Thinking Different: ‘We’re just average folks’: The family sending all ten of their home-schooled children to college by the age of 12

Margot Peppers:

Mona Lisa and Kip Harding from Montgomery, Alabama, home-school all ten of their kids – six of whom started college by the age of 12.
The remaining four children are ten and under and also aim to go to college early.
A mother who home-schools her ten children in Montgomery, Alabama, has opened up about how six of them began their college degrees by the age of 12.
Those of the Harding siblings who have already graduated from college have gone on to become a doctor, an architect, a spacecraft designer and a master’s student. Another two – 12 and 14-years-old – are still finishing up their degrees.
But despite the Hardings’ incredible achievements at such young ages, their parents – Mona Lisa and Kip – insist they are a family of ‘average folks’ who simply find and cultivate their children’s passions early on.

Madison Teachers Files Notice to Bargain with the School District

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

MTI has filed notice with the Board of Education and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) to open bargaining for 2014-15 Collective Bargaining Agreements for all five (5) MTI bargaining units. Bargaining is enabled by Judge Colas’ decision that Act 10, which sought to bar public sector bargaining, is unconstitutional. The City of Madison and the County of Dane have contracts with all City and County unions through 2015.
Last week MTI filed an additional petition with Judge Colas because of the failure of the Governor and the WERC Commissioners to implement those parts of Act 10 which Colas found to violate the Wisconsin Constitution. The WERC Commissioners contend that, because Judge Colas did not issue an injunction, they may ignore his declaratory judgment when considering cases filed at the WERC. The WERC Commissioners and the Governor apparently believe that without a specific injunction directing them to abide by the Court’s declaration of unconstitutionality, they are free to apply the law as they, not the Court, interprets it.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews said, “The above-described actions of the WERC Commissioners and the Governor, who are parties to the case, are unprecedented. They argued that the law was constitutional and they lost. They asked for a stay from the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals and they lost. By implementing and enforcing a law determined to be unconstitutional, they are saying ‘We are above the law.’ That is intolerable. Consequently, MTI has returned to court to seek an injunction to force the WERC Commissioners, and the Governor who controls them, to respect the Courts and follow the law.”
MTI expects to exchange bargaining proposals with the District within the next few weeks. MTI represents approximately 5,000 District employees in five different bargaining units. They are teachers (MTI), educational assistants (EA-MTI), clerical/technical employees (SEE-MTI), substitute teachers (USO-MTI) and school security assistants (SSA-MTI).
In addition to the usual topics, MTI bargaining will include District proposals to amend Contract terms about parent-teacher conferences and possible extension, in some schools, of the school day and school year.

Fascinating. It appears likely that Madison’s “status quo” governance model will continue.
Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Colloquy.
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.

Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

Tamar Lewin:

Dazzled by the potential of free online college classes, educators are now turning to the gritty task of harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time.
Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job.
Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate. In California alone, higher education cuts have left hundreds of thousands of college students without access to classes they need.

Leaving no school behind: Can bad ones be turned around?

Greg Toppo:

In 2002, educator Ryan Hill opened his dream school with all of 80 students, four teachers and one office manager. “I was there till midnight every single night,” he said. “It was really hard.”
Like many startups, the Newark middle school started with a single grade level and grew by adding a grade each fall. Eleven years later, TEAM Academy belongs to what is essentially a four-campus mini-district: two elementary schools, another middle school and a 525-student high school, each of which grew the same way. The TEAM charter school network, part of the national KIPP schools movement, enrolls 1,800 students, with plans to double over the next few years to 10 schools. Its waiting list, almost 9,000 names long, covers nearly one in four Newark students.
The secret to Hill’s success: starting from scratch. “Learning how to manage four people is not easy,” he said, “but (it’s) way easier than learning how to manage 40. It allows you as a principal to grow into the role and makes it possible for more people to pull it off.”
The Obama administration has long supported charter school startups like TEAM Academy, but it now invests much more — $3 billion in all — into a very different strategy. Instead of starting from scratch, Obama wants to “turn around” the USA’s worst public schools, improving the schools we’ve got.

SNHU’s College for America program provides low-cost, accessible higher education

Danielle Curtis:

Kim Wright took a few college courses after graduating high school but never earned a degree.
Though she thought about going back to school for years, financial constraints always held her back.
So when her employer told her about a self-paced online program that would help her earn her associate degree in less than two years, she jumped at the chance.
“I always want to challenge myself, to get more knowledge and prove that I can do it,” Wright said Wednesday. “I’m just excited to see how far I can go.”
Wright, facilities manager at The Moore Center in Manchester, which provides care to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and brain injuries, is one of about 500 employees from companies and organizations around the country participating in an eight-month pilot program of Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America online, competency-based degree program.

The Neoliberal Assault on Academia: The neoliberal sacking of the universities runs much deeper than tuition hikes and budget cuts, notes Barkawi.

Tarak Barkawi:

The New York Times, Slate and Al Jazeera have recently drawn attention to the adjunctification of the professoriate in the US. Only 24 per cent of university and college faculty are now tenured or tenure-track.
Much of the coverage has focused on the sub-poverty wages of adjunct faculty, their lack of job security and the growing legions of unemployed and under-employed PhDs. Elsewhere, the focus has been on web-based learning and the massive open online courses ( MOOCs), with some commentators celebrating and others lamenting their arrival.
The two developments are not unrelated. Harvard recently asked its alumni to volunteer their time as “online mentors” and “discussion group managers” for an online course. Fewer professors and fewer qualified – or even paid – teaching assistants will be required in higher education’s New Order.
Lost amid the fetishisation of information technology and the pathos of the struggle over proper working conditions for adjunct faculty is the deeper crisis of the academic profession occasioned by neoliberalism. This crisis is connected to the economics of higher education but it is not primarily about that.
The neoliberal sacking of the universities runs much deeper than tuition fee hikes and budget cuts.

Failure To Manage

Charlie Mas:

That represents a grievous failure to manage. That’s a simple fact. The absence of any assessment of the quality and efficacy of these programs constitutes an indisputable failure to manage the programs. How can the District make decisions based on data if there is no data?
The Board has a duty to oversee the district’s management – not to meddle or micromanage, but to confirm that the management work is getting done. Given the poor documentation, rapid turnover at the executive level, and history of non-management, this duty carries more than ordinary weight.
Towards that end, the Board conducted a work session to review the management of two of these efforts – Advanced Learning and Native Education. The Board not only noticed the absence of reports on the quality or effectiveness of these programs, but throughout the department. Director Carr decried the absence of any meaningful metrics or benchmarks for the entire C & I operation. She noted the absence of Key Performance Indicators. Others noted the mismatch between objectives, measures, and targets for the department. It wasn’t lost on them.

On Amsterdam’s Plans to Establish a Third University

Jurjen van Rees:

For the Netherlands, and its capital Amsterdam in particular, 2013 is promised to be a momentous year. On April 13th the city celebrated the re-opening of its famous Rijksmuseum with the centre of attention pointed at the Rembrandt’s Nightwatch. Jubilees in the city in 2013 include the Artis zoo, the Royal Concert Gebouw, its Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and 400 years of constructing the iconic canals of Amsterdam. Adding to the festivities is the inauguration of the new king Willem Alexander who is succeeding his abdicated mother queen Beatrix on April 30th. As if these weren’t enough reasons to plan a visit to the Venice of Northern Europe, the city government is hosting a competition to start a new research university with the alluring title Amsterdam Metropolitan Solutions.
The establishment of a new university in Amsterdam should first and foremost be seen in the light of supra-national policy goals set by the European Union.
It all starts in 2000 in Lisbon with the European Commission determined to transform Europe into the top-region in the world for research, innovation and educational excellence through the Lisbon Strategy. When it comes to EU policy strategies, the Dutch have a strong tendency to act accordingly to their proclaimed status of being the bravest and smartest young child in the classroom. Together with their ‘big brother’ Germany, the Netherlands holds a comparable approach when it comes to the national deficit not exceeding 3% of the gross national income on which EU member states agreed upon in 1997. The European Union pours billions of euros – 50,5 to be precise – in fundamental research through their 7th Framework Programme up till 2013, followed by another subsidy programme Horizon 2020 with an estimated 80 billion Euros being invested in the European knowledge economy between 2014 and 2020. From a European perspective the Dutch feel they have a knowledge-intensive responsibility to live up to.

‘No Child Left Behind’ Gets Left Behind Washington grants waivers to dozens of states, despite the law’s clear benefits.

Eric Smith:

It has been 30 years since the landmark report “A Nation At Risk” documented the failings of America’s public-school system, and the past three decades have seen much promising reform on the local, state and federal levels, in legislatures, on school boards and in classrooms. Yet today the trend lines again are moving in the wrong direction, with federal policy inviting states to back away from their duty to ensure that students receive the education they deserve.
Since 2011, the U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers to 34 states and the District of Columbia exempting them from some of the core accountability measures in the bipartisan 2001 No Child Left Behind law. Ten more states have waiver applications pending. Meanwhile, the Texas legislature is considering loosening public-school testing standards, and nine districts in California have independently moved to submit NCLB waiver requests.
No Child Left Behind was based on the idea that schools should establish measurable educational goals and be held accountable for meeting them. This is the only proven formula for improving education in this country–and NCLB has generated some amazing results, particularly in low-income minority communities. Unfortunately, opponents of the law have relied on disingenuous claims in pushing for waivers.

No Rich Child Left Behind

Sean F. Reardon

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.

Columbus, Ohio Mayor’s Education Panel Recommends School Governance Changes

Bill Bush:

On Tuesday, the commission released a list of recommendations that would significantly change the management of Columbus City Schools. Those included:
The mayor, city council president, school board president, city auditor and county probate judge would appoint an independent auditor to monitor the school board.
A fund overseen by a panel from the private sector, schools and city government would oversee a fund of $35 million to $50 million to help replicate high-performing city schools and successful charter schools. A portion of that money would come from property taxes paid by district residents.
The mayor would re-start a department of education in his administration. The director would sit on the school board as a non-voting, advisory member.

Reimagine Columbus Education.

Re-thinking J-school

Katie Zhu:

My frustrations are with the rigidity of my actual degree requirements – the credits I have to take in order to graduate. The credits for which I’ve wasted hours of email back and forth, running around getting signatures, and filling out petition forms in order to get them to line up with my little degree chart so I can check off the appropriate boxes and graduate on time.
My frustrations are with the lack of an applicable concentration that reflects the state of the news industry in 2013.
How is it okay that journalism students are able to graduate without ever taking a real statistics or mathematics class, given the crazy demand for data journalists? Or without ever taking a programming class?
The field of journalism has always been interdisciplinary, though traditionally this has been with the non-technical disciplines – the humanities, economics, political science.

Great points.

Sports Über Alles: An Open Letter to UConn President Susan Herbst

Carolyn Luby:

These are serious marks against both our athletic program and our university as a whole — marks that, other than a decision made by Coach Kevin Ollie to suspend Wolf indefinitely, have gone unaddressed, unmentioned, and unacknowledged by UConn authorities. What does this timeline say when juxtaposed with your justification? It beckons the question, what does UConn do with marks like these? The answer appears to be: we turn them blue and shape them into something new.
Instead of giving these problematic aspects of male athletic peer culture at UConn a second look or a giving the real face of athletics a true makeover, it appears that the focus of your administration is prioritizing the remodeling of the fictional face of the Husky Logo. Instead of communicating a zero tolerance atmosphere for this kind of behavior, increasing or vocalizing support to violence against women prevention efforts on campus in the face of such events, or increasing support to student run programs that seek to work with athletes on issues of violence as well as academic issues, it would appear that your administration is more interested in fostering consumerism and corporatization than education and community. Another example of this shift in priorities can be seen in the current administrations selection of the new logo — a selection made with no involvement from or consultation with the normal, everyday, non-Olympian student body:
Contrary to speculation, the Husky will not appear to be mean, snarling, or capable of frightening small children! Instead he will be rendered as the sleek, beautiful animal a real Husky truly is.

The Diploma’s Vanishing Value

Jeffrey Selingo:

May 1 is fast approaching, and with it the deadline for high-school seniors to commit to a college. At kitchen tables across the country, anxious students and their parents are asking: Does it really matter where I go to school?
When it comes to lifetime earnings, we’ve been told, a bachelor’s degree pays off six times more than a high-school diploma. The credential is all that matters, not where it’s from–a view now widely accepted. That’s one reason why college enrollment jumped by a third last decade and why for-profit schools that make getting a diploma ultraconvenient now enroll 1 in 10 college students. But is it true that all colleges sprinkle their graduates with the same magic dust?
With unemployment among college graduates at historic highs and outstanding student-loan debt at $1 trillion, the question families should be asking is whether it’s worth borrowing tens of thousands of dollars for a degree from Podunk U. if it’s just a ticket to a barista’s job at Starbucks. When it comes to calculating the return on your investment, where you go to school does matter to your bank account later in life.
Not surprisingly, research has found that a degree from a name-brand elite college, whether it’s Harvard, Stanford or Amherst, carries a premium for earnings. But the 50 wealthiest and most selective colleges and universities in the U.S. enroll less than 4% of students. For everyone else, the statistics show that choosing just any college, at any cost for a credential, may no longer be worth it.

Expanded audit of UW justified in light of report

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

A legislative move to expand a planned audit of the University of Wisconsin System is entirely appropriate given the recent revelation that the system has $648 million in reserves spread across hundreds and possibly thousands of accounts.
Students and families who faced 5.5% tuition increases in recent years deserve to know why those increases were necessary when university officials were setting aside money in those accounts for various purposes. Couldn’t the university have set aside fewer funds, still have a (albeit smaller) contingency and not raised tuition?
The public also deserves to know more about the reserves, including where the money came from, how the university determined the level of reserves and how the funds are allocated across the system. Are those funds in interest-bearing accounts?
And university officials need to address issues of transparency and accountability. Legislators are rightly angry that they were unaware of the size of the reserve funds, which came to light in a report by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. That should not have been the case.
University officials have acknowledged that they should have been more forthcoming about the numbers and should have done a better job of explaining them. Absolutely: System officials have mishandled this from the moment the report came to light, and they haven’t been getting much better. It’s a public relations disaster for the UW System.

New standards show more kids are in ‘educational basement’

Alan Borsuk:

Let’s take a trip to the basement of Wisconsin educational success.
The spotlight on student success is almost always on the top levels – “advanced” and “proficient,” as they are labeled. I’ve done it that way for years myself, focusing on what percentage of kids were doing well.
How many were at what I would call the ground level of success (labeled “basic”) or basement level (“minimal”) got little attention.
But as I strolled through some of the scores for schools across the state that were released last week by the state Department of Public Instruction, I found my focus shifting to the “minimal” totals.
Why? The results differ so dramatically from previous years. The bar for putting a student in the higher categories for reading and math has been raised sharply, which means the number of students in those categories has fallen sharply. There are a lot more kids in the basement now – 24% of all test-takers in the state were rated “minimal” in reading, compared to 5% a year ago.
We’ve never given a school respect for keeping down the number of kids who show minimal proficiency. In the new approach, maybe it’s time to do that. That’s especially true in Milwaukee, where students at high-risk of not doing well are so plentiful.
There is a wide variation from school to school in how many students are rated “minimal,” as compared to “basic,” even in schools dealing with similarly challenging kids. There are schools with extraordinary concentrations of “minimal” kids, which I take as not a good sign about the school.

Oregon, WI Schools Add iPads

In Business:

Kids have been trying to sneak portable electronic devices into classrooms for decades. From the old Coleco handheld football game to today’s smart phones, anything that glowed, made obnoxious noises, and could fit neatly inside a knapsack was enough to satisfy kids’ appetite for distraction.
Well, here’s some bad news for students: Your ongoing rebellion will now have to take another form. For fun, try sneaking a slide rule onto campus. But bring your iPad. You’re going to need it for class.
“The way that technology has provided mass customization to many other industries, it’s starting to do the same thing for education.” – Jon Tanner, Oregon School District
The technological revolution that’s overtaking the business world, our social lives, and nearly every other nook and cranny of society is quickly reshaping education, and locally, the Oregon School District is among the leaders in the movement.
At the December School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education (SLATE) conference, participants identified preparing for advances in technology as the number one issue facing Wisconsin schools.

Time to Scrap Affirmative Action

The Economist

ABOVE the entrance to America’s Supreme Court four words are carved: “Equal justice under law”. The court is pondering whether affirmative action breaks that promise. The justices recently accepted a case concerning a vote in Michigan that banned it, and will soon rule on whether the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions policies are lawful. The question in both cases is as simple as it is divisive: should government be colour-blind?
America is one of many countries where the state gives a leg-up to members of certain racial, ethnic, or other groups by holding them to different standards. The details vary. In some countries, the policy applies only to areas under direct state control, such as public-works contracts or admission to public universities. In others, private firms are also obliged to take account of the race of their employees, contractors and even owners. But the effects are strikingly similar around the world (see article).
The burden of history
Many of these policies were put in place with the best of intentions: to atone for past injustices and ameliorate their legacy. No one can deny that, for example, blacks in America or dalits in India (members of the caste once branded “untouchable”) have suffered grievous wrongs, and continue to suffer discrimination. Favouring members of these groups seems like a quick and effective way of making society fairer.
Most of these groups have made great progress. But establishing how much credit affirmative action can take is hard, when growth also brings progress and some of the good–for example the confidence-boosting effect of creating prominent role models for a benighted group–is intangible. And it is impossible to know how a targeted group would have got on without this special treatment. Malays are three times richer in Singapore, where they do not get preferences, than in next-door Malaysia, where they do. At the same time, the downside of affirmative action has become all too apparent.

Unequal protection: In the first of three pieces on race-based preferences around the world, we look at America’s pending Supreme Court decisions on diversity at universities

The Economist:

WILLIAM POWERS is the president of the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin). Lino Graglia holds an endowed chair at its law school. Both have kindly demeanours, impressive records and that crucial perk of academic success, offices with great views: Mr Powers looks out over the heart of the university’s campus, Mr Graglia at its football stadium.
They also hold strong and opposing opinions on whether admissions to their state-run university ought to take account of race. Mr Powers believes that using “race as one factor in an overall holistic view of the candidate” helps the university build a diverse campus, an achievement which has “an educational value for all of our students”. Mr Graglia thinks “lower[ing] standards to admit members of preferred groups” is “a bad idea”.
America has a number of policies and practices designed to increase the presence of minorities in various areas of life from which they have historically been excluded. But the role of such affirmative action in university admissions has garnered the most attention. Schools and universities provided many of America’s desegregation battlegrounds. And gaining entry to America’s elite universities is difficult; the perception, right or wrong, that race can in some circumstances trump merit strikes many as unjust, not least because universities play a large role in social mobility.
The Supreme Court is about to weigh in on the matter. In March it agreed to hear a case that could determine whether a state may ban affirmative action in university admissions on the basis of a referendum. In 2006 a majority of Michigan’s voters approved such a measure, but last November a federal appellate court ruled that the measure violates the equal-protection clause of the constitution, which requires states to treat all citizens equally, by preventing affirmative-action supporters from pressing their case to individual universities. And the court will soon rule on a suit brought against UT-Austin by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was not admitted to the university

Private school voucher expansion: A growing taxpayer-funded entitlement

Tom Beebe:

Many observers have called Gov.Scott Walker’s proposal to expand private school vouchers bad education policy. I agree. Today I would like to address voucher expansion from the perspective of fiscal policy.
If voucher advocates are successful in expanding private school vouchers in this budget, vouchers will eventually become one of the largest taxpayer-funded entitlements in Wisconsin.
I realize this is a strong statement. I also understand that voucher proponents argue the Governor’s proposal increases voucher eligibility to just nine new school districts in 2013-14. If you let the nose of the camel inside the tent, however, it won’t be long before the rest of the camel is inside the tent as well.
The ultimate objective of private school voucher advocates is a statewide system of private school vouchers for all Wisconsin school children. Voucher advocates, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have repeatedly voiced their support for statewide vouchers. This objective became crystal-clear in a recent news interview when School Choice Wisconsin Vice-President Terry Brown identified the goal of voucher proponents as “a voucher in every backpack.”
So, how much could this entitlement end up costing Wisconsin taxpayers?

‘The Hell Of American Day Care’: Expensive And ‘Mediocre’

NPR Around the Nation:

In his cover story for the April 29 issue of The New Republic, “The Hell of American Day Care,” Jonathan Cohn writes that “trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things a parent has to do — and in the U.S., it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. And about 40 percent of children under 5 spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent.”
Cohn’s article examines how we ended up with a day care system that is barely regulated and sometimes unsafe. It’s a system that is difficult for many working parents to afford, yet offers many of its workers a barely livable income.
“One of the tragedies of the situation,” Cohn tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “is that parents need these day cares to work, to make a living. You’re talking about single parents a lot of the time. You’re talking about families that aren’t making a lot of money. They desperately need someone to watch the kids or they’re not going to be able to make it, and there are just not a lot of options out there.”

Milwaukee Schools’ $1,170,867,945 Budget Outlook A Little Brighter

Mike Ford:

I had my first chance to read through the new Milwaukee Public School (MPS) budget proposal yesterday, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Compared to trends of the last decade or so, things are definitely looking better for the district.
Most important, MPS is increasing their staffing in key areas next year. Despite all the talk about governance structure the most important place in education is the school itself. MPS is increasing its school level staffing by 120.8 full-time-equivalent employees in FY14. A good number of those positions, 51, are teachers and educational assistants (though on the negative side the federal sequestration is responsible for the loss of 24 title 1 teachers). The district is also adding assistant principals, safety assistants, social workers, and nurse associates in schools. All of this is particularly impressive when overall enrollment is projected to decline 1%.
So how did they do this? A big part is the aggressive action the district has taken to reduce its benefit costs. MPS notes in their budget that their average teacher salary is increasing but their “school operations and categorical benefit” rate will drop to 58.4% from almost 70% just two years ago. Part of this is due to Act 10, and part of this is due to the willingness of MPS to take needed action.

Milwaukee’s $1,170,867,945 budget will spend $15,011 for each of its 78,000 students during the 2013-2014 school year. Madison spends a similar amount per student.

Empty Milwaukee School Buildings to voucher schools: No sale

M. D. Kittle:

In January 2011, just as one of the most tumultuous sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature was getting underway, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wrote an urgent letter to state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
Barrett begged the lawmaker to push forward legislation that would transfer control of vacant and underutilized Milwaukee Public Schools real estate to the city of Milwaukee.
The mayor described the sad state of affairs in some Milwaukee neighborhoods, where “once thriving parts of their communities now sit barren and quiet.”
What the city needed, Barrett wrote, was a law that would allow the city to “take a more holistic approach to the management of these assets by addressing the needs and concerns of neighborhoods where buildings stand vacant as well as better meeting the educational needs of our community.”

“School Choice Will Expand” – Wisconsin Governor Walker

M. D. Kittle:

The governor also touched on statewide proficiency data released by the state Department of Public Instruction earlier this week.
DPI on Tuesday released test scores comparing Milwaukee Parental Choice Program students to Milwaukee Public Schools students, failing to account for disparate income levels between the students.
“The vast majority of families in that program are low income,” Walker said. “If you compare the same income categories of students who come from families in Milwaukee Public Schools with Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, you’ll find that in almost every category the kids in the choice schools outperform those in the public schools.”
He added he wanted all schools to perform better.
DPI’s release showed that 19.4 percent of MPS students were proficient or advanced in mathematics compared to 13.2 percent MPCP students participating in the Wisconsin Student Assessment System.
It also showed 14.2 percent of MPS students were proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 11.1 percent of MPCP students.
Data released by the voucher advocacy organization School Choice Wisconsin, however, showed that MPCP students outperformed MPS students everywhere except math, including reading, language arts, science and social studies when comparing only students in low income families.
Free and reduced lunch is available for students whose parents earn less than 185 percent of the federal poverty line, about $41,000 for a family of four. Until last school year, the income eligibility for the school choice program was 175 percent of the federal poverty line.

The High Cost of Wisconsin’s High School Dropouts

Christian D’Andrea:

High school dropouts adversely impact the state of Wisconsin each year–financially and socially. Dropouts’ lower incomes, high unemployment rates, increased need for medical care, and higher propensity for incarceration create a virtual vortex that consumes Wisconsinites’ tax dollars at a vicious rate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on these high school dropouts every year.
Not only does the state spend hundreds of millions of dollars on high school dropouts, the Wisconsin economy missed out on $3.7 billion in 2011 due to a lower average income for residents without a diploma.
This study examines the state’s costs across three major state funding mechanisms: state tax collections, Medicaid expenses, and the costs of incarceration. All three aspects compose substantial parts of Wisconsin’s operating budget. In 2010 alone, prison expenses cost the state more than $874 million (1).
However, these costs could be reduced if the state had a smaller population of these under-educated adults. By eliminating a group of residents that typically relies more on state-based aid and is more likely to end up in prison, Wisconsin could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. These funds could have instead been invested in other efforts to improve the lives of Wisconsinites across the Badger State.

Commentary on Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes’ Teacher Salary Increase Words

Chris Rickert:

“Our teachers haven’t had a raise for the last three years.” — Ed Hughes, clerk and candidate for president of the Madison School Board
There are a lot of employees who haven’t seen their pay go up in three years, but the vast majority of Madison public school teachers aren’t among them.
And yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re taking home more money.
Confused? Welcome to the world of public school teacher compensation, post-Act 10.
Hughes isn’t the first public school representative whose definition of “raise” doesn’t jibe with the way the rest of the world defines “raise” — i.e., an increase in salary for a job well done.
During teachers union contract negotiations, public school and union officials routinely refer to a “raise” as something that is distinct from and in addition to the automatic bumps in salary teachers are already getting for remaining on the job and accruing more college credit. Essentially, such raises are across-the-board increases in a district’s salary range, known as a salary schedule.
But if a district refuses to increase that range, teachers continue to get longevity and degree-attainment pay raises under the old salary schedule.
It’s such parsing that allows Hughes to say teachers haven’t gotten raises — and to be right, at least in one context.

Related: MTI & The Madison School Board, written by Ed Hughes in 2005:

The WSJ article also states that “This year’s salary and benefits increase, including raises for seniority or advanced degrees, was projected at 4.9 percent, or $8.48 million.” So the school board, with all the budgetary problems it confronts, is apparently willing to pay for salaries and benefits an increase that is about twice as much as state law will permit the overall budget to rise next year, and $1.9 million more than the amount necessary to avoid arbitration. (Using the same numbers, a 3.8% increase would be $6.57 million.)
What could be the justification for this? I understand that, as a practical matter, the increase has to be more than 3.8% in order for the district to obtain any sort of concessions. (Across the state for 2004-2005, the average total package increase per teacher was 4.28%.) Does anyone know if there are concessions on the table that might explain what seems to be an excessive increase in these difficult times? Or what other justification for this level of increase there might be?

Related: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year.
Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Credit Without Teaching

Paul Fain:

Earlier this year Capella University and the new College for America began enrolling hundreds of students in academic programs without courses, teaching professors, grades, deadlines or credit hour requirements, but with a path to genuine college credit.
The two institutions are among a growing number that are giving competency-based education a try, including 25 or so nonprofit institutions. Notable examples include Western Governors University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
These programs are typically online, and allow students to progress at their own pace without formal course material. They can earn credit by successfully completing assessments that prove their mastery in predetermined competencies or tasks — maybe writing in a business setting or using a spreadsheet to perform calculations.
College for America and a small pilot program at Capella go a step further than the others, however, by severing any link to the credit hour standard. This approach is called “direct assessment.” Other competency-based programs track learning back to seat time under the credit hour, which assumes one hour of instruction and three hours of coursework per week. (For more details from College for America, click here.)

The World Is Not Flat & “Intellectual neo-colonialism”

Ry Rivard:

Online higher education is increasingly hailed as a chance for educators in the developed world to expand access and quality across the globe.
Yet it may not be quite so easy. Not only does much of the world not have broadband or speak English, but American-made educational material may be unfit for and unwanted in developing countries, according to academics who have worked for years on online distance education and with open educational resources, or OER.
Their experience raises questions about a utopian vision. This vision foresees online courses bringing education to students of all longitudes and latitudes, while reducing the need for brick-and-mortar universities. This goal of “democratizing education” using technology is gaining popular appeal among investors, some professors, pundits, politicians and the public amid the recent craze for massive open online courses, or MOOCs. But some scholars question whether an American-based effort can do this. While MOOCs are new, scholars have wrestled with questions about cultural barriers for years in the OER community.
Some educators worry a one-way transfer of educational materials from the rich north to the poor south will amount to a wave of “intellectual neo-colonialism.”
Lani Gunawardena is the co-author of a forthcoming book on global culture and online education. She said some global distance education evangelists tend to assume everybody speaks English and has the same priorities as they do.

The Coming Revolution in Public Education: Critics say the standardized test-driven reforms pushed by those like Michelle Rhee may actually be harming students.

John Tierney:

It’s always hard to tell for sure exactly when a revolution starts. Is it when a few discontented people gather in a room to discuss how the ruling regime might be opposed? Is it when first shots are fired? When a critical mass forms and the opposition acquires sufficient weight to have a chance of prevailing? I’m not an expert on revolutions, but even I can see that a new one is taking shape in American K-12 public education.
The dominant regime for the past decade or more has been what is sometimes called accountability-based reform or, by many of its critics, “corporate education reform.” The reforms consist of various initiatives aimed at (among other things): improving schools and educational outcomes by using standardized tests to measure what students are learning; holding schools and teachers accountable (through school closures and teacher pay cuts) when their students are “lagging” on those standardized assessments; controlling classroom instruction and increasing the rigor of school curricula by pushing all states to adopt the same challenging standards via a “Common Core;” and using market-like competitive pressures (through the spread of charter schools and educational voucher programs) to provide public schools with incentives to improve.
Critics of the contemporary reform regime argue that these initiatives, though seemingly sensible in their original framing, are motivated by interests other than educational improvement and are causing genuine harm to American students and public schools. Here are some of the criticisms: the reforms have self-interest and profit motives, not educational improvement, as their basis; corporate interests are reaping huge benefits from these reform initiatives and spending millions of dollars lobbying to keep those benefits flowing; three big foundations (Gates, Broad, and Walton Family) are funding much of the backing for the corporate reforms and are spending billions to market and sell reforms that don’t work; ancillary goals of these reforms are to bust teacher unions, disempower educators, and reduce spending on public schools; standardized testing is enormously expensive in terms both of public expenditures and the diversion of instruction time to test prep; over a third of charter schools deliver “significantly worse” results for students than the traditional public schools from which they were diverted; and, finally, that these reforms have produced few benefits and have actually caused harm, especially to kids in disadvantaged areas and communities of color. (On that last overall point, see this scathing new report from the Economic Policy Institute.)

High school math teacher exposes the high-stakes testing myth

Bob Dean, via a kind Laurie Rogers email:

The belief that high-stakes testing will bring any improvement to our public schools is built on an ounce of wishful thinking, a pound of good intentions and a ton of ignorance.
Consider the recent history of high-stakes testing in the State of Washington. We spent more than a decade and a billion dollars on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) only to find that the test was deeply flawed. The WASL didn’t align with college or career readiness, and it basically tried to measure student achievement of standards that were so poorly written they were impossible to measure by any kind of assessment.
Despite these major flaws, legislators, the public, business leaders and most of the media ignorantly assumed that something meaningful was happening by requiring students to pass this bogus exam. Unfortunately, the only meaningful thing that was happening was teachers throughout our state were forced to try and teach to this test despite the fact that it didn’t align to anything that was important for students to know. The WASL was a test built around standards that de-emphasized student content knowledge and supposedly would teach students to think more deeply and become expert problem solvers. In the end, the main problem that many students now have to solve is how to go through life being mathematically illiterate.

Before MOOCs, ‘Colleges of the Air’

Susan Matt and Luke Fernandez:

In 1937, as she lay ill in bed, Annie Oakes Huntington, a writer living in Maine, thought of ways to spend her time. She confided in a letter: “The radio has been a source of unfailing diversion this winter. I expect to enter all the courses at Harvard to be broadcasted.” Huntington was joining in an educational experiment sweeping the country in the 1920s and 30s: massive open on-air courses.
As educators contemplate the MOOCs of our day–massive open online courses–they would do well to consider how earlier generations dealt with technology-enhanced education.
We are not the first generation to believe that technology can transcend distance and erode ignorance. Nearly a century ago, educators were convinced that radio held that same potential. The number of radios in the United States increased from six or seven thousand to 10 million between 1921 and 1928. Many universities explored the possibility of broadcasting courses across the country and allowing anyone to enroll. Some onlookers believed those courses would transform higher education and eliminate lecture halls and seminar rooms. One observer noted, “The nation has become the new campus,” while another celebrated the “‘University of the Air,’ whose campus is the ether of the earth, whose audience waits for learning, learning, learning.”

Commentary on Madison’s 2012 WKCE Results

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF):

This report includes data from the Fall 2012 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). In this report, we focus on reading and math scores. Students in grades 4, 8, and 10 also take Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts tests, but these tests are not used for school accountability in the same manner as Reading and Math tests and are not aligned to the new rigorous standards, so they are not directly comparable.
This year, WKCE results reflect the state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards in that DPI has adjusted the cut scores for each performance level to reflect higher expectations for student proficiency. As a result, MMSD’s scores (and scores for every district in the state) look very different from prior years.
1. The new cut scores can be applied to last year’s scores to provide a more meaningful year-to-year comparison. Scores have remained roughly unchanged from last year when the same scale is used.
2. Achievement gaps between subgroups of students exist across grades and locations and show few signs of either increasing or decreasing.
3. Scores showed some changes from last year at the building level, but these changes were mostly small.
4. Schools with more students scoring “Advanced” in Fall 2011 faced smaller negative impacts from the new performance cut scores.
In addition, overall proficiency rates in MMSD are close to state averages. Asian and White students in MMSD significantly outperform the state averages for their racial groups in both Reading and Math. In addition, large achievement gaps exist statewide as well as within MMSD.

Much more on the oft-criticized WKCE, here.

University of Wisconsin tuition and reserves are soaring, but the same is true elsewhere

Mike Ivey:

If Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature move forward with a vow to freeze tuition at the University of Wisconsin for the next two years, they have some numbers to stand on.
Wisconsin has seen the largest percentage tuition increase of Midwestern state universities over the past five years, according to The College Board, with tuition and fees up 23 percent for in-state undergraduate students. UW tuition has risen 5.5 percent each year since 2007 but had jumped even more in previous years — including an 18.7 percent hike in 2003 at some campuses.
But Wisconsin certainly isn’t the only state where the cost of college continues to rise at public colleges. The College Board data show increases of 21 percent in Minnesota and Illinois and 20 percent in Michigan over the past five years, just under Wisconsin’s 23 percent. Nationally, increases since 2007 have ranged from 78 percent in Arizona and 72 percent in California to 2 percent in Maryland and 3 percent in Ohio.
Despite the increases, tuition at the UW remains largely in the middle of the pack compared to other states, as reported by The College Board.

UK students switch to US universities


Within four years, a quarter of sixth formers at a leading UK independent school will be heading for universities in the United States.
That’s the prediction of Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College in Berkshire.
Dr Seldon, one of the UK’s most prominent head teachers, says that ambitious teenagers are looking further afield than ever before in their university choices.
The lure of well-funded US universities, with more broad-based course options, is proving increasingly attractive to youngsters in the UK, he says.
At a recent talk with pupils, he said that about 40% claimed to want to go to US universities, with the expectation that many of these will actually go on to enrol.

Do Elite Colleges Discriminate Against Asians?

Rohin Dhar:

Applying to colleges in the United States is a stressful, competitive process. In 1970, the acceptance rate at Stanford University was 22.4%. Today, only 5.7% of applicants are accepted into the school. Across the country, nearly every top school like Harvard, MIT and Yale are reporting record-low acceptance rates. The number of students applying to elite colleges is exploding, and those applicants have better test scores than ever. It’s never been harder to get into a selective university.

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here in Madison, our attention is primarily focused on our troubling achievement gaps, and those gaps are achingly apparent in the new WKCE scores. Under new superintendent Jen Cheatham’s leadership, we’ll continue to pursue the most promising steps to accelerate the learning of our African-American, Latino and Hmong students who have fallen behind.
At the same time, we also need to continue to meet the needs of our students who are doing well. I am going to focus on the latter groups of students in this post.
In particular, I want to take a look at how our Madison students stack up against those attending schools in other Dane County school districts under the new WKCE scoring scale. The demographics of our Madison schools are quite a bit different from those of our surrounding school districts. This can skew comparisons. To control for this a bit, I am going to compare the performance of Dane County students who do not fall into the “economically disadvantaged” category. I’ll refer to these students as “non-low income.”

I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

Who Runs Our Colleges– Administrators or Faculty?

Ron Lipsman:

Easy question. Administrators do. Odd as it may sound today, faculties have long assumed the right and duty to set the campus agenda–to establish admission standards, control research and curriculum, run visiting speaker programs, and set the academic and professional criteria on which promotions, prizes and appointments are based.
Historically, the faculty actually did control these things, in part because it was viewed as the natural way to run a university, and partly because there were no countervailing forces to prevent it. The administrative layers that accompanied and facilitated faculty control of campuses were fairly thin. That is, the percentage of professional, full-time campus administrators was small compared to that of the faculty. Furthermore, many of them were drawn from the ranks of the faculty (to which they returned after relatively brief stints in campus administration) and so although these faculty functioned as administrators, they still thought of themselves as faculty and comported themselves accordingly.
The Army of Deans
All of this has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. The number of campus administrators has exploded. Instead of a single dean of an all-encompassing college of arts and sciences, we see a host of deans spearheading numerous units into which the large college has been split. These deans enjoy the support of a gaggle of assistant and associate deans, dragging in tow scores more chairs, heads and directors. This is accompanied by a proliferation of new academic units on campus – e.g., Urban Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies and countless other “Studies” departments representing “compelling” fields of academic study that we didn’t know existed in mid-twentieth century.

Neenah teachers sue to restore early retirement benefits cut after Act 10

Bruce Vielmetti:

A group of veteran Neenah teachers has sued to restore early retirement benefits that could amount to $170,000 each.
The suit was expected since February, when the School Board denied a group of teachers’ demand to restore them to the original early retirement deal eliminated last year after Act 10.
The named plaintiffs are six “distinguished teachers,” but the suit, filed Monday in Winnebago County Circuit Court, seeks to represent a class including more than 250 teachers who had been eligible to participate in the former early retirement plan.
Their attorney, Charles Hertel, said Neenah Joint School District administrators used the plan for years to recruit teachers, and to induce them to accept lower-than-market salaries. Many teachers’ retirement planning was based on the expectations of the later payouts, he said.
The lawsuit asserts four claims: that the district must be held to promises on which teachers relied, that cutting the plan amounts to unjust enrichment for the district and negligent misrepresentation and strict responsibility.
The suit seeks compensatory damages, costs and enforcement of the retirement plan.

Commentary and Misinformation on Wisconsin Test Scores: Voucher, Public and Higher Academic Standards

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear supporters of St. Marcus School,

I need your help in setting the story straight. Perhaps you read the bold headline in the local section of the Journal Sentinel yesterday — “Wisconsin voucher students lag in latest state test.” That claim is not accurate. You need to understand that this is misinformation about the Choice program. I want you to know the truth — and be our voices in sharing this with others.
The state released the 2012 WKCE test scores this week, conveniently comparing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to all of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and showing that MPS “beat” MPCP in every subject area.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality and is not an “apples to apples” comparison. The information that was released FAILED to do the appropriate comparison of MPS low-income students to MPCP, whose students are almost ENTIRELY from low-income families. When doing an accurate comparison of MPCP to MPS’s low-income population, choice schools beat MPS in all subjects except math. (Remember MPS has many students who are not in poverty and are high-achieving. By nature, almost allMPCP students are low-income.)
Beyond the program averages, our St. Marcus students are doing tremendously well, outpacing both the MPS and MPCP numbers by wide margins:

This may seem unimportant, since people are often negative about the choice program. However, it is actually very important at this time to set the record straight. Legislators are reading this misinformation, our supporters are reading this misinformation and so is the general public. At a time when there is much debate about the amount of the choice voucher funding and the expansion of the program, it is essential that we set the record straight. We need to get correct information to our supporters and legislators immediately!
At St. Marcus, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to educate the urban poor, even very poor children, in a highly effective manner. To protect the well-being of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to enable St. Marcus to continue to grow and deliver excellent education to more students please take ACTION:
Forward this e-mail to your friends and certainly any legislators you know.
Contact your legislator directly and encourage them to support an increase in the voucher amount for MPCP schools. (Unbelievably, the current voucher amount of $6,451 is lower than the voucher amount back in 2006!)
Thanks for acting in support of your friends at St. Marcus and the awesome students achieving great things in schools like ours.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you can contact me.
Henry Tyson, Superintendent

Listen to a 2012 interview with Henry Tyson, here.
The Wisconsin State Journal:

The lower scores do not reflect falling performance. Students just need to know more to rank as high as they used to.
Most states are doing the same thing and will benchmark their exams to international standards.
Just as importantly, the computerized assessments of the near future will adjust to the ability of students. That will give parents and educators much better, more detailed and timely information about what students know and what they still need to learn.
Some critics will disparage any and all testing, pretending it will be the only measure Wisconsin will use for success. Others have lamented the increasing role of the federal government in the process.

Phil Hands cartoon.

“But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

A reporter recently asked me how often I planned to meet with Madisons’ new school Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham.
I do not know and frankly, I am wondering why it matters.
How often we meet will be driven by a number of yet to be determined factors. And more important than how often we meet, is the matter of improved performance for Madison school children.
It is the difference between outputs and outcomes. The number of miles of street we plow is an output, the measurement of the quality of the job is an outcome. The number of teenagers who attend a class on abstinence or receive condoms is an output, the number of teenage pregnancies is an outcome.
We need to focus on outcomes. We need to measure performance and ensure that educational attainment improves.
How often Superintendent Cheatham and I meet will be determined by the agenda, the role of our respective staffs, and other factors.
It is possible that we may find regular quarterly meetings too frequent, we may find that monthly meetings are not frequent enough. We don’t know yet. But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings.

Much more on Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, here.

They Shall Overcome Meet the K-12 reform donors who strategically balance charitable giving, legislative advocacy, and direct political engagement.

Christopher Levenick:

John Kirtley smiled. It was March in Tallahassee, and the morning sun was already warming the immense crowd before him. Some 5,600 people had gathered in front of the Leon County Civic Center–more than 1,000 of whom were arriving after a 14-hour overnight bus ride from Miami. Still, the energy in the air was palpable. Excited schoolchildren clutched hand-lettered signs: “Don’t Take Away My Dreams,” “Education Through Choice.” Parents chatted with teachers as clergymen greeted newcomers. It was a diverse crowd, predominantly black and Hispanic. Kirtley knew it had gathered for a single purpose: to convince the 2010 Florida legislature to strengthen the state’s school choice program.
A little after 10 a.m., the crowd began heading east along Madison Street. Kirtley walked at the head of the procession, alongside the Rev. H. K. Matthews, an 82-year-old African-American minister who had marched in Selma. Together they proceeded by the sprawling headquarters of the Florida Department of Education. They marched past the state’s tidy Supreme Court. When the crowd ultimately reached the capitol, it was the largest political rally in the state’s history.
Charlie Crist, then the Governor of Florida, welcomed the crowd. Dignitaries lined up to address them: Al Lawson, the Democratic leader of the Florida state Senate; Julio Fuentes, president of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options; Anitere Flores, Florida state Representative. Representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, James Bush III proclaimed the support of the civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr. The crowd roared.
Kirtley had helped organize the march to put the legislators on notice. Since 2001, Florida had offered dollar-for-dollar tax credits to corporations that contributed to state-approved scholarship organizations. (Those organizations in turn offered partial scholarships to low-income families, giving parents the resources to pay tuition at a private school of their choice.) Funding for the program, however, had always been capped. Offering more scholarships meant passing a new cap. The school choice program was forever in jeopardy, an election away from a hostile governor or legislature.

In Alberta and across Canada, Universities having to make gut wrenching choices as upwards of 10% comes off their budgets

Jen Gerson:

Mount Royal University says it simply can’t afford to teach theatre anymore. Facing a 10% cut in its spending, the program is on the chopping block, along with music performance, disability studies and certificate programs in forensics, aging studies, perinatal care and journalism.
The school, which is in Alberta premier Alison Redford’s own riding, has lamented the prospect of losing the disciplines.
“I was sick by the time I talked to people,” the school’s provost Manuel Mertin told the Calgary Herald.
“I never imagined I would have to do this.”
Mr. Mertin is likely not going to be the last provost in Canada to cut offerings in the face of fiscal reality. As government coffers are squeezed by a slow economy, demographics, and increasing healthcare costs, there are signs that bean counters and reformers across the country are ready to take the red pen to post-secondary education programs.

School district rankings

Apple Post-Crescent:

This chart ranks each of Wisconsin’s 424 public school districts based on four criteria: report card score, enrollment, average teacher salary and district administrator salary. The report card score is an average of the district schools’ individual scores from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction report cards issues in October. The average is not official, as DPI does not generate a district-wide score. It does not factor in schools that were not able to be scored — a group that includes many charter schools — and could downgrade some districts because schools fell short on certain criteria individually that the district would not have lost points on if scored as a whole. The district administrator salary is as reported to DPI and does not account for administrators who served partial years or hold other jobs in addition to district administrator. Districts with no data for a given field are denoted with a ranking of 999.

On Education Scorecards

Jeffrey Solochek:

By now it’s evident that leaders of the national education “reform” movement like to compare outcomes and hand out grades, whether looking at teacher pay, school test results or just trying to show how Florida is doing in comparison to Illinois.
Florida education commissioner (and former basketball coach) Tony Bennett likes the concept so much he keeps an actual scoreboard in his office. As he said his first day in office, “Today, I brought out the infamous student achievement scoreboard that I kept outside my office as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In my new position as Florida’s Commissioner of Education, I will keep the scoreboard up as a constant reminder to me and my colleagues of the importance of accountability in measuring teacher and student success.”

Sal Khan: the man who tutored his cousin – and started a revolution

Richard Adams:

Sal Khan has a simple mission: a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Naturally, people think he’s crazy. The craziest part is not the “world-class education” part, because plenty of people want that. And it’s not even the “for anyone, anywhere” part. It’s the “free” part.
Crazy or not, it’s an idea that has attracted attention from Downing Street to Washington DC. And like a lot of crazy ideas, it started by accident.
Khan – working as a financial analyst in 2004 after earning degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard – started remotely tutoring his cousin, Nadia, in Louisiana, who was struggling with maths. “Then the rest of the family heard there was free tutoring,” he says, and more relatives started taking part. The demands got too much – until a friend suggested he could film the tutorials, post them on YouTube and let the family members view them whenever they chose.
“YouTube? YouTube was for cats playing the piano, not serious mathematics,” Khan recalls thinking. “I got over the idea that it wasn’t my idea and decided to give it a shot.”

What do we mean by next generation learning?

John Fallon:

The education world spends a lot of time talking about ‘next generation learning’, but what does it really mean? I have been reading Michael Fullan’s excellent book, Stratosphere*, and I think he can help us nail both what we mean by the concept and what we need to do to ensure that it delivers for learners.
I’ve been struck by the clarity with which Fullan sets out how the ultimate goal – doubling learning at half the cost – can be achieved if we can combine pedagogy (especially how to learn and the opportunities to learn differently) with technology (and the huge, ever-expanding series of data it opens up), and engage the whole education system (in terms of how to change, and knowing what to do with all that data and information).
But what is most striking, perhaps, is Fullan’s four criteria for successfully integrating technology and pedagogy to make sure it works – it needs to be irresistibly engaging; elegantly efficient and easy to use; technologically ubiquitous 24/7; and steeped in real-life problems and problem-solving skills.
It’s a compelling vision for online learning, but also a vital one if we all want to use technology to scale and really solve some of the biggest problems in global education.

Pearson is a large education publisher.


STEM to Steam
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is encouraging Art/Design to be included with the K-20 STEM curriculum.
What is STEAM
In this climate of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation as the way to ensure a prosperous future. Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.
We need to add Art + Design to the equation — to transform STEM into STEAM.
STEAM is a movement championed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and widely adopted by institutions, corporations and individuals.
The objectives of the STEAM movement are to:

  • transform research policy to place Art + Design at the center of STEM
  • encourage integration of Art + Design in K-20 education
  • influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation

How children learn history is as controversial as what they are taught

The Economist:

FEW school subjects are so divisive. When Michael Gove, Britain’s education secretary, released draft changes to the country’s national curriculum in February it was his plan for history that created headlines. Mr Gove’s proposal called for history to be studied “as a coherent, chronological narrative”, beginning with the early Britons and ending with the cold war. Opponents said the syllabus overstressed the deeds of “posh white blokes” and underplayed those of minorities. “Unteachable, unlearnable and un-British” blasted a campaign group on April 10th. Rival camps of historians have published petitions and rowed on television. That shoot-out will last beyond the official consultation period, which closes next week.
Politicians with an axe to grind have often twisted history books, lionising characters they admire and tainting ones they do not. In March Dmitry Livanov, Russia’s education minister, promised a new textbook to replace the 80 or so in use. That looks like an effort by Vladimir Putin’s government to commandeer Russian history and partially sanitise Stalin (though Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” is also taught in schools). But the rumpus in Britain reflects a deeper and more subtle argument dividing school staff rooms around the world–one with broader consequences. As well as tussling over the content of courses, parents, teachers and politicians are now discussing the techniques by which history is taught, and debating what the discipline is for.

Latest school tests re-ignites public/voucher debate


Since new test cut scores designed to raise standards in reading and math was adopted last year, many school systems have to adjust to having less students rated “proficient” or “advanced” than in recent years.
In a statement Tuesday, MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton noted that MPS students continued to outperform their counterparts who used publicly funded vouchers. According to the results, MPS students scored 3.4 higher than voucher students in reading and 6.5 points higher in math.
But nobody could deny the overall results of the standardized testing revealed daunting problems still remain with under-performing students in Milwaukee Public Schools.
In his remarks, Thornton praised the results but noted there was more to do.
“We have seen some promising increases in achievement among students who have historically underperformed,” Thornton said. “We are working hard to make sure that the significant reforms we have put in place … will yield stronger results in the coming years.”

American kids “in the middle” on PISA science? How big is that middle again?

Daniel Willingham:

My Facebook feed today has lots of links to this article. The upshot: a new Pew study showing that Americans think that US 15 year olds rank “near the bottom” on international science tests, whereas the truth is that they “rank in the middle among developed countries.”
I guess “the middle” covers a lot of terrain, but the way I look at the data, this assertion doesn’t hold.
The international comparison in question is the 2009 PISA. Here are the rankings. (Click for larger image)


Seattle Reviews its Curriculum Creation Department for the first time….

Charlie Mas:

Tomorrow evening the School Board will conduct an oversight work session to review the operation of the District’s Teaching and Learning. Finally. This will be the Board’s first review of Teaching and Learning EVER.
This is one of the final direct consequences of the mismanagement of the District under the Sundquist Board and Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson. It has been a long time coming.
After the State Auditor’s Office took the District leadership to task for their horrendous performance. In particular, the SAO called out the Board for their total failure to fulfill their statutory duties to oversee management and to enforce policy. The Board members had, until then, specifically denied that they had these duties.
In response, the Board stepped up their effort to revise policy and, in particular, the Board’s duties. This led to the development of Board Policy 1005 Responsibilities & Authority of the Board, and Board Policy 1010, Board Oversight of Management.
The latter of these policies calls for Board review of district operations with a review of each department at least every three years (originally every two years). This policy was originally adopted on June 1, 2011, but was amended in February of this year to change the review frequency from every two years to every three years.

Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education

Mike Antonucci:

I was in the midst of writing this for posting on Income Tax Day when last Monday’s tragedy occurred.
For many years we have expressed education expenditures as “per-pupil spending.” This is a reasonably good way to frame the numbers, though controversy sometimes arises over what is included and what isn’t. The following is a list of different angles on the same spending. All the figures cited are for 2010, courtesy of the National Center of Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
1) Revenues collected by governments for public education in the United States totaled $593.7 billion. About $261.4 billion came from local sources, $258.2 billion from state sources, and $74 billion from federal sources.

The Arcane Rules That Drive Outcomes Under NCLB

Matthew Di Carlo:

A big part of successful policy making is unyielding attention to detail (an argument that regular readers of this blog hear often). Choices about design and implementation that may seem unimportant can play a substantial role in determining how policies play out in practice.
A new paper, co-authored by Elizabeth Davidson, Randall Reback, Jonah Rockoff and Heather Schwartz, and presented at last month’s annual conference of The Association for Education Finance and Policy, illustrates this principle vividly, and on a grand scale: With an analysis of outcomes in all 50 states during the early years of NCLB.
After a terrific summary of the law’s rules and implementation challenges, as well as some quick descriptive statistics, the paper’s main analysis is a straightforward examination of why the proportion of schools meeting AYP varied quite a bit between states. For instance, in 2003, the first year of results, 32 percent of U.S. schools failed to make AYP, but the proportion ranged from one percent in Iowa to over 80 percent in Florida.
Surprisingly, the results suggest that the primary reasons for this variation seem to have had little to do with differences in student performance. Rather, the big factors are subtle differences in rather arcane rules that each state chose during the implementation process. These decisions received little attention, yet they had a dramatic impact on the outcomes of NCLB during this time period.

Value of a liberal-arts education spurs major debate

Encarnacion Pyle:

The rising cost of college has rekindled the debate about the value of a liberal-arts education, with governors in three states pooh-poohing such degrees as history, literature and philosophy.
But several central Ohio college officials say a liberal-arts education has never been more important as employers complain that graduates lack communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
“The problems of the 21st century — 9/11, the global economic meltdown, terrorism in Boston are complex and don’t come in neat little boxes,” said Victoria McGillin, the provost of Otterbein University, a private liberal-arts college in Westerville.

Union Sues School Committee After State Orders Contract Changes

Mark Schieldrop:

Cranston teacher’s union officials filed a lawsuit against the Cranston School Committee in Superior Court today, alleging the committee could violate the terms of the union contract by voting in changes to the Basic Education Plan.
The changes include a measure that would put an end to the annual job fair, during which teachers pick assignments based on seniority and certification. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist ordered the changes. Gist, in correspondence with the school district, threatened Cranston with the loss of state aid and stripping the superintendent’s certification, among other penalties, if the changes are not adopted.
In an interview, Cranston Teachers Alliance President Lizbeth Larkin said if the School Committee votes for the changes tonight, its members will have “abrogated” the contract. That’s what prompted the union to file the anticipatory breach of contract suit today.

Madison School Board members split on proposed 7.4% property tax hike

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board’s two newest members are voicing the strongest support for a potential 7.4 percent property tax increase, but others worry the amount may be too high.
The property tax increase was included in a preliminary $393 million budget proposal put together by school district administrators.
The amount reflects the maximum amount the district could raise property taxes under Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal.
T.J. Mertz and Dean Loumos, who were sworn in Monday, said they don’t oppose taxing the maximum amount allowed under state revenue limits, which as proposed would add about $182 to the average $230,831 Madison home’s property tax bill.
Mertz plans to advocate for taxing the maximum amount, though he questioned some of the proposed new spending, such as whether a community partnership coordinator needed to be an administrative position costing $128,000.

Related: 2010: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%.
Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action

The Madison Urban League, via a kind Kaleem Caire email:

April 23, 2013
Media contact: Kaleem Caire
Click Here for Urban League’s 2013-14 Agenda
State Test Scores Confirm Urban League’s Concerns and Call to Action
Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released students’ results on the annual statewide achievement test, Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The results confirm concerns raised by the Urban League of Greater Madison, that disadvantaged students and students of color are severely underperforming in many of Wisconsin’s public schools, particularly in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
All Wisconsin public school students completed the test in November 2012. This revised test raised the standards of performance for all students, thereby providing a more accurate picture of students who are on track to graduate from high school academically ready to succeed in college or a career. Test results show that all students, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status or disability, are struggling to achieve to high standards in Madison-area public schools.
This afternoon, the Urban League of Greater Madison joined Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, and leaders of other community organizations, at a press conference where Cheatham shared MMSD’s results. Cheatham presented data showing that an astounding 92% of African American and 85% of Latino students are reading below their grade level, and 90% of African American and 77% of Latino children are failing in mathematics. The data further showed that a large percentage of white students have fallen behind as well, with 42% are reading below grade level and 33% failing in math.
In reflecting on the scores, Darrell Bazzell, the Chair of Urban League’s Board of Directors said, “These numbers are a stark message that Madison’s public schools are at a tipping point and that our community must embrace change. The implications for our region are profound. For the sake of our community and our children, Madison can, and must, do better for all students and families.”
Bazzell further stated that, “Every citizen in our community must say that ‘we will no longer harbor these gaps; that we accept responsibility for addressing these challenges; and that we will commit to doing all that we can to ensure all of our children succeed. We must also acknowledge where we are not succeeding and commit to change in smart, innovative and effective ways that lead to real progress for our kids’.”
In response to these troubling statistics, Urban League President and CEO, Kaleem Caire, shared that, “When 90% of Black children cannot read at their grade level, we are significantly reducing the possibility of success for an entire generation. This issue negatively affects not only this generation of children, but also the vitality of our entire region. If not addressed quickly, it will affect the quality of the lives of all citizens who call Madison home.” To address these challenges, Caire said “The Urban League is working to build a pipeline of high quality cradle to career educational and employment services that positively impact the entire family, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success.” He further highlighted, “We have already begun working with the Madison Schools, other area school districts, employers and community partners to ensure that we attack the persistence of underachievement and other contributing factors, such as poverty, at its core. ”
The Urban League’s 2013-14 Strategic Plan creates opportunities that will help the community overcome these challenges. Caire enthusiastically shared that, “We are a community of great people, great teachers and great families who are passionate about helping others transform their lives. But our passion now must become our reality.”
About the Urban League of Greater Madison
The Urban League of Greater Madison’s mission is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century. We are committed to transforming Greater Madison into the Best [place] in the Midwest for everyone to live, learn, and work. We are working to make this vision a reality through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes programs & services, advocacy, and partnerships & coalition building.
Urban League of Greater Madison | 2222 S. Park Street | Suite 200 | Madison | WI | 53713

Related: The rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school
Madison’s long term disastrous reading results.
The recently released WKCE results.

2012-13 MMSD WKCE Results

Tap or click to view a larger version.

Higher bar for WKCE results paints different picture of student achievement
Matt DeFour
Wisconsin student test scores released Tuesday look very different than they did a year ago, though not because of any major shift in student performance.
Similar to recent years, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam results show gains in math and reading over the past five years, a persistent and growing performance gap between black and white students, and Milwaukee and Racine public school students outperforming their peers in the private school voucher program.
But the biggest difference is the scores reflect a higher bar for what students in each grade level should know and be able to do.
Only 36.2 percent of students who took the reading test last October met the new proficiency bar. Fewer than half, 48.1 percent, of students were proficient in math. When 2011-12 results were released last spring, those figures were both closer to 80 percent.
The change doesn’t reflect a precipitous drop in student test scores. The average scores in reading and math are about the same as last year for each grade level.
Instead, the change reflects a more rigorous standard for proficiency similar to what is used for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP is administered to a sample of students in each state every other year and is referred to as “the nation’s report card.”
The state agreed to raise the proficiency benchmark in math and reading last year in order to qualify for a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The benchmark did not rise for the language arts, science and social studies tests.
“Adjusting to higher expectations will take time and effort,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said. “But these are necessary changes that will ultimately help our schools better prepare all students to be college and career ready and link with work being done throughout the state to implement new standards.”
Evers also called on the Legislature to include private voucher schools in the state’s new accountability system.
He highlighted that test scores for all Milwaukee and Racine students need to improve. Among Milwaukee voucher students, 10.8 percent in reading and 11.9 percent in math scored proficient or better. Among Milwaukee public school students, it was 14.2 percent in reading and 19.7 percent in math.
Gov. Scott Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program, including to such districts as Madison.
Changes in Dane County
The state previously announced how the changing bar would affect scores statewide and parents have seen their own students’ results in recent weeks, but the new figures for the first time show the impact on entire schools and districts.
In Dane County school districts, the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the test dropped on average by 42 percentage points in reading and 25 percentage points in math.
Madison schools had one of the smallest drops compared to its neighboring districts.
Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham noted schools with a higher number of students scoring in the “advanced” category experienced less of a drop. Madison’s smaller drop could reflect a higher proportion of students scoring in the top tier.
At the same time, Madison didn’t narrow the gap between minority and white student test results. Only 9 percent of black sixth-graders and only 2 percent of sixth-grade English language learners scored proficient in reading.
“It reinforces the importance of our work in the years ahead,” Cheatham said. “We’re going to work on accelerating student outcomes.”
Middleton-Cross Plains School Board president Ellen Lindgren said she hasn’t heard many complaints from parents whose students suddenly dropped a tier on the test. Like Madison and other districts across the state, Middleton-Cross Plains sent home letters bracing parents for the change.
But Lindgren fears the changing standards come at the worst time for public schools, which have faced tougher scrutiny and reduced state support.
“I’m glad that the standards have been raised by the state, because they were low, but this interim year, hopefully people won’t panic too much,” Lindgren said. “The public has been sold on the idea that we’re failing in our education system, and I just don’t believe that’s true.”
Next fall will be the last year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take the paper-and-pencil WKCE math and reading tests. Wisconsin is part of a coalition of states planning to administer a new computer-based test in the 2014-15 school year.
The proposed state budget also provides for students in grades 9-11 to take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT college and career readiness tests in future years.

Superintendent Cheatham is to be commended for her informed, intelligent and honest reaction to the MMSD’s results when compared to those of neighboring districts.
View a WKCE summary here (PDF).

When a Teacher Is 2 Feet Tall: School Experiments Use Robots as Learning Tools; a Dragon for Lifestyle Tips

Sophia Hollander:

Scientists raised on “The Jetsons” and “Astro Boy” have theorized for decades that robots would make the perfect helper and companion. Now a handful of public schools in the U.S. are putting that idea to the test.
This year, robots will be teaching everything from math to vocabulary to nutrition inside classrooms in California and New York, a move the researchers call a first in American education.
The Los Angeles experiment, scheduled to start later this spring, will use a robotic “dragon” to teach first-graders about healthy lifestyle habits. Students will help show the robot how to prepare for a race; the hope is that by sharing tips with the dragon, they take their own lessons to heart.

The other side of “academic freedom”

Matt Welsh:

My various blog posts about moving from academia to industry have prompted a number of conversations with PhD students who are considering academic careers. The most oft-cited reason for wanting a faculty job is “academic freedom,” which is typically described as “being able to work on anything you want.” This is a nice theory, but I think it’s important to understand the realities, especially for pre-tenure, junior faculty.
I don’t believe that most professors (even tenured ones) can genuinely work on “anything they want.” In practice, as a professor you are constrained by at least four things:
What you can get funding to do;
What you can publish (good) papers about;
What you can get students to help you with;
What you can do better than anyone else in the field.
These are important limitations to consider, and I want to take them one by one.

Ready Set Goal Compensation Deadline May 1

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

Pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated by MTI, on behalf of elementary teachers, those who have completed Ready, Set, Goal (RSG) Conferences, and whose request for compensatory time cannot be accommodated due to the unavailability of a substitute teacher, may, upon written notice to their principal by May 1, choose among the following options: (1) request to be compensated for RSG conferences, travel time, and up to 15 minutes per conference for any reasonable administrative time associated with each conference; or
(2) have said day(s) added to the teacher’s Personal Sick Leave Account (PSLA) or, if the teacher has the maximum amount in that account, the day(s) may be added to the teacher’s Retirement Insurance Account (RIA) [ Any such days accumulated to one’s RIA from RSG services are not subject to the PSLA or RIA maximum]; or
(3) carryover one (1) paid RSG leave day into the following school year; or
(4) a combination of items 1-3 above.
Contact MTI Assistant Director Eve Degen ( with questions regarding RSG compensation.

$300 Million Scholarship for Study in China Signals a New Focus

Keith Bradsher:

The private-equity tycoon Stephen A. Schwarzman, backed by an array of mostly Western blue-chip companies with interests in China, is creating a $300 million scholarship for study in China that he hopes will rival the Rhodes scholarship in prestige and influence.
The program, whose endowment represents one of the largest single gifts to education in the world and one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever in China, was announced by Mr. Schwarzman in Beijing on Sunday.
The Schwarzman Scholarsprogram will pay all expenses for 200 students each year from around the world for a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
The program’s creation underlines the tremendous importance of China and its market to Wall Street financiers and corporate leaders, who have become increasingly anxious as security and economic frictions grow between China and the West.
Mr. Schwarzman said his goal was to reduce such tensions by educating the world’s future leaders, but his role in the project will also raise his political profile in China, potentially giving him and his private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, increased access to Chinese leaders. Many of them, including Xi Jinping, who became president of China last month, attended Tsinghua, one of the country’s top universities.

Advocating Status Quo Seniority Policies

Jacob Bacharach:

Genuine puzzlement, right up there with “swear to God”, usually precedes a lie. It’s the verbal equivalent of clammy sweat and rapid blinking, and even on the rare occasion that it doesn’t presage a whopper, it makes everything subsequent seem dishonest. Yglesias goes on to set fire to a hiring hall full of unionized straw men who want teacher pay to be tied to tenure of service and nothing else, but what the hell, I’ll see if I can raise my voice above the crackling fire.
The cheating scandals prove that education reform is a wholly fraudulent endeavor. It isn’t the equivalent of a doping scandal in sports; it’s the equivalent of Enron, Madoff, the financial crisis. You think testing has something to do with compensation, hiring, and firing? It doesn’t. Testing is the accounting of the reform movement, and the executives are cooking the books. They’re manipulating the statements so it looks like the venture is turning a profit. Well, actually, it’s got negative cash flow. The gains are phantoms. The enterprise is insolvent. Even by its own standards, reform fails.

College Scorecard

College Affordability & Transparency Center

College Scorecards in the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center make it easier for you to search for a college that is a good fit for you. You can use the College Scorecard to find out more about a college’s affordability and value so you can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.
To start, enter the name of a college of interest to you or select factors that are important in your college search. You can find scorecards for colleges based on factors such as programs or majors offered, location, and enrollment size.

Financial education still looking for elusive payoff

Adam Belz:

Looking dapper in a blue shirt and striped tie, 11-year-old Quinn Krueger leaned over his desk and peered at plans for his company’s next project — a park bench.
Krueger was CEO of the only construction firm in BizTown, a simulated city at Junior Achievement in Maplewood, Minn., where fourth- and fifth-graders spend a day learning to run a business, work for a boss, write a check, pay taxes and do payroll.
“We’re selling the bench for $75,” Krueger said. “We’re doing good.”
With kids zipping back and forth and bemused parents and teachers looking on, the program is among the more elaborate attempts to teach children to become financially literate.

Commentary on the Madison School District’s Floated 7.36% Property Tax Increase

Matthew DeFour

Madison School District property taxes for 2013 could increase 7.4 percent under budget recommendations being presented Monday to the Madison School Board.
That would be the biggest percent increase in the district’s property tax levy in a decade. Taxes on an average Madison home valued at $230,831 would total $2,855, a $182 increase from last year.
However, district officials cautioned the numbers likely will change once the state budget is finalized and new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham conducts a review of the district.
“Before I can feel comfortable recommending a tax increase I would want to make sure that every dollar is spent effectively and I can feel confident that the funds that we’re investing are going to pay off for students,” Cheatham said.

David Blaska

Did you get a 7.4% pay raise this year? State employees have forgone a pay raise the last couple years. They had to reach in their pockets to pay new health insurance and pension co-pays. Annuitants covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System have been treading water since 2009. Those who retired nine or more years ago are facing a 9.6% reduction in their pensions. Many of those, ironically, are retired teachers.
Yet the Madison School Board proposes a 1.5% across-the-board pay increase. Actually, reporter DeFour underreported the proposed pay increase. Add another 1% for the “step” increases to account for longevity to equal a 2.5% increase. Almost uniquely among taxpayer-supported employees these days, the district’s teachers still would pay nothing toward their generous health insurance benefits. Job security is nearly guaranteed. Meanwhile, the district acts as bagman for union boss John Matthews, deducting dues from teacher paychecks.
Can we expect the district to end that statutorily forbidden practice when the current contract expires after this June? Let’s hope so, unless the district hides behind Dane County Judge Juan Colas’ Act 10 ruling.
What would get the axe? Parent-teacher conferences. So much for addressing the achievement gap.

Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

On Grit & Education

Alan Borsuk

Grit and optimism. And hugs for the kids in your life.
The events of last week, national, local and personal, have reduced me to sentence fragments. These words and phrases are at the top of my mind.
How can you show grit at a time when the news can drain all your energy? How can you be optimistic in a week when an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard, is killed by a bomb while waiting to cheer for his father? Or when so many other horrible things occur?
Because you have to, for yourself and for your children.
Paul Tough, formerly of The New York Times, wrote a great book last year about the character traits of successful children. Tough wrote that research shows that children who turn out well are, in significant numbers, children who are strong in key character traits.
That applies both to those growing up in comfortable circumstances and those who are not.
Among the traits he singled out: curiosity, self-control, conscientiousness, optimism and one he labeled grit – in fact, it’s in the subtitle of his book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.”
Grit includes the determination to keep working on something when it gets frustrating or tough and to persevere until there are better outcomes. (President Barack Obama used the word grit in praising Boston’s first responders when he spoke to a group of them Thursday in Boston.)

Randi Weingarten’s Enemies List: Another Reason to End Traditional Teacher Compensation

RiShawn Biddle:

There are plenty of reasons why it is time to ditch defined-benefit pensions (as well as the rest of traditional teacher compensation) — and not just because of the at least $1.1 trillion in long-term deficits (including unfunded retired healthcare benefits often handled by state pension systems) that are being borne by taxpayers and the nation as a whole. One of them lies with the fact that the political power inherent in pension systems (including the ability to sway boards of publicly-held companies, as well as the role they play in picking money managers) allow for those who sit on their boards to engage in mischief that hurts markets and taxpayers alike; this includes requiring pensions to invest funds in alternative energy schemes that won’t ever pan out. This is especially true when board seats are held by leaders of National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers affiliates looking for any way to defend their ever-declining influence in education policy.
So your editor wasn’t surprised when the national AFT released what it called a “Retirement Security Report” earlier this week targeting money managers who happen to also be among key players in the school reform movement. Among the targets: Index fund investing pioneer Dimensional Fund Advisers (because one of its cofounders — who no longer runs the organization’s day-to-day operations — heads up Missouri’s Show-Me State Institute, a key player in advancing systemic reform in the Midwest); the investment firm Gilder, Gagnon, whose cofounder is chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute, a longstanding critic of the AFT and education traditionalists in general; and SLX Capital, whose foundation also donated to the conservative think tank. And, of course, Eagle Capital Management, whose boss, Ravenel Boykin Curry, is on the board of Manhattan Institute as well; his son, R. Boykin Curry Jr., cofounded (with Kevin Chavous and Whitney Tilson) Democrats for Education Reform, which has helped reduce the AFT’s and NEA’s influence over Democratic Party politics at the national level.

So you want to do a PhD?

Stephen Strowes:

I’ve fielded questions recently from undergraduate students interested in, but unsure about, pursuing a PhD. I distilled some thoughts into an email, but actually these thoughts are better spent in public. I have previously written on the process of a PhD elsewhere, from a different perspective.
The following was written retrospectively, after I had submitted my own PhD dissertation, and long after I completed my undergraduate career. It’s also written from a UK perspective: other countries may have teaching requirements for PhD students, or may have taught classes that students must attend. UK PhD programmes also have a time limit within which you must submit your work for examination, and that time limit may be different or non-existent in other countries.
The Focus
Here’s a universal truth: studying for a PhD is vastly different to studying for your undergrad. Here’s how:

‘They are the forgotten bunch’: Trenton school district’s Life Skills program has gone off the rails, a teacher’s aide alleges

Erin Duffy:

It started as a transitional program, a way to teach special education students with developmental disabilities how to handle personal finances, find a job and live independently once they left school.
But in the last several years, the Trenton school district’s Life Skills program has gone tragically off the rails, one teacher’s aide is alleging.
Students mindlessly copy answers teachers have written in textbooks. No curriculum exists. The students, all high school age, sometimes color sheets of Disney characters in lieu of classwork. There’s no rhyme or reason as to who graduates or who stays on for another year.

Laura Waters has more.

Why Chess Should Be Required in U.S. Schools

Alex Berezow:

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of defeating a worthy opponent in a game of chess: the ultimate battle of the wits. Of course, it’s not a feeling I have very often, since I’m not very good at chess. On the other hand, my father is officially an “expert” and my friend is a “master.” In other words, they are both very, very good. To give an idea of how good, if I was to play 100 games with each of them, I would win precisely zero.
Worldwide, chess is still a popular game, but it is treated with particular seriousness in Eastern Europe. For instance, the Bulgarian National Olympic Committee has been lobbying for chess to be recognized as an Olympic sport, as has Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian president of the World Chess Federation. In September 2011, Armenia made chess a required subject for all children over the age of six. (In the DW-TV news clip below, the children are in 2nd grade.)

What Do Kids Really Learn From Education Tech?

Adam Sneed:

It seems every educational app promises the most engaging and effective way to teach children, and cash-strapped school districts have embraced iPads, iPods, and Smart Boards as solutions to the challenges they face. But with all the time and resources invested in educational technology, how much do we really know about learning from these popular new devices?
The good news is the field of research is growing, but it’s got a long way to go. Presenting on Tuesday at Future Tense’s portion of the Education Innovation Summit 2013 in Scottsdale, Ariz., Lisa Guernsey cautioned that we can’t simply expect young children to learn from an iPad app on their own. Guernsey, who directs the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative, said that in many cases, children don’t understand the nature of the technology they’re using. (Disclosure: Arizona State University, a co-host of the Education Innovation Summit, is a partner in Future Tense along with Slate and the New America Foundation.)
Guernsey highlighted research from the University of Virginia suggesting babies can’t often distinguish between images and objects. When shown pictures on a piece of paper, babies in the study tried to pick up the objects on the page. In one case, a baby held a picture of a shoe up to its own foot, as if trying to wear it. This misunderstanding of screens and images continues as children age, and is perhaps most evident when kids ask how people got inside their TVs. For that reason, Guernsey, author of Screen Time, says parents and teachers should become media mentors to children, guiding them toward age-appropriate apps and TV shows and teaching them how the technology works.

Smaller Share of High School Grads Going to College

Neil Shah:

The recession convinced many young American high-school graduates to take refuge in college instead of try their luck in a lousy job market. New research indicates that trend may be unwinding.
The college enrollment rate — the share of recent U.S. high-school graduates enrolling in college or a university in the same year — dropped in 2012 to 66.2%, the lowest level since 2006, the Labor Department said in a report on Wednesday. For 2012 graduates, the rate dropped for both men and women, to 61.3% from 64.6% in 2011, and 71.3% from 72.3%, respectively.
The findings suggest some high-school graduates are becoming more confident about their job prospects after years of hiding out by going to college. When the economy sank into recession between 2007 and 2009, the college enrollment rate rose steadily to a record high of 70.1%. The implosion of America’s construction industry, for example, meant fewer jobs for young men looking for work right out of high school. Now it appears some of these young graduates are going on the job market again.

Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault

Suzanne Daley:

It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly. Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is.
It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym “Carina” in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16.
In past years, Danes might have shrugged off the case, finding Carina more pitiable than anything else. But even before her story was in the headlines 16 months ago, they were deeply engaged in a debate about whether their beloved welfare state, perhaps Europe’s most generous, had become too rich, undermining the country’s work ethic. Carina helped tip the scales.
With little fuss or political protest — or notice abroad — Denmark has been at work overhauling entitlements, trying to prod Danes into working more or longer or both. While much of southern Europe has been racked by strikes and protests as its creditors force austerity measures, Denmark still has a coveted AAA bond rating.
But Denmark’s long-term outlook is troubling. The population is aging, and in many regions of the country people without jobs now outnumber those with them.
Some of that is a result of a depressed economy. But many experts say a more basic problem is the proportion of Danes who are not participating in the work force at all — be they dawdling university students, young pensioners or welfare recipients like Carina who lean on hefty government support.

Who is Stockpiling and Sharing Private Information About New York Students?

Jason Lewis:

Most New York City public school parents don’t know that their child’s personal information will be available to third-party companies through a new data-sharing initiative.
Parents and advocates opposed to the new initiative believe it will put sensitive student information at risk and allow companies to capitalize on data that parents never consented to release.
The New York State Education Department says that districts have been sharing this kind of information for nearly a decade, and that the new initiative simply enables that data to be shared in a safer, more efficient fashion.
If it really is that simple, parents and advocates wonder, why hasn’t the state been more forthcoming with details about the project?
“The real outrage of it is that the whole spin of this is that it’s being done to help kids. And, yet they refuse to tell their parents about it.” Leonie Haimson, of Class Size Matters, tells the Voice. “The idea that they wouldn’t tell parents about it and allow them the right to consent, shows me that either it’s not being done for kids at all, or that they don’t trust parents to make the right choices for their child.”

Much more on the “Shared Learning Collaborative“, here.

The First Race to the Top

William Reese:

FOR the nearly 50 million students enrolled in America’s public schools, tests are everywhere, whether prepared by classroom teachers or by the ubiquitous testing industry. Central to school accountability, they assume familiar shapes and forms. Multiple choice. Essay. Aptitude. Achievement. NAEP, ACT, SAT.
To teachers everywhere, the message is clear: Raise test scores. No excuses. The stakes are very high, as the many cheating scandals unfolding nationally reveal, including most spectacularly the recent indictment of 35 educators in Atlanta.
But we should also be wondering, where did all this begin? It turns out that the race to the top has a lot of history behind it.
Members of the Boston School Committee fired the first shots in the testing wars in the summer of 1845. Traditionally, an examination committee periodically inspected the local English grammar schools, questioned some pupils orally, then wrote brief, perfunctory reports that were filed and forgotten.
Many Bostonians smugly assumed that their well-funded public schools were the nation’s best. They, along with many visitors, had long praised the local system, which included a famous Latin school and the nation’s first public high school, founded in 1821.
Citizens were in for a shock. For the first time, examiners gave the highest grammar school classes a common written test, conceived by a few political activists who wanted precise measurements of school achievement. The examiners tested 530 pupils — the cream of the crop below high school. Most flunked. Critics immediately accused the examiners of injecting politics into the schools and demeaning both teachers and pupils.
The testing groundwork was laid in 1837, when a lawyer and legislator in Massachusetts named Horace Mann became secretary of the newly created State Board of Education, part of the Whig Party’s effort to centralize authority and make schools modern and accountable. After a fact-finding trip abroad, Mann claimed in 1844 in a nationally publicized report that Prussia’s schools were more child-friendly and superior to America’s. Boston’s grammar masters, insulted, attacked Mann in print, and he returned the favor. In December, some Whig reformers, including Mann’s close friend Samuel Gridley Howe, were elected to the School Committee and soon landed on the examining committee.

The London schools mystery

Chris Cook:

Today, I gave a brief presentation – based on our previous stories – on the performance of London schools to the excellent Centre for London. Some slides are a little mysterious without my burbling over the top, but I hope it’s understandable enough.
Three quick concepts:
1. The “FT score” – we allocate each child a score. Kids get 8 points for an A* down to one for a G. We add up the score for English, maths and their three best other subjects.
2. IDACI – an index of poverty which measures how poor the neighbourhood in which a child lives is.
3. “Regression” – we are dealing with moving populations, changing intakes etc. Think of a regression as a technique that allows us to discern the impact of any one of those things

View the complete PDF presentation, here.

Controversy over the University of Wisconsin’s “Surplus” & Ongoing Tuition Increases

Karen Herzog & Patrick Marley

Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature called for freezing tuition for two years Friday after a state review revealed that the University of Wisconsin System had cash reserves of nearly $650 million at the end of the last fiscal year.
While the UW System said the amount of uncommitted cash was much less than that, the disclosure infuriated Republican lawmakers just as they begin deliberations on the next two-year budget.
Republicans questioned whether Kevin Reilly should remain as president of the UW System, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he was unsure the system should get any of the $181 million increase in taxpayer funds Walker had previously recommended, including $20 million for new initiatives.
Reilly could not be reached for comment, nor could UW System Regents President Brent Smith.
Vos said it was too early to say whether Reilly should remain as the head of the UW System, but said he saw a pattern of financial mismanagement during Reilly’s tenure.
“I have serious concerns about whether the credibility of the UW System can recover with the current leadership in place,” Vos said.
In the past, Vos has supported giving UW-Madison more flexibility, but that has changed because of Friday’s disclosure, he said.
“They have now pushed me entirely in the opposite direction,” Voss said of UW System leaders.

Many links:

  • Gov. Scott Walker, state leaders call for tuition freeze following news of UW System surplus by CHeyenne Langkamp

    Many state legislators reacted with outrage to Friday morning’s announcement the University of Wisconsin System currently holds over $1 billion in surplus in its reserves, prompting some to advocate for a tuition freeze over the next two years.
    According to a document from Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang sent to members of the Joint Committee on Finance, the UW System has accrued $1,045,200,572 in its program revenue reserves from the 2011-’13 funding cycle.
    The Legislative Fiscal Bureau and Legislative Audit Bureau discovered the surplus through an audit that began after information regarding $33 million in Human Resources overpayments surfaced in February.

  • Dan Simmons:

    The System has always maintained a cash balance, Giroux added, and its finances have always been public as the Legislative Audit Bureau audits it yearly. The cash balances have grown in recent years because of rapid enrollment growth and the System’s increased reliance on non-state revenues, he said, calling them “an essential safety net.”
    System leaders told the fiscal bureau that about $441 million of the reserve was allocated for future projects and expenses. With that spending included, it left a $207 million balance from the end of 2012. Vos said lawmakers should have been notified of the surplus in recent times of tight state budgets and maximum tuition increases for System students.
    Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the Assembly’s committee on higher education, also criticized the System over the reported surplus.
    “At a minimum, on behalf of students and their families, I am asking legislative leaders to freeze tuition increases for two years for the entire UW System during their deliberations on the budget,” Walker said in a statement.
    The news about the surplus broke shortly after System President Kevin Reilly released details of his budget proposals, which include tuition increases of 2 percent each of the next two years and a $30 million boost in financial aid awards.

  • UW-Madison Student Fees Could Use a Review.
  • Republicans learn of UW System surplus, call for tuition freeze by Polo Rocha:

    United Council of UW Students has been pushing legislators to include a tuition cap of 3 or 4 percent. Dylan Jambrek, the group’s government relations director, said he was pleased students can now “have the comfort of a tuition freeze” but expressed concerns over the memo’s findings.
    “Whatever the money was going towards, it’s concerning that they were raising tuition to stick it in the bank account,” Jambrek said.
    Jambrek said he does not want legislators to overreact and do something that ends up harming students, such as cutting Walker’s proposed investments.
    Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, is the ranking Democrat on the Legislature’s budget committee, which has 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.
    Mason called for a potential tuition reduction because he said UW System students are already graduating with $27,000 in student debt on average.
    “Not only should we be freezing tuition given the news of the UW’s surplus, but the state budget deliberations should include a serious conversation about reducing student debt by lowering the cost of tuition, increasing student financial aid or both,” Mason said in a statement.

  • Massive University of Wisconsin Slush Fund Discovered by Brian Fraley.
  • Marge Pitrof.
  • Sara Goldrick-Rab:

    The University of Wisconsin System just ceded to the demands of students across the State and agreed to cap a tuition increase at no more than 2% for the coming year and eliminate the waiting list for the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant. This is a stunning reversal, as President Kevin Reilly had been lobbying against students, insisting that no cap was necessary.
    What happened? Well, as I have long insisted, the issue is not entirely about a lack of state funding being provided to higher education but how administrators are spending it. When the incentives for administrators cause they to advance the interests of institutions over the needs of students, accountability measures are required to prevent that. UW System just got called out, as an audit just revealed that a $404 million balance from tuition payments in 2011-2012 was leftover, unspent, while tuition was hiked by 5.5%. SERIOUSLY??? Those cash reserves were being held for “specific planned future activities,” according to the System. Sorry Charlie, no way. That is something you do with appropriations, not tuition. If you aim to help future students and promote stability, that’s a public good, and should be on the public dime. This is an outgrowth of the same mindset that’s diminished tuition and pushed students into debt– the same old public / private benefits nonsense. Honestly, the students should demand NO increase and hold firm on doing it for 2 or more years!
    So, here we are– they said it couldn’t be done– the net price of attending UW System schools will likely stay flat or decline over the next year. HURRAH!

Randi Weingarten’s Pension Veto: The teachers union chief tries to blackball hedge funds that support school reform.

The Wall Street Journal

Public pension funds are frantically chasing higher yields to reduce their roughly $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities. But don’t tell that to Randi Weingarten, the teachers union el supremo, who is trying to strong-arm pension trustees not to invest in hedge funds or private-equity funds that support education reform.
That’s the remarkable story that emerged this week as the American Federation of Teachers president tried to sandbag hedge fund investor Dan Loeb at a conference sponsored by the Council of Institutional Investors. CII had invited Mr. Loeb, who runs Third Point LLC, to talk about investment opportunities and corporate governance. Ms. Weingarten is an officer and board member of CII.
But Ms. Weingarten’s real concern is that Mr. Loeb puts his own money behind school reform and charter schools. In particular, Mr. Loeb is on the board of the New York chapter of StudentsFirst. That’s the education outfit founded by former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee that is pushing for more charters and teacher accountability, among other desperately needed reforms.

Education in Chile: Harald Beyer gets the boot

The Economist:

By 20 votes to 18 the Senate, which the Concertación narrowly controls, impeached him, accusing him of turning a blind eye to illegal profiteering at Chile’s universities. The vote followed a similar defeat in the Chamber of Deputies two weeks earlier, in which the Concertación relied on the votes of a few small, left-wing parties. As a result of his impeachment, Mr Beyer is barred from public office for five years.
It’s true that Mr Beyer presided over an imperfect education system, plagued by financial irregularities. Maybe he could have done more to regulate it. But the same could be said of his two predecessors under Mr Piñera, or indeed of any education minister of the previous 20 years, when the Concertación was in power.
The vote smacks of revenge.
Five years ago the centre-right impeached the Concertación’s education minister, Yasna Provoste. Many on the centre-left remember that and have not forgiven it. The impeachment also has a strong whiff of electioneering. Chileans will choose a new president in November, and the campaign is already getting nasty.

Commentary on Incoming Madison Superintendent Cheatham’s First Listening Session

Joe Tarr:

Cheatham said that she believed teachers and administrators needed to be evaluated regularly and that it shouldn’t be based only on students’ test scores. She said that when she was a teacher, she once had a principal tell her to fill out her own evaluation. “I didn’t want that. I wanted someone to tell me how I was doing,” she said. “Most teacher evaluations, generally they’re using a vague checklist and they happen so sporadically that they’re not meaningful.”
“The frequency has to increase and they have to be collaborative conversations. The teacher needs to identify things he or she wants to improve on and identify goals.”
One parent said he wanted something to be done to hold parents more accountable for student performance. While Cheatham said that parent involvement is invaluable, “Of all the things within our control, I’m not sure it’s worth our time to work on parental accountability. Some parents are not going to be involved. It’s not because they don’t love their children, it’s because they’re working two jobs.”

Barry Adam:

Julie Salt has a son in kindergarten at Mendota Elementary and is an educational assistant. She told Cheatham she is concerned about some of her son’s classmates who are already noticeably behind.
“The students that are kind of prepared to do the alphabet and numbers and all that kind of stuff, obviously have had exposure (compared to) kids who have not had that experience. That makes a difference in the classroom,” Salt said. “So already there’s that gap.”
Robert Bergeron works with pre-kindergarten students at Goodman Community Center and has a daughter at East High School. He believes more of an effort needs to be made by educators at all levels to get parents involved in their child’s education.
“It can be any kind of involvement but the teachers also have a responsibility to try and get parents involved,” Bergeron said. “Sometimes, it’s communication.”

Madison’s Sherman Middle School to drop French 1 class

Pat Schneider:

The way Principal Michael Hernandez tells it, something had to go.
Hernandez decided that at Sherman Middle School, it will be French class.
With a renewed emphasis on curriculum basics in the Madison School District, the need at Sherman to double-down on math skills, and a scheduled expansion there of the AVID program that prepares low-income minority kids for college, Hernandez figures the north-side middle school will need to drop its second “world language” offering next year.
French 2 will continue for seventh-graders who took French 1 this year. The school’s Spanish-language program — including three sections of dual-language instruction — also will continue.
“Unfortunately, there are tough decisions we have to make,” Hernandez told me. “With budget cuts, I can’t have a class with only approximately seven students, when I could use that (staff) allocation for a math intervention class.”
Principals will be developing these kinds of adjustments around the margins to prepare for the 2013-2014 school year as district officials begin work on the budget and schools get projections on how many staff members they will have.
School Board members on Monday will receive a “budget briefing” instead of fleshed-out budget proposal. Penciled in is $392,807,993 in district-wide spending next school year, down a fraction from this year.
The scaled-down budget proposal is due to the uncertain prospects of a controversial proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget to shift aid and expand vouchers to Madison and eight other school districts — at a projected cost of more than $800,000 to the Madison public schools. In addition, new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham just came on the job three weeks ago and is not prepared yet to present a detailed budget.

Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

What Education Reform Looks Like

Joel Klein:

Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York since 1999, has announced that he will retire in June. His is a tenure that shouldn’t end quietly. It holds lessons not only for public colleges and universities but for every K-12 public school in America.
Long ago, the CUNY colleges were seen as great academic institutions. With their low cost of tuition, they were the only meaningful postsecondary option for many of New York’s poor and working-class families, including children from immigrant families. The list of remarkable alumni from the early and mid-20th century–Felix Frankfurter, Jonas Salk (one of 12 Nobel laureates), Colin Powell, Frank McCourt, Andy Grove and many more–compares favorably to that of virtually any other university, including the Ivy League schools.
That golden era came to a screeching halt after 1970, when the CUNY schools adopted an open-admission policy, allowing anyone who had graduated high school to attend. Anyone could now go to what were becoming increasingly inferior academic institutions.
In 1999, as the system continued to decay, Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed a task force chaired by former Yale President Benno Schmidt. It called for a major overhaul. Soon after, CUNY selected Matthew Goldstein, a graduate of City College who was then president of Adelphi University, to lead the effort.

Measuring College Prestige vs. Price

Paul Sullivan:

HAVING a choice is generally a good thing, and being able to choose among several college acceptances should be a wonderful thing indeed.
But let’s face it: the cost of a college education these days ranges from expensive to obscenely expensive. So the decision is likely to be tougher and more emotional than most parents and children imagined as they weigh offers from colleges that have given real financial aid against others that are offering just loans.
While some students will be able to go to college only if they receive financial aid and others have the resources to go wherever they want, most fall into a middle group that has to answer this question: Do they try to pay for a college that gave them little financial aid, even if it requires borrowing money or using up their savings, because it is perceived to be better, or do they opt for a less prestigious college that offered a merit scholarship and would require little, if any borrowing? It’s not an easy decision.

Document Deep Dive: What Was on the First SAT?

Megan Gambino:

Taking the SAT is a rite of passage and has been ever since the first exam was offered in 1926 as a way to eliminate the prep school bias of the college admissions process.
The very first SAT, excerpted below, looks quite different from today’s three-hour-45-minute version. Students who took the original SAT on June 23, 1926, tackled nine sub-tests totaling 315 questions in just 97 minutes.
I recently spoke with Brian O’Reilly, a 31-year veteran of the College Board, about the 1926 exam. How well would you fare? Quiz yourself, and as you do, click on the yellow tabs, within the document, to learn more about the various types of questions.

The Unacknowledged Value of For-Profit Education

Judah Bellin:

For-profit education is the fastest-growing sector of the higher-education industry. However, politicians and journalists have highlighted trends that they say should make students think twice before attending for-profit colleges. These include:
Poor graduation rates, as only 22 percent of students at for-profits completed college in six years, compared with 65 percent of students at nonprofit private schools and 55 percent of students at nonprofit public schools;
Higher loan-default rates, as 25 percent of students at for-profits default on their loans–the figures for their peers at nonprofit private and public schools are 7.6 and 10.8 percent, respectively;
Higher likelihood of unemployment for alumni of for-profit colleges.
However, policymakers should not overlook the many positive aspects of for-profit colleges. For-profits are notable for educating students who are underrepresented at traditional campuses. For instance:
African-Americans and Hispanics constitute 22 and 15 percent of students in the for-profit sector, respectively, though they make up only 13 and 11.5 percent of all students;
75 percent of students attending for-profits are financially independent;
54 percent of dependent students attending for-profits have incomes below $40,000;
65 percent of students attending for-profits are aged 25 and older, compared with much smaller percentages at four-year public colleges and two-year colleges.

Mama Madison: Problems, solutions

Sari Judge:

This past weekend, my husband and I drove to a conference center on the shores of Green Lake to watch our two younger children, ages 13 and 10, participate in the Wisconsin Future Problem Solving (FPS) State Bowl. For those of you unfamiliar with FPS (as I most certainly was before my oldest child got involved years ago as a fourth grader), the program’s mission is to stimulate the critical and creative thinking skills of young people by challenging them, either in teams or individually, to come up with innovative solutions to complex global problems.
Truth be told, the idea of my kids and their peers being “future problem solvers” has always made me giggle a bit, especially when it comes to international matters. How can a bunch of pre-teen and teenage kids like mine, who can’t seem to remember to unpack the dishwasher or match socks correctly, be expected to generate meaningful solutions to heady and challenging issues like pitfalls of the culture of celebrity, the difficulties of managing megacities or, in the case of this past weekend, how to help offset the Garbage Patch in the north Pacific.
If contemporary sociologists, urban planners and scientists haven’t been able to crack the code on alleviating these sorts of problems, I question if my kids will genuinely be able to provide much help.

Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months

The Madison School District Administration (217 page 7.41MB PDF)

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s proposed 2013-2014 balanced budget provides resources for a sound education for the district’s children.
The proposed 2013-2014 balanced budget continues to put resources where they are most needed in the classrooms.
Total spending under the balanced budget is $392,807,993 which is a decrease of $70,235 or (0.02%) less than the 2012-13 Revised Budget. The change to the revenue limit plus other fund increases or decreases comprises the entire proposed budget. The property tax levy would increase by $18,385,847 or 7.38% to $267,675,929.
The total MMSD 2013-14 balanced budget includes many funds. A fund is a separate set of accounting records, segregated for the purpose of carrying on specific activities. A fund is established for accountability purposes to demonstrate that financial resources are being used only for permitted purposes. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction specifies the various funds required to be used by Wisconsin school districts.

A few useful links:
The January, 2012 budget document mentioned “District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753” (2012-2013), yet the “baseline” for 2013-2014 mentions planned spending of $392,807,993 “a decrease of $70,235 or (0.02%) less than the 2012-13 Revised Budget” (around $15k/student). The District’s budget generally increases throughout the school year, growing 6.3% from January, 2012 to April, 2013. Follow the District’s budget changes for the past year, here.
Meanwhile, via a kind reader, Wages for Dane County and Wisconsin workers fell, latest federal figures say

The average weekly wage for workers in Dane County fell by 4.1 percent between September 2011 and September 2012, the first decrease for the third quarter in at least a decade and a touch greater than the state average, according to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dane County workers made an average of $842 weekly in the third quarter of 2012, down $36 from the same time period a year earlier. It was the 12th-biggest drop in terms of percentage among Wisconsin’s counties.
Statewide, wages fell 2.65 percent to an average of $770 per week. That was the fourth-biggest loss among states by percentage. Nationally, Wisconsin ranked 35th among the states for wages, down from 33rd for the third quarter in 2011.
The data also show that Wisconsin ranked 44th nationwide in job creation for the private sector, but while job creation has dominated news coverage here owing largely to Gov. Scott Walker’s pledge to create 250,000 new jobs during his term, stagnant wages have been a longstanding concern.

Finally, should Madison, Wisconsin and federal taxpayers spend more for ongoing disastrous reading results?
The defunct “citizen’s budget” was an effort to create an easily comparable annual two page document, rather than the present 217 pager.
“Censorship through complexity” – Assange

On Serious Secondary School Scholarship

Patrick Bassett:

I’ve often said that all NAIS schools are “college-prep,” even the early childhood schools like The Children’s School (Connecticut) [age 2 through eighth grade], and the learning differences (LD) schools like Lawrence School (Ohio) [grades K – 12], and scores of other independent schools like them across the country. They, like their more traditional cousins in our membership, are college-prep because parents choose them with college in mind, believing, rightfully, that an independent school with a mission that matches their child’s needs and proclivities will be the surest path to success in secondary school and college. And all of our schools deliver on that expectation.
I’ve also often said that the early childhood programs in NAIS schools and our LD schools (or the LD “schools within a school” in the traditional school model) are often the most innovative, often the first to adopt the new thinking, the new technologies, and the new research (especially on brain-based learning and differentiated instruction). That said, we are collectively, in the independent school world, on the cusp of significant re-engineering of schools, and what it means to be an outstanding place to learn. This is exemplified by Grant Lichtman’s blogs on his journey across America to discover where innovation is sprouting up in independent schools. No better time, no better place for every independent school leader and teacher to think about where, and how, we will innovate at each of our schools.
While “Change is inevitable, growth optional” (John C. Maxwell), I’d like to note that a rapidly changing landscape does not mean that everything old should be subject to change. For me, character first is the defining quality that makes independent schools strong. The founders of the first independent schools in America knew that, as do the founders of our newest schools. For example, the constitutions of both Phillips Academy (Massachusetts) and Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire) include a charge to the masters (teachers) exhorting them to attend to the character of their wards: “[T]hough goodness without knowledge (as it respects others) is weak and feeble; yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous; and that both united form the noblest character, and lay the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.”1 Have truer words ever been spoken? Or clearer insight into what makes great schools and successful (“good and smart”) graduates?
So, character first. And the adults are the moral mentors and models. But for college-prep schools, a second maxim should be “academics second,” meaning what one might call “serious scholarship.” While the means of conducting serious scholarship (video oral histories, crowd-sourcing, data mining via the Internet, etc.) are indeed changing, I like the case made by Will Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review, that serious scholarship in the form of a substantial publication-worthy research paper is the entry ticket for future academic success (and selective college admissions).
The Concord Review, launched by Fitzhugh in 1987, is an excellent periodical of secondary school research in the subject of history. As Fitzhugh is fond of pointing out, The Concord Review is more “selective” than Princeton: one out of 20 submissions to the Review published vs. one out of 19 applicants to Princeton admitted. And the requirements of the paper would be daunting to all but the most ambitious student (typically 4,000 – 6,000 words, but sometimes much longer, 10,000 words or more).2 A quick scan of the research paper titles from the most recent issue of the Review reveals both the most esoteric and fascinating of subjects chosen by these young scholars.
I recommend that all teachers read (and perhaps weep about) any student essay from past Concord Review papers archived on the magazine’s website to find out what serious scholarship at the secondary school level looks, and sounds, like. (In fact, from what my college president colleagues tell me, much college student writing today wouldn’t have a chance of publication in The Concord Review.)

Why grad schools should require students to blog

Maria Konnikova:

Approximately one month ago, I fell into a rabbit hole – the rabbit hole better known as Writing My Dissertation. I’d been working toward that point for five years and counting, through seminars and conferences, experiments and literature reviews, conversations and late-night therapy sessions with an open statistics textbook and eyes full of tears over yet another beta or epsilon that I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend. But here it was: the home stretch. The final product of years of loving–and sometimes not-so-loving–labor. And partway through another all-nighter (I was working under some tight deadlines), I had an epiphany: thank god I’ve spent the last few years blogging, writing a book, and doing freelance journalism. Otherwise, I’d be lost. Truly.
Alas, not what I looked like as I worked on my dissertation.
This may strike you as a strange realization to have in the middle of the most academic of academic pursuits, the doctoral dissertation. After all, the dissertation is Serious Writing about Serious Experiments and Serious Methods. It comes with its own language, its own conventions, its own academe-speak. On the surface, it has little in common with a blog post or magazine piece that’s meant for popular consumption. And yet–it wasn’t long into my introductory literature review (which I’d saved for last) that I realized just how lucky I am to have the popular writing background that I do.
My dissertation sits on the boundary of several disciplines. On the one hand, it’s social and cognitive psychology, on the other, behavioral economics or behavioral finance. To set the background as thoroughly as possible, I would have to combine studies from well-established psych journals (Psychological Science, JPSP, PNAS, and the like) with experiments reported in journals that many psychologists don’t even realize exist, or if they realize it, don’t often consult: The Journal of Portfolio Management, The Journal of Behavioral Finance, American Economic Review, to name a few. What’s more, because I was trying to build a case for the applied validity of my study designs, I would have to supplement those academic sources with commentaries on stock markets, analyses by actual investors, discussions of the causes of crashes and bubbles, market efficiencies and inefficiencies, financial climates and investment strategies–in short, by the types of analyses that are done by journalists and financial industry professionals.

Lobbying and Wisconsin $chools

Bill Lueders:

In 2011-12, GAB numbers show, Wisconsin contract lobbyists (hired guns) were reportedly paid $30.8 million. Meanwhile, in-house lobbyists (lobby group employees) reported their lobbying-related compensation at $24.3 million. Other lobby costs came to $7.8 million.
The session’s highest rollers, spending a total of $6.3 million, were public employee unions — Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFSCME Council 11. Tellingly, 94% of this flowed forth in 2011, when the unions were fighting changes that would weaken their power; just 6% came in 2012, after these changes were made.
Other big spenders in 2011-12 include Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin Hospital Association, AT&T Wisconsin, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Inc. and Wisconsin Counties Association. All came in between $750,000 and $1 million. They were among more than 50 groups to top the $250,000 mark.
In terms of time spent, Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, a “property tax relief and reform” group, led the pack with 13,267 hours. A quarter of this, the largest share, went toward backing new state rules on metallic mining. Those efforts failed in 2011-12 but sailed through this year.
Other big players, time-wise, were the three aforementioned unions and AFSCME International, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and the Wisconsin Hospital Association. All racked up more than 7,500 lobby hours.
In all, state groups reported 432,255 hours of lobbying — the equivalent of 100 people working full time over these two years.

A remarkable amount of money is spent on education lobbying. In 2010, WEAC spent $1,570,000 in an effort to re-elect four state senators. That is quite a statement and illustrates how things roll in the education world. Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary Club speech is well worth reading.

New Science Standards Put Global Warming at Core of Curriculum

Heather Mac Donald

One doesn’t need to be a global-warming skeptic to be appalled by a new set of national K-12 science standards. Those standards, developed by educrats and science administrators, and likely to be adopted initially by up to two dozen states, put the study of global warming and other ways that humans are destroying life as we know it at the very core of science education. This is a political choice, not a scientific one. But the standards are equally troubling in their embrace of the nostrums of progressive pedagogy.
Students educated under the Next Generation Science Standards will begin their lifelong attention to climate change as soon as they enter school. Kindergartners will be expected to “use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area” (perhaps this is what used to be known as “building a fort”) and “develop understanding of patterns and variations in local weather and the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.” Things get even scarier by the third grade, when students should be asking such questions as: “How can the impact of weather-related hazards be reduced?” The standards don’t mention protesting the Keystone pipeline as a possible “real-world” answer to the question of how to reduce “weather-related hazards,” but rest assured that the graduates of America’s left-wing education schools will not hesitate to include such hands-on learning experiences in their global-warming-politics–oops, make that “science”–classes. By high school, students are squarely in the world of environmental policy-making, expected to “evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.”
Hard as it may be for the groups such the Alliance for Climate Education, a purveyor of climate-change school programs and–surprise!–an enthusiastic backer of the new standards, there really are other important areas of knowledge and concern. As long as we’re picking and choosing among scientific problems, why not start kindergartners thinking about cell mutation or neural pathways so they can fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease when they grow up?
But even without their preening obsession with climate, biodiversity, and sustainability, the standards are a recipe for further American knowledge decline. The New York Times reports that the standards’ authors anticipate the possible elimination of traditional classes such as biology and chemistry from high school in favor of a more “holistic” approach. This contempt for traditional disciplines has already polluted college education, but it could do far more damage in high school. The disciplines represent real bodies of knowledge that must be mastered before one can begin to be legitimately interdisciplinary.
The standards drearily mimic progressive education’s enthusiasm for “critical-thinking skills.” Fourth-graders sound like veritable geysers of high-level abstract reasoning, expected to “demonstrate grade-appropriate proficiency in asking questions, developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.” I’d be happy if they knew all the planets, continents, major oceans and rivers, and a few galaxies. Such fancy-ancy cognitive talk gives teachers an excuse to gloss over the hard work of knocking concrete facts into their students’ heads–and ignores the truth that mastering such facts can be a source of pleasure and pride.
Chinese students are not flooding into American Ph.D. programs because they have spent their high-school years pondering “a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems,” as the standards propose. They are filling the slots that Americans are unqualified for because they have spent years memorizing the Krebs cycle, the process of meiosis and mitosis, the periodic table, and the laws of thermodynamics and motion. The new science standards guarantee that we will look back on the years when Americans made up a piddling 50 percent of graduate-level science students as the high-water mark of American scientific literacy.

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Florida Teachers’ Union Sues State on Data-Based Teacher Evaluations

Laura Waters:

Motoko Rich in the New York Times describes the federal lawsuit, initiated by seven Florida teachers with support from local NEA affiliates, which contends that the Florida DOE’s system of grading teachers based on student outcomes “violates teachers’ rights of due process and equal protection.”

Much more on “value added assessment, here“. Madison’s value added assessment scheme relies on the oft-criticized WKCE.

How should mathematics be taught to non-mathematicians?

Gowers Weblog:

Michael Gove, the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, has expressed a wish to see almost all school pupils studying mathematics in one form or another up to the age of 18. An obvious question follows. At the moment, there are large numbers of people who give up mathematics after GCSE (the exam that is usually taken at the age of 16) with great relief and go through the rest of their lives saying, without any obvious regret, how bad they were at it. What should such people study if mathematics becomes virtually compulsory for two more years?
A couple of years ago there was an attempt to create a new mathematics A-level called Use of Mathematics. I criticized it heavily in a blog post, and stand by those criticisms, though interestingly it isn’t so much the syllabus that bothers me as the awful exam questions. One might think that a course called Use of Mathematics would teach you how to come up with mathematical models for real-life situations, but these questions did the opposite, and still do. They describe a real-life situation, then tell you that it “may be modelled” by some formula, and proceed to ask you questions that are purely mathematical, and extremely easy compared with A-level maths.
One comment on that post particularly interested me, from someone called Joseph Malkevitch, who drew my attention to an article he had written in which he recommended a different kind of question both from the usual sort of symbolic manipulation that most people would think of as mathematics, and from the sterile questions on the Use of Mathematics papers that pretend to show that mathematics is relevant to real life but in fact do nothing of the kind. The main idea I took away from his article was that there is (or could be) a place for questions that start with the real world rather than starting with mathematics. In other words, when coming up with such a question, you would not ask yourself, “I wonder what real world problem I could ask that would require people to use this piece of mathematics,” but rather, “Here’s a situation that cries out to be analysed mathematically — but how?”
Inspired by Malkevitch’s article, I decided to write a second post, in which I was more positive about the idea of teaching people how to use mathematics. I gave an example, and encouraged others to come up with further examples. I had a few very nice ones in the comments on that post.

Why Not Teacher Evaluations by Students?

Nat Hentoff:

As clashes continue between teachers’ unions and local and state legislatures concerning evaluations of teachers to determine if they are to stay employed, I don’t hear either side reacting to what students feel about how they are being taught. This includes the students themselves.
Such evaluations could and should ask students what they think being in school is going to mean for their futures. Teachers have their missions. But what are these students’ missions beyond college degrees?
Accordingly, to get teacher evaluations, students ought to reveal more about their own real-life, real-time selves in a preparatory dialogue with the people recording their judgments. These people should ask the students such questions as:

California Expands Use Of MOOCs

Michael Fitzgerald:

California will expand its experiment in blended online and real-world classes after a successful pilot between San Jose State University (SJSU) and edX, the Harvard/MIT-led consortium for online classes.
Blended classes bring massive open online courses, or MOOCs, to physical classrooms. San Jose State piloted an introductory engineering class where students watched an edX class on circuits and electronics, MITx 6.002x, and came to physical classes to work on course-related activities such as quizzes and collaborative work. Students who passed received full credit and did not pay extra for the blended course. The course saw much higher pass rates than traditional courses at SJSU in the same subject.