Can the iPad Rescue a Struggling American Education System?

Christina Bonnington:

Matthew Stoltzfus could never get his students to see chemistry like he sees chemistry until he added a digital component to his lesson plan.
Stoltzfus, a chemistry lecturer at Ohio State University, struggled for years to bring complex chemical equations to life on the blackboard, but always saw students’ eyes glaze over. Then he added animations and interactive media to his general chemistry curriculum. Suddenly, he saw students’ faces light up in understanding.
“When I see a chemical reaction on a piece of paper, I don’t see coefficients and symbols, I see a bucket of molecules reacting,” Stoltzfus said. “But I don’t think our students see that big bucket of molecules. We can give students a better idea of what’s happening at a molecular level with animations and interactive elements.”
And many such students are getting this multi-faceted education on tablets. Tablets are reinventing how students access and interact with educational material, and how teachers assess and monitor students’ performance at a time when many schools are understaffed and many classrooms overcrowded. Millions of grade school and university students worldwide are using iPads to visualize difficult concepts, revisit lectures on their own time and augment lessons with videos, interactive widgets and animations.

Yale’s University Librarian: “Academic Libraries Can No Longer Assume their Importance and Value…”

Sophie Gould:

Yale’s libraries amassed new physical and digital holdings and expanded their influence on academia during the 2011-’12 academic year, University Librarian Susan Gibbons said in an annual report posted on the library’s website last week.
After working at the University for nine years, former University Librarian Alice Prochaska announced in June 2009 that she would be leaving Yale for a position at Oxford. Over the next two years, Yale’s libraries faced a rapidly changing digital world and significant cuts to library budgets under two interim University librarians, Gibbons told the News. But the library gained a measure of stability in July 2011 when Gibbons took over Prochaska’s position, and Gibbons said in her annual report that Yale’s librarians took great strides last year toward meeting modern needs for digital content while balancing their simultaneous roles as librarians, educators and teachers.
“This first year felt as if we were trying to reset ourselves, adjust to the new economic realities and chart a new course forward,” Gibbons said.

Are Grading Trends Hurting Socially Awkward Kids?

Katherine Beals:

Children have long been graded not just for academics, but also for elements of “character” — particularly behavior and emotional maturity. However, in the last few decades, socially eccentric children have seen their awkwardness or aloofness factored into their grades in math, language arts, and social studies. Ironically, this trend has coincided with a rise in diagnoses of autistic spectrum disorders.
For children on the autism spectrum, new social studies curricula pose a particular challenge. Once restricted to readings, worksheets, and essays on history, government, and politics, the subject increasingly requires students to reflect on their connections within their local communities. They are asked to present projects to their classmates (even in primary school), spend much of class time working in groups, and evaluate scenarios such as this one, from a worksheet for 3rd graders:

Cliburn and Gagarin were victims as well as heroes of the cold war they helped to thaw

Harry Eyres:

The gangly young American Van Cliburn’s victory in the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, six months after the first Sputnik went into orbit, was more than just a pianistic event. The innocent Texan (who died last month) suddenly became one of the key players in the cold war – or a cold war anti-warrior, an American emissary in a counter-war of peace and culture. While nuclear submarines and missiles squared up to each other across the Bering Strait, Van Cliburn’s sensitive fingers became one of the prime instruments of American soft power, matching or even outdoing the Soviets at what they thought they did best.
He became, in other words, part of a diplomatic great game which was bound, in the end, to swallow and swamp his pianistic gifts. The game was played with considerable skill by both American and Soviet political machines. When the jury at the Tchaikovsky in 1958 wanted to award Cliburn the first prize, it felt it had to ask permission from the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. “If he is the best, give it to him,” Khrushchev is reported to have replied. He was either being scrupulously honest and open, or playing a blinder by seeing that the USSR would gain by granting the prize to an American – showing its lofty impartiality and adherence to artistic standards, and keeping the Tchaikovsky as the gold standard of piano competitions.

Give the children the vote?

Chrystia Freeland:

Here’s a novel way to address the problems caused by rising income inequality: give children the vote.
One virtue of this iconoclastic idea, recently advanced by the Canadian economist Miles Corak, is that it sidesteps the usual partisan debates. After all, the right and left have profound moral disagreements about economic inequality. But whatever your political stripe, you almost certainly believe in equality of opportunity.
Unfortunately, some of Corak’s most celebrated work has been to show that rising income inequality and declining social mobility go together. This relationship, which Alan B. Krueger, the head of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has dubbed the Great Gatsby Curve, is one of the most powerful reasons to care about rising income inequality.
That’s where the kids come in. In a policy paper published last month by Canada 2020, a Canadian progressive research group, Corak points out that the group that suffers most from declining social mobility is the young. As it happens, this is also one of the last human constituencies that doesn’t have the right to vote. That relationship may not be coincidental.
“Older individuals, and those with more education working in higher-skilled occupations, are more likely to vote,” Corak writes in the paper. “But, in addition, there is a broad bias by virtue of the simple fact that children are disenfranchised. Children’s rights are not adequately recognized and they have a reduced political voice in setting social priorities.”
Corak has a simple and radical solution to that bias: Give children the vote. “When you first hear about it, it sounds like a crazy idea, and that was my first reaction,” Corak told me, speaking by phone from Ottawa.

Related: “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment”

5 reasons why the exam days rule!

The Rantosphere:

#1: The gobsmacking amount of holidays
This is the main incentive or loving the exam days. The holidays. In our school (which is one of the meanest there), we get only 1 holiday between exams (as opposed to the 3 or 4 the others generously give).
But let’s not complain. Holidays are great. They are certainly one of my most productive times. This blog was started during my half-yearlies for example.
#2: Half-days
Even on the days we have school (3/7 in a week), we have half-days — i.e., we’re left at 11:30 instead of 1:30. That might not seem like much, but it’s a huge difference, really.

Soviet College Admission — My Dad’s Story (1970)

Ilya Volodarsky:

Sleepless nights at a train station and state-sponsored discrimination. This is the story of how my father came to finally attend college as a teenager in the Soviet Union.
In 1970 my father was 17 years old, living with his parents and brother in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He was interested in radio electronics, having built radios and clocks as a teenager. His father (my grandfather) was an electrical engineer, working at the time for the Uzbekistan Department of Auto-Transportation. My grandfather was a military man, having fought and been wounded at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943. He encouraged my father to pursue a military career in electronics and telecommunication.
My father graduated from Tashkent High School #94 in May 1970. He knew he wanted to study telecommunications but his father insisted it be at a military university. At the time, my dad was reading electronics textbooks published by professors working at St. Petersburg’s Navy Academy. This specific academy trained sailors to man the country’s nuclear submarine fleet. The school had one of the premier telecommunication programs in the country, so my dad decided to apply there.

Report: Chinese Third-Graders Falling Behind U.S. High School Students in Math, Science

The Onion, via a kind reader’s email:

According to an alarming new report published Wednesday by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, third-graders in China are beginning to lag behind U.S. high school students in math and science.
The study, based on exam scores from thousands of students in 63 participating countries, confirmed that in mathematical and scientific literacy, American students from the ages of 14 to 18 have now actually pulled slightly ahead of their 8-year-old Chinese counterparts.
“This is certainly a wake-up call for China,” said Dr. Michael Fornasier, an IEA senior fellow and coauthor of the report. “The test results unfortunately indicate that education standards in China have slipped to the extent that pre-teens are struggling to rank among even the average American high school student.”
“Simply put, how can these third-graders be expected to eventually compete in the global marketplace if they’re only receiving the equivalent of a U.S. high school education?” Fornasier added.
Fornasier stressed that while the gap is not yet dramatically sizable, it has widened over the past two years after American high schoolers tested marginally higher in algebra, biology, and chemistry than, shockingly, most of China’s 8- and 9-year-olds.


K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Since 2002, Federal Spending has risen by 89% while Median Household Income has dropped by 5%

Tom Coburn:

Now that budget sequestration is under way, it looks less like the fiscal apocalypse that had been predicted and more like a long-overdue intervention with politicians who are addicted to borrowing and spending.
I agree with President Obama that sequestration’s across-the-board rather than specific cuts are a “dumb” way to reduce spending. That is why I voted against the plan two years ago. But if sequestration is dumb, it’s even dumber not to cut spending at all.
Cutting spending can be a powerful pro-growth strategy, but the outcome of sequestration depends on how the administration chooses to cut. Not all dollars are spent equally: The Obama administration’s decision to spend federal dollars studying how cocaine affects the reproductive habits of Japanese quail didn’t multiply anything other than quail.
Shifting money to working families from quail research–and thousands of other frivolous expenditures–would mean fewer government workers furloughed. The $181,000 quail study alone could prevent 62 furloughs. If the federal government stopped sending unemployment checks to millionaires, it could save $14.8 million a year (according to IRS data) and prevent 5,103 furloughs. Smart savings would mean that single moms and others on a tight budget don’t have to work as much to finance wasteful government spending–and can keep more of their own money to spend, fueling economic growth in the process.
Sequestration will force cuts to waste that wouldn’t otherwise be cut. The administration has claimed that its hands are tied and terrible things will happen, yet its warnings seem calibrated to sound scary but not too scary. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that cuts to air-traffic control will force flight delays but won’t compromise safety or cause air disasters.

Fabius Maximus has more.

New York Medical School Widens Nontraditional Path For Admissions

Sarah Zielinski:

Should students who want to attend medical school have to slog through a year of physics, memorize the structures of dozens of cellular chemicals or spend months studying for the MCAT? Not necessarily.
There are a few nontraditional paths into medical school. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, for example, has admitted a quarter of its incoming students for the last 25 years through a program that gave early admittance to humanities students who didn’t have to take the full premed slate of science classes.
“It was designed to attract humanities majors to medicine who would bring a different perspective to education and medical practice,” says Dr. Dennis Charney, dean of the school. And it worked so well, he says, that the school expanded the program on Wednesday.

Children with disabilities currently shortchanged

Mike Nichols:

Lost in the burgeoning debate in Madison over Special Needs Scholarships that would provide some public funding for children with disabilities in private schools is the fact that the current system already does exactly that – although not in a fair or logical or effective way.
The current system in Wisconsin is similar to the one in most other states.
It is driven by the federal law that entitles each child with a disability to a “free, appropriate public education” through the age of 21. The current method recognizes, at the same time though, that parents and public school officials often differ over what constitutes an “appropriate” education for a child with a disability. So it contains provisions designed to assure that such children in private schools — while they do not have the same absolute right to public resources — are assured of “equitable participation” in some federal funding and services.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen for a variety of reasons.
The current system gives responsibility for finding, identifying and evaluating children with disabilities — including those attending private schools — to local education agencies, or LEAs, that are almost always local school districts. It also essentially gives the local districts responsibility for ensuring the so-called equitable participation by private school children as a group.

DoesvSpelling Count?

Jessica Lahey:

It happens every time. As I hand the test out to my middle school students, one of them will invariably look up, pencil at the ready, and ask, “Does spelling count?”
Let’s ignore the fact that my students should know better than to even ask this question in the first place. I’ve answered it more times than I care to remember, usually in the fall of the new school year, and it goes something like this:
Yes. Spelling counts. I have lots of witty quips loaded up in my quiver about why it counts, but my new favorite comes from homeschooling mom of four Jodi Jackson Stewart who tweeted me with her answer to this question: “Spelling counts here because spelling counts out there.”


MMSD partnership with Boys & Girls Club shows continued gains in closing achievement gap

The Madison Times:

Students in the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and the Boys & Girls Club’s Teens of Promise (TOPS) programs ( are achieving higher GPAs, enrolling in more advanced placement courses, and scoring higher on tests, according to a new analysis of the programs provided by the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE).
“We are so pleased that our ongoing partnership with the Boys & Girls Club is having a consistently positive impact on our students,” Superintendent Jane Belmore said. “It is because of this success that we have expanded AVID to middle schools this year. I want to thank the Boys & Girls Club for their work to make this partnership so effective.”

Teaching Square Roots to a Five Year Old

Dan Lewis:

A week or so ago, we gave my five year old son a little solar powered pocket calculator to play with. He explored the key pad and it didn’t take long before he had a question we didn’t really know how to answer. He saw the square root symbol and wanted to know what it was.
We — adults, generally — understand them, at least in a cursory way. The square root of 4 is 2, or 9 is 3, of 16 is 4, etc. until probably 100 or 144. But we learned it a long time ago, and we probably can’t remember how we learned it. And almost certainly, we learned the concept well after preschool. So not only do we not know how to teach the concept generally, but we certainly aren’t good at teaching it to people who are much, much younger than typically learn it.
But five year olds can be persistent so I gave it a go. I don’t know how much he understands the concept, but my son definitely gets some of it.

Secrecy in school superintendent search was bad public policy

Bill Lueders:

The secrecy that attended the Madison School District’s pick of a new superintendent was bad form and bad public policy.
Prior to making its selection, the district announced just two finalists, one of whom was found to have a closet full of skeletons that prompted his withdrawal. The remaining finalist, Jennifer Cheatham, got the job.
State law requires that at least the top five contenders for such a position be named, but does not specify when. The Madison School District decided to do so after it was too late to matter.
And then, to add insult to injury, the district’s lawyer, Dylan Pauly, dissed the disclosure law that the district complied with only belatedly.
“We believe that by releasing these names, pursuant to our legal obligation, we are negatively contributing to the chilling effect that is occurring across the state with respect to school boards’ abilities to recruit and hire highly qualified individuals as superintendents,” she wrote.

A bit of history on Madison Superintendents. I fully agree with Lueders. I continue to be astonished at the ongoing lack of transparency in such public matters, from the local School District’s Superintendent search to the seemingly simple question of American citizen’s constitutional due process rights (is this being taught?)

Key Senate Republicans say changes needed for Scott Walker’s Wisconsin voucher-expansion plans to pass

Erin Richards:

When Miriam Oakleaf was 10 months old, her parents noticed something was wrong.
By 2 1/2 she had been formally diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and a rare skin and central nervous system condition called linear nevus sebaceous syndrome.
Now 8 and in second grade at Crestwood Elementary School in Madison, Miriam’s schooling requires extensive support and planning from a variety of education professionals – administrators, therapists, teachers and aides – in addition to her parents.
The story of Miriam and children like her is at the heart of a $21 million proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget that would allow 5% of kids with disabilities in Wisconsin to attend private or public schools outside their home districts on a taxpayer-funded voucher.
The proposal has driven a wedge through the state’s network of special-needs parents. Some believe it would open up more schooling options for their children while others contend it will drain more resources from their local public schools.

Bill Gates at SXSWedu: The future of education is data

Frank Catalano:

“I think this is a special time for technology in education,” he began. But then he immediately cautioned, perhaps in light of some less-than-successful early Gates-funded initiatives (such as small high schools within high schools), “we try not to be naïve about how complex it’s going to be.”
On cost. During the last wave of interest and investment in education technology in the 1990s, Gates said that “it could cost several hundred dollars to store an hour of video on the Internet.” The balance in the money equation has now changed, and that same video storage costs pennies, he said.
But although most costs for educational technology are coming down, “Internet access is the most expensive piece” of edtech — even more so than student hardware devices. That, he said, has to change, since Internet access is not just important in the classroom, but for learning to continue at home.
On investment. Despite concerns over whether the recent increase in investor and tech press interest in edtech and startups may be overheated, Gates said the question should be if the investment in education is commensurate with its importance: “I would say absolutely not.” Instead, he contended not enough money is going into education R&D compared with other important sectors. “It would,” he said, “be rational for society for it to be a lot larger.”

Plentiful School Gifts, But Unfocused

Ross Danis:

When Facebook FB -0.72% founder Mark Zuckerberg hosted a fundraising event at his home in Palo Alto, Calif., last month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the event set tongues wagging. The billionaire’s interest in the New Jersey politician was thoroughly dissected by the chattering class. Too bad there hasn’t been as much interest in analyzing Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million commitment to support the struggling public schools in Newark, N.J., or in studying the effectiveness of the many other education grants made by foundations to help in Newark.
To be fair, it is difficult to judge how well the philanthropy in Newark is working because precious few data have been collected. Truly useful metrics, therefore, haven’t been developed. The gap between good intentions and measurable results will be familiar anywhere in the country where philanthropies join efforts to improve education.
To address the shortfall in Newark, our organization, the Newark Trust for Education, has undertaken an effort to collect information about the foundations’ work that will help clarify for school administrators, principals, teachers, parents and students how best to improve K-12 public education.
Our primary objective: follow the money. Which philanthropies are spending how much, to do what, in which schools? No one really knew. In collaboration with the funding community, we created a tool called the NET Navigator. It allows anyone with an interest in tracking the tens of millions of philanthropy dollars now flowing into Newark schools to conduct online searches by funder, by school or by specific program. Soon the database will include individual school achievement data.

Syria’s education crisis, in three charts

Caitlin Dewey:

A new assessment released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that some Syrian children have missed out on as much as two years of education in the midst of their country’s ongoing civil struggle.
“The education system in Syria is reeling from the impact of violence,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF’s Syria representative, in a statement. “Syria once prided itself on the quality of its schools. Now it’s seeing the gains it made over the years rapidly reversed.”
According to the report, schools are increasingly being used by armed groups and displaced persons seeking shelter. More than 1,500 schools have been damaged or converted into shelters, a problem illustrated in the map above.

Wisconsin education leaders announce school safety summit

Matthew DeFour:

The Department of Public Instruction and several state education organizations plan to hold a school safety summit this summer.
In announcing the event, State Superintendent Tony Evers didn’t mention last December’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults. But he referred to the national debate about school safety that has emerged since.
“Providing safe and respectful schools is an essential piece of our work to ensure every child can graduate ready for college and career,” Evers said. “As a state, and as a country, we have made this a serious focus, and building on that proactive tradition is as important as ever.”
Billed as the first “Wisconsin School Safety Summit,” the event will focus on four topics: policies and procedures, physical environment, climate and culture, and mental health services.

Could restorative justice bring education antagonists together?

Pat Schneider:

It’s a painful irony for Ananda Mirilli that the School Board run she tried to use to call the community to come together to do better for Madison kids ended up embroiled in such controversy.
“I’m seeing an even bigger divide in the community, and I’m sad that we are in that place,” Mirilli told me Wednesday. “But I’m hoping to continue to work to find healing in our community. We really need to have a conversation about the achievement gap.”
Mirilli, a Latina who lost her bid for Seat 5 on the Madison School Board in the Feb. 18 primary, decided against a write-in campaign when primary winner Sarah Manski dropped out of the race just two days later. But Mirilli hasn’t given up hope that the election — despite Manski’s surprise withdrawal and the allegations of dirty politics and hypocrisy it incited — can yet be made an occasion to bring together people now sometimes working at odds to improve education in Madison schools.
And as the Restorative Justice Program manager at YWCA Madison, Mirilli is wondering if restorative justice principles might be the way to do it.
“I’m wondering if we could hold a circle — not to find out the truth, but to see how we can move forward on this,” Mirilli told me.
Mirilli says she was wrongly depicted by Manski as pro-voucher because of a supposed association with Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison. Caire on Wednesday resurrected allegations of double-dealing by leaders of Madison Teachers Inc. in negotiating his Madison Preparatory Academy charter proposal that was rejected by the School Board two years ago.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
I appreciate Schneider’s ability to add links to her articles. This continues to be a rare event in Madison’s traditional media circles.

Commentary on the 2013 Madison School Board Races

John Nichols:

As The Capital Times prepares to make endorsements in Madison School Board races that will be decided April 2, our editorial board will ponder issues ranging from the reactions of candidates to Gov. Walker’s voucher plan, the achievement gap and the challenge of maintaining quality schools in a time of funding cuts and shortfalls.
Our editorial board will make endorsements in two contested races, for Seat 3 between former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, and for Seat 4 between incumbent James Howard and challenger Greg Packnett, a legislative aide. The candidates all have strengths, and present voters with distinct options.
In the third race, there isn’t really a race. Candidates TJ Mertz and Sarah Manski won the primary Feb. 19. Then Manski surprised the community by dropping out of the contest several days later — announcing that her husband has been admitted to graduate school in California and that she would not be able to finish a term. We didn’t editorialize about the primary race. But after Manski dropped out, we said she had done the right thing because it would have been entirely inappropriate to maintain a campaign for a term she could not complete. But, as a board, we were disappointed by the loss of competition and urged the candidate who finished third in the primary, Ananda Mirilli, to make a bid as a write-in contender.
Mirilli made a great impression during the primary race and, had she waged a write-in campaign, she would have done so as an innovative thinker about how best to make great public schools work for all students. As the parent of an elementary-school student and a big proponent of public education, I’m familiar with a number of the people who organized Mirilli’s primary campaign, and who would have supported a write-in run. They form an old-fashioned grass-roots group that recalls the sort of organizations that traditionally backed School Board candidates in Madison. They could have mounted a fine campaign. But I also respect Mirilli’s decision not to run. The race would have been expensive and difficult. We’ve spoken several times, before the primary and since, and I’m convinced Mirilli’s voice will remain a vital one in local and state education debates. There’s a good chance she will eventually join the School Board, just as current board member Marj Passman was elected a year after she lost a close race to another current School Board member, Maya Cole.
Unfortunately, with Mirilli out of the running, the Seat 5 race is an uncontested one. That’s focused a good deal of attention on Manski, who I’ve known since she was writing for the Daily Cardinal on the University of Wisconsin campus. Among the several boards I have served on over the years, including those of the media reform group Free Press and Women in Media and News, I’ve been on the board of the reform group Liberty Tree, for which Manski has done fundraising work. Manski’s husband, Ben, worked for Liberty Tree before he left to manage Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s presidential run.

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

Madison Urban League head calls out Manski and Mertz for dishonest school board campaign

David Blaska

Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is speaking out against the campaign of deception waged against people of color and others who support doing something now about Madison’s yawning achievement gap instead of blaming Gov. Scott Walker.
In a statement issued this week, Caire writes, “As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. … We are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring ….”
Walker had not even been sworn in as governor when the Urban League proposed establishing a charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, to address an achievement gap in which barely half of black and Hispanic children graduate from high school in the Madison public schools.
Caire mentioned as the two worst offenders in this campaign of dishonesty T.J. Mertz, candidate for School Board seat #5, and Green Party activist Ben Manski.
Manski’s wife, Sarah, jumped into the seat #5 race hoping to squeeze out an already announced candidate, Latina immigrant Ananda Mirilli. Sarah Manski’s candidacy was apparently encouraged by both Mayor Paul Soglin, who gave her a glowing campaign testimonial, and teachers union boss John Matthews, to whom Soglin referred Sarah Manski. On Dec. 30, Ben Manski blasted an email containing this outright distortion of minority candidate Ananda Mirilli’s position:

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

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses why he is running, the achievement gap


Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Community members are at each other’s throats after the Madison school board catastrophe

Ruth Conniff:

Sarah Manski did a lot of damage to Madison on her way out of town.
When she won the school board primary, sucking up endorsements from prominent local officials — apparently knowing all the while that she might not be hanging around to sit on the board — she did a major disservice to our community. As Madison Times editor A. David Dahmer observed, her highhanded use of the school board seat as a “backup plan” smacks of contempt for the people who care deeply about what is happening in our schools. Those people happen to include both of Manski’s opponents: school-policy blogger and educator TJ Mertz and Ananda Mirilli, a longtime advocate for Madison youth who’s on the board of the Spanish immersion charter school Nuestro Mundo.
Since Manski withdrew after she won the primary, her name — and not third-place finisher Mirilli’s — will appear on the ballot. That has convinced a lot of people of color that white liberals, including school board member Marj Passman, deliberately colluded to keep a woman of color off the board.

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

Is your smartphone hurting your GPA?

Nara Schoenberg:

You don’t want to get caught texting in Andrew Reiner’s class.
At the beginning of each semester, Reiner, a lecturer at Towson University in Maryland, makes his cellphone policy crystal clear.
“If there’s one thing that you will do that will really (tick) me off, that will completely send me through the roof, have your cellphone in your lap, under the desk, texting,” Reiner says.

The Country That Stopped Reading

David Toscana:

EARLIER this week, I spotted, among the job listings in the newspaper Reforma, an ad from a restaurant in Mexico City looking to hire dishwashers. The requirement: a secondary school diploma.
Years ago, school was not for everyone. Classrooms were places for discipline, study. Teachers were respected figures. Parents actually gave them permission to punish their children by slapping them or tugging their ears. But at least in those days, schools aimed to offer a more dignified life.
Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less. They learn almost nothing. The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.

The Future Of Education Eliminates The Classroom, Because The World Is Your Class

Marina Corbis:

This probably sounds familiar: You are with a group of friends arguing about some piece of trivia or historical fact. Someone says, “Wait, let me look this up on Wikipedia,” and proceeds to read the information out loud to the whole group, thus resolving the argument. Don’t dismiss this as a trivial occasion. It represents a learning moment, or more precisely, a microlearning moment, and it foreshadows a much larger transformation–to what I call socialstructed learning.
Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards. The microlearning moment may last a few minutes, hours, or days (if you are absorbed in reading something, tinkering with something, or listening to something from which you just can’t walk away). Socialstructed learning may be the future, but the foundations of this kind of education lie far in the past. Leading philosophers of education–from Socrates to Plutarch, Rousseau to Dewey–talked about many of these ideals centuries ago. Today, we have a host of tools to make their vision reality.
Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences driven not by grades but by social rewards.


CopyrightX: a massively open online course on copyright from Harvard’s Terry Fisher

Cory Doctorow:

Update: Kendra from Harvard sez, The online course called CopyrightX is a version of the HLS Copyright course taught on edX by Prof. Fisher. It’s facilitated by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the efforts of a number of HLS students. The materials are free and accessible at Prof. Fisher’s website: The site linked in the current post is a student created website – not an official part of the course.

Former Milwaukee education reporter writes about New Orleans

Eugene Kane:

Sarah Carr, a former Milwaukee education reporter who moved to New Orleans in 2009 to cover schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, sees some similarities in both troubled public education systems.
“I think they both have their strengths and their weaknesses,” Carr said in a recent interview.
“I think both places have great and awful schools.”
In her new book , titled “Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children,” Carr writes about the New Orleans school system by focusing on the personal lives of various figures struggling to educate students in a city still suffering from the aftermath of Katrina.
Her book reports the progress of three different New Orleans schools in a city where charter reform movement has brought about drastic change for poor minority students , administrators and teachers. Carr took a personal approach to interviewing her subjects in order to tell the greater story of the challenges involved in a community where social conditions have a large impact on the education of students.

Most NYC High School Grads Need Remedial Help Before Entering CUNY Community Colleges

CBS New York:

It’s an education bombshell.
Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.
The number of kids behind the 8-ball is the highest in years, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.
When they graduated from city high schools, students in a special remedial program at the Borough of Manhattan Community College couldn’t make the grade.
They had to re-learn basic skills — reading, writing and math — first before they could begin college courses.

Related: The Madison School Board & the District’s disastrous reading scores.

Aaron Swartz Was Right

Peter Ludlow:

The suicide of the Internet wunderkind Aaron Swartz has given rise to a great deal of discussion, much of it centered on whether the penalty sought against him by the prosecutor was proportional to his “crime.”
The consensus so far has been that Swartz did something wrong by accessing and releasing millions of academic papers from the JSTOR archive. But perhaps it is time to ask whether Swartz did in fact act wrongly. We might entertain the possibility that Swartz’s act of civil disobedience was an attempt to help rectify a harm that began long ago. Perhaps he was not only justified in his actions but morally impelled to act as he did. Moreover, we too might be morally impelled to take action.
To put it bluntly, the current state of academic publishing is the result of a series of strong-arm tactics enabling publishers to pry copyrights from authors, and then charge exorbitant fees to university libraries for access to that work. The publishers have inverted their role as disseminators of knowledge and become bottlers of knowledge, releasing it exclusively to the highest bidders. Swartz simply decided it was time to take action.

The Country That Stopped Reading

David Toscana

Earlier this week, I spotted, among the job listings in the newspaper Reforma, an ad from a restaurant in Mexico City looking to hire dishwashers. The requirement: a secondary school diploma.
Years ago, school was not for everyone. Classrooms were places for discipline, study. Teachers were respected figures. Parents actually gave them permission to punish their children by slapping them or tugging their ears. But at least in those days, schools aimed to offer a more dignified life.
Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less. They learn almost nothing. The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.
One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”

This is not just about better funding. Mexico spends more than 5 percent of its gross domestic product on education — about the same percentage as the United States. And it’s not about pedagogical theories and new techniques that look for shortcuts. The educational machine does not need fine-tuning; it needs a complete change of direction. It needs to make students read, read and read.
But perhaps the Mexican government is not ready for its people to be truly educated. We know that books give people ambitions, expectations, a sense of dignity. If tomorrow we were to wake up as educated as the Finnish people, the streets would be filled with indignant citizens and our frightened government would be asking itself where these people got more than a dishwasher’s training.

The Freedom To Teach

The Economist:

WITH Republican control of state government now firmly consolidated, Mississippi is poised for wholesale education reform. In his state-of-the-state address in January, Governor Phil Bryant proposed a robust, if rather familiar, basket of reforms: expansion of the state’s current (and highly restrictive) charter-school laws, merit pay for teachers, and higher standards for teacher training. More controversially, Mr Bryant proposed allowing students to enroll in schools outside of the district in which they live (so-called open enrollment), as well as privately-funded scholarships for students to attend private schools. With the exception of these last, the proposals have been enthusiastically embraced by the state legislature.
The question is whether they will work. Some charter schools have proven successful and the much-touted KIPP programme has produced marked improvement in test scores for low-income children. The worst fears of sceptics (that charter schools would siphon better teachers and better prepared students away from traditional public schools; that the result would intensify economic and ethnic segregation) have not been realised. But taken as a whole, school choice has failed to produce across-the-board improvements in student learning.

Minnesota Bill to Ban K-12 Speech That Denies Fellow Students a “Supportive Environment

Eugene Volokh:

That’s H.F. No. 826, which requires schools — including private schools that get any “public funds or other public resources” — to ban, among other things, “bullying” at school, defined as

use of one or a series of words, images, or actions, transmitted directly or indirectly between individuals or through technology, that a reasonable person knows or should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of interfering with the ability of an individual, including a student who observes the conduct, to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment. Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to, conduct that:

Madison school board candidates James Howard and Greg Packnett discuss why they are running, the achievement gap


Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Top universities by reputation 2013

The Times Higher Education:

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings employ the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey to provide the definitive list of the top 100 most powerful global university brands. A spin-off of the annual World University Rankings, the reputation league table is based on nothing more than subjective judgement – but it is the considered expert judgement of senior, published academics – the people best placed to know the most about excellence in our universities.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Tax revenue to hit record this year. So is spending ‘the problem’?

Mark Trumbull:

An impasse over the shape of the federal budget keeps boiling down to this basic plotline: Democrats say the solution to high deficits must include more tax revenue, while Republicans say the fundamental problem is spending.
Failure to reach a middle ground has prompted automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” to go into effect. This wasn’t Plan A, or even Plan B, for either side.
As the politicians look for a way forward, conservative lawmakers say that new budget projections make their case for them. Federal tax revenue is forecast to hit a record $2.7 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Teaching Math: The Driftwood and the Vortex

Michelle Kerr:

“Ms K, I need to do my work with Ms. V. My education plan is my civil right!” Deon’s entire body was contorted in a geometric impossibility, the better to shout at me from the back of the room.
“Hey, Ms. K! Come here! What if both numbers are negative?” Sticks was waving me over.
“If the rise and run are both negative, the slope’s positive. Just like multiplying!” Jack argued, as Cal watched dispassionately.
Welcome to the first month of my math support class, for juniors and seniors who haven’t yet passed California’s High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). Snapshots from a typical day:

Online College Students 2012: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences Report

Almost 3 million students are enrolled in a fully online program, and that number is only expected to grow. Learn who these students are and what they are looking for in a landmark new study. The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research surveyed 1,500 former, current and future online students to discover who earns online degrees and why.
In the “Online College Students 2012: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” report, learn:
How students select online schools
Which fields of study interest online students
Which program features online students seek
What prompts students to choose online study
And more!

Why Are Walmart Billionaires Bankrolling Phony School “Reform” In LA?

Peter Dreier:

For years, Los Angeles has been ground zero in an intense debate about how to improve our nation’s education system. What’s less known is who is shaping that debate. Many of the biggest contributors to the so-called “school choice” movement — code words for privatizing our public education system — are billionaires who don’t live in Southern California, but have gained significant influence in local school politics. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent contribution of $1 million to a political action committee created to influence next week’s LAUSD school board elections is only the most recent example of the billionaire blitzkrieg.
For more than a decade, however, one of the biggest of the billionaire interlopers has been the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, who have poured millions into a privatization-oriented, ideological campaign to make LA a laboratory for their ideas about treating schools like for-profit businesses, and treating parents, students and teachers like cogs in what they must think are education big-box retail stores.

Testing Teachers

Cliff Mass:

There has been a lot of controversy about whether student assessments should be used to evaluate K-12 teachers. The media is full of debate about this topic (e.g., Wall Street Journal) and the Seattle Times has had many editorials pushing for the use of assessments such as MAP to evaluate teachers. And several foundations, supported by rich contributors, like the League of Education Voters and the Gates Foundation, are pushing teacher evaluation through student assessments.
I would like to argue that using student assessments to evaluate teachers not only has issues, but is putting the cart before the horse. First, we need to test teachers in a robust way to evaluate their knowledge of the subjects they are teaching and only allow teachers with strong subject knowledge to teach.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK’d

Jeff Glaze:

Incoming Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will begin her new role in just a matter of weeks.
April 1 is the start date specified in Cheatham’s contract, which the School Board unanimously approved Wednesday evening.
The date is significantly earlier than the July 1 start date of her predecessor, Dan Nerad. School Board President James Howard said the goal was to begin the transition to the new superintendent right away.
“We didn’t have a superintendent, and we wanted to get a superintendent on board as soon as possible,” he said.
Cheatham will make $235,000 annually — the same amount the School Board offered her last month. That amount is higher than Nerad’s $201,000 salary but less than the roughly $250,000 salary that was advertised for the position.

The newest revolution in higher ed

Drew Faust and L. Rafael Reif:

IN 1837, the Massachusetts Board of Education devoted part of its first annual report to praising a recent classroom innovation called the blackboard. This “invaluable and indispensible” innovation enabled the “rapid and vivid communication of knowledge.” It created opportunities for teachers to engage learners in ways that had been unimaginable just a generation earlier.
The same and more will be said of online learning tools. We are at the beginning of a technology-led revolution in pedagogy: Our innovation is not the blackboard, but instead an evolving suite of tools that allows interactive learning online. While one outcome of this revolution has rightly caught the world’s attention — the power to democratize access to education on a scale never seen in history — we are just as excited about the promise that these new tools hold for colleges and universities throughout the world.

Wisconsin Schools need boost, budget needs balance

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Freezing public school spending in Wisconsin would be a mistake, given previous cuts and rising costs.
That’s the most glaring problem with Gov. Scott Walker’s two-year, $68 billion state budget proposal.
The Republican governor also stalls his considerable progress toward an honest and truly balanced budget. Having slain a giant budget gap two years ago, Walker shouldn’t be backtracking even a bit.
The Legislature has some fixing to do.
Yet some of Walker’s priorities are strong, including:

Change From Within

Paul Fain:

If higher education has a group of quintessential insiders, it’s probably the American Council on Education. Yet from a perch atop the higher education lobby’s headquarters here, the membership association of 1,800 college presidents is backing high-profile “disruptions” to the industry it represents.
The council says it wants more students to earn college credit for learning that occurs outside the college classroom. Some of these credit pathways are trendy and new; others have been around for decades. But interest in prior learning assessment has grown rapidly, particularly during the last six months, and ACE is riding the wave.
ACE’s leaders say they are giving a boost to alternative credit pathways because of the college “completion agenda,” work force development and money worries that are buffeting colleges.
“We are experiencing a confluence of forces of change,” Molly Broad, the council’s president, recently told the University of Wisconsin System’s Board of Regents. “All of this coming together is persuasive that business as usual is not in the future cards and we must innovate.”

Majority of Wisconsin Senate Republicans oppose voucher expansion

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker’s ambitious plan to expand taxpayer-funded private schools faltered in the Legislature on Wednesday, with several influential GOP lawmakers making clear the proposal would need major changes to pass.
The lawmakers from the governor’s own party largely acknowledged that some expansion of voucher schools will pass the Legislature in the coming months. But the legislators – who included the top two Senate leaders and chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees – said the expansion would be different from the proposal Walker laid out in his budget bill last month.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said a majority of GOP senators do not support Walker’s proposal as currently written. Fitzgerald said that he called a meeting held Tuesday with Walker’s aides, Assembly Republican leaders and representatives of voucher schools to see if a compromise proposal might be worked out.
“Some people in our caucus looked at what the governor proposed and said, ‘Hmm, let’s maybe think about that,’ and I must say the governor was open to that. He’s not dug in on anything,” Fitzgerald said of changes to the governor’s budget.
Walker is seeking to increase funding for voucher schools, expand them to nine new school districts in the state and allow special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense. At the same time, he wants to provide $129 million in new state aid to public schools over two years but keep schools’ spending in state aid and property taxes flat, ensuring that the state money will be used to lower local property taxes.

Rise of Customized Learning

Paul Fain:

The credit hour is still higher education’s gold standard, even after President Obama’s vague endorsement last month of competency-based education and its focus on “performance and results” rather than seat time.
It’s unclear whether Obama’s call could help open the door for competency-based approaches by spurring changes to the current system of accreditation or the rules governing federal financial aid. Even so, colleges aren’t waiting on the feds.
Several institutions have continued to expand competency-based offerings aimed at working adults. And while all but one are still grounded in the credit hour, these online degree programs are typically self-paced and emphasize the testing of competency, sometimes even of learning that occurs outside of the traditional classroom.
A notable example is the continued growth of Western Governors University, which is launching two new state-based versions of its online, low-priced model — in Missouri and Tennessee. Governors of the two states announced the new universities last month, and both said they hope to cover some of the start-up costs with money from state coffers. The two new WGUs will join similar branches in Indiana, Texas and Washington.

?Is a Comma Grammar

The Economist:

HAPPY National Grammar Day, everyone. Today’s offering is only marginally on grammar. We’ve asked “What is grammar anyway?” here at Johnson. The layperson would almost certainly answer “those difficult rules that are drilled into you in school about how to use the language.” The linguist would reply with nearly the opposite: grammar is made up of the rules of language that a competent native speaker uses almost without effort, by the definition of “competent native speaker”. You use grammar every time you construct a sentence, not just those times when you’re scratching your head about whether to use “who” or “whom”.
Here’s a good example of how laypeople and linguists differ on grammar: has created this handy infographic on the much-discussed punctuation mark known as the Oxford comma.

Time For An Education System Makeover

Holly Green:

Education budgets at the national, state, and local levels have all taken huge hits over the past few years. And while we all want our schools to have sufficient funding to educate our children, more money is not the magic bullet solution for what our educational system needs.
The truth is, our educational system is badly broken, and not just because the systems, structures, and philosophies that guide it are woefully out of date. Our educational system is grossly ineffective because the way we teach our children doesn’t align with what we know about how the brain learns.
In fact, the current system is the worst learning environment we could put our children into. And that’s not just my opinion. It also belongs to John Medina, noted molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School.

The Competition Drug

Roger Cohen
THIS is America’s college town par excellence. Kids from all over the world flock to Boston to learn. I have a son who is a freshman here. Last autumn, as he entered school, I listened to warnings about the dangers of binge drinking. I think they missed the point. The real epidemic involves so-called smart drugs, particularly Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) but so freely available as to be the pill to take whenever academic pressure requires pulling an all-nighter with zero procrastination to get a paper done.
“Just popped an Addie, so I’m good to go” — this sort of pretest attitude has become pervasive. Conversations with several students suggested Adderall was always available, costing from $2 to $5 a pill. Adderall has become to college what steroids are to baseball: an illicit performance enhancer for a fiercely competitive environment. What to say to doctors to get a prescription is now so widely known among students — “It’s like my thoughts are channel-surfing and I can’t stop” — as to have become a kind of joke.
“If there are no A.D.H.D. symptoms prior to college I have a very hard time writing a prescription,” Jill Kasper, a pediatrician, told me. “But if somebody wants a prescription for Adderall, they can find someone to give it to them.” The problem is that Adderall is dangerous, a Class 2 controlled substance like cocaine. While it has helped countless A.D.H.D. sufferers, it can also lead down a dark road of dependency, ever higher doses, fight-or-flight anxiety levels, sleeplessness and depression.
Here, in his own words, is the Adderall story of Steven Roderick, 24, a smart, soft-spoken, lost senior studying health science at the University of Massachusetts Boston:

I started taking it my first year in college. My performance had always fluctuated a lot. It was hard to pay attention, even in classes I was interested in. I was getting D’s. I felt something had to change. Adderall flies around campus. The first time I took it I wrote a paper for an astronomy class that was out of this world. I could not believe it — I was so inspired it made me want to be a doctor! I thought — oh my God! — this is the whole problem. You have the ability. You are intelligent. You just don’t have the link between intelligence and the capacity to be productive. The pill is the link. I felt literally unstoppable.
I went to the doctor, said I’d like to give Adderall a try. There were no diagnostic procedures. Doctors give in too easily. I did not think there could be a risk later on. I started on 20 milligrams. I went from D’s and F’s to straight A’s. But your brain adapts, you have to increase the dose, and by 2011 I was up to 45 milligrams. In the spring of that year I started to feel Adderall was my best friend and my worst enemy at the same time. Because I could not sleep I went to see my psychopharm, and she prescribed me Ativan to sleep. That worked O.K. for a while. But I really ran into trouble last year. I was up to 65 milligrams, and then during finals went to 80, even 120, milligrams, and I was just locked into this Adderall-Ativan cycle. My doctor seemed scatterbrained. She’d prescribe something but not follow up.
It’s a complicated dependency. I mean I never took Adderall to get high, never took it in a way that was not academically oriented; and I think there’s a distinction between dependency and addiction, taking something for a purpose or for a rush. But I feel awful. My baseline anxiety level would be most people’s highest anxiety level. The drop of a pin makes me spin around. I am living at home. My parents are clueless, and it is hard to discuss with them, although my Mom helps me now. I alternate between ‘on’ and ‘off’ states — I come off the Adderall, take Ativan and sleep for days. I miss appointments. I know I need to go to the appointments, but I wonder if I will be functional enough.
Adderall suddenly turned its back on me. It enabled me to focus, got me to a higher place academically. But then I could no longer rely on it. I was on my own. And although I have less than three credits to go, I may have to withdraw from school because I have not been able to make it to enough classes. “Look, I am in a culture that constantly justifies the means to an end. So how do we persuade people not to take it? All you hear is how impossible it will be to get a job when you get out, and you are going more and more into debt, and you think without this I won’t be top of the class. With other drugs you know you are ruining your life. But Adderall manipulates you into thinking you are doing what is needed to have a great life.

The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013
Dear Madison Leaders.
As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.
While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago.
Here is how things transpired.
On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher’s Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA’s cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn’t get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn’t support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school.
The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League’s focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John’s desire to have Madison Prep’s employees be a part of MTI’s collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep’s teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher’s union represent our educators.
John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we “had a deal”, that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved.
Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from.
That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position.
But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt “a deal is a deal”. When you shake hands, you follow through.
We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through – jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way – $200K worth of hurdles (that’s how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011).
On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That’s when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn’t get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years.
Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master’s degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI’s suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn’t once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue.
Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years’ experience and a master’s degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners.
When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn’t have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined.
After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story.
Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man”. Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then.
Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn’t support Madison Prep. He didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address?
If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.
So, for those who were unaware and those who’ve been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don’t make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let’s be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward.
Thank you for reading.
We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well.
Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608.729.1200
Assistant: 608.729.1249
Fax: 608.729.1205
Invest in the Urban League
Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report

The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)

Date: August 23, 2011
To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc.
From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison
cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC
Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship
Greetings John.
I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be.
Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.

  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school
    focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for
    educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.

  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl’s collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep’s leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.

I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the
relationship as well.
Kaleem Caire,
President & CEO

336K PDF Version
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Related Links:

Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School
(Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.“.
John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc.
Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League
The rejected Studio Charter School.
Union politics.
2013 Madison School Board Elections.
Update: Matthew DeFour’s article on Caire’s message:

Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn’t dispute Caire’s account of the board action, but couldn’t recall exactly what happened in the board’s closed sessions.
“Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes,” Mathiak said. “It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness.”
Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire’s proposal to hire nonunion staff.
“What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution,” Matthews said. “What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers.”
Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

“PSA”: Your Student’s Test Scores May be Lower than in Years Past

NBC 15:

If you’ve got a kid in third through eighth grade–or tenth–they took the WKCE exam this fall. “The Wisconsin content and knowledge exam and it’s been the statewide test for Wisconsin for quite a few years now,” said Dr. Jane Belmore, the superintendent of Madison schools.
Your student could score at one of these assessment levels: minimal, basic, proficient or advanced.”This year our WKCE test has been alligned with a nationally-normed test,” said Dr. Belmore.
Your student’s scores should be showing up soon and it’s possible he or she won’t be scoing as highly as in the past. “The results of this reallignment is that we’re holding ourselves and our students to a higher bar,” she said. “So students may be performing at the same level or even better than they were and yet still not get the kind of report that parents might be expecting.”
Dr. Belmore said it doesn’t necessarily mean your child is doing less well, everyone’s just being held to a higher standard. “If our students are being proficient and we’re expecting to see proficient we might see basic,” she said.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

In 15 Years From Now Half of US Universities May Be in Bankruptcy. My Surprise Discussion with @ClayChristensen

Mark Suster:

Who else does Clayton pray for? Apple. Yup! Watch the 30-minute interview to hear why but summary notes below.
Let me start by saying that Clayton is one of the most influential people on my thoughts about markets that led to both the concept behind my first startup and my main theses in investing. I have written about Deflationary Economics (one of my most read posts ever) & The Innovator’s Dilemma before. In a discussion I had with Fred Wilson at the Invesco LP meeting Fred said the same about the influence of Clayton.
So it was a real pleasure to be asked by Derek Anderson of Startup Grind to be able to interview Clayton for an audience of thousands (many in person, others by live broadcast). Startup Grind was a truly awesome conference and Derek the consumate host. I hope to be asked back for next year’s event.
Clayton Christensen certainly didn’t disappoint. It was one of funnest discussions I’ve held with a senior leader and he was surprisingly open and frank. If you have some time I highly recommend watching it.

There was more to Scott Walker’s fight with unions than speeches and protests

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

Hunkered down in Illinois to block labor legislation back in Wisconsin, 14 Democratic senators gathered in Libertyville two years ago for a secret meeting at a teachers union office.
Arriving at the Illinois Education Association branch on Feb. 26, 2011, some Democrats in the group were surprised to find that they would be strategizing not just among themselves but also with three labor officials. That trio included the incoming head of a national teachers association, the biggest union in the country, who had worked with the Wisconsin lawmakers in the past and had just registered to lobby them again.
One senator skipped the meeting out of concerns over appearance and propriety. The other lawmakers got a pitch from the union leaders on why they should stay in Illinois to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to repeal most collective bargaining for most public employees.
“The undercurrent message was, ‘You’re winning; stay out,’ ” recalled former Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover, one of those attending the meeting.
Behind the scenes, there was more to the Republican governor’s fight with public employee unions than just Walker’s speeches and the massive protests of union supporters. An in-depth review reveals a rich backstory, including the undisclosed visit to Wisconsin by President Barack Obama’s campaign manager just before the effort to recall Walker; the role played by a conservative Milwaukee foundation in pushing labor legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere; and the tension between Walker’s office and law enforcement over handling the demonstrations that greeted the governor’s proposal.
Walker emerged from the legislative fight and the subsequent recall election with a majority of support among Wisconsin voters, deep opposition from Democrats, and a hero’s status among conservatives nationally. Public worker unions lost fundamental powers and in some cases their official status altogether.

Mystery of the Chinese zombie Yalies

Associated Press:

US universities have responded to China’s exploding demand for American higher education with branch campuses and aggressive recruiting. Now, some are trying to boost their brands by casting photos and other snippets of campus life out into the confounding sea of Chinese social media.
How confounding? Consider the mystery of the Chinese Yale zombies.
That’s “zombies” as in “zombie followers” on Sina Weibo — the hugely popular “weibo,” or microblogging, site that’s roughly akin to Twitter and has attracted more than 500 million followers since debuting in 2009. A common feature on Chinese social media, these zombie accounts could represent actual users who lurk inactively online. But often they’re fake, mass-produced accounts that mindlessly follow (hence the name “zombie”) and artificially boost another account’s follower numbers — and thus prestige.
Since its debut in December, Yale’s new Sina Weibo account — sharing photos and other assorted items from its Ivy-covered Connecticut campus — has exploded in popularity, apparently far faster than any other US institution’s.

As Math Grows More Complex, Will Computers Reign?

Natalie Wolchover:

Shalosh B. Ekhad, the co-author of several papers in respected mathematics journals, has been known to prove with a single, succinct utterance theorems and identities that previously required pages of mathematical reasoning. Last year, when asked to evaluate a formula for the number of integer triangles with a given perimeter, Ekhad performed 37 calculations in less than a second and delivered the verdict: “True.”
Shalosh B. Ekhad is a computer. Or, rather, it is any of a rotating cast of computers used by the mathematician Doron Zeilberger, from the Dell in his New Jersey office to a supercomputer whose services he occasionally enlists in Austria. The name — Hebrew for “three B one” — refers to the AT&T 3B1, Ekhad’s earliest incarnation.
“The soul is the software,” said Zeilberger, who writes his own code using a popular math programming tool called Maple.
A mustachioed, 62-year-old professor at Rutgers University, Zeilberger anchors one end of a spectrum of opinions about the role of computers in mathematics. He has been listing Ekhad as a co-author on papers since the late 1980s “to make a statement that computers should get credit where credit is due.” For decades, he has railed against “human-centric bigotry” by mathematicians: a preference for pencil-and-paper proofs that Zeilberger claims has stymied progress in the field. “For good reason,” he said. “People feel they will be out of business.”

Watson goes to college: How the world’s smartest PC will revolutionize AI

James Hendler:

In 2011, IBM achieved a quantum leap in artificial intelligence technology when its Watson computer program trounced human champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a three-day Jeopardy! tourney, taking home the million-dollar prize by outscoring the second place competitor by a three-to-one margin.
Since then, Watson has shown its computing prowess in the world of medicine and in other business settings. However, as was recently announced, IBM decided Watson could use a college education and so will join here us at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. With its help, we hope to further advance artificial intelligence in a number of key areas.
The Watson program is already a breakthrough technology in AI. For many years it had been largely assumed that for a computer to go beyond search and really be able to perform complex human language tasks it needed to do one of two things: either it would “understand” the texts using some kind of deep “knowledge representation,” or it would have a complex statistical model based on millions of texts.
Watson used very little of either of these. Rather, it uses a lot of memory and clever ways of pulling texts from that memory. Thus, Watson demonstrated what some in AI had conjectured, but to date been unable to prove: that intelligence is tied to an ability to appropriately find relevant information in a very large memory. (Watson also used a lot of specialized techniques designed for the peculiarities of the Jeopardy! game, such as producing questions from answers, but from a purely academic viewpoint that’s less important.)

An Update on the Los Angeles School Board Race

Los Angeles Times:

As results in the Los Angeles school board election continued to be tabulated early Wednesday, two-term incumbent Monica Garcia held a strong lead in District 2, one-term incumbent Steve Zimmer maintained his slim lead in District 4 and Antonio Sanchez captured the most votes in the race for District 6 — but he could be headed for a runoff.
The school board race attracted national money and attention, becoming a battle over the reform policies of Supt. John Deasy.

Just 10 percent of Harvard Students have any formal financial education.

Todd Wallack:

A survey of Harvard students by the Harvard University Employees Credit Union found that only 10 percent had any formal financial education.
To bring students up to speed, the credit union and alumni helped designed a three-day crash course on ­financial management, investments, credit scores, and taxes. As part of the workshop, students collaborated on real-world exercises, such as budgeting to make the rent, and developed personal financial plans. Some students said they were just hoping to find out how credit cards worked.
“College students as a whole just aren’t financially sophisticated,” said Shahar Ziv, a Harvard Business School graduate who helped organize the workshop. “Harvard students are no different than other students. Succeeding academically does not necessarily translate into being financially literate.”

Madison school board candidates Dean Loumos and Wayne Strong discuss why they are running, the achievement gap


Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 3, former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos is running against retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong. The winner will replace retiring school board member Beth Moss.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

CRPE launches new study on the costs of blended learning in K-12 schools

Robin Lake & Betheny Gross, via a kind Deb Britt email:

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has received a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study the financial and resource allocation implications of blended learning models.
Led by Director Robin Lake and Research Director Dr. Betheny Gross, CRPE will analyze the financials of 30 K-12 blended learning schools, including schools funded through the Next Generation Learning Challenges, a Gates-funded competition to promote college readiness and completion and education technology.
Blended learning combines online and face-to-face instruction, allowing students to master content at their own pace and teachers to track progress and tailor lessons accordingly. There is tremendous interest nationally in its promise to dramatically customize and improve student learning by deploying technology and instructional resources in new ways. Understanding how schools can use technology, dollars, and teacher time in innovative ways will be key to the continued expansion and success of blended learning models.
CRPE will answer questions critical to the field, including:

History comes alive at students’ wax museum

Pamela Cotant:

Third- and fourth-graders at Our Redeemer Lutheran School created the look of a wax museum by dressing up and remaining still in poses for about six minutes at a time.
Visitors to the exhibit Feb. 21 at the West Side school could push a button pinned to the students’ costumes to have them recite one of three facts they memorized about their characters. Tri-fold boards set on tables behind the students offered full biographies of the people they chose to portray from Henry Ford to Harry Houdini to Pocahontas.
“Some poses are harder than others,” said fourth-grader Anika Stone, 9, who wore a gold coat and a diamond tiara to portray Queen Elizabeth.
“When you’re standing, it’s a little harder,” said fourth-grader Erin Zenk, 10, who also portrayed royalty by wearing a white strapless gown as Princess Diana.
Anika as Queen Elizabeth interacted with another student, third-grader Will Popp, 8, who was dressed as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, to depict when she made him an honorary knight.

Madison middle schools could get extra class period, no extra minutes to day

Matthew DeFour:

Madison middle school students could soon have an extra class period and smaller class sizes without adding minutes to the school day under a plan being developed by the Madison School District.
Joe Gothard, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said an eight-period day with 45-minute classes instead of seven 47- to 51-minute classes would give students opportunities to take more electives and help the district implement interventions for students struggling in reading and math. It also would be in line with some of the other area middle school schedules.
“We’re looking for ways we can increase success for all students,” Gothard said. “This is one way we’re looking at.”
Gothard said Cherokee and Black Hawk middle schools are closer than the district’s other middle schools in possibly using an eight-period day next school year. The change wouldn’t cost additional money and doesn’t require School Board approval, he added.
The district planned to send a letter to parents over the weekend alerting them to the possible change.


The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II

Benjamin Scaffidi:

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent, while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.
That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent, while the number of FTE school employees increased 39 percent. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 46 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period; the growth in the number of teachers was almost twice that of students.
The two aforementioned figures come from “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools.” This companion report contains more state-specific information about public school staffing. Specifically, this report contains:

Mindless professional learning produces mindless teaching

Dennis Sparks:

The notes of the lecturer are passed to the notes of the listener – without going through the minds of either. – Mortimer Adler
Mortimer Adler succinctly describes the mindless learning that follows mindless teaching.
Visualize a continuum with that form of teaching and learning at one end. At the other end place the kind of teaching that produces high levels of engagement, meaningful involvement with the subject matter, and the acquisition and exercise of complex cognitive skills. (A good share of the teaching students experience each day falls between those two extremes.)
The professional learning of teachers and administrators can be placed along a similar continuum.
To update Adler’s description, at one end of the continuum the PowerPoint slides of the presenter are passed to the tweets of the students without going through the minds of either. At the other end is professional learning with qualities that closely resemble those described above for students–high levels of engagement, meaningful involvement with the subject matter, and the acquisition and exercise of complex cognitive skills
In my experience, the kinds of teaching/learning processes used in professional development have a profound effect on the teaching/learning processes used in the vast majority of’ classrooms. Put another way, mindless professional learning produces mindless teaching. And vice versa.

Wisconsin Catholic Conference backs voucher expansion

Matthew DeFour:

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference backed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed voucher expansion Tuesday.

In a letter to the Legislature
, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison and the bishops of Green Bay, LaCrosse and Superior said their support for the expansion was not based on it potentially benefiting Catholic schools.
“We back this effort out of a conviction that parents, as the primary educators of their children, must have the community’s support in selecting a form of education that best meets their child’s needs — academic, psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical,” they wrote.
The bishops also rejected the argument from voucher opponents that the proposal undermines public schools.

Is Madison having a truly open dialogue about the schools’ achievement gap?

Pat Schneider:

Can you have a public discussion on closing the achievement gap in Madison without inviting Kaleem Caire, the architect of a would-be charter school plan that pushed the issue of the Madison School District’s persistent race-based gap to the front burner of local civic debate?
Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is not on the roster for the March 13 installment of Ed Talks Wisconsin, a UW-Madison-sponsored series on current education topics, when a Madison panel will discuss “Closing the Achievement Gap: Toward a Community-Wide K12 Agenda.”
Joel Rogers, director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the equity advocacy group that organized the achievement gap panel discussion, said Monday that the presentation was conceived as a response to Caire’s education forum featuring such lights of the “school reform” movement as Geoffrey Canada, John Legend and Howard Fuller. At that two-day event last December, people heard a lot of talk promoting charter schools and greater teacher accountability as the answer to lagging performance by students of color.
“We wanted voices of people who think that, whatever its defects, public education is important in the 21st century,” Rogers said, adding that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin urged him to organize a program.
For his part, Soglin said that Caire has organized a number of discussions, like December’s “Educate to Elevate,” and “he did not invite anyone with different opinions on charter schools to participate.”
The achievement gap presentation in Ed Talks was in response to the Urban League’s education summit, but other programs in the eight-day series were suggested by a variety of other groups as early as last fall, organizer Sara Goldrick-Rab [SIS], an associate professor in the School of Education, told me.
The final event on March 21 is part of a two-day educational policy conference that the university has hosted for years, she said.
Ed Talks is funded by some $5,000 in donations from a variety of university entities, but some $8,000 in funding for the educational policy conference includes $300 from the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers and $500 from WEAC, Goldrick-Rab said.

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

Citizens Against Corporate Collusion in Education (CACCE)

As American parents, students, educators, and concerned citizens, we are united in opposition to the agenda of those corporate, foundation, and government interests that seek to influence local district boards of education, state boards of education, state governments, governors, and the Office of the Secretary of Education. This agenda calls for standardization of national curricula in the form of the Common Core Standards mandated in the Federal initiative “Race to the Top,” data-driven assessments of students and teachers, and the creation and implementation of standardized discrete item testing to measure compliance to the Common Core Standards. The president of the College Board’s recent announcement that a new SAT will be created to measure Common Core Standards skills proficiency also alarms us. In addition, the Secretary of Education’s former press secretary has recently used the “revolving door” of public office to acquire a job with a company that is related to Pearson LLC.
We demand transparency and public accountability for decisions that are being made on the above issues without open hearings or public debate on the influence of corporate lobbying and marketing at local, state, and federal levels. We strongly suspect the existence of quid pro quo understandings between the current Secretary of Education and Bill Gates, The Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, The College Board and David Coleman, The Educational Testing Service (ETS), and Pearson Education LLC that amount to collusion between a Federal Public servant(s) and corporate interests that appear to be working together to limit competition in an open marketplace.
We therefore resolve:
1) That State Attorneys General investigate possible quid pro quo agreements between the above parties and members of state boards of education and commissioners,
2) That State Attorneys General investigate lobbying of the above parties to determine whether bribery laws have been violated,
3) That all state governments conduct investigations of the contributions of Pearson LLC, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Students First Foundation to local school board elections and the elections or appointments of state education commissioners and state boards of education,
4) And that each state file a complaint with the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice in Washington preliminary to discovery of evidence of possible collusion of the above parties.
5) We call for a Joint House-Senate Committee to be formed to investigate possible collusion and influence peddling between the above parties.
6) We call for the Attorney General of the United States to select an independent prosecutor to investigate the possibility of quid pro quo dealings and collusion between the parties above.
7) We understand that the Tunney Act does not apply to this case and we argue that is precisely why collusion is involved, to avoid merger or the appearance of merger that would trigger a court hearing.
8) We strongly recommend that the Special Prosecutor (6) investigate all contracts let by the Department of Education to Pearson Education LLC.
9) We strongly recommend that all State Attorneys General investigate all state contracts let by Pearson LLC.
Read more, here.
Paul Horton
State Liaison
Illinois Council for History Education
History Instructor
University High School
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

MOOC Completion Rates: The Data

Katy Jordan:

While Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may allow free education on an enormous scale, one of the biggest criticisms raised about MOOCs is that although thousands enrol for courses, a very small proportion actually complete the course. The release of information about enrollment and completion rates from MOOCs appears to be ad hoc at the moment – that is, official statistics are not published for every course. This data visualisation draws together information about enrollment numbers and completion rates from across online news stories and blogs.

Minimum Grade

Don Boudreaux:

In a bold effort to improve the educational fortunes of students who perform at academic levels significantly below the average of their peers, Congress has mandated a minimum grade to be assigned to each student in each course taught at any school in the country. Starting in September, it shall be unlawful for any teacher, professor, or instructor charged with assigning course grades to assign to any student a grade lower than C-.
Sponsors of the Fair Academic Standards Act decry the injustice that occurs each time a student earns a low grade, such as a D or an F. “It’s impossible for students with ‘D’s and ‘F’s on their transcripts to succeed as they deserve in life,” remarked Sen. Bernie Franken, an Independent from Elitia. “This law ensures that no American will ever again suffer that hardship.”
Opponents of the Act worry that the requirement of a minimum grade will prompt schools to refuse to enroll students whose academic preparation or skills aren’t yet sufficient to enable them actually to earn good grades.
Sen. Paul Rand, an outspoken opponent of the bill, admits that ‘D’s and ‘F’s are poor grades that are not likely to win good jobs for students that have many such grades on their transcripts. Sen. Rand argues, however, that the Act will steer schools away from enrolling less-prepared students and, as a consequence, deny these very students the opportunity to acquire the education that will enable them in the future to perform better in the classroom. “It’s an unintended bad consequence of Sen. Franken’s good intentions,” suggests Sen. Rand.

60 Years of DNA

Clive Cookson:

Sixty years ago this weekend the race to pin down the structure of DNA, the molecule of inheritance, was at a critical stage. In Cambridge Francis Crick and Jim Watson were realising how well a double helix would fit the available data. Meanwhile at King’s College London the dysfunctional team of Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, who had provided Crick and Watson with their most important evidence, were still unaware of the breakthrough in Cambridge.
At this point Wilkins sent Crick a letter looking forward to the imminent departure of “our dark lady” – Franklin – to a new job at Birkbeck College. This would leave him free to take part in a final push to discover how genes are encoded. “I have started up a general offensive on nature’s secret strongholds on all fronts,” he wrote. “At last the decks are clear and we can put all hands to the pumps! It won’t be long now.”

A Cult of Youth

Anthony Finkelstein:

PJ O’Rourke, the US journalist and humourist wrote a book of essays entitled ‘Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut’. Tempting as it is for a man in his fifties to make this point it is not my purpose in writing.
We have a cult of youth in academia, certainly in the sciences. This widespread cult pays its obeisances to the dynamism of the ‘early career’ researcher and ‘junior research fellow’. The cult shows sufficient awareness of the strictures of age discrimination legislation not to actually say ‘young’ though we are clearly to understand that is what is meant. The basis of the cult is that, supposedly, the young are particularly gifted with energy, creativity and the willingness to break the bonds of convention. These judged as the sole prerequisites of scientific achievement.
Evidence for this contention is drawn from the observation that in some areas of work, mathematics being a case in point, younger researchers are more frequently associated with ground breaking developments. It is propped up by examples of youthful genius culled from the history of science. It owes most however to the introspection of men (and yes, I mean this) in their fifties and sixties who either feel their creative powers waning or reflect, who knows how accurately, on their own careers.
None of this, I would humbly submit, is a sound basis for policy. The fact that younger scientists perform well in an age-diverse scientific community does not necessarily suggest that concentrating on (or worse concentrating) younger scientists is the way to achieve the desired outcomes. It is also unclear whether it is the career imperatives and personal situation of younger researchers that drives productivity rather than youthful creativity. Thus, the harsh ‘up or out’ US tenure system achieves its results by very direct economic and job incentives and not by any fairy dust sprinkled on younger researchers.

Teaching 2.0: Is Tech In The Classroom Worth The Cost?


The hallways at Westlake High School in Maryland are just like thousands of other school hallways around the country: kids milling around, laughing and chatting on their way to class.
On a recent morning, about 30 kids took their seats in a classroom that initially seems like any other. The major difference here is that instead of a chalkboard and a lectern at the head of the class, there are two enormous flat-panel screens and thin, white microphones hanging in four rows across the ceiling.
Greeting the students via Skype this morning is a dapper, bearded man in a brown vest. But it’s not their history teacher, it’s Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don’t Know Much About History, who was invited to talk to the students about America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This type of teaching is a novel approach, but it can be an expensive one. That has some asking whether the billions being spent on educational technology is worth the cost.

Why Public Schools Should Teach the Bible

Roma Downey & Mark Burnett:

Have you ever sensed in your own life that “the handwriting was on the wall”? Or encouraged a loved one to walk “the straight and narrow”?
Have you ever laughed at something that came “out of the mouths of babes”? Or gone “the extra mile” for an opportunity that might vanish “in the twinkling of an eye”?
If you have, then you’ve been thinking of the Bible.
These phrases are just “a drop in the bucket” (another biblical phrase) of the many things we say and do every day that have their origins in the most read, most influential book of all time. The Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. One would think that a text of such significance would be taught regularly in schools. Not so. That is because of the “stumbling block” (the Bible again) that is posed by the powers that be in America.

Teachers: What Does it Mean to be Declared “Surplus”?

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

During the next few weeks, many teachers will be advised by their principals that they have been declared “surplus” for the 2013-14 school year. While being declared surplus from one’s position can be stressful, the stress is heightened by one confusing “surplus” with “layoff”. These two provisions of the MTI/MMSD Collective Bargaining Agreement are separate and distinct with far different implications for the individual. Both are defined in Section IV-O of MTI’s Teacher Contract (surplus procedures for MTI-represented EA, SEE and SSA employees differ and will be explained in future articles).
A teacher who has been declared “surplus” is defined in the MTI/MMSD Collective Bargaining Agreement as any teacher presently teaching under a regular full-time or regular part-time contract who has been declared by their principal to be above staff requirements at their school for the ensuing school year or semester. Simply stated, a “surplus teacher” is a staff member who is no longer needed, in the school in which they currently teach, but is needed to teach elsewhere in the District.
A teacher who is issued notice of layoff is a staff member no longer needed to teach anywhere in the District, because they are above staff requirements for the District. Surplus declarations typically occur in March, while layoff decisions are made by the end of May.
This year, the District’s Human Resources Department provided staff allocations to principals/supervisors on March 1, giving them until March 11 to respond to HR with surplus declarations. Therefore, while the Contract deadline to declare surplus remains July 1, most surplus declarations are expected to occur by March 11 of this school year.
Issuing declarations of surplus is a two-step process
which, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Contract, must begin with the principal first requesting volunteers. The purpose of requesting volunteers is to give teachers, who would otherwise not be declared surplus, an opportunity to change their assignment using the surplus/reassignment procedure. The principal does not have to accept the volunteer as surplus if the teacher volunteering to be surplus would result in the remaining teachers at the building not being certified to teach the remaining assignments at the school. If there are no volunteers, or if there are an insufficient number of volunteers, then the principal must declare the teacher(s) surplus using the procedure set forth in Sections IV-O-2 & 3 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as follows:

5 (Milwaukee) Nicolet students achieve perfect ACT scores

Erin Richards:

ACT Inc. has a standard characterization for how many students across the country earn a perfect 36 composite score on its flagship college admissions exam: less than 0.1% of more than 1 million test takers annually.
This year, Nicolet High School is hosting an unusually large number of them.
Superintendent Rick Monroe reported Monday that two juniors, twin sisters Alexandra and Rachel Heuer, earned scores of 36 on the exam.
Junior Ben Lawton learned earlier this year that he earned a perfect ACT score.
So did seniors Nancy Gao and Annie Jen, who is 15.
Jen’s twin brother, William Jen, who has similarly fast-tracked high school to become a senior before he can drive, just missed membership in the elite club. He scored a 35 on the ACT, according to Monroe.

Nicolet high school’s annual report (2012) PDF. Nicolet high schools 2012 budget was $19,016,495 for 1310 students, or $14,516/student. Madison spends $14,242/student, including pre-k.

How Many Ph.D.’s Actually Get to Become College Professors?

Jordan Weissman:

Not every Ph.D. student aspires to a career as a tenured college professor. But in plenty of fields, particularly the humanities, spending your life buried up to your elbow patches in books and papers is the gold standard of success. So while breaking down the National Science Foundation’s data for my last two pieces on the job market for doctorate holders, I took a bit of time to look at just what fraction of new graduates were landing jobs in the academy.
The good news? The numbers have only dropped a few percentage points in 20 years. The bad news? They were pretty low to begin with.

The Fall of Academics at Harvard

Elizabeth Auritt & Delohibe Rodrik:

On a Thursday night in the spring of 2012, students huddled in study groups in Lamont Café, racing against the clock to finish an assignment due the next day. Notes and textbooks were shared, suggestions passed back and forth. There were dozens of students there, or at least enough that voices echoed to amplify the buzz of discussion.
The task’s guidelines for completion were hazy, and the fact that the course had many section leaders with varying expectations heightened the confusion. It was easy for members in the crowd to help each other out. For those who didn’t understand, didn’t have time, or just didn’t care, group work turned into copying.
That summer, after Lamont had emptied out for the semester, the accusations came. The cheating was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory,” according to Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris.
But the students who had collaborated in Lamont that spring evening faced no accusations. They had not been enrolled in Government 1310.
The students in Lamont, who were described by a fellow classmate, had been working on a problem set for Economics 10. It was Government 1310, though, that received national attention after Harris announced in August that the Administrative Board was investigating approximately 125 students for inappropriate collaboration on a take-home final in a spring course.

GE And Perdue Farms Will Disrupt Harvard Business School

Clay Christensen:

Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen is the father of the idea of disruptive innovation, and one of a select few business thinkers who can claim that their theories influence the behavior of top companies.
Right now, he thinks that his own employer is ripe for disruption. He’s argued previously that higher education as a whole “is on the edge of the crevasse,” and will be disrupted by online competitors. In a discussion at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab (full video available here) Christensen focused specifically on the disruption of the MBA.
“You guys need to stay tuned because it’s happening to the Harvard Business School,” Christensen said. “It truly is and nobody at Harvard even thinks about it.”
There are two things that make MBA programs like Harvard’s ripe for disruption, Christensen argues. The first is the cost.
“To get a Harvard MBA, you gotta to be the best of the best of the best to get yourself admitted, and then we empty your pockets to the tune of $120,000,” Christensen said. “Then you have two years of foregone salary. So this is a very intensive investment.”

Khan Academy Launches First State-Wide Pilot In Idaho

David Carr:

More than 10,000 students across Idaho will be getting Khan Academy videos for homework, as the tutorial website launches its first state-wide pilot aimed at integrating online education with the regular classroom experience.
Khan Academy is best known as a place where elementary, high school and college students go for help learning a concept they did not quite grasp when their instructor explained it. Particularly strong in mathematics and science, Khan Academy has been broadening its curriculum to encompass all subjects.
Khan’s JavaScript-based tutorials on computer science were also cited in this week’s marketing campaign arguing that all students should learn basic programming skills.

How to Use Gapminder to Teach Statistics (S.ID) in Algebra 1

Algebra 1 Teachers:

If you have not seen GapMinder yet, it is a must from every math and history teacher!
I was introduced to this amazing graphing software about a year ago at a conference, and I was so excited to play with it and use it in my classroom. But the how was a bit vague… Unfortunately the craziness of getting back to my classroom after three days out distracted me from the goal of figuring it out.
Well, the Common Core placing statistics back into Algebra 1 pushed me forward. I am so grateful. I want my students to understand numbers in the context of the larger world around them. And this is the perfect tool!

AVID/TOPS Madison School District Findings 2011-2012

Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Post-Secondary Education (2.6MB PDF):

To answer the guiding research questions, we developed a comparison group of academically and demographically similar non-participants to compare outcomes with AVID/TOPS students based on 8th grade pre-participation data. Using a statistical matching method called propensity score matching, we matched every AVID/TOPS student with a similar non-AVID/TOPS student at the same high school to create the comparison group.
Using these groups, we test for statistically and practically significant differences on key measures of academic preparation (cumulative GPA, enrollment and GPA in core courses, enrollment and GPA in AP/Honors courses, and credit attainment), college knowledge (test-taking rates and performance on the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT tests), and student engagement (attendance rates and behavioral referrals).
Statistically significant differences are differences that are unlikely to have occurred through random chance and are large enough to reflect meaningful differences in practice. In this report, we highlight statistically significant differences with a red symbol: .To focus attention on underrepresented students’ achievement, we disaggregated the measures by income and race. Though we report disaggregated findings, many of these groups are not mutually exclusive; for example, low-income students may also be African-American and therefore also represented in that data disaggregation. We do not report data from disaggregated groups that have fewer than five students in them. We then analyze this data at the program, grade cohort, and high school levels.
This assessment does not make causal claims about AVID/TOPS, nor does it present a longitudinal analysis of AVID/TOPS student achievement. Rather, the findings represent a single snapshot for achievement during the 2011-12 school year of the program’s 9th, 10th, and 11th graders.

UWM grad finds calling as City Year mentor

Alan Borsuk:

The youth was on his way to class at the start of the day at Milwaukee South Division High School. But first he stopped to leave his headphones with Paola Felix Encarnacion.
That was one small victory for the education of this young man who is in ninth grade for the second year – and one small accomplishment for Paola and the organization she works for, City Year.
I spent much of the spring of 2006 visiting large Milwaukee Public Schools high schools for a series of stories in this newspaper. At most of the schools, I spent a day following a specific student. Not surprisingly, schools generally matched me with one of their stars.
At South, I was paired with Paola. She was a junior then, the kind of kid you hope goes on to do good things for herself and others. Every time I passed near South Division in the last few years, I wondered what she was up to.
Last fall, I was invited to meet with the 50 or so young adults who are City Year “corps members” in Milwaukee this year. A nationwide program, City Year members work in eight MPS schools. The red jackets make them highly visible. They don’t teach, but do lots of things to help students get engaged constructively in school. They run programs and clubs, mentor and tutor “at-risk” students, promote attendance and good behavior. A key to the work is just staying in touch daily with specific students. City Year is funded by AmeriCorps and by private money, including support from some of the most prominent donors in Milwaukee.

New models for academic publishing


Academic publishing is changing fast. In this post, I’ll describe not only the exciting recent policy developments, but also several new models for the publication of scientific research.
Undoubtedly open access in set to truly break through this year, mainly thanks to strong funder mandates (e.g. RCUK and Horizon 2020). The debate has started to shift to the relative merits of author-pays-gold (or rather, funder-pays; see below) and institutional-repositories-green models. (Please see Peter Suber’s widely accepted definitions for the terminology). Richard Poynder continues his important coverage of the developments, describing in detail the controversy over the UK’s gold-first policy in the international context:

A bit of History on The Madison School District’s at large board seats

Chris Rickert:

Since Sarah Manski dropped out of the Madison School Board race two days after winning her primary, she’s been pilloried not only by the school district’s smattering of conservatives but by the same liberal, pro-democracy folks she once epitomized.
Leaving the race effectively left voters with little choice in who will get the seat she briefly coveted. It will either be second-place primary finisher T.J. Mertz or whomever the board appoints should Manski — whose name will remain on the April general election ballot — get the most votes.
Sure, Manski deserves the criticism.
But in creating the current mess, she had quite a bit of help from people pulling the district’s strings back when she was just a kid.
Until 1985, if one candidate dropped out of a school board race it mattered less because candidates weren’t required to run for particular, numbered seats.
Instead, they filed as candidates, primaries were held if the number of candidates was more than twice the number of seats up for election and, in the general election, voters voted for their top two or three choices, depending on whether there were two or three seats on the ballot.
Under that system, the people who actually got the most votes were assured of winning seats. And if one person dropped out of a six-person race — say, after a primary — you still had five to choose from.

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

Why did Jennifer Cheatham change jobs so often?

Michael L. Gourlie:

The hiring process for Madison School District superintendent had its strange twists, but it appears all are euphoric with first impressions of Jennifer Cheatham. Our new superintendent received the School Board’s blessing, commendations from the mayor and community support for her pedigree and ability to relate to others.
However, one question that jumped out and either was never asked or not reported is why she never held a job longer than two years since she advanced to administration from a teacher position in 2003.
It’s not as if she was upwardly mobile within one school district, but rather she switched cities and districts at every stop except the first. Madison is her fifth change of city in 10 years, according to a Friday article.
Generally candidates with this type of resume are either opportunists jumping at the next ladder rung, or they move on before their performance catches up with them.

Much more on Jennifer Cheatham, here.

Wisconsin Open Records Bill hearing & A bit of SIS Trivia

A kind reader forwarded a number of notes and links on the recent Wisconsin “open records” hearing:

Wisconsin eye video archive.
This bill (8 R + 1 D sponsors) is making some strange, strange bedfellows: Bill Lueders speaking approvingly of Gov. Walker’s open records release policy (unredacted emails) and criticizing (without calling out by name) Erpenbach for fighting MacIver Institute’s open records lawsuit.
Former Madison Schools’ counsel Dan Mallin is presently counsel to WASB, who is supporting the bill…perhaps an element of “Mallin’s revenge” for the State AG/MMSD “spam” smackdown forever memorialized in footnote 10 of the supreme court opinion that this bill is seeking to overturn?
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recap:
Isthmus recap:
this should have been titled “Journalists and citizen testify against”.
WSJ editorial:

The footnote 10 matter related to this SIS open records request…..

At the University of Southern California, 23% of 2012 M.B.A. grads were still unemployed 3 months after graduation.

Dale Stephens:

Imagine that you have been accepted to Harvard Business School. The ivy-covered buildings and high-powered faculty whisper that all you need to do is listen to your teachers, get good grades and work well with your peers. After two years, you’ll emerge ready to take the business world by storm. Once you have that degree, you’ll have it made.
But don’t kid yourself. What matters exponentially more than that M.B.A. is the set of skills and accomplishments that got you into business school in the first place. What if those same students, instead of spending two years and $174,400 at Harvard Business School, took the same amount of money and invested it in themselves? How would they compare after two years?
If you want a business education, the odds aren’t with you, unfortunately, in business school. Professors are rewarded for publishing journal articles, not for being good teachers. The other students are trying to get ahead of you. The development office is already assessing you for future donations. Administrators care about the metrics that will improve your school’s national ranking. None of these things actually helps you learn about business.

Educators Go From Soloists to Choreographers in the Future School Day

Joe Ross:

My daughter recently broke her finger playing basketball. When we went to the clinic, the waiting room was packed with dozens of patients, and there were only a couple of medical doctors on duty. We spent 20 minutes with a nurse, ten minutes with the X-ray technician, seven minutes with the orthopedic resident, and just two to three minutes with a doctor. Against apparent odds, our visit turned out very well. Thanks to the combination of talents, expertise and communication styles provided by several professionals, my daughter experienced a remarkably effective – and efficient – healing experience.
In the school day of the future, imagine a similar scenario playing out in classrooms and schools here in California and across the country. The role of the teacher would evolve from that of a soloist to a choreographer, bringing together people and resources in different combinations to create a vibrant learning environment that efficiently serves a growing, evolving population and provides enrichment through a combination of caring relationships.

On School Administrators Retiring, Taking a Pension and Returning

Laura Waters:

The Star-Ledger thinks it’s unveiled a conspiracy among retired NJ school superintendents. In “an investigation by the New Jersey Watchdog,” the paper reports that these retired school administrators, while collecting generous pensions, proceed to “double-dip” by taking jobs as interim superintendents for up to two years. This sleazy practice is costing state taxpayers “millions of dollars” every year. Here’s an example in the Watchdog report:

“There are a lot of superintendents who are retiring and coming back to the work force,” said longtime South Jersey school chief Ralph E. Ross Sr.
Ross collected $292,272 last year – $149,256 in salary as interim superintendent of Deptford Township schools in Gloucester County, plus $143,016 from pension as retired superintendent of Black Horse Pike Regional schools in Camden County.
“Of course, people are going to call it double-dipping because you get paid twice,” said Ross. “I don’t apologize for any money I get. My services are worthwhile and appreciated.”

When Ross hit the two-year mark at Deptford, the 72-year-old retiree didn’t have to go far for his next post-retirement job. Ten miles away, the Monroe Township school district quickly hired him as its $136,500 interim assistant superintendent.

Madison has had some if this as well.

Teachers model off their real-world approaches to teaching math

Geoff Decker:

How much voting power does a New Yorker really wield? How can statistics presented by the media manipulate readers? How do you raise sweatshop wages without sacrificing profit?
These are a few of the questions that math teachers in New York City are asking their students as they try to bring complex and abstract concepts to life. To answer them, students must supplement the equations and formulas found in textbooks by grappling with real-world applications.
The lessons cover a mathematical practice known as modeling that has been around for decades but is now getting a closer look in schools around the city as teachers try to align their math lessons to Common Core standards that require real-world applicability.
Using modeling to present lessons is one of two instructional focuses that the Department of Education has laid out this year for math teachers.
“It’s the practice of solving real-world problems,” said Brooklyn Technical High School’s Patrick Honner, a teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School who in December won a $10,000 award for an innovative math lesson he developed.

Searching for Logic in the Jersey Anti-Charter School Movement

Laura Waters:

From yesterday’s NJ Spotlight article on NJ’s progress towards updating our charter school laws:

“This is exciting,” said Carlos Perez, executive director of the New Jersey Charter Schools Association. “We’ve talked about the need for a charter reform bill for some time now. The administration is absolutely correct that a strong charter law is the pathway to high quality charter schools.”
Others with a different vision for revising the charter-school law continued to oppose Christie’s approach and policies.
“What the overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents want added to the charter law is local approval of new charter schools and of charter expansions, more transparency and accountability, and an end to the terrible segregation between charters and traditional public schools,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a founder of Save Our Schools-New Jersey.
“Instead, the Governor is proposing failed for-profit charter schools and an increase in charter schools being forced on unwilling communities,” she said. [Assemblyman Patrick] Diegnan, who has sided more with the positions of SOS and other critics of the Christie administration’s policies, said he would continue to press for tighter controls.
For instance, Diegnan said his bill would include a controversial provision requiring a vote by local residents before any new charter school is approved to open.
“I remain a big advocate for that,” he said.

This excerpt is a useful window into some of the rhetoric surrounding the issue of local control and school choice. First, a reality check. There’s no evidence that the “overwhelming majority” of NJ residents prefer local referenda on charter school expansion. Certainly there’s terrible segregation among NJ’s public schools, but that has nothing to do with charter schools. SOS’s contention that school choice proponents are jockeying for “failed for-profit charter schools” is just silly.

Nearly Half of First-Time College Students Don’t Graduate in Six Years

Abby Ohlheiser:

Just over half–or 54.1 percent, to be exact–of first-time college students starting school in 2006 graduated within six years. That’s according to new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The full report, which breaks down completion rates by state, age, type of school, and enrollment status (part-time or full-time), shows some notable gaps in completion rates for those categories.
For four-year public colleges, 81 percent of students enrolled full-time for the duration of their college experience graduated within six years–70 percent from the same institution they started with. But just 19 percent of those who attended school part-time graduated within six years. You’d think that’s because it may be taking students longer than six years to complete a four-year degree part-time, right? Not really. Almost 70 percent of exclusively part-time students hadn’t graduated and were no longer enrolled at any institution after six years. Meanwhile, mixed-enrollment students had an overall graduation rate of just under 47 percent. Four-year private nonprofit schools had a similar breakdown in graduation rates by enrollment status.

Finding the Just-Right Level of Self-Esteem for a Child

Sue Shellenbarger:

A wave of recent research has pointed to the risks of overpraising a child. But for parents, drawing the line between too little praise and too much has become a high-pressure balancing act.
Cara Greene, a mother of three children ages 1 to 8, is wary of deliberately pumping up her kids’ egos, for fear of instilling the sense of entitlement she sees in young adults “who have been told they’re wonderful and they can do anything.” But she also wants them to have healthy self-esteem.
THE SITUATION: Your child is getting straight As inavery advanced math class.
DO: Say, ‘I love seeing how hard you are working in this class. Life is going to bring some tough challenges, and putting in that kind of effort is going to help you.’
DON’T: Say, ‘Look at your grades–all As! You’re so smart you’re off the charts.’ (Lets child’s self-esteem get out of line with reality, setting her up for a shock later.)
“We wouldn’t be doing our children any favors by overinflating their egos. At the same time, I want them to have the confidence to tackle any challenge that is placed before them,” says Ms. Greene, of New York City.

A Dress-Code Enforcer’s Struggle for the Soul of the Middle-School Girl

Jessica Lahey:

There’s one lovely aspect to the deep, dark winter in New Hampshire: It is a reprieve from The Season of Dress Code Enforcement.
I teach middle school. And for as long as I have been a teacher, I have worried that my female students are so concerned with their newfound sex appeal that they forget to appreciate all the other gifts they offer to the world. I know it sounds petty, this interest in whether or not the girls in my classes show their legs, or shoulders, or breasts, to the world. My concerns sound like something a repressed, puritanical schoolmarm would worry about over her evening Earl Grey tea.
But when I worry about students, it tends to be the girls. They are the ones I lose sleep over. I am not just worried about inches of exposed anatomy: I am concerned for their souls, their being, and their sense of self.

The write stuff: Workshops help first-graders get started on storytelling

Sara Shepherd:

If first-grade creative writing were a language, it would be an obscure one. And Gini Shoulberg would be fluent.
The nekes stashun.
My fimliy luv miu.
The wepuns.
Under Shoulberg’s direction, hand-penciled passages like these are carefully translated into comprehensible nuggets and, eventually, strung together into stories.
The next station.
My family loves me.
The weapons…
For more than a decade, the first-grade language arts teacher at St. John Catholic School has led weekly writing workshops for all the school’s first-graders. While spelling and punctuation are important, she says, children don’t need to wait to master those skills before they start writing.

College Admissions Roullette

Paul Sullivan:

THE decision by Grinnell College to continue — for now — to admit students regardless of their ability to pay raises a question that more and more parents are asking: how much does your financial situation matter in getting your children into college?
Parents have long used their wealth to try to sway admissions officers, of course. But that doesn’t always work. And it isn’t necessarily true that a needier student is passed up.
“The misperception is schools first look at all the kids who can pay full freight and then look at the kids who are left over,” said Kalman A. Chany, a financial aid consultant in New York and author of “Paying for College Without Going Broke.” “Parents like to use this as an excuse. They’ll say that if my kid didn’t have to apply for aid, he’d get in. It’s overblown. It’s a rationalization.”
Still, the vote by the board of trustees at Grinnell, a liberal arts college in Iowa, reflects a broader trend in financial aid. The college counselors I spoke to this week said the majority of colleges had already downgraded their policies to “need aware” — meaning that the colleges accept most of their students without looking at their need for aid but will consider financial need for some percentage of the applicants. Others are already considering a parent’s ability to pay in many of their admissions decisions.