a long week and a half with most school districts shuttered by Hurricane Sandy; many still remain closed. But parents got an unexpected gift when the New Jersey Education Association announced that it was cancelling its convention in Atlantic City, scheduled for November 8-9 this year.
According to the union, that’s the first time that’s happened in 158 years.

Not only did NJEA cancel the convention, but it also generously supported local districts’ desire to reclaim those two days for instruction and deserves hearty applause. But let’s push this a little further: the tragedy of Sandy is an opportunity to reconsider the wisdom of cancelling school for two days in November. 

Washington, DC 2012 Charter School Performance Reports

DC Public School Charter Board:

The DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) provides school performance reports as a way to share how PCSB evaluates each public charter school. Although each charter school is unique, PCSB’s Performance Management Framework (PMF) enables the board to look at school performance across common measures. See the frequently asked questions sheet for further information on how the PMF works. See a brief PowerPoint presentation on the School Performance Reports here.

New Report Cards Grade Wisconsin Schools

Senator Kathleen Vinehout:

Every student received a report card at the end of the first quarter. This fall every school also received a report card.
The Department of Public Instruction recently released report cards on almost all of Wisconsin’s over 2,000 schools. High schools, middle schools, elementary schools and charter schools are all rated.
The report card gives a grade from 0 to 100. The grade is based on four priority areas: student achievement, student growth, on-track and post secondary readiness including attendance, ACT participation and graduation rates, and closing gaps among disadvantaged and disabled students.
Most of our area schools scored average or above average; an exception was the Whitehall Middle School where over half of the students are economically disadvantaged.

A School Distanced From Technology Faces Its Intrusion

Past the chicken coop and up a hill, in a spot on campus where the wooden buildings of the Mountain School can seem farther away than the mountains of western New Hampshire, there sometimes can be found a single bar, sometimes two, of cellphone reception.
The spot, between the potato patch and a llama named Nigel, is something of an open secret at the school in this remote corner of Vermont where simplicity is valued over technology. “We’re at the periphery of civilization here,” said Doug Austin, a teacher.
But that is about to change.
The school offers high school juniors, many from elite private institutions in the Northeast, a semester to immerse themselves in nature. The students make solo camping trips to a nearby mountain for a day or two of reflection, and practice orienteering skills without a GPS device. Between English and environmental science classes, they care for farm animals, chop wood and read the works of Robert Frost. And in the process, many say, they stop scouring the campus for its sparse bars of reception and lose the habit of checking their Facebook pages at every opportunity.

Teacher Union Governance: A Seat in the Room?

Lisa Alva Wood:

United Teachers Los Angeles may be on the brink of an unwelcome change. Currently, there is a groundswell of teachers nominating themselves for the UTLA House of Representatives – teachers who have not been actively involved in UTLA in the past but who are motivated to do something now. For teachers who are alienated by the current brand of union rhetoric or feel de-professionalized by narrow perspectives, this is a terribly important time. It’s election time at the union.
The UTLA House of Reps is the policy-making body of the union. Decisions made here are binding on UTLA leadership. A UTLA member can nominate herself and likely be “elected” in an uncontested race until November 9. What an excellent opportunity this is for bringing children and education to the forefront of policy debate, and for hearing education professionals who currently feel alienated or unrepresented. This is also, perhaps, not in the best interest of the status quo.

One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education

Michael Noer:

“I could have started a for-profit, venture-backed business that has a good spirit, and I think there are many of them-Google for instance,” says Khan, his eyes dancing below his self-described unibrow. “Maybe I could reach a billion people. That is high impact, but what happens in 50 years?”
It’s a fair question, with an increasingly sure answer: The next half-century of education innovation is being shaped right now. After decades of yammering about “reform,” with more and more money spent on declining results, technology is finally poised to disrupt how people learn. And that creates immense opportunities for both for-profit entrepreneurs and nonprofit agitators like Khan.

Teachers unions notch big wins on state education votes

Stephanie Simon:

(Reuters) – Teachers unions won several big victories in both red and blue states Tuesday, overturning laws that would have eliminated tenure in Idaho and South Dakota, defeating a threat to union political work in California, and ousting a state schools chief in Indiana who sought to fundamentally remake public education.
The night didn’t belong entirely to big labor; advocates of charter schools, which are typically non-union, scored a win in Georgia and looked likely to prevail in a tough fight in Washington state.
But unions had the bigger trophies – none bigger than in Indiana, where they stunned pundits by handing a loss to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who was running for a second term.

PhDs from the Faculty’s Perspective

Jason Hong:

One of Blog@CACM’s new bloggers, Philip Guo, has been doing a great job in discussing grad school from the PhD student’s perspective (here and here). I figured it would be good to offer an complementary perspective of graduate school, distilling what I’ve learned over the past years in advising and working with PhD students.
Break Out of the Undergraduate Mentality
A common challenge for a lot of new PhD students is that they still have an “undergraduate mentality,” where they believe that grades still matter (they do, but only marginally so), and that there will always be someone there to tell you what to do.

The Fifth problem: math & anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union: A look at anti-Semitic university admissions in the USSR from the perspective of a leading mathematician

Edward Frenkel:

When I was growing up in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, I thought math was a stale, boring subject.1 I could solve all of the problems and ace all of the exams at school, but what we discussed in class seemed pointless, irrelevant. What really excited me was Quantum Physics. I devoured all the popular books on this subject I could get my hands on. But these books didn’t go far enough in answering deeper questions about the structure of the universe, so I wasn’t fully satisfied.
As luck would have it, I got help from a family friend. I grew up in a small industrial town called Kolomna, population 150 thousand, which was about seventy miles away from Moscow, or just over two hours by train. My parents worked as engineers at a large company, making heavy machinery. One of their friends was a mathematician by the name of Evgeny Evgenievich Petrov, who was a professor at a local college preparing school teachers. A meeting was arranged.

Fuzzy math? Austin advocate questions Chicago Public Schools’ draft guidelines for school actions

Dwayne Truss:

Chicago Public Schools just released its draft guidelines for school actions as required by state law. The draft guidelines can be reviewed here.
After reviewing the guidelines, I had to take a shot of vodka because of the blatant lie that the CPS community engagement process resulted in CPS adding the space utilization criteria.
CPS poorly attempted a facade of community engagement in the drafting of the 2012 School Actions Guidelines by providing a confusing online survey for the public to comment on the 2011 guidelines and organizing orchestrated community roundtable meetings in which participants were only given 24 to 48 hour notices of the meetings.

Middleton-Cross Plains voters OK school building plan

Barry Adams:

Overcrowding at the elementary schools and aged facilities at Kromrey Middle School will be corrected after voters in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a nearly $60 million referendum.
The proposal was the largest in the state this fall and was approved after voters turned back referendums in 2005 and 2009.
“What we tried to do is combine and do a common-sense plan that everyone could understand, was fiscally responsible and looked at the long-term needs of the community,” Superintendent Don Johnson said.
The district was among nine area school districts that combined to ask 12 referendum questions in south central Wisconsin.

Related: Minnesota voters approve most school levy requests

Most Minnesota school districts with levy referendums on the ballot yesterday met with success.
Voters in 29 of 40 districts approved levies, essentially pledging local taxpayer support for their schools, in addition to state-provided funds.
This year’s approval is better than average in a year crowded with local, state and federal races, said Greg Abbott, a spokesman for the Minnesota School Boards Association.
“This passing percentage is a good 20, 25 percent above what a presidential [election] year usually runs,” Abbott said. “That means they really did their work and they got out there and got people to the polls.”

Peg Tyre Interview: phonics, grammar, choosing a school, parents and crime

Peg Tyre SIS interviewI recently had an opportunity to talk [42mb mp3 file] with the intriguing Peg Tyre. Tyre recently wrote “The Writing Revolution” for The Atlantic:

For years, nothing seemed capable of turning around New Dorp High School’s dismal performance–not firing bad teachers, not flashy education technology, not after-school programs. So, faced with closure, the school’s principal went all-in on a very specific curriculum reform, placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class. What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject–one that has made New Dorp a model for educational reform.

Peg has authored two books: The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids The Education They Deserve, The Trouble with Boys and blogs here.
An excerpt:

Peg: You cover crime for a long time and you realize that it’s very banal. You start to realize that one person killed another person in a horrendous way, but if you look at their lives, it looks like it was two trains on a track heading for each other. The miracle would have been if they didn’t end up killing each other.
Interviewer: [laughing]
Peg: They became a kind of inevitability to the conflicts that I saw. I asked my self, my intellectual journey of why is this happening? Why are theses trains set on a collision course? What I came to was lack of opportunity. You dig deeper into that, and it’s lack of education.
Interviewer: Right.
Peg: I actually come at education… Most journalists come at education because they have kids or they think that kids are cute or they have parents who are teachers and they have warm feelings about school. I have really mixed feelings about school. Yes, kids are cute, but I actually come at this from a social…I don’t know. It’s sort of like a harder nosed perspective.
Interviewer: Yeah.
Peg: Also, I hate education blah blah. I hate people using school words and pretending that their having a dialogue when they’re really just jargoning at each other.
Interviewer: [laughing]
Peg: I hate people telling me they have the answer to poverty, that they have the answer to the achievement gap, when you know and I know every intelligent person who’s listening to this knows that it’s more complicated than that. I’m not exactly misanthropic, but I’m an investigative reporter by trade, so I’m just like a “show me” kind of gal. I’m just like, “Yeah, really? Very interesting froth. Show me.”

Listen to the interview via this 42mb mp3 file , or read the transcript.

The Problem With America’s History Books

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick:

Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick are co-authors of The Untold History of the United States (Gallery Books, $30)
It has become commonplace to deplore U.S. students’ dismal performance in math and science when their test results are compared to those of students in other advanced and not-so-advanced industrial countries.
But, it turns out, according to the Nation’s Report Card, or National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally administered test results released in June 2011, the area in which U.S. students perform most poorly is actually U.S. history. According to the results, only 12 percent of high school students were proficient in U.S. history. And only a scant 2 percent could identify the social problem addressed in Brown v. Board of Education, even though the answer should have been obvious from the wording of the question itself.
Historically-challenged students turn into historically-challenged adults who make for unqualified citizens. Our republican system requires a literate, educated, and knowledgeable public. No wonder Santayana’s famous comment that “he who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it” has been borne out repeatedly over the past century and a quarter of U.S. history.

WEBINAR 15 November 2012: Does It Cost More? What Districts Spend on Student-Centered Learning

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

In an effort to raise student performance, a growing number of schools are embracing the principles of student-centered learning (SCL)–an approach that espouses personalized, authentic instruction and takes learning beyond the typical school schedule and calendar. Given the interest in SCL and concerns about spending, researchers from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington and from the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark, with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, conducted comparative case studies of seven public high schools in six states. The case studies explore three questions:
1) How is SCL delivered?
2) What resources are needed to implement SCL?
3) How does district spending on SCL compare with spending on traditional schools?
The cross-case analysis finds that SCL can be delivered for the same price as traditional schools, provided that districts offer (and schools take advantage of) resource flexibility. In this webinar, the authors will share their findings and policy recommendations, as well as answer questions about their research. Their full report, “Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning?”will be available on November 15.

Power, Ideology, and the Use of Evidence: In National Politics and School Reform

Larry Cuban:

On the eve of the nation’s voters going to the polls, a truth about policymakers’ use of evidence arrives in plain sight. Sure, the obscene spending from Super PACs on political ads shows how evidence can be bent into grotesque shapes to support one candidate over another. Fact-checkers have had a bumper season. But political ads are a genre that all of us can shrug and accept as part of life. Much like accepting that garbage is collected weekly.
But when I read that the U.S. Senate Republican leadership had put pressure on the independent Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan department of the U.S. Library of Congress, to withdraw an economic analysis of the top tax rates and economic growth that the CRS had published in September, well, that was taking away the fig-leaf that covers the persistent practice of decision-makers selectively choosing evidence to support their policies.
The New York Times described Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) questioning the report’s methodologies, language, and conclusions. What did the economist who did the analysis say in the report?

Welcome to Star Scholar U., Where a Personal Brand Is the Credential

Jeffrey Young:

A new kind of university has begun to emerge: Call it Star Scholar U.
Professors with large followings and technical prowess are breaking off to start their own online institutions, delivering courses with little or no backing from traditional campuses.
Founding a university may sound dramatic, but in an era of easy-to-use online tools it can be done as a side project–akin to blogging or writing a textbook. Soon there could be hundreds of Star Scholar U’s.
Two recent examples are Marginal Revolution University, started by two economics professors at George Mason University, and Rheingold U, run by the author and Internet pioneer Howard Rheingold. To be clear, these professors are using the word “university” loosely–they award no credit and claim no spot on any college ranking. And they probably won’t become rich through their teaching. But the gambit gives them full control over the content and delivery methods. And it offers their personal brands as a kind of credential.

Unhealthy snacks common in Minnesota high schools

Julie Sipple:

A new study shows many Minnesota high schools offer unhealthy snacks in vending machines or snack bars.
The results come from a nationwide analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Minnesota ranked among the best in the nation in the percentage of schools offering healthy snacks, like fruit. But it was one of the worst on a measure of schools offering cookies, pastries or crackers.
Erik Olson, directer of food programs at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said those snacks compete with healthier options.

New Outlook on Colorblindness Phone Apps, Videogames Offer Color Help; Seeking a Cure Through Gene Therapy

Melinda Beck:

For people who are colorblind, life involves little workarounds and big compromises alike. Daily challenges range from not knowing whether meat is fully cooked to not being able to read whether a horizontal traffic light is showing green or red. More serious repercussions include being shut out of a dream job, like piloting planes, because misreading landing-strip lights can have life-or-death consequences.
Now, a host of new research and tools promise to improve life for the estimated 32 million Americans–8% of men and 0.5% of women–who have some degree of colorblindness. For many, getting through the day–avoiding wardrobe perils and worse–has often involved bringing in a second pair of eyes. But new websites and smartphone apps offer to help identify or enhance hard-to-see colors. Videogame manufacturers are increasingly including “colorblind” modes in their games. And researchers are homing in on more specific vision tests that may allow mildly colorblind people to qualify for jobs that, until now, have been closed to them.

‘F’ for Myanmar Schools Threatens Makeover Companies Eager to Pour In Find Dearth of Skilled Workers; Rot at Once-Strong University Embodies Leaders’ Challenge

Patrick Barta:

The University of Yangon was once one of Asia’s best colleges. Today, abandoned buildings rot away on its overgrown campus, with some walkways deserted except for dogs.
Its state of affairs embodies a crucial challenge for leaders as Myanmar opens to the outside world. The military junta that dominated the country for five decades all but destroyed the university system after a series of student protests convinced its leaders that schools were breeding grounds for dissent.
But now that the lifting of most Western sanctions has paved the way for an expected wave of investment, companies are finding a nation largely bereft of skilled workers. Doctors and lawyers often lack up-to-date training, and other professions are desperately short of qualified staff with even basic critical-thinking skills, employers say.

Opt Out — Just Say No to the WKCE

TJ Mertz:

The WKCE testing and related assessments are scheduled for next week in the Madison Metropolitan School District schools (full schedule of MMSD assessments, here), but your child doesn’t have to be part of it. You can opt out. Families with students in grades 4,8, & 10 have a state statutory right to opt out of the WKCE; I have been told that it is district practice to allow families to opt out of any and all other, discretionary, tests. We opted out this year. In order to opt out, you must contact your school’s Principal (and do it ASAP, (contact info here).
The WKCE does your child no good. Just about everyone agrees that even in comparison to other standardized tests, it is not a good assessment. Because results are received so late in the year, it isn’t of much use to target student weaknesses or guide instruction. There are no benefits for students.

Betty Hart Dies at 85; Studied Disparities in Children’s Vocabulary Growth

William Yardley
Betty Hart, whose research documenting how poor, working-class and professional parents speak to their young children helped establish the critical role that communicating with babies and toddlers has in their later development, died on Sept. 28 in Tucson. She was 85. The cause was lung cancer, said Dale Walker, a colleague and longtime friend. Dr. Hart was a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s when she began trying to help poor preschool children overcome speech and vocabulary deficits. But she and her colleagues later concluded that they had started too late in the children’s lives — that the ones they were trying to help could not simply “catch up” with extra intervention.
At the time, a prevalent view was that poor children were essentially beyond help, victims of circumstances and genetics. But Dr. Hart and some of her colleagues suspected otherwise and revisited the issue in the early 1980s, beginning research that would continue for a decade. “Rather than concede to the unmalleable forces of heredity, we decided that we would undertake research that would allow us to understand the disparate developmental trajectories we saw,” she and her former graduate supervisor, Todd R. Risley, wrote in 1995 in “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” a book about their findings, which were reported in 1992. “We realized that if we were to understand how and when differences in developmental trajectories began, we needed to see what was happening to children at home at the very beginning of their vocabulary growth.”
They began a two-and-a-half-year study of 42 families of various socioeconomic levels who had very young children. Starting when the children were between 7 and 9 months old, they recorded every word and utterance spoken to them and by them, as well as every parent-child interaction, over the course of one hour every month. It took many more years to transcribe and analyze the data, and the researchers were astonished by what they eventually found. “Simply in words heard, the average child on welfare was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one-third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour),” Drs. Hart and Risley wrote.
“By age 4, the average child in a welfare family might have 13 million fewer words of cumulative experience than the average child in a working-class family,” they added. They also found disparities in tone, in positive and negative feedback, and in other areas — and that the disparities in speech and vocabulary acquisition persisted into school years and affected overall educational development.
“People kept thinking, ‘Oh, we can catch kids up later,’ and her big message was to start young and make sure the environment for young children is really rich in language,” said Dr. Walker, an associate research professor at Kansas who worked with Dr. Hart and followed many of the children into their school years.
The work has become a touchstone in debates over education policy, including what kind of investments governments should make in early intervention programs. One nonprofit program whose goals are rooted in the findings is Reach Out and Read, which uses pediatric exam rooms to promote literacy for lower-income children beginning at 6 months old.
Prompted by the success of Reach Out and Read, Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Bellevue Hospital and New York University Langone Medical Center, pushed intervention even further. He created a program through Bellevue in which lower-income parents visiting doctors are filmed interacting and reading with their children and then given suggestions on how they can expand their speaking and interactions. “Hart and Risley’s work really informed for me and many others the idea that maybe you could bridge the gap,” Dr. Mendelsohn said, “or in jargon terms — address the disparities.”
Bettie Mackenzie Farnsworth was born on July 15, 1927, in Kerr County, Tex. (She spelled her name Betty even though it was Bettie on her birth certificate.) Her family moved to South Dakota when she was a girl, and her mother died when she was quite young, Dr. Walker said. Dr. Hart, who lived in Kansas City, Kan., graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, and later taught in a preschool laboratory at the University of Washington directed by Sidney W. Bijou, a psychologist who helped establish modern behavioral therapy for childhood disorders. She accepted a research position at the University of Kansas in the mid-1960s, and received her master’s degree and Ph.D. there. She married John Hart in 1949; they divorced in 1961. Her three siblings are deceased, Dr. Walker said.
“Today, much of her research is being applied in many different ways,” said Dr. Andrew Garner, the chairman of a work group on early brain and child development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “I think you could also argue that the current interest in brain development and epigenetics reinforces at almost a molecular level what she had identified 20 years ago.”

How Authors Write The technologies of composition, not new media, inspire ­innovations in literary styles and forms

Jason Pontin:

Early in Nicholson Baker’s slim first novel, The Mezzanine (1988), whose entire action takes place during an escalator ride at lunchtime, the narrator describes buying milk and a cookie, and then pauses to consider, in a page-long footnote, the “uncomfortable era of the floating drinking straw”:
I stared in disbelief the first time a straw rose up from my can of soda and hung out over the table, barely arrested by burrs in the underside of the metal opening. I was holding a slice of pizza in one hand, folded in a three-finger grip so that it wouldn’t flop and pour cheese-grease on the paper plate, and a paperback in a similar grip in the other hand–what was I supposed to do? The whole point of straws, I had thought, was that you did not have to set down the slice of pizza to suck a dose of Coke while reading a paperback.
Baker speculates about how the straw engineers had made “so elementary a mistake,” designing “a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand”; pardons the engineers who had forgotten to take into account how bubbles of carbonation might affect a straw’s buoyancy; explains how such unsatisfactory straws came to be sold to restaurants and stores in the first place; and, in a kind of musical resolution, concludes by remembering the day when he noticed a plastic straw, “made of some subtler polymer,” once again anchored to the bottom of a soda can.

The Science of Scientific Writing If the reader is to grasp what the writer means, the writer must understand what the reader needs

George Gopen, Judith Swan:

Science is often hard to read. Most people assume that its difficulties are born out of necessity, out of the extreme complexity of scientific concepts, data and analysis. We argue here that complexity of thought need not lead to impenetrability of expression; we demonstrate a number of rhetorical principles that can produce clarity in communication without oversimplifying scientific issues. The results are substantive, not merely cosmetic: Improving the quality of writing actually improves the quality of thought.
The fundamental purpose of scientific discourse is not the mere presentation of information and thought, but rather its actual communication. It does not matter how pleased an author might be to have converted all the right data into sentences and paragraphs; it matters only whether a large majority of the reading audience accurately perceives what the author had in mind. Therefore, in order to understand how best to improve writing, we would do well to understand better how readers go about reading. Such an understanding has recently become available through work done in the fields of rhetoric, linguistics and cognitive psychology. It has helped to produce a methodology based on the concept of reader expectations.

How tougher classes in high school can help kids make it through college

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo::

Some 40 percent of students are failing to graduate from college in six years. A study calls for higher-quality college prep, with more advanced math, advanced placement classes, and better advising.
But what if high schools had a better recipe for preparing their students to stay in college? The National School Boards Association released a study Thursday afternoon highlighting some key ingredients: more advanced math courses, challenging courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB), and better academic advising.
If students are exposed to those factors – even if they don’t earn high scores on the course exams – they are more likely to continue college after their first year, a point at which many drop out, the study notes.

From the report:

We analyzed longitudinal data tracking high school sophomores in 2002 through their second year in two- and four-year colleges in 2006 (ELS 2002-2006). We were able to identify three factors that were related to increasing a postsecondary students’ chances of staying on track to a credential as much as 53 percent, and the process begins in high school. Moreover, the impact of these factors is greatest for students who enter college as the least likely to succeed: students who began high school with below average achievement and below average socioeconomic status.
What it takes to stay on track
High-level mathematics: Our findings comport with previous studies that show the highest level of math in high school can be one of the largest predictors of college success (Adelman 2006, Conley 2007). Our analysis found that a student with above average SES and achievement had a 10 percent better chance of persisting in a four-year institution if that student had taken Pre-calculus or Calculus or math above Algebra II. Low SES/achievement students with high-level math were 22 percent more likely to persist.
The impact is greatest for students in two-year institutions: The persistence rates of students who took mathematics beyond Algebra II in high school increased by 18 percent for the higher SES/achievement group and 27 percent for the lower SES/achievement students.
Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate courses: Taking an AP/IB course had a dramatic effect on students’ chance of persisting even when students fail the end-of-course test. Low achieving and low SES students who took an AP/IB course were 17 percent more likely to persist in four-year colleges and 30 percent more likely to persist in two-year institutions. The more of these courses a student took, the higher their persistence rates were.

Education dominates Singapore’s ‘different’

Brent Larkin:

“People in America and other places in the West always talk about Asians being so smart,” said the 20-year-old college student as she helped shuttle tourists onto buses outside a spectacular new convention center, casino and hotel complex.
“But it’s really more about discipline than intelligence. And we are more disciplined. It’s built into our culture to study all the way through school.
“In America, your culture is much different.”
Is it ever.
In less than 50 years, the culture here has transformed a tiny patch of tropical land at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula into one of the great economic success stories of this or any other century.


In defense of direct instruction: Constant constructivism, group work and arrogant attitude are abusive to children

Laurie Rogers:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. … Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
— C.S. Lewis
Many educators believe children should learn math by struggling and failing, inventing their own methods, drawing pictures and boxes, counting on fingers, play-acting, continually working in groups, and asking several classmates for help before asking the teacher. This process of learning is called constructivism (also known as “discovery” or “student-centered learning”). Developed in the early 1900s, it was foisted on the country about 30 years ago, along with reform math curricula.
Proponents call constructivism “best practices” (as if calling it that can make it so). The supposed value of heavy constructivism is one of the most pernicious lies told today about education. Having listened now to students, parents, teachers and proponents of reform, I’ve come to see heavy constructivism as abusive to children. I don’t choose the word lightly.

Thinking about School Reform, Teaching, and “Great” Teachers

Larry Cuban:

Writing about school reform from a historical perspective can be, well, depressing. So many examples of hype-on-steroids, past and present, of school reform solving community and national problems. So much policy talk, past and present, that overestimates success while underestimating the difficulties of converting words into classroom deeds. But melancholia and teaching a seminar twice a week do not go hand-in-hand.
For me, teaching about school reform and the history of making “good” schools and districts stimulates the brain and clutches the heart. It lifts me up. My mind races with the questions that I need to ask students. And in asking questions, who do I call upon, which student to probe further with a follow-up question, what to do when a student asks me a question-answer it? Redirect to the class? Ask student to answer her own question?
And over the past six weeks in the seminar of “good’ schools and districts my brain has raced a lot. So, too, have my emotions. In any given class, they range from anxiety to a soaring feeling of connection with a group to tedium to spontaneous outbreaks of laughter. Thus, both the brain and heart are fully engaged when I am teaching my seminar. I am not depressed when I teach although when a part of a lesson flops I surely feel blue for that moment. But most of the time, student engagement with the readings I assigned, questions I ask, questions students ask, when students disagree with me, all of these keep me thinking on my feet as I improvise my way to what I had hoped would happen in the lesson.

MTI Again Overturns Governor Walker’s Legislation

Solidarity eNewsletter (178K PDF), via a kind Linda Doeseckle email

MTI was again successful in challenging legislation forced through the Legislature by Governor Walker. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Amy Smith agreed with MTI’s argument that Act 21, as it pertains to the State Superintendent, is unconstitutional.
Act 21 was created to enable the Governor to control all state agencies’ creation of Administrative Rules. Historically an agency wrote a proposed Administrative Rule, sent it to the Legislature which held a hearing, and if no modifications were made, the Administrative Rule became law. Act 21 mandated that a Agency send a “proposed” Administrative Rule to the Governor, who could change it before it could go to the Legislature. Walker even forced his appointees to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to make the calculation of “base wage” for teachers even more restrictive than WERC had proposed.
MTI’s challenge to Act 21 was based on the fact that the State Superintendent is a Constitutional Officer – has been since 1848. Based on that, and that the Wisconsin Supreme Court previously ruled that the State Superintendent has the authority not only to “advocate, but (is) an officer with the ability to put plans into action”, MTI, joined by WEAC, claimed that as a Constitutional Officer the State Superintendent is equal to, not subordinate to, the Governor. Judge Smith agreed, and voided that part of Act 21, as it applied to the State Superintendent.
MTI was represented by Lester Pines, Tamara Packard and Susan Crawford, Cullen Weston Pines Bach.

Related: Wisconsin Education Rule-Making Battle: Should We Care? Yes; DPI Election Politics.

Innovation in Education is Here. We’re Ignoring It.

Howard Tullman:

For-profit education has been taking a beating lately. Enrollments are down. A bunch of (presumably former) employees of these schools did a lot of dumb, deceptive and greedy things, on tape and video no less. Some of these guys are to quality education what the Olive Garden is to Italian cuisine.
Ironically, the part that seems to be really upsetting people is that these colleges and universities are trying to make a profit. Call me crazy, but I thought making a profit was one of the most important things that a good business needed to do. Making a profit is how you stay in business, how your employees and families stay fed, and how the marketplace ultimately tells you that you’re doing the right things. Focusing on profitability helps to make sure that you keep your business and your offerings truly competitive.
Now, if you’re a well-regarded and selective non-profit college, you’ll always be turning a certain crowd of wanna-bes away; your tuition prices can soar every year; and your facilities and non-teaching faculty (and salaries) can grow to the sky. Those colleges are living off their endowments and the stock market, not the market for their services.

How to build a high school football powerhouse

Linda Thomas:

Creating a successful football program is more about the culture – which starts at a very young age for players and families – than it is about the current team.
710 ESPN’s Brock Huard, a former Husky and former Seahawk, says the sport today is much different than when he was playing high school football in Puyallup.
“They’ve got kids that start at 6, 7, 8 years old in their feeder programs and it is a machine,” Huard says. “The investment they make at a young age, all the way through, running the same system, doing the same drills, working towards that same goal of winning state championship after state championship is what they’re about.”
“This is a higher achieving area,” adds Coach Taylor. “The families take education, and life in general, more seriously and they have high expectations. Whatever it is you do, you put your best foot forward.”
Skyline Quarterback Max Browne is putting his best arm forward, on the verge of setting a new state passing record.
Spartan number 4 is considered the number 1 high school quarterback in the country.


Tanya Khovanova:

When I came to the US, I heard about Mensa — the high IQ society. My IQ had never been tested, so I was curious. I was told that there was a special IQ test for non-English speakers and that my fresh immigrant status and lack of English knowledge was not a problem. I signed up.
There were two tests. One test had many rows of small pictures, and I had to choose the odd one out in each row. That was awful. The test was English-free, but it wasn’t culture-free. I couldn’t identify some of the pictures at all. We didn’t have such things in Russia. I remember staring at a row of tools that could as easily have been from a kitchen utensil drawer as from a garage tool box. I didn’t have a clue what they were.
But the biggest problem was that the idea of crossing the odd object out seems very strange to me in general. What is the odd object out in this list?
Cow, hen, pig, sheep.

Teachers make extra money selling educational materials online

Associated Press:

Kristine Nannini spent her summer creating wall charts and student data sheets for her fifth-grade class — and making $24,000 online by selling those same materials to other teachers.
Teachers like Nannini are making extra money supplying materials to their cash-strapped and time-limited colleagues on curriculum sharing sites such as, providing an alternative to more traditional — and generally more expensive — school supply stores. Many districts, teachers and parents say these sites are saving teachers time and money and giving educators a way to make additional income.
There is potentially a lot of money to be made. Deanna Jump, a first-grade teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon, Ga., is’s top seller, earning about $1 million in sales over the last two years. She believes that the site has been successful because educators are looking for new ways to engage their students, and the materials are relatively inexpensive and move beyond textbooks
“I want kids to be so excited about what they’re learning that they can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad,” she said.

Time to ditch elitist Hong Kong expat class system

Alex Lo:

Hong Kong does not need more international schools. It needs local schools that are capable of educating expatriate students at an affordable price. That is the way it is done in almost all international cities in the Western world.
It is the only way for a modern city like Hong Kong to reform its wasteful and monstrously complicated education system to achieve both equal opportunity and quality for all – local and expat, rich and poor, Chinese and ethnic minority. That ought to be our vision and our goal. Yet few people in Hong Kong share it.
It infuriates me every time the international business community complains about insufficient places and demands the building of more international schools with public resources. Local educators and lawmakers, who ought to know better, duly repeat the demand. Officials like Eddie Ng Hak-kim act guiltily for failing to please the expats. The latest call came from British Chamber of Commerce executive director Christopher Hammerbeck. “This is not an education issue any more,” he said. “It’s a business issue. This is a strong case for adding facilities.” Really? How can someone be so wrong on so many counts in such a short statement?
First, if we tackle education like a business issue, then it will follow the business cycle too. This means when China goes into a downturn or their own countries’ economies improve, many expat families will go, just like they did during the Asian financial crisis and the Sars outbreak, leaving empty places at international schools. These will be filled by locals. But it makes a mockery of free local education, now effectively for the poor; and it creates a shortage for expats in the next upturn cycle.

Inspiring teachers and playground rivalries – what makes school stories so special?

Susie Boyt:

Picture the scene: I am 13 years old in a biology lab, dissecting an innocent amphibean whose life has been laid down for science. A serious hush has broken over this class famed for its chatterboxes. The frog is lying on its dorsal side, limbs pinned to the dissection pan. Vulnerable isn’t even in it. The dissecting scissors are icy in our hands. First the skin must be pierced and it isn’t very yielding. Bits of back bone are hard, the flesh is dark and menacing. We have rinsed our creatures and patted them dry with paper towels but the reek of the formaldehyde makes me nauseous.
Now, I don’t care anything for frogs – things that can’t talk don’t appeal to me yet – but before I even make the first incision, tears are rolling down my face and soon I am sobbing. What am I crying for? Life cut short? The odour of death? I am permitted to leave the room and I linger in the corridor, clutching my sides. After a while the biology teacher comes out to find me, head inclined, eyes brilliant with sympathy.
“Is it about a boy?” she asks.
I am so flattered I cannot speak.

The Bar is Different: Asian-Americans & Affirmative Action

Steve Hsu

The NYTimes on Asian-Americans and affirmative action. Asians rated only a couple of mentions in the Fisher v Texas oral arguments, and always by a conservative justice. I recommend the reader comments at the link (use the Reader Picks filter).

NYTimes: … “If you look at the Ivy League, you will find that Asian-Americans never get to 20 percent of the class,” said Daniel Golden, author of “The Price of Admission” and editor at large for Bloomberg News. “The schools semiconsciously say to themselves, ‘We can’t have all Asians.’ ” Mr. Golden says it is helpful to think of Asians as the new Jews because some rules of college admissions, like geographic diversity, were originally aimed at preventing the number of Jews from growing too high.
Commenting on similar efforts involving Asian applicants, Rod Bugarin, a former admissions officer at Wesleyan, Brown and Columbia, said: “The bar is different for every group. Anyone who works in the industry knows that.” …

Neanderthal Babies All Around: Synthetic Biology Is Closer Than You Think

Ashlee Vance:

George Church–he of the beard, tall man’s lope and overwhelming credentials–has hit the circuit to promote a new book: Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. As the title explains, the book explores the field of synthetic biology, which centers on how man can program DNA to create things ranging from new fuels to seeds that grow into fully-formed houses. This subject often veers into the fanciful, and Church keeps up that tradition. Yet when he says things about bringing Neanderthals back to life, you have to take notice instead of chuckling.
For about the last 35 years, Church has been at the cutting edge of genetics and radical biology in academic and entrepreneurial settings. Today, he’s the professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, the super-sought-after adviser to more than 20 companies in genetics and synthetic biology, and co-founder of a handful of companies. Church, 58, relishes the academic side of his work and has scores of researchers doing cutting-edge stuff at his Harvard lab. That said, he likes to make sure that people see him as a man of action and not just some big brain in an ivory tower. “I still do things with my own hands,” he says.

The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years Students anywhere are being offered free instruction online. What will that do to the trillion-dollar education business?

Antonio Regalado:

Now answer this one: what’s been the single biggest innovation in education?
Don’t worry if you come up blank. You’re supposed to. The question is a gambit used by Anant Agarwal, the computer scientist named this year to head edX, a $60 million MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the Web, free, to anyone who wants one. His point: it’s rare to see major technological advances in how people learn.
Agarwal believes that education is about to change dramatically. The reason is the power of the Web and its associated data-crunching technologies. Thanks to these changes, it’s now possible to stream video classes with sophisticated interactive elements, and researchers can scoop up student data that could help them make teaching more effective. The technology is powerful, fairly cheap, and global in its reach. EdX has said it hopes to teach a billion students.
Online education isn’t new–in the United States more than 700,000 students now study in full-time “distance learning” programs. What’s different is the scale of technology being applied by leaders who mix high-minded goals with sharp-elbowed, low-priced Internet business models. In the stories that will follow in this month’s business report, MIT Technology Review will chart the impact of free online education, particularly the “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, offered by new education ventures like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, to name the most prominent (see “The Crisis in Higher Education“).

The 2013 Maclean’s Canadian University Rankings

Josh DeHaas:

The 22nd annual Maclean’s University Rankings issue–the holy book for anyone planning their education in Canada–is now available on newsstands and tablets.
The 2013 issue, our biggest-ever, features 132 pages of charts, stories and advice designed to help future students choose the right school, while sparking conversations on the quality of the post-secondary experience from the size of classes to the cost of textbooks.
The issue also offers a peek inside campus life from coast to coast, including an examination of the viral videos phenomenon, a deeper look at the scourge of drinking, Emma Teitel on fraternities, the college advantage and pages more. There are online extras, too, like photo tours of life at 24 campuses.
And, of course, the issue features the 22nd annual rankings.

Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities

Stephen Marche:

Data banks are the Encyclopedia of tomorrow. They transcend the capacity of each of their users. They are “nature” for postmodern man.
– Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
BIG DATA IS COMING for your books. It’s already come for everything else. All human endeavor has by now generated its own monadic mass of data, and through these vast accumulations of ciphers the robots now endlessly scour for significance much the way cockroaches scour for nutrition in the enormous bat dung piles hiding in Bornean caves. The recent Automate This, a smart book with a stupid title, offers a fascinatingly general look at the new algorithmic culture: 60 percent of trades on the stock market today take place with virtually no human oversight. Artificial intelligence has already changed health care and pop music, baseball, electoral politics, and several aspects of the law. And now, as an afterthought to an afterthought, the algorithms have arrived at literature, like an army which, having conquered Italy, turns its attention to San Marino.
The story of how literature became data in the first place is a story of several, related intellectual failures.

Are There (Finally) More Teachers?

Floyd Norris:

The October job numbers out Friday will show whether the erosion of teaching jobs in public schools has ended. It will reflect the month when all teachers who are going to work in the fall semester have jobs, and allow comparisons of the non-seasonally adjusted figures for state and local government education jobs from one October to the next, showing what school districts did around the country.
The chart below shows the changes in state and local education jobs since 2000, from one October to the next:

Madison parents start their own foundations when kids have chronic conditions

Sari Judge:

“When your child suffers from a chronic condition like epilepsy, you never feel like you have control, ” says Anne Morgan Giroux. “You can’t control what drugs might work to control the seizures or even control what a typical day might look like. I think we started Lily’s Fund to be able to gain control over something.”
And while starting your own charitable organization may sound like more work added on top of a time-consuming situation, several Madison families have found that it’s a very positive step.
Giroux’s daughter Lily, now 17 and a junior at Madison West High School, was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 2 years old. Anne and her husband, Dave, spent much of Lily’s childhood experimenting with medications and procedures to keep her atonic seizures at bay. In the fall of 2006, they noticed an article describing the work a team of UW-Madison researchers was conducting on epilepsy.

Real Women Speak Out: How Student Loans Have Affected Me

Alden Wicker:

You can’t help but notice the dire chatter surrounding student loans these days.
In fact, student loans are one of the hottest topics here at LearnVest, whether in LV Discussions, your comments or stories we write. Some are calling it the newest lending crisis, equal in scope to the subprime mortgages that torpedoed the economy in 2008.
No wonder-a record one in five households now holds student debt. Increasingly, this debt burden is altering lives, and not in the way students imagined when they first took out the loans. Enrollment in graduate programs has dropped, as students face mounting undergraduate loans. 44% of graduates are delaying buying a home, and 23% will delay having children because of their debt burden.
Defaults on student loans are at a record 13.4%, and there’s no clean slate in sight-student loans are rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy.
One NYU professor has even said that student loans are immoral.

Arthur R. Jensen Dies at 89; Set Off Debate About I.Q.

Margalit Fox
Arthur R. Jensen, an educational psychologist who ignited an international firestorm with a 1969 article suggesting that the gap in intelligence-test scores between black and white students might be rooted in genetic differences between the races, died on Oct. 22 at his home in Kelseyville, Calif. He was 89. His death was confirmed by the University of California, Berkeley, where he was an emeritus professor in the Graduate School of Education.
Professor Jensen was deeply interested in differential psychology, a field whose central question — What makes people behave and think differently from one another? — strikes at the heart of the age-old nature-nurture debate. Because of his empirical work in the field on the quantification of general intelligence (a subject that had long invited a more diffuse, impressionistic approach), he was regarded by many colleagues as one of the most important psychologists of his day.

Continue reading Arthur R. Jensen Dies at 89; Set Off Debate About I.Q.

Make college relevant not a resort vacation

Ed Leap:

My oldest son is now a high school senior. Therefore, we have been looking at college options in South Carolina.
He is a born and bred South Carolinian who doesn’t really want to leave his home state. He has a sense of family, and a sense of place.
I have made several observations while reading brochures, comparing prices and traveling to different locales in the search for the right school for him to attend. First, this is a beautiful state with some magnificent centers of learning. I had no idea how many majors there are now, how many opportunities to study abroad, how many honors colleges and possible career paths! When I was in school it was, you know, wheel-making and Mammoth studies. But I digress.

How Do You Raise a Prodigy?

Andrew Solomon:

Drew Petersen didn’t speak until he was 3½, but his mother, Sue, never believed he was slow. When he was 18 months old, in 1994, she was reading to him and skipped a word, whereupon Drew reached over and pointed to the missing word on the page. Drew didn’t produce much sound at that stage, but he already cared about it deeply. “Church bells would elicit a big response,” Sue told me. “Birdsong would stop him in his tracks.”
Sue, who learned piano as a child, taught Drew the basics on an old upright, and he became fascinated by sheet music. “He needed to decode it,” Sue said. “So I had to recall what little I remembered, which was the treble clef.” As Drew told me, “It was like learning 13 letters of the alphabet and then trying to read books.” He figured out the bass clef on his own, and when he began formal lessons at 5, his teacher said he could skip the first six months’ worth of material. Within the year, Drew was performing Beethoven sonatas at the recital hall at Carnegie Hall. “I thought it was delightful,” Sue said, “but I also thought we shouldn’t take it too seriously. He was just a little boy.”
On his way to kindergarten one day, Drew asked his mother, “Can I just stay home so I can learn something?” Sue was at a loss. “He was reading textbooks this big, and they’re in class holding up a blowup M,” she said. Drew, who is now 18, said: “At first, it felt lonely. Then you accept that, yes, you’re different from everyone else, but people will be your friends anyway.” Drew’s parents moved him to a private school. They bought him a new piano, because he announced at 7 that their upright lacked dynamic contrast. “It cost more money than we’d ever paid for anything except a down payment on a house,” Sue said. When Drew was 14, he discovered a home-school program created by Harvard; when I met him two years ago, he was 16, studying at the Manhattan School of Music and halfway to a Harvard bachelor’s degree.