GRUMPS Resurfaces 3.5.2013

GRUMPS (GRandparents United for Madison Public Schools) will be joined by leaders from the business and non-profit sectors to speak out in support of the Madison Metropolitan School District and against legislative efforts that may weaken our schools. Vouchers, private charter schools, special education vouchers will fragment our community and weaken MMSD, a strong public school district whose doors are open to all students.
Date: Tuesday, March 5
Time: 10:30 am
Location: Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St.
GRUMPS: Nan Brien, Carol Carstensen
Businesspersons: Betty Custer, Founder and Managing Partner at Custer Financial Services,
Robert Gibson, Chairman and President, Composite Rebar Technologies, Inc.
Non-profit leaders: Michael Johnson, CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Dane County; Sal Carranza, Latino Education Council of Dane County; Eileen Mershart, Retired CEO, YWCA Madison
LWV: Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director, League of Women Voters, Wisconsin
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.

Madison school district in disarray

Marc Eisen:

The schools are failing to educate the district’s growing population of minority kids. Note that in 1991, 21% of students were non-white; 20 years later, the figure was 53%. Only about half of black and Latino youth graduate. The percentage deemed to be college-ready is embarrassingly small.
The district’s problems are not new. Almost a decade ago, John Wiley, then chancellor of UW-Madison, convened a meeting to discuss how the Madison schools, once a draw for faculty recruitment, were becoming a hindrance. Among the complainants, Wiley recounts, were top black UW faculty and staff who did not like how their children were treated in the Madison schools.
Those concerns, of course, echo loudly today in the efforts of the Urban League’s Kaleem Caire to address the problems of minority students in the Madison schools. For that effort, Caire has been ostracized by progressive leaders. My opinion is very different. I belong to the Urban League, and I think that Caire is uncommonly brave in facing unpleasant facts.
Like it or not, we’re in an era of change and choice in education. Extending public vouchers to private schools in Madison may be wild overreach by the governor, but Madison parents already have choices for schooling.
If they don’t like their neighborhood school, parents can open-enroll their child in any Madison school or even in a suburban district. They can pack up and move to a suburban district. They can enroll their kid in a public charter school like Nuestro Mundo. They can send their child to a private school. They can home-school. They can sign their kid up for one of the many online schools.
This is a good thing. As long as academic programs address state educational standards and meaningful accountability is in place, why shouldn’t parents be able to pick a school setting they feel best suits their child’s needs? More to the point, why shouldn’t the district’s response to the painful achievement gap demonstrate this flexibility?

The Madison School Board, Experience and our long time Disastrous Reading Results
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Elections, here.

We Are Milwaukee, Jr., much more on our Public Schools and the 2013 School Board Election

A David Dahmer, via kind reader:

That’s because there are two Madisons. At our own fun, liberal, near-eastside extravaganzas — La Fete de Marquette, Willy Street Fair, Marquette Waterfront Fest, Orton Fest, etc. — there’s nary a brown face or a black face in the crowd. Slightly less than you’d find at a Republican Convention. In the same vein, at all of the fantastic minority events that I go to in Madison, I am almost always the only white person in the room (except for Mr. Jon Gramling).
I often hear conversations among my white liberal friends talking smack about and making fun of Milwaukee and its hyper-segregation, its tremendous white flight, its subtle and overt racism. I want to shout at them. “WE ARE MILWAUKEE JR.”
In short, our white-dominated liberal events and organizations in Madison never come close to resembling our growing diverse population and never include multiple voices, styles, and cultural norms. While our discussion of the horrendous achievement gap that has existed in Madison for 40-plus years was finally started by a black guy, it’s only allowed to be discussed and solved by a small group of whites who have no feel for, connection to, or dialogue with the minority communities they want to save.
So, the challenge I issue today to all the nice white liberals in America’s third-best city to be a nice, white liberal is to finally make an effort to get to know all of the people of your city. Because you won’t slander somebody you know. You won’t fabricate things about them. You won’t silence their voices. You won’t ignore them. You won’t segregate them if you know them. Right?
As it turns out, Ananda was way more knowledgable, passionate, and qualified than Manski. As it turns out, she has no illicit ties; no evil far-right Republican intentions — just a Brazilian immigrant with incredible educational expertise and experience who has a minority child in a district that has for decades upon decades failed minorities.
But it’s too late for Ananda now. She should be at forums, debates, radio shows, and conferences expounding upon her vast and unique experience with education as we use our democratic system to flesh out the best candidate for the School Board job at this extremely crucial juncture in Madison.
But her voice has been silenced.
You can write her in (as I will) but a write-in candidacy is nearly impossible. My challenge to Madison is to get to know Ananda and all of the Anandas out there … before you completely dismiss them.

The Madison School Board, Experience and our long time Disastrous Reading Results
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Elections, here.

Ananda Mirilli: I was falsely depicted as pro-voucher

Pat Schneider:

It was a blistering blog last week by conservative David Blaska about the Madison School Board race that also-ran Ananda Mirilli says prompted her to protest that her campaign was a victim of political shenanigans long before Sarah Manski’s jaw-dropping withdrawal from the race.
Blaska called Seat 5 primary winner Manski’s pullout from the School Board race 48 hours after the primary as “so cheap and tawdry it defies explanation” and skewered the local liberal “Tammany Hall” that endorsed her.
Negative reaction to Manski’s move isn’t just coming from the right: “Has Madison politics ever seen such high-handed, self-absorbed behavior as that of leading vote-getter Sarah Manski?” asks former Isthmus editor Marc Eisen in a column.
In the aftermath of Manski’s withdrawal, people have questions. Some are speculating whether there was a conspiracy to recruit Manksi to run, knowing she might drop out, and then replace her on the School Board with a union-friendly pick. “Now we might have a conspiracy of liberals putting a person of color down … what about other conspiracies that people were pegged in to?” asks Mirilli, whose third-place primary finish keeps her off the April 2 ballot.
Mirilli said she doesn’t know what to make of the timing of Manski’s withdrawal: “It’s a coincidence — who knows who is telling the truth? But without a doubt, there was a conspiracy to say that I was pro-voucher,” Mirilli told me Wednesday. “But no one is investigating that.”
Mirilli shared an old email exchange Wednesday, before announcing that she would not pursue a write-in campaign, as many observers had been urging.

The Madison School Board, Experience and our long time Disastrous Reading Results
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Elections, here.

The Examination System in China, the Case of Zhongkao Mathematics

WU Yingkan, via a kind Richard Askey email (PDF):

xamination is a critical issue in education system in China. Zhongkao is a kind of graduation examination of junior high school, and at the same time, the entrance examination to senior high school. This paper describes the structure, features and changes in zhongkao mathematics in China based on a detailed analysis of 48 selected zhongkao mathematics papers from eight regions in recent six years. Examples of examination items are given to illustrate the identified features and changes. Zhongkao Mathematics, examination, features, changes, junior high school graduates
China is the birthplace of examination system. The imperial examination was started in 597 during the Sui Dynasty, and was banned in 1905 during the Qing dynasty (Li & Dai, 2009; Zhang, 1996). It lasted for about 1300 years. With the influence of the long existence of the imperial examination system, examination is of great importance in China. It attracts attention from parents, educators, teachers, students, policy makers and so on. It is a big issue in education.
There are two significant examinations for students in school education in China, which are called “zhongkao” and “gaokao”. Figure 1 shows the school education system in China. Students start their nine-year compulsory education usually at six years old. Most of them stay at elementary school for six years, and junior high school for three years. In some districts like Shanghai, students stay at elementary schools for five years and junior high school for four years. At the end of Grade Nine, all students take zhongkao, which is summative assessment of the nine-year compulsory education, and more importantly, the entrance examination to senior high school. Nearly 90% of junior high school graduates continue their study. About half of them go to senior high schools, and the other half enter secondary vocational schools (Ministry of education of China, 2010a). The results of zhongkao decide whether students go to key senior high school, ordinary senior high school or vocational school. At the end of three-year senior high school study, students take gaokao, which is the entrance examination to universities. About 80% senior high school graduates are promoted to tertiary education (Ministry of education of China, 2010a). The results of gaokao decide whether senior high school graduates go to key university, ordinary university, college, or other high education institutes.

Asperger Syndrome: What is it like to be a parent of a child with Asperger’s?

Quentin Hardy:

My son is 19 and has an autistic spectrum disorder akin to Asperger’s. Technically it’s NLD, but close enough. He also graduated from a high school specialized in kids on the spectrum, and attended numerous social skills groups. I’ve probably been around 100 people with something like Asperger’s. I’ve got another son who is, as they say, neurotypical, so I have some experience in contrast.
My first reaction is to point out that this is a highly individualized neurological condition. Any response you get is going to be rather particular, and comes through the prism not just of a disorder, but of an individual human personality.
Some people have Asperger’s and are cheerful, some are dark. Some are intelligent, some are not. Some are self-conscious, some are blithe. Some have large souls, and some are pinched. Like people. Asperger’s can be mild, which is what you usually see in the notable people who are said to have Asperger’s, or it can be severe, which is quite limiting.
In general though, you’ve got a kid without a ton of social skills. That means some things that come easy and natural around communication, particularly with peers, can be tough. This doesn’t matter much in the early years, and in some cases the kid’s oblique way of looking at things can make them attractive to other kids. As school progresses though, and other kids learn social nuance, an Asperger’s kid can be increasingly left out.
That is hard to watch, sometimes to a point of heartbreak – that depends in part on how much your kid cares about what other kids think, and again this varies. As someone watching various types of rejection happen to my kid, I have never yearned harder for normality. Not most popular, not the academic star, just…normal.


Quote of the Day: Diane Ravitch’s “Mistake”

Laura Waters:

In this review of Diane Ravitch’s book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education,” Gary Houchens, a former teacher, principal, and school administrator, criticizes Ravitch for the “mistake” she makes in conflating school choice and testing. Houchens writes, “There are many excellent public schools throughout the U.S. But Ravitch and defenders of the educational status quo seem blind to the fact that millions of children are being grossly underserved by government-run schools, which are the only option for most families of modest means. ”
Houchens, now a professor of Educational Administration, Leadership, and Research at Western Kentucky University, continues,

And this is another fundamental point that Ravitch and many other school choice opponents seem to miss. Just like traditional public schools, some schools of choice will be successful, while others will fail. The difference is that schools of choice that fail to satisfy their clients will go out of business, whereas failing public schools will continue to drain millions of dollars of taxpayer money forever. School choice is not a panacea for all of education’s problems, but it gives many families something they can only dream of under the current system: an option.

MIT Students Debate the Value of iPads in the Classroom

Justin Reich:

This is the time of year where I have the great pleasure of teaching an education class to undergraduates at MIT. We address two questions during the semester: “What’s worth learning?” and “How do we know that students are learning what’s worth learning?”
Most weeks, we have an online discussion about current events in education. This week, students chose to examine an article on a school district that just committed to a district-wide 1-1 iPad program. Their responses are characteristically thoughtful, and here are a few of their perspectives. We’ll be discussing this during our class meeting Wednesday at 2:30, so leave a comment or tweet a response (@bjfr) by then, and I’ll make sure the students get it.
For Individuals not Groups
As I said above, individual iPads for each student create barriers in the classroom. It’s hard for me to see how doing something on an iPad is better than doing without it. The best way to teach is to engage and motivate, and if throwing expensive technology is the school district’s plan, in my opinion they are wasting a lot of money. If everyone has an individual tablet, then it’s hard to make the argument that these iPads will bring the classroom together. Whenever we worked with laptops in my high school, the classroom felt empty when everyone quietly labored away on their keyboards. Even if the classroom is brought together through this technology, what is preventing them from working together without any Apple products? Ideally, it sounds nice to present every student with the best technology out there to do their work, but not at the expense of deteriorating classroom cohesiveness.
While I’m against the idea of having iPads in the classroom, I’m not opposed to using them outside the classroom. Great teaching is done with groups and collaboration, but reinforcement of material could be greatly improved with interactivity, social aspects and new technology. These are all areas where I think the iPad could be beneficial to learning.

French schools rethink their apprenticeships

Yann Morell y Alcover

French management schools are rethinking their apprenticeship policies as competition for public funding increases. While some schools are already reducing the number of apprentices, other schools are getting around this problem by setting up apprenticeship-like schemes through scholarships, internships or temporary contracts.
“The main challenge for the development of apprenticeships is the funding issue,” says Pierre Tapie, president and dean of Essec Business School and head of the Confédération des Grandes Écoles, a body which represents over 200 higher education institutions in France. Essec has already reduced the number of apprenticeships it offers to 650 from its peak of 760 in 2010.
Apprenticeships in France make it possible for people aged 16 to 25 to combine academic learning with concrete professional experience. The system involves a working contract signed by the employer, the apprentice and the training institution. Originally designed for vocational courses in the French lycées, it was opened to higher education in the late 1980s.

Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic

America’s Promise Alliance:

The most comprehensive graduation research report of late found that for the first time the U.S. is on track to meet the national Grad Nation goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the class of 2020. The national high school graduation rate increased 6.5 percentage points since 2001 with an average growth of 1.25 percentage points each year from 2006-2010 to 78.2. As a result of this acceleration more than 200,000 additional students received diplomas in 2010 than in 2006. The 2013 report update of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, released February 25 by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, shows that the nation continues to make progress.
This growth was driven in large part by significant gains in Hispanic and African American graduation rates, with Hispanic rates achieving the greatest gains, jumping 10 percentage points from 61 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010. Similarly, African American graduation rates rose from 59.2 percent in 2006 to 66.1 percent in 2010. The South also contributed to this accelerated pace, home to five of the top 10 states with the greatest improvements since 2006 but also the top seven states with the greatest decline in “dropout factory” high schools. A “dropout factory” is a high school in which 12th grade enrollment is 60 percent or less of 9th grade enrollment three years earlier.

Powerful Leader of Mexican Teachers’ Union Arrested

Randal Archibold:

The leader of Mexico’s powerful teachers’ union, the largest labor syndicate in Latin America, has been arrested on accusations that she embezzled millions of dollars in union funds for personal expenses, including California residences, cosmetic surgery and artwork, the country’s attorney general announced Tuesday night.
The arrest of the union boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, a bombastic figure viewed as a kingmaker among politicians for her ability to deliver votes and suppress enemies, stunned a nation accustomed to seeing powerful figures escape scrutiny despite whispers of their spending habits.
“She was this mixture of political patron, incredibly powerful union boss and very, very wildly ‘entrepreneurial,’ ” said Gabriel Guerra, a political analyst in Mexico City.
Ms. Gordillo was arrested a day after President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law sweeping changes in education law, designed to break the union’s grip on hiring and the administration of schools, and a day before the union planned to meet on a strategy to fight the changes. The timing of the arrest is sure to raise questions; Mexican presidents have been known to use the power of federal prosecutors to go after rivals, only for the cases to fall apart eventually.

What will happen if voucher schools come to Madison?

Jessica Vanegeren:

Two years ago when Gov. Scott Walker introduced a budget packed full of controversial changes that drastically affected public education statewide — including record funding cuts and the crippling of teachers unions — another change simultaneously hit the Racine public schools.
“The budget passed in July (2011) and the voucher program started in August,” says Marc Duff, the Racine Unified School District’s budget director and a former Republican state representative until 2002. “It all happened so quickly and at the same time we were dealing with all the other changes to collective bargaining and Act 10.”
Now, for the second budget in a row, Walker is talking vouchers. It’s a program first started in Milwaukee two decades ago that requires the state and school district to share in the cost of educating a student at a private rather than a public school. In the 2011-13 budget, Walker extended the voucher program to Racine.
Walker says they improve student educational performance and provide an alternative for parents whose children are in struggling public schools.

More here and here.

Commentary on Sarah Manski’s Sudden School Board Candidacy Withdrawal

The Capital Times:

Sarah Manski did the right thing when she quit the race for an open Madison School Board seat just days after finishing first in the Feb. 19 primary. Manski’s strong primary finish had positioned her as the front-runner in the general election April 2. But after she learned that her husband had been accepted for graduate school in California, she recognized that it is not appropriate to seek a term of office she could not complete.
Manski brought to the race big ideas and a commitment to build real coalitions to expand and improve upon Madison’s support for public education. She was relentless, and right, in her unequivocal rejection of Gov. Scott Walker’s cuts to school funding and assaults on local democracy. That’s why she won more than 45 percent of the vote in the primary.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.

Federal spending on education: It’s also about redistributing income

The Souix City Journal:

Please listen up. We are all being conned by the Obama administration. This year, the American taxpayer will fork over about $571 billion to pay for educating children in the nation’s public schools. All told, the country spends close to $16,000 per student every year on primary through college education. That’s the highest per-student spending rate in the world.
However, according to President Obama, it’s not enough. He wants more tax dollars, especially for “early education.” He said so in his State of the Union address, and it drew big-time applause from his crew. Of course we need to spend more on education. And anyone who opposes that hates kids!
The centerpiece of the president’s early-education vision is the “Head Start” program, which has been in place since 1965. Over the past 48 years, the feds have spent close to $200 billion on Head Start. But there’s one big problem: The program is not working.

More, here.

More on the Proposed New Wisconsin Charter School Environment

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin school boards would have less control over their own charter schools under Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal.
The changes could have major implications for districts such as Madison, where the School Board has exerted tight control over charter school expansion, including rejecting a school proposed by Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire that sought exemptions from district policies.
On Monday night, Madison School Board members said they might have to halt plans to revamp the district’s charter school policy.
“We’ve saved money and we’ve implemented programs and then with the swipe of a pen we have been outnumbered and outmanipulated by a governor who apparently wants to run for president,” board member Maya Cole said.
“I hope he’s really happy.”
The majority of charter schools in the state have less autonomy than others around the country, said Carrie Bonk, executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association. Walker’s proposal would change that.

The Legal Profession and Legal Education: Is It Time to Burn the Ships?

Georgetown Center for the Study of the Legal Profession:

As we enter 2013, the legal market continues in the fifth year of an unprecedented economic downturn that began in the third quarter of 2008. At this point, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the market for legal services in the United States and throughout the world has changed in fundamental ways and that, even as we work our way out of the economic doldrums, the practice of law going forward is likely to be starkly different than in the pre-2008 period. The challenge for lawyers and law firms is to understand the ways in which the legal market has shifted and to adjust their own strategies, expectations, and ways of working to conform to the new market realities. While there is certainly evidence that some firms and lawyers have begun to make these adjustments, many others seem to be in denial, believing (or perhaps hoping) that the world will go “back to normal” as soon as demand for legal services begins to grow again.
Legend has it that in 1519, when he and his cohort of some 500 soldiers and 100 sailors landed on the shores of the Yucatan intent on conquering the large and powerful Aztec empire, Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez promptly ordered his men to “burn the ships.” Cortez knew that, unless more tempting alternatives were removed, it would be difficult to motivate his men to take on an empire with a large army that had been in power for more than six centuries. Hence, his bold and decisive order.

America’s growing education gap: As a report calls for an overhaul of the US education system, we examine why social mobility is becoming unattainable.

Al Jazeera Inside America:

Multiple research in the US has shown that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And now the Equity and Excellence report, commissioned by the US Congress, says the US education system is largely to blame.
“This is a question of priorities, much of what has made the US great in the last decade was our investment in our people, human capital in our education system and what we are seeing is an unravelling of that system …. we see a constant defunding of the education system in the US… Instead of seeing the government push for education we see a push to privatise education. Education should mitigate the inequality at the starting gate and we should bring everyone to the starting line so everyone has an equal opportunity.”
– Sylvia Allegretto, a labour economist
The study says: “Ten million students in US’s poorest communities … are having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted by a system that consigns them to the lowest-performing teachers, the most run-down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities considerably lower than what we expect of other students.”
So what has become of the American dream? Despite growing up with economic hardships do you still have the opportunity for prosperity and financial success through hard work?
It is a notion that President Barack Obama recently alluded to in his inaugural address: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
However, the report on education says that in no other developed country has the system stacked the odds against so many of its children.

Madison School board hubbub just another mockery of democracy

Chris Rickert:

It’s ironic that democracy activist Sarah Manski would run for the Madison School Board knowing that if she won, she might have to resign before her term was up.
As it happened, she dropped out of the race on Thursday, just two days after winning her primary — turning what had been a solidly democratic contest among three candidates into a cakewalk for one. T.J. Mertz is now the only person on the ballot who could actually take the seat.
Ironic, too, that fellow progressive and current board vice president Marj Passman would allegedly — i.e., Passman denies it — tell Manski not to worry about having to resign because if she did, the board would, as Manski claims Passman told her, “appoint somebody good.”
But I can’t be that shocked about a pair of progressives in democratically engaged Madison engaging in some democratically questionable behavior when the process for electing school board members in Madison is itself a minor mockery of democracy.
Here’s why:

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Designing The Classroom To Enhance Learning

Annie Murphy Paul:

Classroom design can have a significant effect on students’ academic progress, reports Adi Bloom in the Times Educational Supplement:
“Academics from the University of Salford in Britain examined how much pupils’ environment affects their performance, looking at whether certain types of classrooms encourage learning learning. Their findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Building and Environment.
Researchers examined the academic achievement of 751 pupils, studying in 34 classrooms across seven schools. Their observations found that 73 per cent of the variation in pupils’ performance could be explained by environmental factors.
In fact, the difference between the academic performance of an average pupil placed in the worst classroom, compared with that of a pupil placed in the best classroom, was equal to the average improvement of a child during an entire academic year.”

Ultrasound reveals autism risk at birth

Michigan State University:

Low-birth-weight babies with a particular brain abnormality are at greater risk for autism, according to a new study that could provide doctors a signpost for early detection of the still poorly understood disorder.
Led by Michigan State University, the study found that low-birth-weight newborns were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism later in life if an ultrasound taken just after birth showed they had enlarged ventricles, cavities in the brain that store spinal fluid. The results appear in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“For many years there’s been a lot of controversy about whether vaccinations or environmental factors influence the development of autism, and there’s always the question of at what age a child begins to develop the disorder,” said lead author Tammy Movsas, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU and medical director of the Midland County Department of Public Health.

Evers deserves a second term

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Four years ago the State Journal editorial board worried that Tony Evers would “be a spokesman for the status quo” if elected state superintendent of schools.
Boy, were we wrong.
Evers has distinguished himself during these hyper-partisan times as a leader who cares more about results for Wisconsin schools and students than he does politics or publicity.
The State Journal strongly endorses his re-election April 2.
Like most of the educational establishment, Evers opposed Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s big cut in state aid to public schools coupled with strict limits on collective bargaining for teachers.

Madison’s Strings Program….. All Quiet?

For my family, one of the unexpected assets of the Madison School District was the Strings Program. Perennially under attack during the Superintendent Rainwater reign, I’ve seen little mention of the District’s String’s program, now available from grades 5 to 12. I only found this snippet on the Madison School District’s website:

Music opportunities continue to expand in Grades 5 through 12. Strings instruction is available to students starting in 5th grade and the curriculum is based on the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Instrumental Music. Students in grades 6 and 7 choose to participate in Band, Chorus, General Music, or Orchestra, which also have curriculum based on the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. In grades 8-12, students may elect to enroll in one of these classes or the additional elective courses at our high schools. These course in connection with the community musical offerings, provide a breadth of experiences to help build student skills and knowledge of music.

Is there more?

The Road Map Project: A Road Map for Large-Scale Improvement of K-12 Geography Education

National Geographic:

The Road Map Project brought together experts in geography, education, and research from across the U.S. to create a set of landmark reports focusing on key issues for educational improvement: instructional materials for students, education of teachers, assessment, research, and public attitudes. These road map reports will chart a course for the large-scale improvement of K-12 geography education in the U.S.
Funded by a 2-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, this project responds to the growing recognition among business leaders and policy makers that Americans lack the critical geographic understanding and reasoning skills that will be required for careers and civic life in the 21st century.

Is Smart Making Us Dumb? A revolution in technology is allowing previously inanimate objects–from cars to trash cans to teapots–to talk back to us and even guide our behavior. But how much control are we willing to give up?

Evgeny Morozov:

Would you like all of your Facebook FB -0.56% friends to sift through your trash? A group of designers from Britain and Germany think that you might. Meet BinCam: a “smart” trash bin that aims to revolutionize the recycling process.
BinCam looks just like your average trash bin, but with a twist: Its upper lid is equipped with a smartphone that snaps a photo every time the lid is shut. The photo is then uploaded to Mechanical Turk, the Amazon-run service that lets freelancers perform laborious tasks for money. In this case, they analyze the photo and decide if your recycling habits conform with the gospel of green living. Eventually, the photo appears on your Facebook page.
You are also assigned points, as in a game, based on how well you are meeting the recycling challenge. The household that earns the most points “wins.” In the words of its young techie creators, BinCam is designed “to increase individuals’ awareness of their food waste and recycling behavior,” in the hope of changing their habits.

All Madison elementary students should get mental health tests

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District should screen all elementary school students for mental health problems and develop school-based mental health clinics for older students, according to a district task force.
The Mental Health Task Force said in a report to the School Board on Monday that dwindling community resources, poor communication between service providers and school psychologists, and minority students not accessing mental health services to the same degree as their white peers are problems that need to be addressed.
“These are huge issues,” district chief of staff Steve Hartley said. “The president is talking about it. The governor is talking about it.”
The report comes as mental health has taken on greater prominence in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $30 million increase for spending on mental health services in his 2013-15 budget.
The report includes seven recommendations of a mental health task force formed nearly two years ago by former superintendent Dan Nerad.

As an aside, it is quite fascinating that DeFour’s article lacks any links, much less to the report (255K PDF). What year is it?

Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“Achievement Gap Plan”)

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

Sarah Manski and the messed up Madison school board election

Dave Cieslewicz:

I know Sarah and Ben Manski, and I wish them well in California. Congratulations to Ben for getting into a prestigious graduate program there.
But graduate schools don’t just call you up out of the blue and say you’re in! It’s not like the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes — you plan for this.
So, the question is, if Sarah Manski knew that her husband had a good chance of getting into school out there, and she knew she would go with him, then why did she run for school board in the first place? And while she was running, why didn’t she disclose that possibility?
Both Manskis have put transparency and concern about the process at the center of their careers. So why was it lacking here?

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board Election, here.

Is teachers union boss John Matthews behind the Manski-gate conspiracy?

David Blaska:

The Madison Machine has put the fix in to elect a school board wholly beholden to the teachers union. No one suffers more than the poorly served minority community in Madison. Its candidates are being undermined for the benefit of the insider power structure that has allowed the minority achievement gap to grow to alarming levels.
Madison School Board member Mary Burke supports my suspicions. She says Madison Teachers Inc. president John Matthews is the brains behind Sarah Manski’s Trojan horse candidacy. Whoever is its author, the gambit succeeded in blocking a freethinking minority candidate, Ananda Mirilli, from surviving the front-end-loaded primary, so precipitously concluded.
For the record, John Matthews responded with a monosyllabic “no” mid-Sunday afternoon to my inquiry: “Is Mary Burke correct? Are you the brains behind the Sarah Manski bait and switch?”
So far, School Board member Marj Passman, the union’s most vociferous defender, and a longtime water carrier for the union, is left holding the bag. Matthew DeFour’s fine reportage in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal reports this:
Manski said she didn’t plan to run for School Board, but entered the race because Passman and a few other people [my italics] very strongly encouraged her to run. She declined to say who the other people were.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? School Calendar

Madison Teachers, Inc. newsletter (PDF) via a kind Jeannie Bettner email

Does it matter to you when school begins in the fall? How about when and how long winter or spring break is? And, how about when the school year ends? Have you thought about how many days you work for your annual salary, or how many hours make up your school day? In members’ responses to many years of MTI bargaining surveys, all of these factors are “very important” to those in MTI’s various bargaining units.
It was MTI’s case in 1966 which gave teacher unions an equal voice on all of the above topics. Ruling for MTI, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the school calendar is a mandatory subject of bargaining, meaning that a school district in Wisconsin must negotiate with the Union to determine each of the factors described above. Unfortunately, Governor Walker’s Act 10 in effect overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling because Act 10 removed workers’ rights to collectively bargain.
Impact? Act 10 enables a school board without a good conscience to engage in mischief or abuse of all MTI-represented staff, especially teachers, because teachers are paid an annual salary not on an hourly basis.
So far, the Board of Education has continued to negotiate the school calendar with MTI. In 2012’s negotiations, the calendar was agreed upon through the 2013-14 school year. MTI is fighting to overturn Act 10 and to restore the Union’s right to negotiate over the school calendar.

Q &A: Willie Ney celebrates First Wave’s ‘genius’ students

Lindsay Christians:

Willie Ney, a self-described “multicultural activist” on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in the 1990s, heard teens performing poetry and saw revolutionary potential.
Starting in 2003, Ney took an exploding, coast-to-coast movement of spoken word poetry and created the country’s first hip-hop academic program on a university campus. Ney is now executive director of the UW-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives, which oversees the First Wave Spoken Word and Urban Arts Learning Community.
Each year, First Wave accepts 15 students, gives each of them a full-ride scholarship, and crafts a curriculum to encourage their skills in poetry, political activism, music, dance and theater. Their success could prove what Ney predicted years ago.
“Whichever university takes a risk on these kids, the cutting-edge kids of the 21st century, they’ll revolutionize the institution,” Ney said. “This is the most exciting thing happening in high school. These kids are literary geniuses, so it correlates well to academics.

Wisconsin ranks 38th out of 41 states in progress in reading and math between 1992 and 2011

The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind reader’s email:

The bad news: A Harvard Study using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) finds that Wisconsin ranks 38th out of 41 states in progress in reading and math between 1992 and 2011. Both low and high performing states from 1992 have outperformed us, and they tend to be states where serious reforms were made in instructional content and pedagogy. The top 10 show up on many lists of states with improved reading instruction: Maryland, Florida, Delaware, Massachusetts, Louisiana, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Virginia. Some of these states served as models for our recent Wisconsin legislation on early reading screening and a new reading exam for teacher licensure. A logical next step is to look at what they are doing for professional development for their in-service teachers of reading. Which leads to . . .
The good news: A committed group of 38 teachers and tutors will spend 12 Saturdays in 2013 being trained in LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling). LETRS is a comprehensive professional development program created by Louisa Moats, the primary author of the foundational reading standards of the Common Core State Standards. LETRS is quite common elsewhere in the country: in some states it is the official state-funded development tool for teachers of reading, and in some cases it is required for certain teaching licenses. Despite its popularity and proven value, it has not been available in Wisconsin. The current opportunity is being sponsored by the Milwaukee Summer Reading Project, an initiative of Howard Fuller’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University. UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education is hosting at their conference facilities in downtown Milwaukee. The training is being presented by Alicia Sparks through the Rowland Reading Foundation, which is a LETRS affiliate site. Participants include teachers from public and charter schools in Milwaukee and Wausau, as well as tutors from a variety of literacy programs for children and adults in Milwaukee and Madison. This training is at capacity, but other communities interested in sponsoring LETRS training can contact the Rowland Reading Foundation in Middleton.

The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-By-State Spending Analysis

Marguerite Roza, Monica Ouijdani, via a kind Deb Britt email:

Constrained revenues are forcing some districts to cut staff, which can drive up class sizes. While media reports tell us class sizes are rising to concerning levels, some researchers and education leaders suggest that repurposing class-size reduction funds to pay for other reforms may not be such a bad idea.
Consideration of whether smaller classes are preferable to larger ones requires some recognition of the opportunity costs involved. While smaller classes are on many levels desirable, they come with a hefty price tag. And so, in an environment of scarce resources, those seeking better outcomes in education have begun rethinking previous decisions to lock up their funds in small classes.
Practically speaking, class sizes vary from state to state, and any discussion of tradeoffs makes most sense in the context of the existing arrangement. Political tolerance for raising class sizes might depend on the magnitude of current class sizes, as well as the level of funds that can be repurposed in doing so.

There’s no shortage of ideas for reforming higher education–the National Association of Scholars has 100.

Jay Schalin:

It is getting harder to ignore the fact that American higher education is in great need of reform. Academia is lurching along unsteadily down an unsustainable and uncertain future–with rising student debt, suffocating political correctness, falling standards, and unrestrained debauchery. Change is inevitable; whether it will come from deliberate policy changes or as an inevitable collapse remains to be seen.
The problems do not come from a shortage of viable ideas to set academia on the right path, but, rather, from Ivory Tower intransigence and denial. Ideas for reform are everywhere; some are proven, some are untried, some are still up for judgment, but many can certainly improve the status quo.
In celebration of the 100th issue of Academic Questions, a publication of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), 100 academics, higher education critics, and independent scholars were asked for their suggestions on how to improve this obstinate and arrogant institution, the Ivory Tower. The results appear in the 100th issue, entitled “One Hundred Great Ideas for Higher Education.” The publication of these ideas coincides with the NAS’s 25th anniversary celebration. (For more information about that celebratory event in New York City on March 1-2, 2013, please visit the organization’s website.)

High school graduation rate up sharply, but red flags abound

Stephanie Simon:

For the first time in decades, the United States is making steady gains in the number of high school students earning diplomas, putting it on pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, according to a new analysis released Monday.
But the good news comes with a big asterisk: students with learning disabilities and limited fluency in English face long odds to finish high school, with graduation rates for those groups as low as 25 percent in some states, the analysis found. Minority students also continue to fall well behind their white peers, with about one-third of African-American students and 29 percent of Hispanic students dropping out before graduation.
The “Building a Grad Nation” report – which was co-authored by Robert Balfanz, a leading scholar of dropout rates at Johns Hopkins University – found strong improvements in graduation rates in a diverse collection of states including Tennessee, Louisiana, Alaska, California, Texas and New York. The national graduation rate jumped from 71.7 percent in 2001 to 78.2 percent in 2010, with the pace of improvement accelerating in the past few years.
“For the first time in 40 years, we have seen significant, sustained improvement,” said John Bridgeland, a co-author of the study and the chief executive of Civic Enterprises, a public policy group in Washington, D.C.

How Well Does ‘Rate My Professors’ Rate?

Janice Fiamengo:

“I fell asleep often.” This is an anonymous comment by a student on the website “Rate My Professors,” where instructors are ranked as “Good Quality,” “Average Quality,” and “Poor Quality,” with anecdotal assessments included. The comment by the sleepy student is not an admission of ill-preparedness, a confession of intellectual laziness, or even simply an acknowledgement of too many nights at the pub. It is a self-evident accusation: the professor who can’t keep this student awake is a dull fellow, and other students should beware.
As anyone knows who has checked this public site, Rate My Professors is full of such accusations against professors — for being boring, overly demanding, or ungenerous about marks or deadlines. “He means well but his grading is very hard on students,” reads one such complaint, with the implication produced by the ambiguous wording that low marks are an unjust hardship. Professors are frequently castigated for sins of “over-intellectualizing,” “droning on about versification,” and — a frequent lament — having “unreasonable expectations.” One instructor is “not very personable” while another “does not give students the opportunity to excel.” Another prof “makes such meticulous effort to choose her vocabulary that much of her lecture loses all meaning.” The same commentator warns, in explanation of a “Poor Quality” ranking, “Be prepared to listen HARD and think.”

Ball of Confusion: On the Madison Public Schools

John Roach:

I feel like my head is going to explode.
As a Dem-leaning, Urban League board member; fiscally cautious, small business-owning product of both private and public education; and a native Madisonian proud of our city’s progressive past, why do I feel caught in a remake of the Temptations’ old-school classic “Ball of Confusion”?
Maybe it began December 19, 2011. That’s when I heard Madison School Board member Marj Passman painfully explain why she was going to vote against Madison Prep, the initiative designed to get more of Madison’s black students college ready.
In artfully prepared notes, an emotional Passman, who is a former teacher and proud Madison Teachers Inc. member, echoed her earlier op-ed for the The Capital Times defining her view of public schools, including the important and noble benefits of equal opportunity and the responsibilities of preparing students to be economically self-sufficient and improving social conditions.
Yet Passman voted against the sentiment of black parents that night who eloquently described an experience in Madison’s schools that ran counter to the very goals she listed.
Passman was caught in a progressive conundrum of the first order. Vote for current educational models and justice for teachers unions, or listen to the voices of a community asking for new ideas and justice for their struggling kids? A tough call for any progressive.
The head spun more during a conversation with MTI leader John Matthews. He offered his view on teacher accountability. A champion of union rights, Matthews maintained teachers shouldn’t compete against each other for pay, but rather work together collaboratively to create better schools. Yet, at a later meeting, Matthews was put on his heels when Urban League president and native Madisonian Kaleem Caire asked why, in 2010 with less than fifty percent of young black males in Madison graduating from high school, not one of Madison’s 2,700 teachers was dismissed for any reason, including substandard performance.
Our kids compete for grades and are held accountable for performance. Yet teachers shouldn’t compete, and accountability for them is a word rife with conflict? So a champion of Madison’s black poor challenges the champion of teachers. The head spins.

Related: And so it continues……

The Ripon Teacher Compensation Model

Superintendent Richard Zimman:

The Ripon teacher compensation model was designed around three basic concepts: 1) individual annual improvement; 2) peer collaboration; 3) professional environment. As compared to the traditional step and lane salary schedule based on years of experience and graduate credits or the merit-pay system based on competitive ranking of teachers, the Ripon model is intended to build a collaborative, professional environment which supports each teacher in building his/her craft as an effective instructor. We firmly believe that five years from now our schools will be better places to work and learn than those schools where teachers are compensated by the other systems.
Let me explain why I can make that statement.
First, we focus on individual annual improvement. If we hire the right people, support them with appropriate staff development, and evaluate them with a research-based coaching model (we use the CESA 6 Teacher Effectiveness Program), then our goal is to help these teachers grow and improve each and every year. Rather than having them compete with each other, we want them to compete with themselves like a runner or swimmer trying to better his/her time with deliberate practice. If every one of our teachers is better next year than this year, and better in two years than next year, and this cycle of annual improvement continues, then our students will be receiving better instruction every year which will result in higher student achievement. Just imagine five years into the future after five continuous years of every teacher improving (or removed if performance is not up to standard). We’ll put that future against the result of any other system because they either create complacency or winners and losers in a competitive ranking.

760K PDF document:

The RASD Teacher Salary Plan was designed in the 2011-12 school year by a joint committee of Ripon teachers, administrators, and school board members. Modeled loosely on the collegiate promotion system in use at Ripon College, the driving vision was to reinforce quality instruction by fostering a culture of professionalism through peer review, accountability through a job-embedded salary structure, and continuous improvement through lifelong learning. This compensation system recognizes that there are significant differences between business and academic organizations, public and private sectors, and the development of people and products. A goal of the RASD Teacher Salary Plan is to promote a positive and collaborative learning environment in which teachers are compensated for their professionalism.
II. Overview
A single-lane, career ladder is used as the basis for salary advancement (see Appendix I). There are five distinct levels through which a typical teacher will pass through during a career spanning 2-3 decades of employment with the RASD. Teachers typically move from one level to the next level every six years through a promotion process based on peer review. Instead of the promotion process, the top level uses an evidence-based, professional growth model with financial incentives in the form of annual bonuses. Advancement requires collaboration, professionalism, and evidence of continuous improvement based on personal reflection and ongoing feedback from peers, administrators, students, and parents. In addition to the salary amount indicated on the salary structure, annual stipends are provided throughout a teacher’s career for advanced degrees and National Board certification.
III. Career Levels
The single-lane salary structure is based on a sequence of six-year career levels (Beginner, Intermediate, Associate, Lead) which were loosely based on collegiate levels (e.g., Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Full Professor). The final career level is the much-respected Veteran status, similar to the collegiate capstone of an endowed chair. It is very important to note that these levels are stages in a career for all teachers and are not based on proficiency or skill level. Just as the collegiate system does not equate a full professor rank with a higher teaching proficiency rating than an assistant professor rank, the RASD Salary Plan does not contain any proficiency ranking of teachers. Promotions from one career level to another are based on evidence of professional improvement in a multi-faceted review process. This is a professional advancement career ladder and not a merit-based or performance-based pay system.

Getting Preschool Education Right

The New York Times:

Even before the cost estimates and program details have been made public, President Obama’s proposal for expanding high-quality preschool education has encountered criticism from House Republicans. Yet decades of research has shown that well-designed preschool programs more than pay for themselves by giving young children the skills they need to move ahead. The challenge at the federal level will be to make sure that taxpayer dollars flow to proven, high-quality programs instead of being wasted on subsidies for glorified day care.

Critical Thinking: Why is it So Hard to Teach?

Daniel Willingham, via a kind reader’s email (pdf):

Virtually everyone would agree that a primary, yet insufficiently met, goal of schooling is to enable students to think critically. In layperson’s terms, critical thinking consists of seeing both sides of an issue, being open to new
evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning dispassionately, demanding that claims be backed by evidence, deducing and inferring conclusions from available facts, solving problems, and so forth. Then too, there are specific types of critical thinking that are characteristic of different subject matter: That’s what we mean when we refer to “thinking like a scientist” or “thinking like a historian.”
This proper and commonsensical goal has very often been translated into calls to teach “critical thinking skills” and “higher-order thinking skills” – and into generic calls for teaching students to make better judgments, reason more logically, and so forth. In a recent survey of human resource officials1 and in testimony delivered just a few months ago before the Senate Finance Committee,2 business leaders have repeatedly exhorted schools to do a better job of teaching students to think critically. And they are not alone. Organizations and initiatives involved in education reform, such as the National Center on Education and the Economy, the American Diploma Project, and the Aspen Institute, have pointed out the need for students to think and/or reason critically. The College Board recently revamped the SAT to better assess students’ critical thinking. And ACT, Inc. offers a test of critical thinking for college students.

U.S. history and the power of re-education

Daniel Sellers:

We’ve had generations to act on our public education shortcomings. But we haven’t. The Deep South now outpaces Minnesota by numerous accounts. We trail the nation.
If Minnesota’s white students posted nation-worst achievement and graduation rates, we’d have redesigned education overnight.
Instead we protect status quo, punishing those who are “different” than us.
Our toilsome history
In 1865, the U.S. Congress voted “yea” on the Thirteenth Amendment. Passing in the House of Representatives by a mere two votes, we abolished slavery and brought closure to the bloody Civil War.

America’s higher education faces economic hurdles

Catharine B. Hill:

The recession continues to create challenges for higher education in the US. Appropriate responses depend on expectations for the economy in the future, and whether the shocks we have experienced are short- or longer-term trends. Moody’s US Higher Education Outlook Negative in 2013 report does little to address these issues.
The optimal response to a cyclical change is to not allow significant changes to the structure of the colleges and universities. But if a change is permanent, adjustments are warranted. Of course, it is difficult to know whether shocks are permanent or temporary – there is a tendency to assume positive shocks are permanent and negative ones temporary, leading to inappropriate policy responses when wrong. This explains some of the problems facing many colleges and universities.
One of the most important developments in the US economy is the growth of real incomes. In the past decade, real incomes have suffered, putting downward pressure on tuition increases at many institutions. If real income growth picks up, so will the ability of some institutions to increase tuition.

Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

Joseph Stiglitz:

President Obama’s second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America’s commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”
The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.
Perhaps a hundred years ago, America might have rightly claimed to have been the land of opportunity, or at least a land where there was more opportunity than elsewhere. But not for at least a quarter of a century. Horatio Alger-style rags-to-riches stories were not a deliberate hoax, but given how they’ve lulled us into a sense of complacency, they might as well have been.

Test Scores of Hispanics Vary Widely Across 5 Most Populous States, Analysis Shows

Motoko Rich:

Of all the changes sweeping through the American public education system, one of the most significant is simply demographic: the growing population of Hispanic students.
A new analysis released Thursday of nationwide test results in the five most populous states — California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas — shows that depending on where they live, Hispanic students’ academic performance varies widely.
According to the report, which examines data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often cited as the most reliable standard in academic testing, Hispanic students accounted for more than half of all eighth graders in California in 2011, the highest proportion in the country. But only 14 percent of those students were proficient on eighth-grade reading tests administered by the United States Department of Education.

Barbara Thompson Did Not Make the Madison School Board’s Final Two Superintendent Candidate Beauty Contest

I applaud the Wisconsin State Journal’s efforts to dig deeper into the Madison Superintendent search process. A kind reader pointed out to me how “shocking” it is that Barbara Thompson was NOT one of the two finalists.
The Madison School Board named these two finalists:

Jennifer Cheatham – apparently selected.
Walter Milton, Jr. – withdrew under a cloud of controversy.
from a larger group that included:

  • Joe Gothard, Madison’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.
  • Barbara Thompson, a former Madison principal and New Glarus superintendent who is currently superintendent in Montgomery, Ala.
  • Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent from the Puyallup School District near Tacoma, Wash.
  • Curtis Cain, administrator of the Shawnee Mission School District near Kansas City, Mo.
  • Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colo.

And So, It Continues 2: “Pro Union” or “Union Owned”

Madison School Board.

Chris Rickert:

There’s also the obvious point: If seniority and degree attainment make for better teachers, why are seniority protections and automatic raises for degree attainment necessary in a collective bargaining agreement or an employee handbook?
One would think good teachers should have secure employment, dibs on choice positions and regular raises by virtue of being, well, good teachers.
I’m not drawing attention to the ridiculousness of seniority and degree-attainment perks because I think Walker’s decision to effectively end public-sector collective bargaining was a good one.
But support for these common contract provisions is one way to measure school board candidates.
There’s a difference, after all, between being pro-union and union-owned.

Focus needed on long-term educational goals by Dave Baskerville:

There is now much excitement around Madison and the state with the selection of a new Madison School District superintendent, the upcoming election of new School Board members, the expected re-election of State Superintendent Tony Evers, the rollout of new Common Core state standards, and now a vigorous debate, thanks to our governor, over the expansion of school vouchers.
The only problem is that for those of us who pay attention to classroom results and want to see our students really move out of second-class global standings, there is no mention of long-term “stretch goals” that could really start getting all of our kids — black and white, poor and middle class — reading like the Canadians, counting like the Singaporeans or Finns, and doing science like the Japanese — in other words, to close the gaps that count long-term.
Let’s focus on two stretch goals: Wisconsin’s per capita income will be 10 percent above Minnesota’s by 2030, and our eighth grade math, science and reading scores will be in the top 10 globally by 2030.
This would take not only vision, but some serious experimentation and radical changes for all of us. Can we do it? Of course, but not with just “feel good” improvement and endless debate over means to that end, and without clear global benchmarks, score cards, and political will.
The New Madison Superintendent Needs to “Make Things Happen”, a Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Barely half of the district’s black students are graduating from high school in four years. That’s a startling statistic. Yet it hasn’t produced a dramatic change in strategy.
Ms. Cheatham, it’s your job to make things happen.
Your top priority must be to boost the performance of struggling students, which requires innovation, not just money. At the same time, Madison needs to keep its many higher-achieving students engaged and thriving. The district has lost too many families to the suburbs, despite a talented staff, diverse offerings and significant resources.
Being Madison’s superintendent of schools will require more than smarts. You’ll need backbone to challenge the status quo. You’ll need political savvy to build support for action.
Your experience leading reform efforts in urban school districts is welcome. And as chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, you showed a willingness to put the interests of students ahead of the grown-ups, including a powerful teachers union.
We appreciate your support for giving parents more options, including public charter schools and magnets. You seem to understand well the value of strong teacher and student assessments, using data to track progress, as well as staff development.
The traditional classroom model of a teacher lecturing in front of students is changing, and technology can help provide more individualized attention and instruction. The long summer break — and slide in learning — needs to go.

Madison School Board Election Intrigue (Public!)

he top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Madison School Board primary said Friday she ran for the seat knowing she might not be able to serve out her term because her husband was applying for graduate school in other states.
Sarah Manski, who dropped out of the race Thursday, said she mentioned those concerns to School Board member Marj Passman, who Manski said encouraged her to run. Passman told her it wouldn’t be a problem if she had to resign her seat because the board would “appoint somebody good,” Manski said.
Passman vigorously denied encouraging Manski to run or ever knowing about her husband’s graduate school applications. After learning about Manski’s statement from the State Journal, Passman sent an email to other School Board members saying “I had no such conversation with her.”
“It’s sad to believe that this kind of a person came close to being elected to one of the most important offices in our city,” Passman wrote in the email, which she also forwarded to the State Journal.
Manski said in response “it’s possible (Passman) didn’t remember or it’s possible it’s politically inconvenient for her to remember.”

And so it continues, part 1.

Finally, My Thesis On Academic Procrastination

Justin McCloskey:

References to procrastination have been dated back to as long as 3,000 years ago. However, research on procrastination is ironically enormously behind the curve in active research on its antecedents and effects. Academic procrastination is a unique outlet of procrastinatory tendencies and is the object of much less scientific research. Academic procrastination occurs when students needlessly delay completing projects, activities or assignments and has been linked to lower academic grades, poorer well-being, and more stress. Studies have found procrastination to be a vital predictor of success in college and the development of a scale upon which to measure it could be quite profitable to colleges and universities. Numerous scales such as the Lay (1986) General Procrastination Scale, the Solomon and Rothblum (1984) Procrastination Assessment Scale for Students, and the Choi and Moran (2009) scale have been used to measure procrastination. However, the Tuckman (1991) Procrastination Scale is the most widely-used scale to identify academic procrastinators.The current study examined these scales as compared to a new scale, the Academic Procrastination Scale (APS). The main goal of the current study was the development of a superior academic procrastination scale. The 25-item APS was originally developed in a pilot study using 86 undergraduate college students and was based on six different characteristics of procrastinators: Psychological belief about abilities, distractions of attention, social factors, time management skills, personal initiative, and laziness. The current study examined the relationship between the APS and the personality trait of conscientiousness and the predictive ability of the APS in regards to academic success as compared to the other procrastination scales.In the current study, a total of 681 participants responded to a survey. Participants were, on average, 21 years of age and came from diverse academic majors and demographic backgrounds. The APS exhibited greater reliability and internal consistency, á = .94, as compared to the four other scales. The APS also exhibited ample convergent validity and was significantly correlated with the other scales. The APS was also significantly related to Grade Point Average (GPA); as individuals procrastinated more, they possessed a significantly lower GPA. Yet, the APS proved far superior at predicting grades in school as compared to the four most widely-used procrastination scales. The APS even added incremental validity beyond these four scales in predicting semester grades. The APS also predicted variance in grades beyond a well-known personality predictor, conscientiousness. Moreover, scores on the APS fully mediated this established relationship between conscientiousness and grades.A factor analysis of the APS revealed one underlying factor, seemingly indicating that the scale was measuring academic procrastination. Test bias could possibly destroy a scale’s validity and was therefore assessed using two different procedures. An Analysis of Variance revealed that scores on the APS did not systematically vary with such irrelevant variables as gender, ethnicity, academic major or academic year. The Lautenschlager and Mendoza (1986) approach found that scores did, however, vary across ethnicity with Caucasians exhibiting a higher GPA across all levels of the APS when compared to African Americans. This trend was also found for the Tuckman scale, however. However, this bias could potentially be explained by GPA varying across ethnicity with Caucasians exhibiting a significantly higher cumulative GPA as compared to Hispanics or African Americans. Although the internal consistency of the APS was quite high, it is also symptomatic of redundant items. Thus, the possibility of reducing the scale to five items was assessed and validated. This shortened scale also exhibited adequate reliability, á = .87.Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores are used across the country to select students on the basis of success in college. However, both the APS and SAT uniquely predict college grades and together, account for 16% of the variance in college grades. It is even proposed that the current scale be used in conjunction with SAT scores to predict success in college. The APS could add significant validity to such a collegiate selection procedure. If procrastination is consistently found to have negative consequences, then students who exhibit higher scores on the APS could also be remediated in educational settings. Thus, based on results from the current study, the APS could be used as a valid, reliable, and instrumental tool within the educational community.

Better Charter Schools in New York City

The New York Times:

From a national standpoint, the 20-year-old charter school movement has been a disappointment. More than a third of these independently run, publicly funded schools are actually worse than the traditional public schools they were meant to replace. Abysmal charter schools remain open for years, even though the original deal was that they would be shut down when they failed to perform. New York City’s experience, however, continues to be an exception.
For the second time in three years, a rigorous study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes shows that the typical New York City charter school student learns more in a year in reading and math than his or her peers in their neighborhood district schools. The difference, over a typical year, amounts to about a month’s more learning in reading — and a whopping five months’ more learning in math.

Debt-Ridden Maryland Buys Every Athlete an iPad

Lynn Zinser:

At first blush, the news item that Maryland has announced plans to buy an iPad for every one of its roughly 500 athletes at a cost of about $300,000 seems like just another case of temporary insanity caused by the recruiting arms races.
But when you realize this is the same Maryland athletic department that announced it was bolting as a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for the big payday of joining the Big Ten because of its crippling department debt, which prompted it to drop seven sports programs, the insanity seems more than temporary.

UK School wi-fi ‘not fit for 21st Century learning’

Judith Burns:

Pupils in England are at risk of missing out because their schools do not have good enough wi-fi, figures suggest.
Schools need fully accessible wi-fi if they are to embrace digital learning in all subjects, argues Valerie Thompson of the E-Learning Foundation.
But only a quarter of schools achieve this, suggests the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa).
“It’s vital to a 21st Century learning environment,” said Ms Thompson.
The data comes from surveys of a representative panel of some 600 state schools across England, carried out by market research company C3 Education for Besa.
Of 250 secondary schools, about 22% said they had wi-fi in most or all classrooms, 39% had it in some classrooms, leaving 39% with wi-fi in only a few or no classrooms.

Oakland School District Says No to Renewing EOLA’s Charter, Concerns on Police Chief’s Report

Serena Valdez:

At Wednesday night’s Oakland school board meeting, there were few empty seats and dozens of people with speaker cards to discuss the several adult education programs that may be cut. Adult education, however, was not on the agenda and the board did not make any comments regarding any cuts.
Instead, the board approved to deny the charter renewal for East Oakland Leadership Academy High.
Philip Dotson, acting director of the Office of Charter Schools, read the report highlighting why the charter should not be renewed for EOLA based on figures developed over the five years the charter has been in place.

Teacher Leadership As A School Improvement Strategy

David Cohen:

As we settle into 2013, I find myself increasingly optimistic about the future of the teaching profession. There are battles ahead, debates to be had and elections to be contested, but, as Sam Cooke sang, “A change is gonna come.”
The change that I’m most excited about is the potential for a shift towards teacher leadership in schools and school systems. I’m not naive enough to believe it will be a linear or rapid shift, but I’m confident in the long-term growth of teacher leadership because it provides a common ground for stakeholders to achieve their goals, because it’s replicable and scalable, and because it’s working already.
Much of my understanding of school improvement comes from my teaching career – now approaching two decades in the classroom, mostly in public high schools. However, until six years ago, I hadn’t seen teachers putting forth a compelling argument about how we might begin to transform our profession. A key transition for me was reading a Teacher Solutions report from the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ). That 2007 report, Performance-Pay for Teachers: Designing a System that Students Deserve, showed how the concept of performance pay could be modified and improved upon with better definitions of a variety of performance, and differentiated pay based on differentiated professional practice, rather than arbitrary test score targets. I ended up joining the CTQ Teacher Leaders Network the same year, and have had the opportunity ever since to learn from exceptional teachers from around the country.

Online education the way of the future

Tracy Larrabee:

One might say that the advent of online education has been disruptive for higher education in California. One might also say that the advent of penicillin was disruptive for the practice of medicine.
More than 20 years ago, technology began to creep into my teaching. Ten years ago, I began to use electronics to present information in my classrooms and to allow students, even remote ones, to give me input during class.
Now, everything I say, present or draw during class is posted to the class website as it happens; any student with Web access can submit questions, suggestions or comments to me during my lectures. I love how dynamic my lectures have become with the varied opportunities for student input. I am hooked, and so are my students.

Neenah teachers plan suit over loss of $170,000 retirement stipends

Bruce Vielmetti:

Teachers all over Wisconsin lost benefits after Bruce Vielmetti:Act 10 eliminated most collective bargaining by public employees.
But maybe none lost more than those in Neenah, where hundreds of veteran educators are now headed to court in a class-action lawsuit to try to win back $170,000 in stipends, which supplemented their regular pensions.
District officials said changes to the retirement plan were necessary in light of $185 million in unfunded retirement liabilities.
“Obviously, you care about what your neighbors think, but ultimately you have to look out for your family,” said Tim Hopfensperger, 49, who noted he passed up administrative jobs in other districts because the extra pay over 10 years still wouldn’t match what he thought he had coming from Neenah, where he’s been an elementary school teacher since he was recruited from Germantown schools in 1990.
For years, Neenah’s teachers enjoyed one of the most generous retirement plans in Wisconsin. Many who were hired in the 1990s could retire at age 55 if they had 15 years with the district and get big stipends on top of their regular state retirement, plus health care coverage until they were eligible for Medicare.
The payment was based on 10 annual payments of one-half the starting teacher salary in the district, which last year was $34,319, or about $170,000. Teachers hired after July 1, 1998, had to work 20 years and reach age 57 to collect eight annual payments. Those hired after 2003 were eligible for less lucrative retirement enhancements.

Related on the adult employment focus of school districts.

Scott Walker’s budget proposal could increase charter school growth

Alan Borsuk:

Just what is a charter school? That’s the question I get most often when I talk to people in the general public. It’s a good question. What’s going on with charter schools around here is both important and tough to grasp.
Gov. Scott Walker unveiled ideas last week for momentous steps related to education around the state as part of his budget proposal for the next two years.
One of them was not allowing public schools to spend more money for operations in the next two years than they’re spending now. I was betting Walker would back a modest increase, at least in line with increased state aid for schools. By not increasing what is called the revenue cap on schools, Walker effectively proposed using increased education aid for property tax relief, not education. That would mean putting public schools statewide in increasingly tight circumstances. Will Republicans in the Legislature accept that or moderate it? A big question for the coming months.
Another Walker proposal would allow launching private school vouchers in as many as nine more cities in the state (Milwaukee and Racine have them now). It’s very controversial and we’ll talk about it in coming weeks.
But Walker’s budget proposal also includes important charter school changes. Those have gotten less attention, so let’s focus on them here, mostly in the form of a primer on charters.

Change is essential if libraries want to survive

Mark Smith:

This week, I will not go to the library.
I did not go to the library last week either, or the week before that. I have not borrowed from a library for 25 years. The one I used as a boy in Aberdeen has been pulled down and is now a field; many more in the city and across the country are threatened with closure. But I’m not upset by any of this; I do not cry over what’s happened or bemoan the end of libraries because they are based on an idea that is no longer working.
The orthodoxy says otherwise – and it’s an orthodoxy delivered with aggressive certainty. Libraries do all kinds of wonderful things, say their supporters: they promote justice, literacy and health, minimise social division and, these days, provide free downloadable books and a coffee and a bun as well. This diversification is presented as the solution to the decline of libraries, but is, in fact, the problem: going into a library now is like going into HMV or Woolies just before it closed. It is a model that is confused and unclear; it no longer knows why it is there. And as for free downloadable books in libraries: like Kindles in Waterstones, that is like inviting a pussy cat into an aviary – the route to certain destruction from within.

Quick Question: Should Wisconsin’s school voucher program be expanded to include Madison?

The Capital Times:

Here’s how five citizens answered this week’s question (on the expansion of Wisconsin voucher school opportunities) posed by Capital Times freelancer Kevin Murphy. What do you think? Please join the discussion.
“Yes, I think parents should have the choice to decide which school their children will attend and this would allow them to have the money to make that choice instead of having to go to the one in the area they live. Choice is better for everyone — parents too. When you give people the power to decide, it gives school districts an incentive to improve their programs for the students or they will go elsewhere.”
Beatrice Makesa
financial analyst
“I don’t think taking money away from public schools and giving it to private ones is right. I’m from California where our schools are in (bad) shape because the public schools don’t have enough money to do a good job of educating. I don’t want to see that happen here. In the city of Los Angeles, there’s a handful of relevant public schools due to lack of state funding and that leaves everyone else trying to get into private schools, which can pick and choose who they want to enroll. As a general rule, taking away more money from the public school systems doesn’t seem wise.”
Charlie Frederich
technical service rep

More high school may be bad for this student

Jay Matthews:

Is Laura Linder’s son Chris being pushed out of Thomas Stone High School?
It seems that way. Charles County school officials did not honor several credits the transfer student earned in Yuba City, Calif., where he was a 12th-grader. He is 18, but Maryland says he is still in 10th grade. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has difficulty with math and science. But he does not qualify for full learning disability services.
Linder says Charles County Schools Superintendent James Richmond and other officials have suggested that Chris go back to California. That sounds harsh, but consider the context. Even smart educators like Richmond are at the mercy of a national movement to raise academic standards and graduation rates. The effort contradicts itself and is often at odds with educators’ instincts and students’ circumstances. Chris is a prime example.
Linder and her son moved to Waldorf last summer. Neither anticipated that the move would threaten his desire to get a high school diploma. He had fallen far behind in California when, Linder says, he was hospitalized four times for having suicidal thoughts. He also spent two months in juvenile hall for graffiti violations.

Estonia Named First Computer Based Math Country

computer based math:

Oxford, United Kingdom–11 February 2013– announced that Estonia will be the first country to make use of its revolutionary and widely praised rethink of math education in a project to build a new school statistics course.
“Since the start of, I’ve been asking, ‘Which country will be first?'” said Conrad Wolfram, Founder. “Now we have the answer: it’s Estonia.”
Jaak Aaviksoo, Minister of Education and Research, Estonia, said, “In the last century, we led the world in connecting classrooms to the internet. Now we want to lead the world in rethinking education in the technology-driven world.”

Web Classes Grapple With Stopping Cheats

Douglas Belkin:

Traditional colleges and a new breed of online-education providers, trying to figure out how to profit from the rising popularity of massive open online courses, are pouring resources into efforts to solve a problem that has bedeviled teachers for centuries: How can students be stopped from cheating?
David Walter Banks for The Wall Street Journal
Satia Renee, a 50-year-old from Smyrna, Ga., sees incidences of cheating as a byproduct of course design.
Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based MOOC, recently launched a keystroke system to recognize individual students’ typing patterns. EdX, its East Coast rival, is employing palm-vein scans. Other strategies include honor codes, remote web-camera proctors and test-taking centers.
Until recently, MOOCs have offered only certificates of completion that in some cases come with a letter grade. Typically, papers have been assessed by fellow students and tests marked by computers. Students frequently study together in online chat rooms–and there is often little to prevent them from cheating on tests or papers.
The efforts to stamp out cheating underscore just how much the stakes are rising. Until now, MOOCs have generally been free of charge and the most popular classes have attracted 150,000 students at a time. More than three million students from at least 160 countries have signed up for courses ranging from “A Beginners Guide to Irrational Behavior” to “Financial Engineering and Risk Management.” Given the vast profit potential, MOOCs are scrambling to ensure the academic integrity of the courses.

Alexandria school leaders resist state takeover of struggling school

Michael Alison Chandler:

Alexandria city officials have ramped up efforts in recent years to improve the stubbornly dismal academic performance of Jefferson-Houston School. They brought in a new principal and a group of new teachers; they hired an outside turnaround consultant and math coaches; they instituted extra tutoring, drew up blueprints for a state-of-the-art makeover and scheduled the longest school day in the city.
But Virginia lawmakers say it’s too late. The state plans to take over the school, thanks to bills passed in the General Assembly last week that would create a statewide school division to oversee Virginia’s chronically under-performing schools.
The move is galvanizing protests from teachers, principals and school board leaders in Alexandria and around the state. They argue it’s impractical for a distant school board to manage the day-to-day details of bus rides and school lunches. And they say it’s out of sync with a long American tradition of locally controlled public schools.

An Oakland Unified parent’s wish list for 2013

Katy Murphy:

I know it’s late, but I was just at the check-out counter reading magazine covers still touting magical resolutions that would change us for the better in 2013. I was musing about what I would list for OUSD to tackle in 2013 that would benefit students with disabilities. My partial list, in no order:
1. Identify and publicly celebrate those achieving positive results for these students. There are a lot of success stories out there – programs and individual educators and administrators who are helping students to reach their full potential. It continues to surprise me how infrequently OUSD highlights these achievements and we only hear about the same few examples. C’mon, OUSD – brag a bit!

Dangerous myth of the role model athlete

Simon Kuper:

Way back in 2008, the three most admired personalities in sport were probably Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. They were portrayed not just as great athletes but as great men, role models: Woods was the ultimate professional, Armstrong had overcome cancer to rule cycling, and the double amputee Pistorius had become an outstanding sprinter. It later turned out that Woods was a serial adulterer, Armstrong a drugs cheat, and on Thursday in South Africa Pistorius was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. His family and management have disputed the accusation “in the strongest terms”.
Any sentient person over the age of eight already knew that great athletes are not necessarily role models. That’s not what the scandals have taught us. Rather, we can see now that the sports-industrial complex – the machine of media and advertising that cranks out myths about athletes – has gone into overdrive. As with investment banking it might be time to shrink it before it destroys society.

Act Your Age! A Schoolwide Readers’ Theatre

Peter DeWitt:

A positive school culture should be a never-ending goal these days. There are so many mandates and changes happening in education. The cloud of accountability seems to follow us as we negotiate our way through the days and weeks. Sometimes we worry about them so much that they take our eyes off what is really important about what we do day in and day out. A positive school culture can help us refocus on our goals of educating students and expose them to opportunities they may not get anywhere else.
One of the ways teachers do this is through readers’ theatres. It helps them make strong literacy connections with students. Readers’ theatres are simple to do, and once you get passed the idea that you don’t need to be Andrew Lloyd Weber to create one, they are a great deal of fun as well. Teachers find a good script (resources below) and students act them out with the script in hand. No need for acting lessons or a big Hollywood production! It gives students a real opportunity to use their voice and practice inflection.

2013 Madison School Election Intrigue (Public!)

Matthew DeFour:

The top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Madison School Board primary said Friday she ran for the seat knowing she might not be able to serve out her term because her husband was applying for graduate school in other states.
Sarah Manski, who dropped out of the race Thursday, said she mentioned those concerns to School Board member Marj Passman, who Manski said encouraged her to run. Passman told her it wouldn’t be a problem if she had to resign her seat because the board would “appoint somebody good,” Manski said.
Passman vigorously denied encouraging Manski to run or ever knowing about her husband’s graduate school applications. After learning about Manski’s statement from the State Journal, Passman sent an email to other School Board members saying “I had no such conversation with her.”
“It’s sad to believe that this kind of a person came close to being elected to one of the most important offices in our city,” Passman wrote in the email, which she also forwarded to the State Journal.
Manski said in response “it’s possible (Passman) didn’t remember or it’s possible it’s politically inconvenient for her to remember.”

I am pleased and astonished that substantive questions are being raised by our local media…..

What Counts as Digital Scholarship for Tenure & Promotion

Ruth Starkman:

In private conversation humanities scholars increasingly give voice to a strange confession regarding digital scholarship: “Actually, I’m O.K. with it, but the institution is not.” Such a stark opposition between an assertion of individual progressiveness and a hesitation about institutional entrenchment hides a more complex story.
As institutions become increasingly open to new approaches, resistance to digital work still emanates more from a traditionalism rooted in departmental lore. It’s hard to change cultures, but academic publishing currently confronts a major structural transformation, and contributors as well as evaluators seek advice on how to assess digital projects. What steps should scholars, especially younger ones, take with their digital work to ensure that it will “count” toward hiring, promotions and tenure?
When I advise doctoral students assembling their dossiers for humanities teaching positions, most report great excitement about their digital projects, but remain uncertain whether to mention these for fear that they won’t “count” or that they may even count against their applications. Some tell me their advisers have encouraged such projects, but also doubted that one can be hired or promoted solely on the basis of digital contributions.

Are You Hard-Wired to Boil Over From Stress?

Sue Shellenbarger:

Nobody wants to be that hothead who flies off the handle in the face of some everyday annoyance, causing others to roll their eyes and wonder, “What’s wrong with him?”
But people who experience extreme reactions to stress–from a racing heart to full-blown rage–may be hard-wired to do so, researchers are finding. It isn’t known how many people are highly reactive to stress, but the tendency can endure for years or a lifetime.
People who overreact often can’t explain why a minor project setback or a child’s spilled juice can unleash a volcanic response.
“They think they’re weird, wondering, ‘Why don’t other people react like this?’ ” says Lois Barth, a New York-based life coach who works with stress-reactive people on performing better at work and reaching personal goals. “But many people can’t help it.”

Mayoral Candidate Kevin James and Education Reformers Speak Out About Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel’s Silence on Parent Trigger

Patrick Range McDonald:

After Los Angeles Unified School District board members approved a Parent Trigger earlier this week, mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel refused to comment on the historic vote, which allows parents to take over a chronically failing elementary school in West Adams.
Now mayoral candidate Kevin James and two Parent Trigger heavyweights are speaking out about that silence — and Garcetti and Greuel’s commitment to education reform is being questioned. With an alarming 21 percent dropout rate at L.A. Unified, it’s no small matter.
On Tuesday, L.A. Unified board members approved the first Parent Trigger to take place in the district, which is the second largest public school system in the United States. The Parent Trigger is a California law that allows parents to institute changes at a chronically failing school through petition.
In this case, parents sought to bring reform to 24th Street Elementary School in West Adams, which serves mostly poor Latino students.

Net Wisdom

Robert Cottrell:

For much of my adult life I was a diligent producer of daily and weekly journalism. In recent years I have become a gargantuan consumer of it. It is a privilege to earn one’s living by writing but, as I discovered, it is also a privilege, and a less stressful one, to earn one’s living by reading.
I read all day. Were it not for the demands of sleep and family life, I would read all night. My aim is to find all the writing worth reading on the internet, and to recommend the five or six best pieces each day on my website, the Browser. I pass over in silence here the Browser’s many virtues. My purpose here is to share with you four lessons I have learnt in five years’ drinking from the fire hose.
My first contention: this is a great time to be a reader. The amount of good writing freely available online far exceeds what even the most dedicated consumer might have hoped to encounter a generation ago within the limits of printed media.
I don’t pretend that everything online is great writing. Let me go further: only 1 per cent is of value to the intelligent general reader, by which I mean the demographic that, in the mainstream media world, might look to the Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs or the Atlantic for information. Another 4 per cent of the internet counts as entertaining rubbish. The remaining 95 per cent has no redeeming features. But even the 1 per cent of writing by and for the elite is an embarrassment of riches, a horn of plenty, a garden of delights.

Test-driving Purdue’s Passport gamification platform for library instruction

Nicole Pagowsky:

Gamification in libraries has become a topic of interest in the professional discourse, and one that ACRL TechConnect has covered in Applying Game Dynamics to Library Services and Why Gamify and What to Avoid in Gamification. Much of what has been written about badging systems in libraries pertains to gamifying library services. However, being an Instructional Services Librarian, I have been interested in tying gamification to library instruction.
When library skills are not always part of required learning outcomes or directly associated with particular classes, thinking more creatively about promotion and embeddedness of library tutorials prompted me to become interested in tying a badging system to the University of Arizona Libraries’ online learning objects. For a brief review on badges, they are visual representations of skills and achievements. They can be used with or instead of grades depending on the scenario and include details to support their credibility (criteria, issuer, evidence, currency).

Program helps eighth graders become savvy money managers

OVetta Wiggins:

Fernandez and Lee are among 14,000 eighth-grade students in the Washington region each year who spend a day of school visiting the finance park, making real-life decisions about health care, housing, investments and banking. Most of the students who participate — 13,000 — are from Fairfax County, with the rest coming from Alexandria, Arlington, the District and Prince George’s County.
The students attend the finance park, which sits on the campus of Robert Frost Middle School and W.T. Woodson High School, after spending five weeks learning about interest and credit; the risks and benefits of saving and investing; the difference between gross and net monthly income and other aspects of financial literacy during math and social studies classes.

Walnut High students build worlds in new academic program

Richard Irwin:

We’ve all heard of the Grand Design, leaving us to wonder what kind of world we would design if we were given the opportunity.
Sophomores at Walnut High are taking the time to design their own domains in the school’s new Academic Design Program. It’s part and parcel of the program that asks students to learn through hands-on problem-solving.
The teens aren’t given the answers to their worldly problems, they have to uncover the answers on their own. And so it was with a little trepidation that we stepped into their domain last week.
School officials say 75 sophomores volunteered for the innovative program that has proven successful in other Walnut Valley schools such as Chaparral Middle School in Diamond Bar.
In fact, program coordinator Jennifer La Certe transferred from Chaparral to share her expertise in design-based learning. The math instructor earned a master’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona in integrative studies.
“Our emphasis on hands-on activities really motivate the students. Their interests are piqued when we ask them to do some real-world problem solving,” La Certe explained.
Working in small groups, the students approach unusual challenges that require critical thinking and multi-disciplinary approaches. That’s why the Academic Design Program blocks off the first three periods of the day for these teens.

Milton to receive nearly $178,000 settlement

Molly Beck
The Springfield School District will pay outgoing School Superintendent Walter Milton $177,797 under a separation agreement obtained by The State Journal-Register. Milton’s resignation takes effect March 31, according to the agreement.
The 16-page agreement, signed by Milton Jan. 31, was released to The State Journal-Register Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The school district also will continue to pay for Milton’s health and dental insurance until May 31, 2014 unless Milton finds a new job that provides similar benefits, according to the agreement. Milton will receive Illinois Teachers Retirement System credit for about 56 days of unused sick time.
The document says Milton sought the agreement in order to be able to pursue other positions. Milton said at Monday’s school board meeting he decided to search for a new job after being denied a contract extension several months ago, and after realizing that he and the board have “fundamental policy disagreements.” “I would have loved to have had the opportunity to fulfill the school year,” Milton said Tuesday. “I was honored to serve. I love Springfield public schools.”
Resignation, reference language
Once Milton resigns, the agreement says, a Sept. 28 letter from school board president Susan White will be removed from Milton’s personnel file, as well as his response. The nature of the letter was not disclosed. The State Journal-Register filed FOIA requests for those letters Tuesday.
White would not comment on whether Milton’s settlement — to be paid in two installments by May 1 — was taken into consideration when the school board determined budget reductions for next year. Along with a non-disparagement clause, the agreement outlines language to be used in response to inquiries, and it includes Milton’s resignation letter and a recommendation letter to be sent when the school board is asked to provide a reference for Milton.
That recommendation letter matches an emailed statement that White sent Feb. 4 to a reporter in Madison, Wis. and to The State Journal-Register. That letter indicated Milton would end his employment with the district March 31. At the time, White said the date was a typographical error. The email prompted The State Journal-Register to submit a series of Freedom of Information Act requests regarding Milton’s employment status.


Indiana unlikely to shift from Common Core school standards

Tom Davies:

Some parents and others have succeeded in stirring up debate in the Statehouse over whether Indiana should withdraw from uniform reading and math education standards that most states have adopted.
It seems, however, that they’ll have a much more difficult time winning their cause against the Common Core State Standards education initiative.
A bill that could be voted on by the state Senate in the coming week would suspend implementation of the benchmarks at Indiana schools until after the state Board of Education has finished a new review of the standards it adopted in 2010.

Madison School Board releases files on search for new superintendent

Matthew DeFour:

The newspaper sought the names of all candidates interviewed by the School Board and background material provided. The district disclosed those names along with background materials for the two finalists it named publicly, Milton and Cheatham.
The other finalists were:
Joe Gothard, Madison’s assistant superintendent for secondary education.
Barbara Thompson, a former Madison principal and New Glarus superintendent who is currently superintendent in Montgomery, Ala.
Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent from the Puyallup School District near Tacoma, Wash.
Curtis Cain, administrator of the Shawnee Mission School District near Kansas City, Mo.
Sandra Smyser, superintendent of Eagle County Schools in Eagle, Colo.
Cheatham and Milton were the only finalists the board named on Feb. 3. They were scheduled to appear together at a community forum on Feb. 7, but Milton abruptly dropped out two days before the event amid questions about his background.

If MOOCs are the answer, what is the question?

Cathy Davidson:

The academic conversation on MOOCs is starting to polarize in exactly the talking-past-one-another way that so many complex conversations evolve: with very smart points on either side but not a lot of recognition that the validity of certain key points on one side does not undermine the validity of certain key points on the other. I regret this flattening of online learning into a simple binary of “politically and financially motivated greed” on the one hand and “an opportunity to find out more about learning” on the other. Some of both in different situations can be true. It’s always hard to be able to hold two complex and even contradictory ideas in one’s mind at once but, well, that’s life. Both can be true. And there is so much to be gained from a sustained conversation on every side and from each side’s learning from the other without assuming the other side is being naive or callous in its concerns.
Here’s a case in point: although I’ve not done a data count, I would say that, about a year ago, the majority of articles on higher education in the mass media ran the gamut from snide to extremely negative, often springboarding off entrepreneur Peter Thiel’s offering cash rewards to students choosing not to go to college. The rhetoric of so many articles seemed to be “is higher education really worth it?” These articles (I bet there were dozens if not hundreds) were often filled with hard data about the soaring costs of higher education and horrific student debt pitted against anecdotes of unemployment among the college educated. It was virtually a meme, that if you are fool enough to go to college, you end up deeper in debt and unemployed and therefore college isn’t worth it. The tone in the press emphasized that latter point, demeaning the importance of higher education, laughing slyly at anyone who thinks higher education is a worthy goal.
Enter the MOOC: whatever else one may think about MOOCS, their vast popularity proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that seemingly everyone wants–really, really wants–more not less higher learning. Has anyone else noticed that the tone of the conversation has now shifted from “is college worth it?” to “how can we make necessary, important, invaluable learning available to the widest number of people for the lowest cost”? I certainly have.

Kids Are Logged On–and Tuned Out

Demetria Gallegos:

I’ve been listening this month to the conversation at our house, and it is deflatingly predictable: “Have you finished your homework? Then why are you playing computer games?” “Your room is still a mess, put that down until it’s done.” “Have you gotten off the couch today?” And this recent favorite, “You are banned from playing games until the end of the school year.”
We have a bad case of digital distemper, but it has been hard to find a solution. As with going on a diet, you still have to eat. Our girls have hours of computer-based homework almost every night. We have a terrible time knowing when the work is done and when the play has begun.
On one infamous Sunday in December, we watched 14½ hours of Netflix. I knew it was bad but didn’t know how bad until I looked back at the log and spotted a dozen episodes of “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” I immediately canceled Netflix. But that’s like cutting the head off the hydra.
What would Hercules do?

Seeking Growth, Nurses’ Union Links to Teachers’ Union

Steven Greenhouse:

One of the nation’s largest nurses’ unions — the National Federation of Nurses — plans to announce on Thursday that it will affiliate with the far larger American Federation of Teachers.
Barbara Crane, the president of the nurses’ federation, said her group’s national board voted to join forces with the teachers’ union to give the nurses more political clout and money to try to unionize more nurses.
“We were not going to be able to achieve some of our goals unless we found a partner,” said Ms. Crane, whose union represents 34,000 nurses in Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. “We wanted a professional union that believes in growth through organizing.”
Competition has been growing among various labor groups wanting to expand the unionization of the nation’s three million nurses, including the Service Employees International Union, which represents 90,000 nurses, and National Nurses United, a union that represents only nurses, 185,000 of them.

Leonardo’s Notebook Digitized in All Its Befuddling Glory

Alexis Madrigal:

The British Library has been digitizing some of its prize pieces and they announced a new round of six artifacts had been completed including Beowulf, a gold-ink penned Gospel, and one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks.
“Each of these six manuscripts is a true splendour, and has immense significance in its respective field, whether that be Anglo-Saxon literature, Carolingian or Flemish art, or Renaissance science and learning,” Julian Harrison, the library’s curator of medieval artifacts, blogged. “On Digitised Manuscripts you’ll be able to view every page in full and in colour, and to see the finer details using the deep zoom facility.”
All of these texts can be appreciated on a visual level, particularly because the scans are so good. Even the grain of the paper is fascinating.

Push to Gauge Bang for Buck from College Gains Steam

Ruth Simon & Michael Corkery:

U.S. and state officials are intensifying efforts to hold colleges accountable for what happens after graduation, a sign of frustration with sky-high tuition costs and student-loan debt.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) are expected to reintroduce this week legislation that would require states to make more accessible the average salaries of colleges’ graduates. The figures could help prospective students compare salaries by college and major to assess the best return on their investment.
A similar bipartisan bill died last year, but a renewed push has gained political momentum in recent weeks. “This begins to introduce some market forces into the academic arena that have not been there,” said Mr. Wyden, adding that support for the move is unusually broad given the political divide in Washington. Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), the House majority leader, said he intends to support a similar measure in the House.

Five Reasons The Government Shouldn’t Subsidize Higher Education

Jarrett Skorup:

When the government is in the business of handing out money, interest groups lobby to get it — or advocate to receive more than they are already getting.
So it is with spending on higher education.
As the Michigan Legislature debates the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, more money for preschool, college and everything in between is being proposed. Over the long-term, the funding for those areas has increased dramatically. Taxpayers should be skeptical of the current reasons for subsidizing universities further.
Requests for more higher education funding is reported willingly in the media: It’s the “most important investment” people can make. It “returns $17 in economic benefits” per dollar spent. It results in “lifetime earning power.”
But the central arguments are dubious for five main reasons:

Michael Thompson @ Avenues


In the fall of 2012, clinical psychologist, author and school consultant Michael Thompson visited Avenues to talk to parents about the pressures facing students today. The talk was recorded and is now being made available through OPEN and our YouTube channel. Check out the three-part series below, or start from part one on YouTube.

Reforms Targeting Teachers, Schools, Districts, and the Nation (Part 1)

Larry Cuban:

History doesn’t teach lessons, historians do.” Because historians interpret the past they often disagree, even revise, the meaning of events from the French Revolution to the American Civil War to school reform.
What historians can do is show that in the flow of time constant change occurs. As a wise ancient Greek said: you cannot step into the same river twice. Thus, the past differs from the present even when they seem so similar. Consider, for example, U.S. involvement in Vietnam a half-century ago and Afghanistan since 2001. Or “scientific management” dominating school reformers’ vocabulary and action in the early 1900s and the audit culture of test-driven accountability pervasive a century later. Historians can show the complexity of human action in the past and offer alternative perspectives that can inform current policy making but they cannot give policymakers specific guidelines. Although some try.
With that in mind, I turn to the current conventional wisdom among school reformers that focusing on the state and district are the best units for engineering change in schools and classrooms. In examining past generations of school reformers, however, it becomes clear that where change must occur has shifted time and again from the smallest unit-the teacher in the classroom-to the school, the district, the state, and nation. As political, economic, and social changes occurred in the U.S., previous generations of reformers skipped back and forth among these units of change as to which would best produce the changes they sought.
For example, in the early 1900s, few, if any, school reformers thought of the state or nation as the unit of reform. They saw the district and individual school as appropriate levers for change. A century later, however, with No Child Left Behind, test-driven accountability rules, Race to The Top incentive funds, and Common Core standards in math and reading adopted by nearly all the states- many policymakers see both the state and nation as the dominant units for reforming schools.

Legislators and parents vow to oppose Wisconsin voucher school expansion

Jessica Vanegeren:

The weekend news that Gov. Scott Walker hopes to drastically expand the state’s school voucher program has been met with a swift response, not only from public school advocates but members of both political parties.
How far his proposal gets as part of the next two-year state budget remains to be seen. He plans to unveil the 2013-15 spending package in its entirety on Wednesday.
Republicans enjoy an 18-15 majority in the Senate. But at least two — Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah and Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon — have spoken out recently against a state-imposed expansion of voucher schools. Ellis has said, among other things, that local school district residents should be able to vote on bringing in voucher schools.
“The governor can propose anything he wants in his budget,” Olsen says. “But I’m thinking we (the Legislature) want to do something else.”

How robots are eating the last of America’s–and the world’s–traditional manufacturing jobs

Christopher Mims:

Baxter, the affordable, humanoid industrial robot recently unveiled by Rethink Robotics, is so easy to program that I once did it one-handed and drunk. We were at a party at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he was standing in the corner, looking lonely. No, really–Baxter has expressive eyes projected on a touchscreen where you’d expect it to have a face, virtually guaranteeing that you’ll anthropomorphize it.
Drink in hand, I walked over and, with only the vaguest sense of how to get it to respond to my touch, grabbed it by the wrist. I guided its “hand” over to a box full of small objects. Its caliper-like fingers closed on a widget. Then I moved its hand, which offered almost no resistance at all, to another position on the table. It dropped the object.
After that, it dutifully repeated the procedure I had taught it, again and again, emptying the box. In a display of the sort of capabilities that used to be almost impossible in robotics but are now routine, its machine vision allowed it to cope with the differences in position and shape of each of the widgets. Baxter was untroubled by the poor lighting, loud music or my clumsiness. In less time than it takes to update my calendar, I had, in essence, trained Baxter to pack a box for shipping, or to transfer goods from one conveyor belt to another–two tasks that are common in manufacturing and distribution centers.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Address at Temple University, Philadelphia, on Receiving an Honorary Degree

Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Governor Earle, President Beury, friends of Temple University, and, I am glad to be able to say now, my fellow alumni:
I have just had bestowed upon me a twofold honor. I am honored in having been made an alumnus of Temple University; and I am honored in having had conferred upon me for the first time the Degree of Doctor of Jurisprudence.
It is a happy coincidence that we should meet together to pay our respects to the cause of education not only on the birthday of the Father of this Nation, but also in the halls of a very great institution that is bringing true education into thousands of homes throughout the country. I have always felt certain that in Washington’s wise and kindly way, he deeply appreciated the importance of education in a Republic–I might say throughout a Republic–and also the responsibility of that thing known as Government to promote education. Let this simple statement stand by itself without the proof of quotation. I say this lest, in this year of 1936, if I quoted excerpts from the somewhat voluminous writings and messages of the first President of the United States, some captious critic might search the Library of Congress to prove by other quotations that George Washington was in favor of just the opposite! Therefore, on this anniversary of his birth I propose to break a century-old precedent. I shall not quote from George Washington on his birthday.
More than that, and breaking precedent once more, I do not intend to commence any sentence with these words–“If George Washington had been alive today” or “If Thomas Jefferson” or “If Alexander Hamilton” or “If Abraham Lincoln had been alive today–beyond peradventure, beyond a doubt or perhaps the other way around, etc., etc., etc.”
Suffice it to say this: What President Washington pointed out on many occasions and in many practical ways was that a broad and cosmopolitan education in every stratum of society is a necessary factor in any free Nation governed through a democratic system. Strides toward that fundamental objective were great, as we know, in the first two or three generations of the Republic, and yet you and I can assert that the greatest development of general education has occurred in the past half century, indeed, within the lives of a great many of those of us who are here today.
As literacy increases people become aware of the fact that Government and society form essentially a cooperative relationship among citizens and the selected representatives of those citizens.

Is latest Wisconsin voucher plan really an attack?

Chris Rickert:

think of it this way: The government contracts for goods and services all the time. Contracting out our societal obligation to educate our children isn’t all that different.
As with any other private organization that wins a publicly funded contract, private schools that take vouchers should provide the same kind of quality and access we expect of our other public services and infrastructure.
Jim Bender, president of the pro-voucher School Choice Wisconsin, largely agrees.
And Department of Public Instruction spokesman Patrick Gasper said his agency “is in conversation with legislators, private schools and the governor’s office to find a way to bring schools participating in the voucher program into an accountability system.”
Voucher students in private schools already have to take the same state-mandated tests as public school students, and private schools must use admissions lotteries to prevent them cherry-picking the best voucher students.

Numerous notes and links on vouchers, accountability and per student spending can be found here.

Schools in crisis, reforms not working, U.S. federal panel declares

Stephanie Simon:

A federal commission on Tuesday said the U.S. education system had “thoroughly stacked the odds” against impoverished students and warned that an aggressive reform agenda embraced by both Democrats and Republicans had not done enough to improve public schools.
The report from the Equity and Excellence Commission – a panel of 27 scholars, civil rights activists, union leaders and school officials – describes an American public education system in crisis.
The commission, which was dominated by more liberal members, called on the federal government to take a more active role in public education – traditionally considered a local matter – by pushing states to desegregate schools, equalize funding and demand better training for beginning teachers. The group also echoed President Barack Obama’s recent call for universal preschool.

Students find voices through poetry

Pamela Cotant:

Students say Spoken Word is a nonjudgmental club where they can write poetry, some of which they later recite at poetry slams.
“I feel like I found my people,” said Selin Gok, 16, a sophomore at West High School who wrote a poem about body image and named it “Thick Chick.”
Selin competed Friday in a regional slam at West for the chance to take part in the state competition March 2 in Milwaukee, and her poem was chosen. Poems are limited to three minutes.
Other slams were held at Goodman Community Center. East High School will hold its slam Thursday.
Those who advance at state will have the opportunity to attend the national event, Brave New Voices, Aug. 7-11 at the University of Chicago.
The slams are open to those ages 13 to 19, and Madison School & Community Recreation supports Spoken Word clubs at East and West.

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Scans reveal intricate brain wiring

Pallab Ghosh:

Scientists are set to release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map of the human brain.
The project could help shed light on why some people are naturally scientific, musical or artistic.
Some of the first images were shown at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.
I found out how researchers are developing new brain imaging techniques for the project by having my own brain scanned.
Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital are pushing brain imaging to its limit using a purpose built scanner. It is one of the most powerful scanners in the world.
The scanner’s magnets need 22MW of electricity – enough to power a nuclear submarine.
The researchers invited me to have my brain scanned. I was asked if I wanted “the 10-minute job or the 45-minute ‘full monty'” which would give one of the most detailed scans of the brain ever carried out. Only 50 such scans have ever been done.
I went for the full monty.
It was a pleasant experience enclosed in the scanner’s vast twin magnets. Powerful and rapidly changing magnetic fields were looking to see tiny particles of water travelling along the larger nerve fibres.

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education reforms include voucher expansion and more

Matthew DeFour

Walker’s reform proposals include:

  • Expanding private school vouchers to school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools receiving school report card grades of “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” The expansion, which would include Madison schools, would be capped at 500 students statewide next year and 1,000 students the following year.
  • Creating a statewide charter school oversight board, which would approve local nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to create and oversee independent charter schools. Only students from districts that qualify for vouchers could attend the charter schools. Authorizers would have to provide annual performance reports about the schools.
  • Expanding the Youth Options program, which allows public school students to access courses offered by other public schools, virtual schools, the UW System, technical colleges and other organizations approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Granting special education students a private school voucher.
  • Eliminating grade and residency restrictions for home-schooled students who take some courses in a public school district. School districts would receive additional state funding for home-schooled students who access public school courses or attend virtual schools.

Additionally, Walker’s spokesman confirmed plans to make no additional funding available for public schools in the budget he plans to propose Wednesday.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

How much money do you need to homeschool?

Penelope Trunk:

I wrote today about how Obama’s proposal for universal pre-K is stunningly out of touch with the realities of today’s society. It’s clear that most mothers do not want to work full-time when they have kids, and it’s clear that Obama is advocating school as a daycare system rather than an educational system. You can read the whole post here.
But what I noticed, as I was writing it, was how mainstream media manages to report this story without mentioning homeschool. What is best for kids when they are four years old? Unstructured play. This is well documented, but if you push parents to provide unstructured play to a four-year-old it’s like pushing them to provide breastfeeding to a one-year-old: maybe it’s too hard on the parent!
So it’s not politically correct to tell parents to suck it up and do what’s right for their kids. And it’s not politically correct to advocate spending tons of money to let low-income parents stay home with their kids. But it is politically correct to tell low-income parents to drop their kids off at daycare even if they would rather stay home with their kids?
It’s obviously ridiculous, but it’s in keeping with the way media reports on homeschooling, which is that they ignore it. Mainstream media misses the opportunity to point out that homeschooling works for everyone, no matter where they are in the economic spectrum.

The problem with our ‘first in the world’ education obsession

Arthur Camins:

The U.S. Department of Education has used the economic downturn to drive a marketplace-based educational agenda in which test scores, merit pay and charter schools figure prominently. States and districts, desperate for funds, quickly agreed to these requirements in the Race-to-the-Top and Title I School Improvement Grants. Based on the same principles, private foundations have used their economic power to sway elections, sponsor and influence the content of administrative leadership training programs and fund the opening of charter schools that draw students and funds away from regular public schools.
How to build public support for a longer-term, more broadly focused education reform agenda is very challenging. The December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut may be a tragic historic moment that provides insight into the value of the social and emotional dimensions of children’s school experience. We may never know what complex set of factors led a young man to commit such unfathomable violence against innocent children. But we do know on a deep emotional level that children’s safety, their sense of belonging and value as members of their communities are of paramount importance.
Many, maybe with some sensitivity in mind to the recent demeaning of teachers and their profession, have appropriately called attention to the heroism and selflessness of Newtown’s educators. However, this may also be an occasion for public reflection about whether our economic anxiety has caused us to get our educational priorities far out of balance.


Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom

Mark Naison:

Every spring, without fail, a Teach For America recruiter approaches me and asks if they can come to my classes and recruit students for TFA, and every year, without fail, I give them the same answer.
Until Teach For America becomes committed to training lifetime educators and raises the length of service to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes. The idea of sending talented students into schools in impoverished areas, and then after two years encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity really rubs me the wrong way.
It was not always thus. Ten years ago, when a Teach For America recruiter first approached me, I was enthusiastic about the idea of recruiting my most idealistic and talented students for work in poor schools. I allowed TFA representative to make presentations in my classes, filled with urban studies and African American studies majors. Several of my best students applied, all of whom wanted to become teachers, and most of whom came from the kind of high-poverty neighborhoods where TFA proposed to send its recruits.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Rights to & following Contract Reduction

Solidarity newsletter, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email (65K PDF):

Reducing one’s teaching contract by any percentage used to be a major risk. In doing so, one not only was at peril to remain part-time for the rest of their career, but their contract percentage could be varied year-to-year by the District, and worse yet, the District could unilaterally decide not to continue the contract. This is because part-time contracts are not covered by the “continuing contract law” by which teachers’ contracts are renewed annually.
Because of the demands by MTI members, the Union negotiated the right of one to temporarily reduce their contract and return to full-time the following year. This enables one to spend time with a child, an aging parent, or for any reason the teacher desires. Additionally, MTI negotiated that those employed under part-time contracts in Madison are issued individual contracts annually.
Requests to reduce one’s contract for a one-year period, with the right to return to full-time the following year, must be made in writing to the District’s office of Human Resources on or before March 1 for the 2013-14 school year.
Reducing one’s contract without using Section IV-W of MTI’s Contract has major negative implications. Members considering this are urged to contact MTI Headquarters (257-0491).
These steps seem like steps every employer should have to follow. They are not, but MMSD must follow them because of MTI’s Contracts. Governor Walker’s Act 10 destroys these protections. MTI is working to preserve them.

A Degree Drawn in Red Ink

Ruth Simon & Rob Barry:

Most people assume a degree in the arts is no guarantee of riches. Now there is evidence that such graduates also rack up the most student-loan debt.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of new Department of Education data shows that median debt loads at schools specializing in art, music and design average $21,576, which works out to a loan payment of about $248 a month. That is a heavy burden, considering that salaries for graduates of such schools with five or fewer years’ experience cluster around $40,000, according to
The data also show that graduates of research universities tend to carry less debt than those of liberal-arts colleges. Median debt loads average $19,445 for liberal-arts schools, versus $18,100 for research universities.

8 College Degrees with the Worst Return on Investment

Dawn Dugan:

What’s more expensive than going to college? Until recently, the answer was easy: not going to college. Numerous studies over the years have shown that individuals with college degrees significantly out-earn those with high school degrees by $1 million or more over the course of a lifetime.
But as the cost of education increases faster than inflation and the economy remains relatively weak, people are beginning to question how they spend their education dollars. As student loans hit the $1 trillion mark and more and more graduates are faced with years of paying staggering monthly payments, many are starting to ask themselves, “Is it worth it?”
While there’s no doubt that a college degree increases earning power and broadens opportunities, today’s high cost of education means it makes sense to more carefully consider which degree you earn. When it comes to return on investment (ROI), not all degrees are considered equal. This article exposes eight college degrees with poor ROI.

Madison School District Talented & Gifted Report: An interesting change from a few years ago; 41 students out of 1877 were newly identified for TAG talent development by the CogA T nonverbal.

Superintendent Jane Belmore (652K PDF):

This information is provided in response to a request for more information made at the January 28th Regular Board of Education meeting regarding the implication of CogAT for the 2012-13 school year. Communication with DPI TAG consultant has occurred on numerous occasions. A Review Committee, with additional members, met twice since January 28 and a survey of options was developed and distributed to the Assessment Review Committee and elementary and middle school principals. Results from this survey, in addition to previous Review Committee information, were used to develop the recommendation.
The BOE requested a report on CogAT which is attached to this memo.

A few charts from the report:

Much more on the 2010 parent complaint on Madison’s “Talented & Gifted” program, here. The move to more one size fits all classes, such as English 10 a few years ago, reduced curricular options for all students. East High School “Redesign” halted.