Madison School District’s Hanover Research Council Contract

Andrew Statz, Chief Information Officer (PDF):

Project Description: Hanover offers school districts a service to aggregate, compile, and analyze data, gather intelligence, and identify best practices suited to specific needs of their district. They will do market research, surveys, benchmarking, and evaluating efficiencies.
Analysis: MMSD guides the analysis topics assigned to Hanover. With a single track of service, Hanover works on one topic at a time from start to finish before moving on to another topic. MMSD was a member for the first time in early 2010. Examples of reports prepared or being prepared specifically for MMSD since that time include:
Compilation and coding of public input for the Building Our Future Plan to address achievement gaps
Review of the effectiveness of the four block schedule at La Follette High School;
Determining the impact and satisfaction level of summer school offerings;
Survey of various stakeholders to determine what makes the “ideal
Review of staff recognition programs of other districts;
Identification of a methodology to approve new handheld and wireless
technology in classrooms; and
Various information papers.

Clusty Search: Hanover Research Council.

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

Kenneth Bernstein, via Valerie Strauss:

You are a college professor.
I have just retired as a high school teacher.
I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.
No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002-03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the U.S. Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind–we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.
I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Index created by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions. The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.
Let me use as an example my own AP course, U.S. Government and Politics. I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. In that capacity, I read the constructed responses that make up half of the score of a student’s examination. I saw several problems.

An Update on the Parent Complaint of Madison’s Talent & Gifted Program, and the Wisconsin DPI’s Repsonse

Matthew DeFour:

But because the district has made significant progress and expects to make further improvements to its program, it won’t face any penalties at this time, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
Parents who filed a complaint with the DPI about Madison’s TAG program in September 2010, and wrote the DPI another letter last fall about shortcomings in the district’s middle school offerings, were pleased with the results of the latest audit.
“The preliminary report achieves a good balance of recognizing effort without losing sight of continued weaknesses,” parent Laurie Frost said in an email. “I am happy the district was found to be in only partial compliance, but also very glad the DPI did not levy any financial penalty.”
The DPI determined the district’s program was deficient in 2011, but agreed to an Aug. 22, 2012, compliance deadline. The School Board adopted a TAG plan and hired a program administrator in 2011.

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.

In China, Families Bet It All on College for Their Children

Keith Bradsher:

Wu Yiebing has been going down coal shafts practically every workday of his life, wrestling an electric drill for $500 a month in the choking dust of claustrophobic tunnels, with one goal in mind: paying for his daughter’s education.
His wife, Cao Weiping, toils from dawn to sunset in orchards every day during apple season in May and June. She earns $12 a day tying little plastic bags one at a time around 3,000 young apples on trees, to protect them from insects. The rest of the year she works as a substitute store clerk, earning several dollars a day, all going toward their daughter’s education.
Many families in the West sacrifice to put their children through school, saving for college educations that they hope will lead to a better life. Few efforts can compare with the heavy financial burden that millions of lower-income Chinese parents now endure as they push their children to obtain as much education as possible.
Yet a college degree no longer ensures a well-paying job, because the number of graduates in China has quadrupled in the last decade.
Mr. Wu and Mrs. Cao, who grew up in tiny villages in western China and became migrants in search of better-paying work, have scrimped their entire lives. For nearly two decades, they have lived in a cramped and drafty 200-square-foot house with a thatch roof. They have never owned a car. They do not take vacations — they have never seen the ocean. They have skipped traditional New Year trips to their ancestral village for up to five straight years to save on bus fares and gifts, and for Mr. Wu to earn extra holiday pay in the mines. Despite their frugality, they have essentially no retirement savings.

Madison School District Administrative Contracts

Employment Contracts for Administrative Personnel (350K) PDF:

IT HEREBY AGREED by and between the Madison Metropolitan School District (herein referred to as the “District”) and _________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Administrator”) that the District does hereby employ the Administrator under the terms and conditions specified herein.
This contract shall cover a period of one year, beginning on July 1, _______ and ending on June 30, _______.
The Administrator agrees to perform his/her assigned services, duties, and responsibilities at a professional level of competence, and in compliance with the laws and regulations of the State of Wisconsin and the rules, regulations and policies of the District which are now existing or which may be hereinafter enacted by the District.
At all times, the Administrator shall maintain such licensure (i.e., active and in good standing) with the State of Wisconsin (1) as is required by the State for an individual performing the administrative duties assigned to the Administrator by the District, and (2) as may be separately and additionally required by the District as a discretionary qualification for the assigned position/duties. Failure to maintain such licensure is sufficient grounds for termination of this Contract and the Administrator’s employment with the District.
The Admin’1strator agrees to devote full time to the duties and responsibilities normally expected of the Administrator’s position during the term of this contract, and shall not engage in any pursuit which interferes with the proper discharge of such duties and responsibilities.
The Superintendent of Schools shall have the right to make such assignments or transfers of the Administrator’s services as the interests of the District may demand.
The Administrator shall have the responsibility to become familiar with the contents of the District’s Affirmative Action Plan and shall take an active role in implementing its policies and practices.
For the 2013-14 school year the Administrator will be placed on the Administrator’s salary schedule at Salary Grade in consideration for services rendered, the District will pay the Administrator a salary of ___________ for a minimum of _______ days worked (July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013), as such days are defined by the District’s Human Resources Department for payroll purposes. Additional work at times such as weekends, after typical business hours, etc. may sometimes be necessary or required, but does not entitle the Administrator to additional compensation (except as provided herein in regard to additional assigned summer work).
The function of specifying a number of working days within this contract is to define the extent to which the Administrator’s annual salary is pro-rated off the annual amount that would be applicable to a “225 day” (i.e., 100% of specified salary) contract at the same salary Grade and Step. Administrative personnel employed on a Jess than 225 day basis shall be available for additional employment during the summer months when requested/required by the Superintendent of Schools. When such additional summer work is expressly requested or required by written direction from the Superintendent, the Administrator shall receive additional compensation at a daily salary rate of _________ for the number of full additional days requested or required.

The timing and content of Administrator contracts has been somewhat controversial over the years (more). It appears that contracts continue to be in place (based on the dates contained in this document) prior to the District’s annual budget cycle.

How Foreign Students Hurt U.S. Innovation

Norman Matloff:

In the old days, the U.S. program for foreign-student visas helped developing nations and brought diversity to then white-bread American campuses. Today, the F-1 program, as it is known, has become a profit center for universities and a wage-suppression tool for the technology industry.
International students are attractive to strapped colleges because they tend to pay full tuition or, in the case of public institutions, pay more than full price in out-of-state rates.
Last year, this was taken to a new level at California State University, East Bay, a public institution just south of Oakland. The school directed its master’s degree programs to admit only non-California students, including foreign students. Even before this edict, international students made up 90 percent of its computer-science master’s program.
The pursuit of foreign students by U.S. schools affects not only college access for Americans but also their careers. Back in 1989, an internal report of the National Science Foundation forecast that a large influx of F-1 doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math — the STEM fields — would suppress wages. The stagnant salaries would then drive the American bachelor’s degree holders in these fields into more lucrative areas, such as business and law, after graduation, and discourage them from pursuing STEM doctorates.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Proposes a 1% K-12 Redistributed State Tax Dollar Spending Increase

Associated Press:

Gov. Scott Walker will propose a modest increase in funding for Wisconsin public schools in his budget to the Legislature on Wednesday, two years after his steep cuts and all but elimination of collective bargaining for teachers sparked the unsuccessful movement to recall Walker from office.
Walker is also making incentive money available, which could be used as incentive payments for teachers based on how well schools perform on state report cards, Walker told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
Walker provided details of his education funding plan to the AP ahead of its public release Sunday. Not only will he put more money into K-12 schools in his two-year budget, Walker will increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges two years after their funding was also slashed.
The roughly 1 percent increase in aid to schools Walker is proposing comes after he cut aid by more than 8 percent in the first year of the last budget. Schools would get $129 million in aid under Walker’s plan, but total K-12 funding would go up $276 million

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding (2008).
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to propose modest increase in public school funding by Erin Richards & Scott Bauer::

Tom Beebe, project director for Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin, a liberal-leaning group and former executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, has been critical of Walker’s cuts to education.
He said the amount of general aid increase proposed for this next biennial budget – $129.2 million over two years – only amounts to about $161 for each of Wisconsin’s 800,000 public-school students.
“If the revenue cap does not go up, then there is no new money going to schools no matter how much aid increases,” Beebe said. “The increase in school funding simply goes to property taxpayers not into the classroom.”
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the modest increase was really just keeping overall revenue for schools flat.
“The stagnant revenue on top of the largest cuts to education funding in Wisconsin history in the last budget is another clear indication that this governor has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools,” Bell said in a statement.
“(Walker’s) real focus is privatizing public education with another infusion of resources to the unaccountable taxpayer-funded private school voucher program while leaving our neighborhood public schools on life support,” she added.

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.

Computer science students successfully boycott class final

Andrea Michalowsky:

The students in Professor Peter Froehlich’s “Intermediate Programming” and “Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers” (a Python language class) classes, boycotted their finals last December. The former initially organized the boycott and the latter followed suit.
To avoid the stress of taking their exam, the students decided to capitalize on a loophole in Froehlich’s grading system.
“In my courses, all grades are relative to the highest actually achieved score. Thus, if no one showed up and everyone got 0 percent, everyone would be marked as 100 percent,” Froehlich wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Since Froehlich started at Hopkins in 2005, no class had taken that challenge until last semester. Both of Froelich’s classes were awarded with perfect scores on their final exams.
“Peter tends to say this in each of his classes as almost a challenge to the entire class to execute,” James Gliwa, a student in Intermediate Programming, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Froehlich speculated that the Occupy Wall Street movement provided students with a model, as students coined the phrase “Occupy Hackerman” to describe their effort. He also cited the use of the online forum Piazza as facilitating the boycott.

A Genetic Code for Genius? In China, a research project aims to find the roots of intelligence in our DNA; searching for the supersmart

Gautam Naik:

At a former paper-printing factory in Hong Kong, a 20-year-old wunderkind named Zhao Bowen has embarked on a challenging and potentially controversial quest: uncovering the genetics of intelligence.
Mr. Zhao is a high-school dropout who has been described as China’s Bill Gates. He oversees the cognitive genomics lab at BGI, a private company that is partly funded by the Chinese government.
At the Hong Kong facility, more than 100 powerful gene-sequencing machines are deciphering about 2,200 DNA samples, reading off their 3.2 billion chemical base pairs one letter at a time. These are no ordinary DNA samples. Most come from some of America’s brightest people–extreme outliers in the intelligence sweepstakes.
The majority of the DNA samples come from people with IQs of 160 or higher. By comparison, average IQ in any population is set at 100. The average Nobel laureate registers at around 145. Only one in every 30,000 people is as smart as most of the participants in the Hong Kong project–and finding them was a quest of its own.

The Rot Spreads Worldwide: The OECD–Taken In and Taking Sides: OECD encourages world to adopt failed US education programs

Richard Phelps 365K PDF, via a kind email:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the US’s largest insurers refused to honor damage claims from customers living on the US Gulf Coast who submitted hurricane insurance claims, asserting that their property had not been damaged by hurricane, but by flooding. Only a high-stakes, high-profile, class-action lawsuit ultimately pried the insurance payments loose. Currently, this large US insurance company, with its own trust issues, is running a series of television commercials poking fun at an institution that it assumes is trusted by the public even less–the Internet. “They wouldn’t put it on the Internet if it wasn’t true” says the naïve foil who purchased allegedly inferior insurance after believing the promises in an Internet advertisement, presumably eliciting off-screen laughter in millions of living rooms.
Now suppose that you are responsible for learning the “state of the art” in the research literature on an important, politically-sensitive, and hotly-contested public policy topic. You can save money by hiring master’s level public policy students or recent graduates, though none with any particular knowledge or experience in the topic at hand–a highly specialized topic with its own doctoral-level training, occupational specializations, and vocabulary. You give your public policy masters a computer with an Internet browser and ask them to complete their reports within a few months. What would you expect them to produce?
You can see for yourself at the website of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development2 (OECD). In 2009 the OECD launched the Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes. Apparently the “Review” has not claimed an acronym. In my own interest, then, I give it one–REAFISO.3
In its own words, REAFISO was created to:
“…provide analysis and policy advice to countries on the following overarching policy question: How can assessment and evaluation policies work together more effectively to improve student outcomes in primary and secondary schools?”
To answer this question, the OECD intended to:
“…look at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving the student outcomes produced by schools…. and
“…extend and add value to the existing body of international work on evaluation and assessment policies.”
REAFISO’s work interested me for two reasons. First, I once worked at the OECD, on fixed- length consulting contracts accumulating to sixteen months. I admired and respected their education research work and thoroughly enjoyed my time outside work hours. (The OECD is based in Paris.) I particularly appreciate the OECD’s education (statistical) indicators initiatives.
Second, I have worked myself and on my own time to address the overarching question they pose, ultimately publishing a meta-analysis and research summary of the effect of testing on student achievement. As I lacked the OECD’s considerable resources, it took me some time–a decade, as it turned out–to reach a satisfactory stage of completion. I hedge on the word “completion” because I do not believe it possible for one individual to collect all the studies in this enormous research literature.
Deficiencies of the OECD’s REAFISO research reviews include:
overwhelming dependence on US sources;
overwhelming dependence on inexpensive, easily-found documents;
overwhelming dependence on the work of economists and education professors;
wholesale neglect of the relevant literature in psychology, the social science that
invented cognitive assessment, and from practicing assessment and measurement
professionals; and
wholesale neglect of the majority of pertinent research.
Moreover, it seems that REAFISO has fully aligned itself with a single faction within the heterogeneous universe of education research–the radical constructivists. Has the OECD joined the US education establishment? One wouldn’t think that it had the same (self-) interests. Yet, canon by canon by canon, REAFISO’s work seems to subscribe to US education establishment dogma. For example, in her report “Assessment and Innovation in Education”, Janet Looney writes

The paper is also available here.

Goodbye, Mr. Stork. Athens High School will miss you!


How has school changed since you began teaching?
Physically, the school and grounds have improved markedly. Our building, parking areas, playing fields, and land lab are beautiful and much more functional than 30 years ago. A great deal of the credit for this should go to Mr. Meek and to both Mr. Meek and Mr. Weinfurtner for the land lab. In addition, the educational technology we’ve come to take for granted was barely dreamed of when I first started teaching.
Our Athens High School students are pretty much the same as they have always been. They were and are bright, often intensely interested in issues and learning, naturally naive, mostly polite and caring toward one another.
On the other hand, what happens in our classrooms hasn’t changed much either. In some senses this is good because we have a dedicated and intelligent faculty who recognize the task of preparing our students to be capable, engaged citizens as the privilege it is. At the same time, we too often fail to make the most of the insights of educational research that have demonstrated repeatedly that students learn best when they are actively engaged in discovery. We have so many new tools and access to real data and original sources that can foster such learning given a knowledgeable guide, and yet we have too seldom pushed the envelope.

Athens High School The Plains, Ohio.

Measures of Academic Progress Conflict in Seattle May Affect Wisconsin

Alan Borsuk:

MAP is very different from the WKCE. It is given by computer, it is given three times a year (in most schools), and results are known immediately. I’ve sat in on teacher meetings where MAP results were being used well to diagnose students’ progress and prod good discussion of what teachers could do to seek better results.
Some school districts (West Allis-West Milwaukee is one) are using MAP results as part of evaluating teachers. Milwaukee Public Schools, which began using MAP several years ago, isn’t doing that, but it is using overall MAP results as an important component of judging whether a school is meeting its goals.
MAP is an “adaptive” test – that is, the computer program modifies each test based on how a child answers each question. Get a question right and the next question is harder. Get a question wrong and the next one is easier. This allows the results to pinpoint more exactly how a child is doing and aims to have every student challenged – the best don’t breeze through, the worst don’t give up when they’re entirely lost.
MAP tests are generally given three times a year, which is one of the things supporters like and critics hate. On the one hand, you get data frequently and can make mid-course corrections. On the other hand, it means more times in the year when school life is disrupted.
A MAP spokeswoman said in December there were 287 “partners” in Wisconsin, ranging from MPS down to individual private schools. Many suburban districts use MAP, as do many Catholic and other private schools and charter schools.
At a lot of schools in southeastern Wisconsin, there is enthusiasm for using MAP and it is seen as a good way to judge how kids are doing and to determine what to focus on in helping them.

Madison recently began using “Measures of Academic Progress”.

Madison Prep tension carries over into School Board races

Jack Craver:

Tension over Madison Prep, a controversial charter school proposal that the Madison School Board rejected in December 2011, appears to linger in this year’s races for School Board. Some wonder if the racial tensions that the school, which was geared toward minority students, have now provoked a backlash against African-American candidates running for office.
In one of the contests, School Board President James Howard, who was one of two board members to vote in favor of establishing Madison Prep as a “non-instrumentality” school, meaning it would operate separately from the school district and employ non-district and non-unionized staff, is facing an opponent who entered the race in large part to oppose such projects.
“We should be looking for solutions within our public schools, not giving away taxpayer dollars to unaccountable, non-instrumental charter schools,” says Greg Packnett, who works as a legislative aide to state Reps. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, and Penny Bernard-Schaber, D-Appleton, and is active in local Democratic politics.
Howard, in a recent interview with the Cap Times editorial board, suggested that Packnett was recruited to run by the Dane County Democrats (Packnett sits on the executive board and has received the group’s endorsement) and others unhappy with Howard’s vote on Madison Prep and threatened by his strong advocacy for hiring more minority teachers and staff.
“In the debates, those are the two things that always come up — Madison Prep and diversity hiring. I’m being challenged on my views on diversity hiring and I’m not retreating on that,” he said.
Howard pins much of the blame on the Democratic Party of Dane County. He says he is puzzled by the involvement by a partisan group in what is officially a nonpartisan race, as well as the involvement of a county organization, whose membership includes people from outside of Madison, in a city race.

Much more on “>the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

Louisiana has second-lowest graduation rate for public special education students

Will Sentell:

Louisiana has the second-lowest public high school graduation rate in the nation for special education students, according to federal figures.
The rate in Louisiana, 29 percent, is only lower than Mississippi and Nevada, statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education show. The graduation rate in both those states is 23 percent.
South Dakota is tops in the nation at 84 percent, federal figures show. The national average is 58 percent.
Louisiana’s dismal rate is one of the key drivers behind state Superintendent of Education John White’s push to revamp the way the state finances special education.

Back to: News Nevada’s higher education funding formula comes under fire

Ed Vogel:

The Nevada System of Higher Education’s chancellor found himself Friday inside a hornet’s nest of angry legislators who expressed disgust over the lack of state funds their local colleges and universities would receive under a new formula.
While Dan Klaich said the formula is designed to bring fairness and equity and lead to higher graduation rates, he added it might work better if higher education was funded at pre-recession levels.
Under the governor’s proposed budget, higher education would receive $946.5 million in state support over the two-year period that starts in July, a 5.9 percent increase over the current two-year budget. But state support for higher education was $1.316 billion in 2007-09.

Skyward: State gave competitor unfair bidding edge for school IT system

Erin Richards:

In choosing a company to design a computer-based student-information system for all of Wisconsin’s public schools, the state put a local bidder at a disadvantage after it removed an evaluator and incorrectly calculated cost proposals, according to a protest filed Friday.
The challenge to the outcome of the Department of Administration’s procurement process for a statewide student-information system vendor comes from Stevens Point-based Skyward Inc., which provides school management software to 221 Wisconsin school districts covering 39% of the state’s students.
The company’s formal protest comes two weeks after the department announced it intended to negotiate a contract with rival bidder Infinite Campus, a school software company from Minnesota serving fewer districts in Wisconsin. The department said Infinite Campus earned the highest technical score and lowest cost bid.
The contract to build the system could be worth between $60 million and $90 million over the next decade, according to details provided by Skyward.
Department spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis defended the state’s procurement procedure, saying that it identified the best product for the best price in a transparent process free of outside influence.

Infinite Campus Prevails in Statewide Deal; Wisconsin company protests losing $15M state contract to Minnesota company

The Wisconsin company that lost out on a contract to run a student information system in the state’s schools protested the awarding of the bid to Minnesota’s Infinite Campus on Friday, arguing that the process was unfair.
Skyward Inc., of Stevens Point, said in its protest filed with the state Department of Public Instruction that it should be awarded the contract or all the bids should be thrown out. Skyward said DPI, as well as the committee of five unidentified people who evaluated the bids, “failed to provide a fair, transparent, and open process.”
Skyward, which employs about 270 people statewide, threatened to leave Wisconsin if it lost the contract that’s $15 million initially but could grow to as high as $80 million over the next decade. The company has been waging a public relations battle for the past two weeks since the state announced the contract would be going to Infinite Campus of Blaine, Minn., running full-page ads in newspapers across the state urging people to contact Gov. Scott Walker.

Hillary Gavan:

School District of Beloit Director of Technology Victor Masliah said Beloit has been using Skyward Student system for 20 years. On Monday he said all districts have been asked to convert their student system side to Infinite Campus in the next five years. The latest state decision only affects the Skyward Student side, as Infinite Campus does not have a business side.
“The longer we wait, the higher our conversion costs may be as we continue to enter more types of data into our Skyward Student system daily,” he said.
Masliah said 80 percent of Wisconsin school districts use the business side of Skyward, as it’s recognized to be the best business system for schools.
The student side of Skyward costs approximately $52,000 per year, and the business side costs about $66,000 per year. Transitioning a system brings significant costs in data conversions, data migrations and trainings. For example, switching to a different Student system could potentially cost between $200,000 to $450,000.


The evaluation was accurate and fair. That’s what Infinite Campus says about the process used to pick them to provide student information services for most schools across the Badger State.
Over the past couple weeks we’ve heard a lot from Skyward. They’re asking Wisconsin residents to encourage the state Department of Instruction to overturn its decision to go with Infinite Campus.
Today, we examined the actual score card that lead Infinite Campus, based in Minnesota, to get the job. That scorecard was released by Infinite Campus.
It ranks 31 different categories such as grading, attendance and technical support. Infinite Campus beat out six different candidates, including Skyward in nearly every category. The process by which the scores were awarded isn’t detailed, and the Department of Public Instruction said they won’t comment on the process.

Much more on Infinite Campus, here.
The Wisconsin DPI’s scorecard (200K PDF).

Report: Choice schools lack specialty teachers One-third of private schools don’t have specialized art, music, PE teachers

Erin Richards:

Milwaukee’s private-school voucher program has swelled to nearly 25,000 students in 113 schools that largely mirror local public schools in terms of race and poverty, and rapid enrollment growth is raising new questions about how much taxpayer money the private schools should receive to adequately serve students.
Results from an annual survey of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program released Wednesday underscore what’s already well-known about the voucher program: Participating private schools spend less to educate each pupil than Milwaukee Public Schools but offer little achievement data about how those pupils are doing.
The survey also offers a new reason that the voucher schools’ per-pupil costs may be lower: About a third of the private schools report they do not have specialty teachers for subjects such as art, music and physical education.
MPS has also struggled to provide adequate numbers of specialty teachers in an era of tight budgets.
The survey results come from the Public Policy Forum, a Milwaukee policy research organization that conducted its 15th annual census of the voucher program in Milwaukee, which is in its 23rd year. The forum also now surveys the 2-year-old voucher program in Racine.
“Overall, we find that students who receive vouchers to attend these private schools look very much like students in MPS, but we are not investing much in them as a public,” said Anneliese Dickman, research director for the forum. “The results raise the question of whether these are the types of low-income students who deserve more funding.”

State of the Union 2013: Obama College Education Plan Needs More

Michael Lomax:

(Special to The Root) — President Barack Obama was exactly right in his State of the Union speech to mention the need for college graduates as part of his prescription for more American jobs. While there are more job seekers than jobs in our struggling economy, many employers are hiring but are having a hard time finding the college graduates they need to fill today’s high-technology — and high-paying — jobs.
The trouble is, he didn’t give the need for college graduates much more than a mention. “Most young people,” he said, “will need some higher education.” Most young people? Some higher education?
He acknowledged that “skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.” But he proposed no new aid, just conditioning federal aid to colleges on their affordability and introducing a college scorecard to help parents and students get value for their education dollars.

Call for Participation: Congress in The Classroom 2013

Cindy Koeppel, via a kind email:

Congress in the Classroom is a national, award-winning education program developed and sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center, the workshop is dedicated to the exchange of ideas and information on teaching about Congress.
Congress in the Classroom® is designed for high school or middle school teachers who teach U.S. history, government, civics, political science, or
social studies. Thirty-five teachers will be selected to take part in the
Applications will be accepted through March 15. We expect to confirm selections by March 29
The workshop will feature a variety of sessions related to the U.S. Congress.
Presenters will emphasize ideas and resources that teachers can use almost

How Charter Schools Get the Students They Want

Stephanie Simon:

Getting in can be grueling.
Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?
These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.
Charters are public schools, funded by taxpayers and widely promoted as open to all. But Reuters has found that across the United States, charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship, sometimes in violation of state and federal law.
“I didn’t get the sense that was what charter schools were all about – we’ll pick the students who are the most motivated? Who are going to make our test scores look good?” said Michelle Newman, whose 8-year-old son lost his seat in an Ohio charter school last fall after he did poorly on an admissions test. “It left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Set up as alternatives to traditional public schools, charter schools typically operate under private management and often boast small class sizes, innovative teaching styles or a particular academic focus. They’re booming: There are now more than 6,000 in the United States, up from 2,500 a decade ago, educating a record 2.3 million children.

Charter Schools Put Parents to the test

Stephanie Simon:

Charter schools pride themselves on asking a lot of their students. Many ask a great deal of parents, too.
Nearly 40 percent of charters nationwide do not participate in the federal subsidized lunch program, often because they don’t have space for a kitchen or don’t want to deal with the paperwork, according to the pro-charter Center for Education Reform.
That can leave low-income parents scrambling to find a way to feed their children. Nearly half of American school kids are eligible for subsidized meals, and more than 90 percent of traditional public schools provide them.
Most states don’t require charter schools to offer transportation, so that’s often up to parents, too.
And then there’s the forced volunteerism. Traditional public schools can and sometimes do ask parents to help out, but they can’t force the issue. Scores of charter schools, however, require parents to work up to 40 hours a year – or forfeit their child’s seat. To meet the mandate, parents might chaperone field trips, keep order at lunch or direct traffic in the parking lot.

Why are people leaving Wisconsin? State ranked in top 10 for out-migration

Mike Ivey:

Wisconsin is among the top 10 states for people moving out, according to the annual survey from United Van Lines. Forbes reported the story recently and it has been widely circulated — although probably not by many chambers of commerce.
The moving company United Van Lines has been doing the survey for 36 years and analyzed some 125,000 residential moves in the continental U.S. last year. While not scientific, it does provide a nice snapshot of migration patterns, along with fodder for social media chatter.
“I think people see Wisconsin as a dead end,” says George Dreckmann, longtime city of Madison recycling coordinator. “The paper industry is near death, the auto industry is gone. Our flagship university is closed to most of the state’s kids. The government under both Walker and (former Gov. Jim) Doyle showed no initiative or imagination. If I wasn’t 62, I’d be leaving, too.”
At No. 10 with 55 percent of 2,405 United Van Lines moves considered “outbound,” Wisconsin isn’t alone as a Great Lakes state seeing residents flee. Illinois is No. 2 and Michigan is No. 6. New Jersey was No. 1 with 62 percent of moves outbound. The top 10 also includes West Virginia (No. 3), New York (No. 4); New Mexico (No. 5); Connecticut (No. 7); Maine (No. 8) and Kentucky (No. 9).

Why the ‘naughty’ stereotype holds boys back at school: Children as young as 7 believe girls are better in class

Fiona Macrae:

The belief that girls are brainier and better behaved is holding boys back at school, research suggests.
A study of British pupils found that, from a young age, children think girls are academically superior.
And, what’s more, they believe that adults think so too.
University of Kent researchers said the beliefs may be self-fulfilling and help explain why boys lag behind at so many subjects.
Simply boosting boys’ self-belief could help close the academic gap, they said.
Research showed that boys performed better in tests when told they were as good as girls.
In the first part of the study, 238 pupils aged between four and ten were given a series of statements about children’s ability and behaviour.

Madison Event: Learn about attack on public schools

The Capital Times:

As Madison voters prepare to cast ballots Tuesday in important primary elections for the state Supreme Court and the Madison School Board, it is vital to recognize that the most critical challenge facing school districts across Wisconsin is the assault on public education that has been launched by out-of-state special interest groups and the politicians who do their bidding.
Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack is seeking re-election with heavy funding from Michigan, Texas and Arkansas donors with long histories of seeking to elect officials who will undermine public education with voucher schemes that divert taxpayer dollars to private schools. That should disqualify Roggensack in the eyes of any voter who wants to maintain the Wisconsin tradition of providing strong support for great public schools.
In the Madison School Board race, all three candidates express support for public schools, which is an indication that they know the community and surrounding Dane County. But, even in what has historically been a center of support for public education, it is important for voters to be aware of how and when outside groups will seek to influence local elections.
That’s why The Madison Institute’s Progressive Round Table forum on Saturday, Feb. 16, is so necessary.
The “Public Schools Under Attack: Vouchers, Virtual and Charter Schools” discussion will feature Julie Underwood, the UW-Madison dean of education, Madison School Board Vice President Marge Passman and state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, the former chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

Madison School Board Candidate Forum: Monday, 2.18.2013 @7:00p.m.

From the West High PTSO:
Monday evening, February 18th, at 7:00PM, the West HOUSE Connection is sponsoring a Board of Education Candidate Forum. Each candidate will answer written questions submitted by community members and the audience. Please join us!
The forum will be held at the Urban League of Greater Madison (, 2222 South Park Street, 1st Floor Rooms A&B Located Directly Off the Lobby. There is plenty of parking adjacent to the building. The Goodman South Madison Branch Library is located in the same building, see for a map.
If you would like to submit a question for the candidates please email Paul Radspinner at, or call, 233-7076.
Our schools are at the heart of our community. We encourage you to attend this important informative meeting in support of your student, our schools, and our community. For more information about the Board of Education see
Este es un mensaje importante de la Organización de Padres y Madres, Maestros, y Estudiantes (PTSO) de la escuela West.
El grupo de West HOUSE Connection está auspiciando el Foro de Candidatos a la Junta Educativa el lunes, 18 de febrero, a las 7:00 PM. Cada candidato responderá a preguntas escritas y enviadas por miembros de la comunidad y del público. ¡Por favor, reúnase con nosotros!
El foro estará en el Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 South Park Street, Madison, WI 53713 (Salones A y B del primer piso, ubicados cerca a la puerta del edificio.) Hay suficiente estacionamiento a lado del edificio. La Biblioteca pública de Madison: Goodman South está ubicada en el mismo edificio. Para ver un mapa, vaya a la página electrónica
Si quiere enviar una pregunta para los candidatos, por favor envíela a Paul Radspinner al, o llame, 233-7076.
Nuestras escuelas están al centro de nuestra comunidad. Les alentamos asistir a esta reunión importante e informativa para apoyar a sus estudiantes, nuestras escuelas, y nuestra comunidad. Para conseguir más información sobre La Junta Educativa vaya a la página electrónica

The Founders Trap

Chris Dixon:

I talk a lot to people who are deciding between startups and established companies. They’re usually early in their careers and have been exclusively affiliated with well-known schools and companies. As a result, they’re accustomed to praise from family and friends. Going to a startup is scary, as Jessica Livingstone, cofounder of Y Combinator, describes:

Everyone you encounter will have doubts about what you’re doing–investors, potential employees, reporters, your family and friends. What you don’t realize until you start a startup is how much external validation you’ve gotten for the conservative choices you’ve made in the past. You go to college and everyone says, “Great!” Then you graduate get a job at Google and everyone says, “Great!”

But optimizing for external validation is a dangerous trap. You’re fighting over a fixed pie against well-credentialed peers. The most likely outcome is a middle management job where you’ll have little impact and never seriously attempt to realize your ambitions. Peter Thiel’s personal experience illustrates this well:

Coming Soon to China: At-Home Toxic Food Test Kits

Laurie Burkett:

Fearful of accidentally chomping down on cardboard-stuffed dumplings or toxic chicken, Chinese consumers may soon be able to run safety tests on their food before putting it in their mouths.
According to a report from the official Xinhua news agency, scientists at the Tianjin University of Science and Technology in northern China have developed an at-home testing kit to help consumers detect more than 60 varieties of chemicals in their food.
The tests, conducted with indicator paper, let consumers know within minutes if a food sample contains harmful substances, Xinhua said, predicting the product will likely be in high demand.

How Wisconsin is Failing to help Students with Disabilities

Mike Nichols:

Wisconsin students with disabilities and unique needs are sometimes unable to secure what, in their parents’ judgment, is an appropriate education at a public school. The courts and legislators have recognized that federal funds must be available for educating such students in private schools instead.
There is, nevertheless, a large disparity between the formally reported percentage of children in Wisconsin public schools who have disabilities (approximately 14 percent) and the percentage of children in private schools who have disabilities (less than 2 percent).1
This has led some to contend that private schools are not receptive to children with special needs.
A survey of private school administrators conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute as part of the research for this paper dispels that myth. Private school administrators say both that they educate more children with disabilities (about 6 percent) than official Department of Public Instruction numbers reflect, and that would like to teach even more.
There are myriad, inter-related reasons why they can’t or don’t. Denials of funding are not uncommon, and what funding does exist is often inadequate. The system for determining which children receive assistance is not uniform. Public school officials are not always conducting the “child find” process in a timely manner. There is, in fact, at least the appearance of an inherent conflict of interest in requiring public school districts to identify and evaluate children in private schools who will receive federal funding through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because this money is, in essence, subtracted from resources otherwise available to the school district.

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.”

Help Shy Kids–Don’t Punish Them

Sarah Cain:

Jessica Lahey, author of the piece “Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School,” is a teacher who obviously cares deeply for her students. She’s absolutely right that reticent children need to be sensitively encouraged to push through their fears so they can make their voices heard when they have something to say, and so they can face the world with confidence and joy.
As others have pointed out in the comments, however, her article is primarily about shy children who fear social judgment, not introverts who simply prefer quieter environments and think before speaking. And grading shy kids based on class participation may not be the best way to help them.
Here are some alternative ideas for helping shy children:

Three Things Students Can Do Now to Promote Open Access

Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The open access movement is a long-standing campaign in the world of research to make scholarly works freely available and reusable. One of its fundamental premises is that the progress of knowledge and culture happens scholarly works of all kinds are widely shared, not hidden in ivory towers built with paywalls and shorn by harsh legal regimes.
Scholarly journal publishers currently compile research done by professors (for free), send articles out to be peer reviewed (for free), and distribute the edited journals back to universities around the world (for costs anywhere up to $35,000 each). Subscription prices have outpaced inflation by over 250 percent in the past 30 years, and these fees go straight to the publisher. Neither the authors nor their institutions are paid a cent, and the research itself–which is largely funded by taxpayers–remains difficult to attain. Skyrocketing costs have forced university libraries–even Harvard’s, the richest American university–to pick and choose between journal subscriptions.
The result: students and citizens face barriers accessing information they need; professors have a harder time reviewing and teaching the state of the art; and cutting-edge research remains hidden behind paywalls, depriving it of the visibility it deserves.

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.
High-school seniors now trying to decide which college to attend next fall are awash with information about costs, from dorm rooms to meal plans. But there is almost no easy way to tell what graduates at specific schools earn–or how many found jobs in their chosen field. Supporters say more transparency is needed as students graduate deeper in debt and enter the rocky job market.

Power of Suggestion: The amazing influence of unconscious cues is among the most fascinating discoveries of our time­–that is, if it’s true

Tom Bartlett:

framed print of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” hangs above the moss-green, L-shaped sectional in John Bargh’s office on the third floor of Yale University’s Kirtland Hall. Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych imagines a natural environment that is like ours (water, flowers) yet not (enormous spiked and translucent orbs). What precisely the 15th-century Dutch master had in mind is still a mystery, though theories abound. On the left is presumably paradise, in the middle is the world, and on the right is hell, complete with knife-faced monster and human-devouring bird devil.
By Bosch’s standard, it’s too much to say the past year has been hellish for Bargh, but it hasn’t been paradise either. Along with personal upheaval, including a lengthy child-custody battle, he has coped with what amounts to an assault on his life’s work, the research that pushed him into prominence, the studies that Malcolm Gladwell called “fascinating” and Daniel Kahneman deemed “classic.” What was once widely praised is now being pilloried in some quarters as emblematic of the shoddiness and shallowness of social psychology. When Bargh responded to one such salvo with a couple of sarcastic blog posts, he was ridiculed as going on a “one-man rampage.” He took the posts down and regrets writing them, but his frustration and sadness at how he’s been treated remain.

Industrial Mathematics – What I Do

Adam Rosenberg:

People ask me what I do for a living. It’s a fair question, one I certainly feel comfortable asking other people, and, yet, one I can’t easily answer for my own career. I tell them I’m an “industrial mathematician.”
A business operates some set of processes or activities within a set of limitations or constraints and realizes some kind of outcome, revenue or profit, from it. (How is that for a general definition of a business?) In its operation, a business makes choices or decisions that affect the outcome. The process of selecting the best decisions that stay within the business limitations is called “constrained optimization.”
My education is in a field called “Operations Research,” so named because it started as the study of ways to help the U.S. military after World War II. It is also called “Management Science” with similar fields called “Industrial Engineering” and “Engineering-Economic Systems.” In one form or another, these fields specialize in constrained optimization, finding the best solution amid a vast array of choices, maximizing a given objective within specified limitations.

French Plan to Add to Already Lengthy School Days Angers Parents and Teachers

Nicola Clark:

For more than a century, the lengthy school days of French children have been punctuated by a midweek day off, in recent decades for most children on Wednesdays, originally created for catechism studies.
The long hours and peculiar weekly rhythm have been criticized as counterproductive to learning and blamed for keeping women out of the full-time work force, as well as widening inequalities between rich and poor because of the demands they place on working parents. Yet the Wednesday break has remained a fulcrum of French family life.
With all that in mind, the government of President François Hollande recently issued a decree introducing a half day of school on Wednesdays for children 3 to 11 starting in September, while reducing the school day by 45 minutes the rest of the week. In a country with a broad consensus in favor of shortening a school day that typically runs from 8:30 a.m. to at least 4 p.m., and sometimes longer, Mr. Hollande’s government still did not expect the plan to be controversial. It has not worked out that way.

The Most Thorough Experience to Date of a University with MOOC

Phil Hill:

One of the benefits of participating in an interactive event, such as the recent ELI Webinar that Michael and I led yesterday, is that the learning goes both ways. During the webinar, one of the participants shared a link for a report from Duke University on their first MOOC, Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach, delivered through Coursera in fall 2012. And what a find that was – this is the most thorough description I have yet seen from a university about their experience selecting, development, delivering and analyzing a MOOC. Kudos to Yvonne Belanger and Jessica Thornton, the authors.
What follows are some key excerpts along with some observations, but for anyone considering participation in one of the xMOOCs – read the whole report.

D.C. debates growth of charter schools

Emma Brown:

It’s the latest sign that the District is on track to become a city where a majority of children are educated not in traditional public schools but in public charters: A California nonprofit group has proposed opening eight D.C. charter schools that would enroll more than 5,000 students by 2019.
The proposal has stirred excitement among those who believe that Rocketship Education, which combines online learning and face-to-face instruction, can radically raise student achievement in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Rocketship’s charter application — which is the largest ever to come before District officials, and which might win approval this month — arrives on the heels of Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s decision to close 15 half-empty city schools, highlighting an intense debate about the future of public education in the nation’s capital.
A growing number of activists have raised concerns that the traditional school system, facing stiffer-than-ever competition from charters, is in danger of being relegated to a permanently shrunken role. And they worry that Washington has yet to confront what that could mean for taxpayers, families and neighborhoods.

Avenues: a Few Photos

Learn more about Avenues via their website, Twitter and this recent Chris Whittle interview.
Related: How Do You Say “Early Admission” in Mandarin?
The first of a new breed of elite private school opens its doors
The Best School $75 Million Can Buy:

Equipping pupils to prosper in the global economy is at the core of the Avenues curriculum, which has been developed by various experts including some from Harvard’s School of Education. Mr Whittle thinks that even America’s best private schools have a “stale” curriculum in this respect, especially when it comes to foreign languages, which often are not taught until pupils are 11. From the day they enter kindergarten at Avenues, pupils will be taught half their lessons in a foreign tongue, either Mandarin or Spanish–an “immersion” process that Mr Whittle reckons will make every pupil fully bilingual within seven years.

Dear Governor Walker

Ripon, WI Superintendent Richard Zimman:

A few weeks ago, while attending the annual WASB Convention in Milwaukee, I was in the audience when Governor Scott Walker addressed the attendees. It took me a while to jot down the thoughts I had while listening to the governor’s speech, but today I was finally able to send this letter to Governor Walker.
Dear Governor Walker:
Recently you spoke to school board members, school superintendents, and school business managers at the 92nd annual Wisconsin Education Convention held in Milwaukee. In reference to school funding, you said that your 2013-15 biennial budget would increase funding for all schools. There was widespread applause at the hope of receiving adequate money to keep pace with rising costs associated with educating our youth. Thank you for any assistance you can give us in this area so that we do not have to further cut programs and opportunities for students due to lack of funds.
You also indicated that you were looking at giving “bonus” funds to schools which scored well on the new DPI report cards since those schools, teachers, and administrators who were getting good results should be rewarded for their efforts. While this idea of a “bonus” for those schools which are getting better results may seem to follow market-driven tenets, it is actually an example of what happens when market forces are replaced by government-driven controls that tip the balance to favor some at the expense of others.

Much more on Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman, here.

Mayor Bloomberg gives $1 million to L.A. school board candidates

Howard Blume:

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has donated $1 million to a campaign to elect three board candidates who strongly support current L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy — two of the three candidates also are political opponents of the Los Angeles teachers union.
The donation was confirmed by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Bloomberg’s donation is the largest to date for the school board contests and could change the complexion of the race.
The most heated primary contest is in District 4, which stretches from the Westside to the west San Fernando Valley. One-term incumbent trustee and former teacher Steve Zimmer is trying to hold on to his seat with backing from the teachers union, other unions representing employees, the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the local Democratic Party.
Running against him is parent and attorney Kate Anderson, whose campaign, already well-funded, is expected to get a major boost from Bloomberg’s donation.

Change is the Only Path to Better Schools

Chris Rickert:

Shortly after Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad resigned last year, School Board member Ed Hughes told me that when it comes to the Madison School District, “People want improvement, but they don’t want change.”
I thought about Hughes’ words last weekend after the school district announced it had hired Chicago Public Schools chief of instruction Jennifer Cheatham as Nerad’s replacement.
Cheatham is seen as the best bet for improvement — specifically to the long history of low-income and minority student under-achievement.
The question now is: Will people tolerate her changes?
Hughes told me Sunday he was “optimistic” they would. “I think she will earn teachers’ trust and inspire them to do their best work,” he said. “If she succeeds at that, everything else will fall into place.”
I hope he’s right, but I don’t yet share his optimism.
Back in 2011, it was the district’s long-standing inability to do anything bold about the achievement gap that left it vulnerable to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s bid to open its own charter school for minority and low-income students.
Madison Preparatory Academy brought the issue of the achievement gap to the fore. But the school’s rejection — largely due to opposition from the teachers union — left notoriously progressive Madison doing some uncomfortable soul-searching.

Related: And so it continues…..

Why Did Florida Schools’ Grades Improve Dramatically Between 1999 And 2005?

Matthew DiCarlo:

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was in Virginia last week, helping push for a new law that would install an “A-F” grading system for all public schools in the commonwealth, similar to a system that has existed in Florida for well over a decade.
In making his case, Governor Bush put forth an argument about the Florida system that he and his supporters use frequently. He said that, right after the grades went into place in his state, there was a drop in the proportion of D and F schools, along with a huge concurrent increase in the proportion of A schools. For example, as Governor Bush notes, in 1999, only 12 percent of schools got A’s. In 2005, when he left office, the figure was 53 percent. The clear implication: It was the grading of schools (and the incentives attached to the grades) that caused the improvements.
There is some pretty good evidence (also here) that the accountability pressure of Florida’s grading system generated modest increases in testing performance among students in schools receiving F’s (i.e., an outcome to which consequences were attached), and perhaps higher-rated schools as well. However, putting aside the serious confusion about what Florida’s grades actually measure, as well as the incorrect premise that we can evaluate a grading policy’s effect by looking at the simple distribution of those grades over time, there’s a much deeper problem here: The grades changed in part because the criteria changed.

Teacher absenteeism puts students at a loss

Greg Toppo:

New research suggests that teacher absenteeism is becoming problematic in U.S. public schools, as about one in three teachers miss more than 10 days of school each year. The nation’s improving economic picture may also worsen absenteeism as teachers’ fears ease that they’ll lose their job over taking too many sick days, researchers say.
First-ever figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, compiled in 2012, also show that in a few states, nearly half of teachers miss more than 10 days in a typical 180-day school year.
Among them:

Lehigh University student sues over grade, seeks $1.3 million

Riley Yates:

Megan Thode isn’t the first Lehigh University student who was unhappy with the grade she received in a course. But she may be the first to sue to get it changed.
The C+ that Thode was given scuttled her dream of becoming a licensed professional counselor and was part of an effort to force her out of the graduate degree program she was pursuing, said her lawyer, Richard J. Orloski, whose lawsuit seeks $1.3 million in damages.
Orloski said his client is the victim of breach of contract and sexual discrimination, and a civil trial began Monday before Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano over the claims. They’re nonsense, said Neil Hamburg, an attorney for Lehigh University.

Sorry Left AND Right, No Job Requires A College Degree

John Tamny:

Recently this writer participated as part of a television panel in which it was asked if there aren’t enough jobs that require a college degree for the coming glut of college grads. The question was a funny one, one that conferred on college grads skills much greater than those possessed by the average individual. Maybe, but not asked enough is what job requires a college degree? The truth is no job does, though politicians and policy analysts would have us believe otherwise.
President Obama regularly talks up the need for more math classes “to equip our children for the future.” The latter is odd and a bit dated, particularly when we consider that computers and calculators have largely made the need for math knowledge something of the past.

Madison La Follette High archives a valued resource

Pamela Cotant:

n the course of filming a fictional mystery about a 1978 sculpture in the school’s courtyard, La Follette High School freshmen Laura Martinez, 14, Stephanie Dombrowski, 14, and Denzell Jones, 15, became interested in the actual history of the work.
So they’re also filming a separate video about the origins of the sculpture, in part using information they obtained from the school’s archive and history museum.
“It was very important,” Laura said about the research.
The La Follette High School Archives and History Museum is a rare treasure in a Wisconsin public high school.
A final exam project chosen by freshmen students of former La Follette history teacher Victoria Straughn in the spring of 1999 led to the museum. The students pieced together some history of the school by talking to teachers and family members who were alumni and collecting memorabilia.
“So they started collecting things, and we didn’t have any place to put them except my desk,” Straughn said.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? SENIORITY

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

Rights granted to an employee by the Union Contract are among the most important conditions of one’s employment. Those represented by MTI, in each of MTI’s five bargaining units, have numerous protections based on SENIORITY. Whether it is protection from involuntary transfer, being declared “surplus” or above staff requirements, or layoff, SENIORITY is the factor that limits and controls management’s action. Because of SENIORITY rights guaranteed by the Union’s Contract, the employer cannot pick the junior employee simply because he/she is paid less.
Making such judgments based on one’s SENIORITY may seem like common sense and basic human decency, but it is MTI’s Contract that assures it. Governor Walker’s Act 10 destroys these protections. MTI is working to preserve them.

The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools

David Kirp
WHAT would it really take to give students a first-rate education? Some argue that our schools are irremediably broken and that charter schools offer the only solution. The striking achievement of Union City, N.J. — bringing poor, mostly immigrant kids into the educational mainstream — argues for reinventing the public schools we have. Union City makes an unlikely poster child for education reform. It’s a poor community with an unemployment rate 60 percent higher than the national average. Three-quarters of the students live in homes where only Spanish is spoken. A quarter are thought to be undocumented, living in fear of deportation.
Public schools in such communities have often operated as factories for failure. This used to be true in Union City, where the schools were once so wretched that state officials almost seized control of them. How things have changed. From third grade through high school, students’ achievement scores now approximate the statewide average. What’s more, in 2011, Union City boasted a high school graduation rate of 89.5 percent — roughly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. Last year, 75 percent of Union City graduates enrolled in college, with top students winning scholarships to the Ivies.
As someone who has worked on education policy for four decades, I’ve never seen the likes of this. After spending a year in Union City working on a book, I believe its transformation offers a nationwide strategy. Ask school officials to explain Union City’s success and they start with prekindergarten, which enrolls almost every 3- and 4-year-old. There’s abundant research showing the lifetime benefits of early education. Here, seeing is believing.
One December morning the lesson is making latkes, the potato pancakes that are a Hanukkah staple. Everything that transpires during these 90 minutes could be called a “teachable moment” — describing the smell of an onion (“Strong or light? Strong — duro. Will it smell differently when we cook it? We’ll have to find out.”); pronouncing the “p” in pepper and pimento; getting the hang of a food processor (“When I put all the ingredients in, what will happen?”).
Cognitive and noncognitive, thinking and feeling; here, this line vanishes. The good teacher is always on the lookout for both kinds of lessons, always aiming to reach both head and heart. “My goal is to do for these kids what I do with my own children,” the teacher, Susana Rojas, tells me. “It’s all about exposure to concepts — wide, narrow, long, short. I bring in breads from different countries. ‘Let’s do a pie chart showing which one you liked the best.’ I don’t ask them to memorize 1, 2, 3 — I could teach a monkey to count.” From pre-K to high school, the make-or-break factor is what the Harvard education professor Richard Elmore calls the “instructional core” — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of the students and the rigor of the curriculum. To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers.
When Alina Bossbaly greets her third grade students, ethics are on her mind. “Room 210 is a pie — un pie — and each of us is a slice of that pie.” The pie offers a down-to-earth way of talking about a community where everyone has a place. Building character and getting students to think is her mission. From Day 1, her kids are writing in their journals, sifting out the meaning of stories and solving math problems. Every day, Ms. Bossbaly is figuring out what’s best for each child, rather than batch-processing them. Though Ms. Bossbaly is a star, her philosophy pervades the district. Wherever I went, these schools felt less like impersonal institutions than the simulacrum of an extended family.

Continue reading The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools

Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Guru Jason Zimba

Rick Hess, via a kind reader’s email:

You didn’t think the ferment around Common Core could keep building? Hah! Prepare for several more years of increasing wackiness. In the middle of it all is Jazon Zimba, founding principal of Student Achievement Partners (SAP) and the man who is leading SAP after David Coleman went off to head up the College Board. SAP is a major player in Common Core implementation, especially with the aid of $18 million in support from the GE Foundation. Zimba was the lead writer on the Common Core mathematics standards. He earned his doctorate in mathematical physics from Berkeley, co-founded the Grow Network with Coleman, and previously taught physics and math at Bennington College. He’s a private dude who lives up in New England and has not been part of the Beltway policy conversation. I’d never met Zimba, until we had the chance to sit down last week.
Now, I think readers know that I’m of two minds when it comes to the Common Core. On the one hand, it does have the potential to bring coherence to the education space, shed light on who’s doing what, raise the bar for instructional materials and teacher prep, and so forth. On the other, there are about 5,000 ways the whole thing could go south or turn into a stifling bureaucratic monstrosity-and one rarely goes wrong when betting against our ability to do massive, complex edu-reforms well. Given all this, like many of you, I’m carefully watching how all this is playing out. In that spirit, I enjoyed meeting Zimba; found him smart and engaging; and thought you all might be equally interested in hearing from him. In particular, I’d love to hear how much Zimba’s responses do or don’t assuage various concerns about the Common Core. Here’s what he had to say (in an email interview that followed our conversation):
RH: How confident are you that teacher preparation programs are ready and able to alter their practice in light of the Common Core?
JZ: There is a long tradition of mathematicians partnering with education schools and local districts to enhance the mathematical education of teachers. The first thing I ever read about this was Richard Askey’s 1999 article in American Educator. The National Math Panel also made recommendations to improve teacher preparation in mathematics. But the fact that mathematicians have been working on the mathematical preparation of teachers for so long is really a good-news/bad-news story. The Common Core could bring some much-needed scale and impetus for change here.
I’ve heard about some of the alternative certification programs basing their training on the Common Core, and that makes sense because these programs tend to have national reach. As for traditional universities, I assume change will happen faster in some places but slowly in most. I would love to see some creative thinking about this from the universities themselves, but also from the states and districts who are their clients.

Global Perspectives: How do we prepare students for a world we cannot imagine?

Marc Tucker:

An interview with Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the Institute of Education, University of London, on his paper entitled Optimizing Talent: Closing Educational and Social Mobility Gap Worldwide, published last year at the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria.
Marc Tucker: In your paper, you start out making an argument that today’s children are more intelligent than their parents and their grandparents and you combine that with an argument that the quality of teaching in government-funded schools appears to be higher than that in private schools in most wealthy countries. Can you tell us more about the research on both points?
Dylan Wiliam: The first argument draws on the work of psychologist James Flynn (the Flynn effect), an American living and working in New Zealand. He found that IQ tests need to be re-benchmarked every decade, because IQs are rising, about 3 to 4 points every ten years. So IQ norms are rising, and people are getting smarter in ways we may not entirely realize. The average would be around 110 or 115 if we didn’t adjust it. It has risen 15 points since World War II. This is occurring on some tests more than others; arithmetic scores have gone up very little while spatial scores and problem-solving scores are increasing substantially. Maybe young people aren’t using their intelligence today as well as they could be but there is evidence that they are smarter.
Tucker: Most American teachers think about intelligence in the way they were taught to – it is a function of the genes. Is the gene pool changing, or do we have a different idea now about what these tests are measuring?

Charter Public Schools Give Detroit Schoolchildren Hope Stanford University study finds charter pupils gain an extra three months of learning

Tom Gantert:

On a National Assessment of Educational Progress test given to urban students a few years ago, Detroit Public Schools students scored the lowest ever measured in the nation.
Or, in the words of one urban education expert: “They are barely above what one would expect simply by chance, as if the kids simply guessed at the answers.”
But thanks to school choice, there may finally be hope.
Detroit school children are learning at a rate of an extra three months in school a year when in charter public schools compared to similar counterparts in conventional Detroit Public Schools, according to the findings of a Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study done by Stanford University on students in the Detroit area.
Charter public schools in Detroit give parents an educational option for their children that previously didn’t exist. Charter public schools in Detroit enroll 47,000 students, the third highest charter enrollment in the country behind Los Angeles and New York. DPS has an enrollment of about 66,600 students.

Why Online Education Works

Alex Tabarrok:

Oxford University was founded in 1096, Cambridge in 1209. Harvard, a relative newcomer, was founded in 1636. Other than religions, few institutions appear to have maintained their existence or their relative status for as long as major universities. And few institutions, notably again other than religions, have seen so little change. Oxford in 2012 teaches students in ways remarkably similar to Oxford in 1096, seated students listening to professors in a classroom.
I suspect that these two facts are related; stasis in methods has led to stasis in status. And I suspect that both of these facts are about to change. Online education will change how universities teach; as a result, online education will change which universities teach.
Advantages of Online Education
I see three principle advantages to online education, 1) leverage, especially of the best teachers; 2) time savings; 3) individualized teaching and new technologies.
The importance of leverage was brought home to me by a personal anecdote. In 2009, I gave a TED talk on the economics of growth. Since then my 15 minute talk has been watched nearly 700,000 times. That is far fewer views than the most-watched TED talk, Ken Robinson’s 2006 talk on how schools kill creativity, which has been watched some 26 million times. Nonetheless, the 15 minutes of teaching I did at TED dominates my entire teaching career: 700,000 views at 15 minutes each is equivalent to 175,000 student-hours of teaching, more than I have taught in my entire offline career.[1] Moreover, the ratio is likely to grow because my online views are increasing at a faster rate than my offline students.

Student Loans to Cost at Least $35 Billion More Than Expected

Jonathan Robe:

Buried in a new Congressional Budget Office report is the revelation that the CBO now thinks federal student loans will add $35 billion more to the deficit in the next ten years than it previously thought. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023,” released this week, details the changes in the CBO’s baseline projections for the federal deficit for the coming decade.
The CBO scores student loans as a “net negative subsidy”; this means that student loans will bring in $35 billion less of a profit, thus increasing the deficit by that amount.

Math class without hand calculation? Estonia is moving toward it

Kate Torgovnick:

Math class should be fascinating, right? At TED2010, Conrad Wolfram suggests that one reason it often isn’t is hand calculation. Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computersMost students spend years in math class learning to work sums by hand that a computer can now do. After all, computers are far better at calculation than human beings will ever be, while people are far better at defining problems and coming up with creative solutions.
Wolfram’s website,, supports curriculums that allow teachers to focus on real-world math problems, so students can study concepts rather than calculation. As Wolfram says on the site:
“Rather than topics like solving quadratic equations or factorizing polynomials, Computer-Based Math focuses on using the power of math to solve real-world problems like, ‘Should I insure my mobile?,’ ‘How long will I live?’ or ‘What makes a beautiful shape?'”

NJ DOE Releases Two Assessments of New Teacher Assessments

Laura Waters:

The New Jersey Department of Education has released two reports that evaluate the status of the first-year pilot for evaluating teachers. One was prepared by the Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee and the other by the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.
Here’s the memo that was sent out to all chief school administrators and charter school leaders.
After the passage of TEACHNJ, the Legislature’s reform of teacher and principal evaluation and tenure law, the DOE selected ten districts to participate in a pilot program for the teacher evaluations. Districts, on a very short time line, selected teacher evaluation rubrics (most chose Charlotte Danielson’s model) and started the time-sucking practice of lengthy, data-driven, teacher evaluations.
Both reports praise the commitment of teacher and administrators as they pioneer a framework for fairly evaluating teachers based largely on student growth. They reference the difficulty of changing a culture where all teachers are deemed above average, and note that this endeavor is, by definition, a long process. Pilot districts have devoted enormous time and resources to extensive professional development, collaboration, and implementation.

Loose Thoughts on Youth & Age

George Packer:

Something unusual stopped me in these sentences from a Times article about a state-by-state study of flaws in the American electoral system: “A main goal of the exercise, which grew out of Professor Gerken’s 2009 book, ‘The Democracy Index,’ was to shame poor performers into doing better, she said. ‘Peer pressure produces horrible things like Britney Spears and Justin Bieber and tongue rings,’ Professor Gerken said. ‘But it also produces professional peer pressure.'”
It almost took my breath away: Professor Heather Gerken, who is in her early forties, felt free to tell a reporter that Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, not to mention tongue rings, are horrible. Gerken broke one of the unwritten rules of being middle-aged: don’t go after the young and what they love. Not in print, anyway. Don’t open yourself up to the charge of curmudgeonliness, because the inevitable retort–“You just don’t get it, Professor! You sound like your parents!”–is probably accurate, certainly unanswerable, and absolutely devastating. Few things in America are less forgivable than getting older.

Coralville Marriott’s library represents growing national trend

Luke Voelz:

A small room lies down the hallway from the entrance to the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, its heavy wooden doors blocking out the noise of passersby.
A fireplace and mellow overhead lighting illuminate a series of bookshelves, each bearing rows of novels and short stories.
It is a library, and it has made the Marriott, local industry officials said, one of the first hotels to join what has become a nationwide trend over the last two years.

Parents with a difference: A playdate with ‘Far from the Tree’ author Andrew Solomon

Katie Rophie:

As the writer Andrew Solomon, his husband, John Habich, and their three-year-old son George descend the stone steps, they bring a burst of colour to the dark grey underworld of the New York Transit Museum: John in brilliant red corduroys, George in an orange-striped shirt, Andrew in a bright-blue striped shirt and scarlet socks.
I have brought along my son, Leo. Being three, the boys don’t really talk to each other, they run. There are antique buses to drive, models of the third rail to electrify, subways to bounce around.
Solomon has just published his spectacularly successful book Far from the Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love, which chronicles the stories of children who, for various reasons, are extremely different from their parents. The book took 11 years to write and its 702 pages include autism, schizophrenia, Down’s syndrome, child prodigies, transgendered children, deafness, dwarfism, and crime. Each chapter tackles a different subject, seen through interviews with numerous families.

Seventh-grader repeats victory at All-City Spelling Bee

Dennis Punzel:

Aisha Khan was finally stumped.
She hemmed and hawed for a moment as she searched her memory for the answer.
Try as she might, the seventh-grader at Spring Harbor Middle School couldn’t recall the last word she misspelled in the Madison All-City Spelling Bee.
“I don’t really remember,” Aisha said.
That’s understandable, considering she was just a fifth-grader the last time she stumbled over a word in the city contest.

Learning for the Very Young

The Economist:

BARACK OBAMA likes to call education “the currency for the information age”. His presidency has brought a big shift in America’s priorities, devoting more effort and resources–and an extra $2 billion–to children who have not yet started their formal schooling.
That is part of an international trend. South Korea plans to extend their early-education provision for all three- and four-year-olds this year. Turkey has ambitious plans too. Pre-school education was long neglected. “90% of the brain develops between the ages of zero to five, yet we spend 90% of our dollars on kids above the age of five,” says Timothy Knowles of the University of Chicago. That is now changing. Academic studies, including in neuroscience, have highlighted the long-term effects of experiences in a child’s early years.

Can Globalization Be Taught in B-School?

Melissa Korn:

As companies seek individuals who can work anywhere in the world, plenty of U.S. business schools claim they’re “going global,” adding weeklong jaunts to China, Korea or Brazil and increasing the share of international students in their classes.
But that’s not enough to train tomorrow’s leaders, argues Pankaj Ghemawat, a professor of global strategy at IESE Business School in Barcelona. In order to prepare students for a global business environment, he says, schools must do a better job explaining globalization–and its many limits.
Mr. Ghemawat, 53 years old, recently served on a task force coordinated by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an industry accrediting group, to offer recommendations on how schools can teach the complex topic.

Gender Bias 101 For Mathematicians

Isabella Laba:

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
MYTH 1: Sexism is perpetrated by a small number of men, typically close to retirement age, who are “against women.” Most academics, especially mathematicians, are open-minded people who are against discrimination.
FACT: Please read this study on gender bias in science hiring:

Teen Health Tip: Consider Sharing Your Secrets

Ann Lukits:

Having secrets is widespread among teenagers, especially girls. But teens who share their secrets in confidence with parents and friends have fewer headaches and depressed moods and are more confident in social situations than others who keep secrets to themselves, according to a report in the Journal of Adolescence.
Researchers worked with nearly 800 boys and girls, ages 14 to 19, from five schools in the Netherlands. Most came from two-parent families. The teens reported on questionnaires if they had a private secret that they never talked about, how long they had kept the secret, if the information was known to others and how difficult it was to keep or reveal the secret.

German Fascination With Degrees Claims Latest Victim: Education Minister

Nicholas Kulish & Chris Cottrell:

For 32 years, the German education minister’s 351-page dissertation sat on a shelf at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf gathering dust while its author pursued a successful political career that carried her to the highest circles of the German government.
The academic work was a time bomb, however, and it exploded last year when an anonymous blogger published a catalog of passages suspected of having been lifted from other publications without proper attribution.
The university revoked the doctorate of the minister, Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, on Tuesday (she retains the title pending appeal), and on Saturday she was forced to resign her cabinet post. It was the second time a minister had resigned from the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel over plagiarism in less than two years.

Battling College Costs, a Paycheck at a Time

Ron Lieber:

If Steve Boedefeld graduates from Appalachian State University without any student loan debt, it will be because of the money he earned fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the money he now saves by eating what he grows or kills.
Zack Tolmie managed to escape New York University with no debt — and a degree — by landing a job at Bubby’s, the brunch institution in TriBeCa, where he made $1,000 a week. And he had entered N.Y.U. with sophomore standing, thanks to Advanced Placement credits. All that hard work also yielded a $25,000 annual merit scholarship.
The two are part of a rare species on college campuses these days, as the nation’s collective student loan balance hits $1 trillion and continues to rise. While many students are trying to defray some of the costs, few can actually work their way through college in a normal amount of time without debt and little or no need-based financial aid unless they have an unusual combination of bravery, luck and discipline.

Individualized program showing signs of success in West Allis-West Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk:

Paula Kaiser says she is getting a lot of experience as a tour guide these days. She shows people around the Miller Brewery perhaps?
It’s Walker School, a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school on S. 119th St. in West Allis.
Kaiser’s title gives you an idea of what is bringing folks to the 350-student school: She is “next generation learning lead” for the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District.
In other words, she is one of the key people in reshaping life in a growing number of classrooms in the district in a way that is making them showcases for what might be the future on a much wider basis – a higher tech, more individualized, less structured approach to learning, even in the earliest grades.
The new approach sure looks different.
Walk into Team Respect – that’s the name of a combined grouping of 54 first- through third-graders – and you don’t see much of what you saw when you were in those grades.
No rows of desks, not even many tables. Instead, there’s friendly furniture like bean bags, a selection of comfortable nooks and lots of space on the carpet. Kids seem to be mostly sitting around, even lying around, sometimes milling around, by themselves or in pairs or small groups. Most of the time, no teacher is in the front of the room telling everyone what to do.

The politics of Wisconsin’s declining union membership

Craig Gilbert:

The 2012 election has produced a low-grade Republican panic about the long-term consequences of a shifting electorate, with legions of younger, minority and unmarried Americans voting heavily Democratic.
But there’s at least one demographic trend that’s working in the opposite direction – hurting Democrats and helping Republicans – and Wisconsin has become the most extreme example in the country: the shrinking union vote.
Nationally, union membership saw one of its sharpest declines in years in 2012, dropping from 11.8% of the workforce in 2011 to 11.3% last year, according to data released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But the really eye-popping numbers could be found in Wisconsin, where membership in public-sector unions plummeted in the aftermath of Act 10, the hugely controversial Republican measure that wiped out most collective bargaining for public employees and made it far harder for their unions to operate.

And, so it continues

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Leadership comes in different shapes and sizes. After spending time with 41-year-old Jen Cheatham and attending the community forum on Thursday, I kept thinking back to the winter day 23 years ago when 43-year-old Barry Alvarez was introduced to the Madison community and made his memorable statement about how fans interested in season tickets better get them now because they’d soon be hard to get.
Like Cheatham, Alvarez was an outsider, a rising star in a major program who was ready to take the reins of his own program and run with it. That certainly did not guarantee success, but he proved to have that rare and ineluctable something that inspired his players to raise their game, that drove them to succeed as a team because they couldn’t bear to let their coach or teammates down.
As with Barry, so with Jen. For those of us who have been able to spend time with Jen Cheatham and talk to her about her vision for our Madison schools, it is clear that whatever leadership is, she has it. What we heard time and again from those she’s worked with is that Jen is able to inspire principals and teachers to do their best possible work for the students they serve. But also like Alvarez, she’s doesn’t shy away from tough decisions when they’re necessary.

Related: Madison’s third grade reading results:

“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 School Board Needs to Address Search Fiasco:

That being the case, Cheatham would come to this position in a difficult circumstance. As Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, told the State Journal: “The perception of people in this community when we have one pick, they will always question the value of this woman. That’s not fair to her and not fair to our kids.”
The School Board has presided over a fiasco that board member Ed Hughes admits — in a major understatement — “has not gone as smoothly as we’d like.”
Now the board needs to get its act together.
If would be good if the board were to seek the return of the more than $30,000 in taxpayer money that was allocated for what can only charitably be referred to as a “search.” However, we don’t want the board to squander more tax money on extended legal wrangling.
The board should make it clear that it will not have further dealings with this search firm, as the firm’s vetting of applicants does not meet the basic standards that a responsible board should expect.
Perhaps most importantly, the board should engage in a serious rethink of its approach to searches for top administrators. The Madison Metropolitan School District is a great urban school district. It has challenges, especially with regard to achievement gaps and the overuse of standardized testing, that must be addressed.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman – August, 2009

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).
Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

The Admissions Desk: Grad School for Corruption Studies?

Samuel Rubenfeld:

Those interested in corruption and academia can get a Master’s degree for their efforts.
The International Anti-Corruption Academy, which launched in Laxenburg, Austria, in 2010, announced on Thursday the 30-person inaugural class of its new Master’s in Anti-Corruption Studies. The two-year, part-time program will serve as an enhancement to professional development, the academy said.
It comes as compliance becomes more important within companies amid a changing regulatory environment. The degree is aimed at those who work in corporate compliance, internal oversight, law enforcement, investigative journalism, academia, finance and international affairs, the academy said in the statement.

A Long Struggle for Equality in Schools

Fernanda Santos:

Looking back at the school desegregation case he took as a young lawyer, Rubin Salter Jr. sees a pile of wasted money and squandered opportunities. After almost four decades in court and nearly $1 billion in public spending, little has changed for the black children whose right to a good education he had labored to defend.
They are still among the lowest-performing students in the Tucson Unified School District, still among the most likely to be suspended or to be assigned to special-education programs and still among the least likely to join groups for gifted students. They are, as Mr. Salter put it, “still getting the short end of the stick.”
A federal judge approved a plan on Wednesday intended to lift a longstanding desegregation order that has served as a reason and an excuse for a lot that has gone wrong in the district over the past decades: shrinking enrollment, sliding graduation rates and insistent dropout rates.
After all these years, Mr. Salter, whose family left Mississippi in the 1950s to escape segregation, said he no longer harbors hope for integration. One reason is that the district, overwhelmingly white when he began working on the case in 1974, is now largely made up of Latino students, who are also a party in the litigation and perform just as poorly as their black counterparts. Another is that parameters set long ago by the Supreme Court prevent the busing of students beyond a school district’s boundaries as a remedy for segregation.

Bill would require language no “greater than 8th grade”

Jacob Gershman:

A California lawmaker is proposing a bill that would require online privacy policies to be short and clearly written.
A measure introduced this week would impose a 100-word limit on privacy policies — a bit shorter than this post – and require that they be written in “clear and concise language” at “no greater than an 8th grade reading level.”
“The problem being, number one, these documents are very lengthy; number two, they contain a lot of technical terminologies people do not understand,” the bill’s sponsor, freshman Assemblyman Ed Chau (pictured) told CBS Sacramento.

24 Hours – A long time in online learning

Chewing Thistles:

I’ve been taking the Coursera course Fundamentals of Online Education for the last week. I nearly said fortnight because it seems like longer and it seems like a lot has happened yet at the same time nothing has happened. The course was supposed to last 6 weeks but today (now yesterday), without any prior warning, the plug was pulled and the course unceremoniously closed. As a number of people on Twitter said, “Wow! Just wow!”. It’s difficult to know what any of the supposed 41000 enrollees are thinking because the site is shut. No one has anywhere to discuss or comment on their feelings or thoughts about the closure. Well we have e.g. our blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, but we are disconnected from each other. No community had developed in the week that the course was open and even in FaceBook, there was little widespread engagement.
Why did this happen? How could a course offered by a company that only offers courses to cohorts of many thousands allow this course to get through their quality control? (I’m making an assumption that there is a quality control process and that Coursera turn their experience gained over the last year or so to helping new courses get off on the right foot. I’m not sure whether it is more generous to think that they have failed in quality control or that they didn’t fail because they omitted it altogether.)
The course was supposed to teach the Fundamentals of Online Education and I think that it failed to do that in at least 3 ways; the course design, the pedagogical approach, and the materials used. It’s difficult to separate these out so I’ll describe the sequence of events.

Madison School Board Against Open Records; “Government Entities Must Mail Records if Requested”

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email:

Wisconsin law requires boards to release the identities of at least five candidates to the public upon request when there are at least five applicants, according to a 2004 opinion by then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.
The opinion doesn’t specify when the names must be disclosed.
School district officials said Friday they were still reviewing the newspaper’s request. On Tuesday district lawyer Dylan Pauly told the newspaper the district would respond to the request within 10 business days.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the School Board “is clearly violating the spirit of the law” by not making the names public before the board made a decision. The law calls for records to be provided as soon as possible.
“For the district to pick a superintendent candidate without first meeting its statutory obligation to identify (at least) five candidates considered most qualified delegitimizes the selection that is made,” Lueders said.

Related: Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, via a kind reader’s email:

It’s also illegal. Government entities cannot require a requester to come into the office to get a copy of a record except in the rare circumstance where it is not possible to copy the record. Wisconsin law provides plainly that “any requester has a right to inspect a record and to make or receive a copyof a record that permits photocopying.” Wis. Stat. 19.35(1)(b) (emphasis added). Decades ago, the law actually permitted the government to choose whether to provide a copy or require the requester to come in and copy it. In 1991, however, the legislature amended the law to remove that choice when a request is not made in person. State ex rel. Borzych v. Paluszcyk, 201 Wis. 2d 523, 527, 549 N.W.2d 25 (Ct. App. 1996) (describing the legislative history and noting that “[b]y statute, [the custodian] was required to photocopy and send the material requested”).
Be aware, though, that the government entity can charge you the actual postage cost to mail the copies. Wis. Stat. 19.35(3)(d).
When the Education Action Group ran into this kind of excuse from a school district* in northern Wisconsin last week, they called us. We wrote a letter to the school district’s superintendent, and the very next day EAG got an email saying the records were in the mail.
Know your rights when it comes to open records! If you ever want some advice about how to file a record request, what to ask for, or whether the fees being charged are lawful, give us a call.

Your Massively Open Offline College Is Broken

Clay Shirky:

I wrote a thing last fall about massive open online courses (MOOCs, in the parlance), and the challenge that free or cheap online classes pose to business as usual in higher ed. In that piece, I compared the people running colleges today to music industry executives in the age of Napster. (This was not a flattering comparison.) Aaron Bady, a cultural critic and doctoral candidate at Berkeley, objected. I replied to Bady, one thing led to another, the slippery slope was slupped, and Maria Bustillos ended up refereeing the whole thing here on The Awl.
Bustillos sees institutions like San Jose State experimenting with credit for online courses from startups like Udacity, and asks: “are we willing to jeopardize the education of young people (at the cost of millions or billions in public funds) on a bet like that?”
To which my reply is: “Depends. How well do you think things are going now?”
Bustillos’ answers seem to be that in the world of higher education, things are going fine, mostly, and that the parts that aren’t going fine can largely be fixed with tax dollars. (Because if there’s one group you’d pin your hopes for an American renaissance on, it would be state legislators.) I have a different answer: School is broken and everyone knows it.

Girls Lead in Science Exam, but Not in the United States

Hannah Fairfield:

For years — and especially since 2005, when Lawrence H. Summers, then president of Harvard, made his notorious comments about women’s aptitude — researchers have been searching for ways to explain why there are so many more men than women in the top ranks of science.
Now comes an intriguing clue, in the form of a test given in 65 developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It finds that among a representative sample of 15-year-olds around the world, girls generally outperform boys in science — but not in the United States.

College was my biggest mistake

Steven Corona:

When I turned 18, my parents expected me to go to college- it was the only option, the only way to be a successful adult. I’m a 2nd generation Italian. My mother and grandparents came over to America and bootstrapped themselves from nothing, so needless to say, I would be the first in the family to get a degree and it was kind of a big deal.
We were middle class, but not rich, so I had to borrow to afford a $44,000/year RIT tuition. It’s what everyone else does, right? $44,000 might as well have been a million dollars, because in my mind they were equally unfathomable- with only $300 in my checking account, I had to make a decision whether or not to borrow $176,000. Makes sense.
No one could tell me why I was wasting my creative energy, focus, and life on something I didn’t want to do. Classes didn’t hold my attention- I could teach myself more in an afternoon than I would learn in a 10-week class. My classes appealed to the lowest-common denominator. The bottom of the barrel.

Citizen Dave: If Jennifer Cheatham is right for Madison schools superintendent, just hire her already

Dave Cieslewicz:

Madison has many wonderful traits. This town’s obsession with process is not one of them.
All indications are that the one remaining choice for the Madison public schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, would be a great pick. I’m told by people close to the decision that the Chief Instruction Officer for the Chicago Public Schools has been the top candidate all along, and that she is a “rock star” in the education world.
There is no job harder or more important in our city than being its schools superintendent. This is a city full of education experts whose child is clearly a genius (just like them) and yet isn’t being challenged enough by their teachers. At the same time, we have a growing number of poor kids who come to school without the basics, even a good breakfast. So, the challenge is to meet the high expectations of highly educated parents, while trying to give underprivileged kids the best chance possible to succeed, all in the context of constricted budgets.
At the same time, the stakes for our whole city are enormous. Failing public schools have been the downfall of dozens of American cities.

Much more on Madison’s most recent Superintendent search, here.

LeBron asks Khan Academy

Dean Putney:

Khan Academy has a short series of videos featuring LeBron James asking science and statistics questions, with his “good friend Sal” answering them. They cover stuff like the odds of LeBron making three free throws versus one three pointer and what muscles you use when you shoot a basket. They’re an engaging introduction to Khan Academy’s videos.

Yale Sues its Own Students

Nathan Harden:

When I read this story, I suddenly became grateful. You see, I used my book advance from Sex & God at Yale to pay off my student loans. Turns out I was very fortunate-more so than some of my fellow low-income graduates, apparently.
Yale University may have an endowment in excess of $20 billion, but that hasn’t stopped it from suing some of its poorest graduates for unpaid student loans.

Urban League Strongly Supports the Decision on Madison Superintendent

Madison Urban League, via a kind email:

The Urban League of Greater Madison strongly supports the Madison School Board’s decision to hire Dr. Jennifer Cheatham to serve as the next Superintendent of Schools of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Dr. Cheatham’s strong background in teacher quality, teacher evaluation, instructional leadership and organizing school system functions and operations around the educational and developmental needs of young people will be great assets for Madison’s public schools.
Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League shared that, “Dr. Cheatham’s experience as a leader of teachers and her strong focus on improving instruction, implementing a rigorous curriculum for all students, ensuring teachers build strong and motivating relationships with children, and using data to inform teaching represent the core of what our school system needs right now.” Caire further stated that, “The Urban League believes that children in Madison deserve world class leadership, world class teachers and world class schools. Dr. Cheatham’s history and track record show that she shares a common belief in these ideals and what it takes to get there. We look forward to supporting her transition and welcoming her and her family to Madison.”
The Urban League is presently partnering with the Madison Metropolitan School District on the recruitment of high quality teachers and professional staff, preparing high school juniors and seniors for the ACT college entrance exam, and engaging parents of color in the work and decision-making of the school system. The Urban League also launched the Urban League Scholars Academy in January 2013 at Sennett and Toki Middle Schools, a program that extends the instructional day for 6th graders by 80 minutes in reading/language arts and mathematics. The League also operates the Schools of Hope tutoring program at 17 middle and high schools in Madison, Middleton, Oregon and Sun Prairie in partnership with these school districts, the United Way of Dane County and Madison School Community Recreation.

Adderall Suicide

smarter times:

The Sunday Times carries a long front-page article about a young man, Richard Fee, who committed suicide.
The article claims: “Medications like Adderall can markedly improve the lives of children and others with the disorder. But the tunnel-like focus the medicines provide has led growing numbers of teenagers and young adults to fake symptoms to obtain steady prescriptions for highly addictive medications that carry serious psychological dangers.”
But the article contains no evidence or proof of this claim that “growing numbers of teenagers and young adults” have faked symptoms. It’s a claim that would be hard to prove, because you’d have to rely on someone self-reporting that they lied, and anyone who admits that they lied is someone whose testimony might well be considered not 100% reliable.
The article goes on to blame Fee’s doctor and the drug manufacturer for his suicide. Fee himself, and his parents, don’t get blamed or scrutinized much at all.

The Student Loan Conversation

Kristen Hawley

Every eighteen months or so, a new student loan study or article or opinion piece makes the rounds online, in print, and then usually capped by a segment on the Today Show or similar broadcast outlet. These pieces, relevant to my own interests, tend to start with an anecdote talking about a liberal arts grad living at home for years after graduation unable to get a job in his/her field. Usually that field is something like philosophy, and the school is an expensive four-year east coast private school — but there are plenty of variations on this theme. In the last few years, the angle has shifted from reporting on these unlucky liberal arts grads to professionals who dodged the flailing economy by borrowing to work toward a Master’s Degree, teaching certificate, or other professional certification to improve their chances of employment. Often, these advanced degrees didn’t help, leaving skilled, educated and trained professionals worse off financially than before their continued education. Most of these articles compare the current state of the student loan market to the housing crisis with an increasing sense of urgency. Two years ago, there was a “Student Loan Bubble” but now there’s a Student Loan Debt Crisis.

Education is no Economic Driver

Jonah Goldberg

Obviously education is important and necessary for a host of reasons. But there’s little evidence it drives growth. In “Does Education Matter?” British scholar Alison Wolf wrote, “The simple one-way relationship … — education spending in, economic growth out — simply does not exist. Moreover, the larger and more complex the education sector, the less obvious any links to productivity.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder,” argues that education pays real benefits at a micro level because it allows families to lock in their economic status. An entrepreneurial father can ensure his kids will do OK by paying for them to become doctors and lawyers. But what’s true at the micro level may not be at the macro level.
Think about it this way: Growing economies spend a lot on education, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that spending makes them grow. During the so-called Gilded Age, the U.S. economy roared faster and longer than ever before or since, while the illiteracy rate went down. But the rising literacy didn’t cause the growth. Similarly, in the 20th century, in places such as China, South Korea and India, the economic boom came first while the investments in education came later.

Academic Fraud At UNC: Drescher: Baker Tilly retracts key finding in UNC report

John Drescher:

The accounting firm that worked with former Gov. Jim Martin in investigating academic fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill last week dropped one of their key findings.
Martin had said athletic officials and academic support officials raised questions with the Faculty Committee on Athletics about courses in one department that were supposed to be lecture courses but never met. But eight members of the faculty committee told The News & Observer’s Dan Kane no such concerns had been raised.
After Kane’s reporting was published, Martin doubled-down on his claim. He wrote a letter to The N&O defending his conclusion and posted similar comments on various Internet sites.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Visit

Matthew DeFour:

In her first visit to a Madison school, superintendent candidate Jennifer Cheatham met two La Follette High School students whom principal Chad Wiese said represent the district’s diversity and also its greatest challenge.
Senior Tanner Trickle, a basketball player and honors student, and junior Khaleah Monger, a varsity cheerleader, president of the black student union and an AVID/TOPS participant, led Cheatham on a tour of the school, highlighting a remodeled study hall, the gym and Lussier Stadium.
When Trickle told Cheatham he had applied to University of Chicago, Cheatham replied, “That was my first choice too. It didn’t work out at all.”
Nonetheless, Cheatham, 41, chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, received her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago and earned graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and Harvard University.

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Madison School Board could shake things up, in a good way

Chris Rickert:

Five years ago, people were praising newly named Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad as a paragon of listening skills and inclusiveness — a trained social worker who seemingly never burned a bridge in his life.
By contrast, Milton, the current superintendent at the Springfield (Ill.) school district, and Chicago School District administrator Jennifer Cheatham seem willing to upset the apple cart if they think it will help students.
School Board president James Howard told me the board’s focus was not to find candidates who would shake things up because, overall, Madison remains a quality district that doesn’t need a whole lot of shaking.
Rather “the issue” — or, as he later clarified, one the most important issues — “is one thing: the achievement gap.”
And the board certainly wanted to know if candidates had “the kind of will to make the kind of changes” to tackle that problem, he said. “To demonstrate success, you have to be from a district that has some diversity.”

Much more on the Madison School District’s latest Superintendent search, here.

Why Nobody Wins In The Education “Research Wars”

Matthew DiCarlo:

In a recent post, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones discusses his growing skepticism about the research behind market-based education reform, and about the claims that supporters of these policies make. He cites a recent Los Angeles Times article, which discusses how, in 2000, the San Jose Unified School District in California instituted a so-called “high expectations” policy requiring all students to pass the courses necessary to attend state universities. The reported percentage of students passing these courses increased quickly, causing the district and many others to declare the policy a success. In 2005, Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest district, adopted similar requirements.
For its part, the Times performed its own analysis, and found that the San Jose pass rate was actually no higher in 2011 compared with 2000 (actually, slightly lower for some subgroups), and that the district had overstated its early results by classifying students in a misleading manner. Mr. Drum, reviewing these results, concludes: “It turns out it was all a crock.”
In one sense, that’s true – the district seems to have reported misleading data. On the other hand, neither San Jose Unified’s original evidence (with or without the misclassification) nor the Times analysis is anywhere near sufficient for drawing conclusions – “crock”-based or otherwise – about the effects of this policy. This illustrates the deeper problem here, which is less about one “side” or the other misleading with research, but rather something much more difficult to address: Common misconceptions that impede deciphering good evidence from bad.

Driven to Distraction

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”–George Orwell
While we spend billions on standards for skill-building and the assessment of skills, we don’t seem to notice that our students, in general, are not doing any academic work. This assumes that there is a connection between the academic work of students and their academic achievement, but for most of those who study and comment on education that link seems not to be apparent.
The Kaiser Foundation reported in January 2010, that:
Over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in media use among young people. Five years ago, we reported that young people spent an average of nearly 61/2 hours (6:21) a day with media–and managed to pack more than 81/2 hours (8:33) worth of media content into that time by multitasking. At that point it seemed that young people’s lives were filled to the bursting point with media. Today, however, those levels of use have been shattered. Over the past five years, young people have increased the amount of time they spend consuming media by an hour and seventeen minutes daily, from 6:21 to 7:38–almost the amount of time most adults spend at work each day, except that young people use media seven days a week instead of five. [53 hours a week]
If our students spend that much time, in addition to sports, being with friends, and other activities, like sleep, when do they do their academic work?
Indiana University’ High School Survey of Student Engagement found most recently that:
Among (U.S.) Public High School students:
82.7% spend 2-5 hours a week on homework.
42.5% spend an hour or less each week on their homework.
This may help to explain how they manage to free up 53 hours a week to play with electronic entertainment media, but is there any effect of such low academic expectations on our students’ engagement with the educational enterprise we provide for them?
Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education reported on January 7th of this year that:
Gallup research strongly suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become. The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012. We found that nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school. By middle school that falls to about six in 10 students. And by high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged. Our educational system sends students and our country’s future over the school cliff every year.
The statement of the obvious which applies here would seem to be that we have driven our high school students to distraction, by asking them to do little or no homework and by spending billions of dollars to lead them to prefer electronic entertainment media to the academic work on which their futures depend.
On June 3, 1990, Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in his regular New York Times column that:
As we’ve known for a long time, factory workers who never saw the completed product and worked on only a small part of it soon became bored and demoralized. But when they were allowed to see the whole process–or better yet become involved with it–productivity and morale improved. Students are no different. When we chop up the work they do into little bits–history facts and vocabulary and grammar rules to be learned–it’s no wonder they are bored and disengaged. The achievement of The Concord Review’s authors offers a different model of learning. Maybe it’s time to take it seriously.
Despite my own bias for having students read history books and write history research papers, I think it may be argued that if we give students nothing to do academically, we clearly contribute to the disengagement which we now find.
If we don’t take their academic work seriously, neither will they. What we take seriously we have a chance of doing well, and when we don’t take something seriously, we have little chance of achievement there. Verbum Sap.
Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review

Schools of Hope Tutoring Study; Education Biggest Portion of United Way $15,400,000 Budget

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email:

Only 8.3 percent of students who participated last year received the full program, according to the United Way of Dane County, which coordinates the project with the Madison School District.
A quarter of students received individualized tutoring, but for fewer than 15 sessions. The remainder of the 6,132 students either didn’t complete the program or were tutored in larger groups.
About 60 percent of the district’s elementary students participated in the program last year. Participants were predominantly low-income or minority students.
The program currently has a need for 100 more volunteer tutors, who would help offer the full program to more students, United Way president Leslie Ann Howard said.
“To get the biggest impact, we need to do it based on the model,” Howard said.
Annalee Good, the UW-Madison researcher, recommended tutors work as many as three students at a time to expand the reach of a limited number of tutors.
But the study also found that students in kindergarten who participate in Schools of Hope tutoring sessions made fewer gains in reading than similar peers. Students in grades 1-4 made significant gains over peers, while results in fifth grade were mixed.

Jeff Glaze, via a kind reader’s email

In total, education spending makes up 35 percent of United Way’s budget for this year.
The charity also announced investments in programs to prevent family homelessness, keep former inmates from re-offending, screen students for mental health issues, and help seniors avoid adverse drug affects.

2 Years Later … the Fire Still Burns February 14 Candlelight Vigil; MTI President Travels to Quebec

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

On Thursday, February 14, MTI members are called to the Capitol (State Street entrance) commencing at 4:45 p.m., to commemorate the second anniversary of the uprising against Governor Walker’s anti-public employee legislation which destroyed collective bargaining and has caused significant loss in wages.
The legislation (Act 10) has, in effect, frozen wages and caused most public employees to pay a greater share of health insurance premiums and 50% of pension deposits.
MTI members will be joined by Union members of Madison Firefighters, Madison Police, AFSCME, SCFL and TAA, as well as other supporters of public schools for a solidarity sing-a-long and candlelight vigil to commemorate the two-year anniversary of our historic effort to fight back. Wear MTI Red in support of your MTI colleagues and public education in Wisconsin.
MTI President Kerry Motoviloff Takes MTI Advocacy & Political Experience to Quebec
Kerry Motoviloff, MTI President and 22-year veteran teacher, describes herself as the proud great- granddaughter of union organizers for immigrant workers in Worchester, MA. She was a member of the MTI Board of Directors as Secretary in 2011, when MTI members led the uprising against Governor Walker’s proposed anti-public employee legislation. She ran for MTI President later that spring.
Motoviloff spoke last week at the “Stand Up! Stay Strong!” Annual Conference of the Ontario Coordinating Committee, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents 55,000 education support workers in Toronto. Legislation that is similar to Wisconsin’s Act 10 is also threatening many other countries in the world, as well as public workers in numerous states. It is the product of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Quebec’s proposed legislation would curtail the ability of Unions to participate in political action; control the Union’s ability to organize within the labor movement; and otherwise have a negative impact on collective bargaining.

Consultant defends candidate vetting as a call is made for additional Madison superintendent finalists

Pat Schneider:

School Board members and Ray and Associates, the consultant in the superintendent search process, have been under fire since Sunday when the district announced finalists Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of schools in Springfield, Ill., and Jennifer Cheatham, chief of instruction for the Chicago Public Schools.
Milton pulled his name from consideration late Tuesday, following days of online comment by Madison residents on incidents in his past. Those included a 2007 state audit finding of mismanagement at the New York school district he headed and his hiring of a former business partner who was a convicted sex offender while with the Flint, Mich., school district. according to news reports. Milton also had been questioned about inaccurate resumes in applying for previous jobs.
The question bandied about in comments to online stories is: If citizens could unearth these apparent red flags about Milton’s background on Google, why didn’t Ray and Associates?

Much more on Madison’s latest Superintendent search, here.

A mathematician says the quest for elegance leads too many researchers astray

Christopher Shea:

Does science have a “beauty” problem? David Orrell, a mathematician and consultant, argues that it does–or, at least, that some of its practitioners are in thrall to ideals involving “elegance,” “symmetry,” and “unity” that are beckoning them down false paths.
From Euclid and Pythagoras down to 20th-century physicists, many who explore the underlying laws of the natural world have seen truth and beauty as inextricably intertwined. “Beauty is a successful criterion for selecting the right theory,” the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann said in a much-quoted TED talk, in 2007. In their popular-philosophizing mode, physicists like to quote the poets Keats (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”) or Blake on the subject of nature’s “fearful symmetry.”

Haslam on Higher Ed: ‘The most insular world I’ve ever seen’

Tom Humphrey:

Gov. Bill Haslam says that changing the direction of higher education is “more than a battleship,” but that he eventually expects to change its governing structure, according to Hank Hayes report on a meeting with members of the Kingsport Times-News Editorial Board.
An excerpt:
“It’s such an insular world. It’s the most insular world I’ve ever seen,” Haslam, a Republican, said of higher education.
After a top-to-bottom review last year, Haslam didn’t push for change in the state’s higher education governing structure.
That governing structure features two big boards — the Tennessee Board of Regents and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees — in addition to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the state’s coordinating agency for higher education.

Advocating Small Learning Communities

Karen Vieth:

Create Small Learning Environments
With 1 out of 4 black students chronically absent in MMSD and increasing alarm over the achievement gap, it is obvious that teachers must employ culturally relevant teaching practices. These practices begin with getting to know your students and their families – a practice that necessitates smaller learning environments. According to UW professor, Alice Uldvari-Solner, “Teachers who uphold the dynamics of culturally relevant pedagogy are practicing inclusive education as they impart influential messages that each child brings value to the classroom and that each child is powerful in directing his or her own achievement.” (Creating an Inclusive School, pg. 100)
Unfortunately, as our students grow, the learning environments become larger and less-personalized. A primary teacher spending most of the day in a SAGE school in a classroom of 14 can get to know his students quite well. Contrast that to a high school teacher teaching five sections of 30+ kids. Individualizing the education process is seemingly impossible. Students need to feel a sense of worth and belonging. Reestablishing smaller learning communities that focus on relationships and team-work will create safety nets for students feeling lost in the crowd.

Notes and links on small learning communities, here.

DC School Delivers Quality Education for African-American Girls

Chris Simkins:

A school in Washington DC is making a difference for young African-American girls. Many of their families live below the poverty line of $35,000 for a family of four, in communities where more than half of all students drop out before they reach high school. This special school is turning around the lives of girls.
They start their day with a prayer.
Then it’s off to class at The Washington Middle School for Girls in the nation’s capital. One hundred students attend this Catholic day school. They come from low-income homes with complex family backgrounds. Many are being raised by a single parent or grandparent.